Projectification of the organisational world

It is fascinating to observe from the management and business sciences, how organisations are changing their structural behaviours:

‘Nowadays, it is hard to imagine an organisation that is not engaged in some kind of project activity. Over the past decade, organisations have been turning from operations to project management as part of their competitive advantage strategy.’

Organisations are now redefining their business structures by adopting project management practices, thus Maylor et al. (2006, p.663) point out that ‘projectification’ is the process that comprehends organizational changes through a process where work is managed by projects. We should therefore look at projects as projectification means to get to the implementation of strategy – although it might be a realistic statement, it still has a more in dept reasoning behind it and we hope this document will enlighten this further.

Projects as the fundamental of projectification are defined as temporary organizations created to deliver one or more business products translated in to project objectives according to their business case requiring specific competencies or skills for a pre-determined period of time according to The Office of Governament Commerce (OGC, 2009, p.31). However, Maylor et. al. (2006, p.664) have a different designation of projects, as

‘managerial tools and structures for innovation and change’.

Other interconnected concepts related to projects will be further explained looking at the projectification of the organisational world.

Maylor et. al. (2006, p.663) support that there are two completely opposite ideas between the managerialist concept of a project as a way to control and the idea that ‘projects are flexible and less bureaucratic structures’ and as many commentators according to Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.8) cite, they position projects ‘as more appropriate for implementing deliberate strategies’.

Despite the above, Maylor et. al.(2006, p.664) citing Davies, Brady and Hobday point out that organisations are finding that traditional organizational structures (i.e. with departments, business units and divisions) are no longer appropriate. However, Haniff and Fernie (2008) defend that projectification is not always seen as the most favourable process and it can become problematic if different organisations working together do not have the same projectification approach. Thus, projectification is not seen as a firm solution, i.e. in the perspective of delivering deliberate strategies. That might be the case in the construction sector where Haniff and Fernie (2008, p.9) state that

‘it is naive to assume that any pre-determined project plan can be simplistically implemented’.

According to above pessimistic view, Maylor et. al. (2006, p.667) agree that we might face barriers to projects being carried out, this might in turn show that is an unwanted consequence of the projectification process but one to account for as limitations in the implementation of the organizational strategy may emerge. Despite these limitations, Maylor et. al. (2006, p.664) citing Packendorff and Hodgson support that there is an evidence of increasing belief of projectification through projects. This is stated by Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.5), they believe that corporate strategy is now a means of thinking through and articulating how an organization’s corporate goals and objectives will be achieved. This lead us towards how Bracker cited in Shirley (1982, p. 263) characterises business strategy:

‘as an environmental or situational analysis to determine a firm’s posture in its field and if the firm’s resources are utilized in an appropriate manner to attain its major goals’.

Some consider that business strategy is folded in strategic initiatives such as Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.5), explain that these initiatives are often ‘clustered into portfolios of programmes and projects for implementation’, whose support is given by organization roles in particular project workers and managers as Packendorff and Hodgson cited in Maylor et. al. (2006, p.664) emphasize. Again, Maylor et. al. (2006, p.666) agree these developing roles are a consequence of projectification as well as the search for authority by project managers. These are responsible for the planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project, and the motivation of those within the temporary organization to achieve the project objectives within the expected project performance measures, ‘time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risks’ according to OGC (2009, p.4). Gaddis (1969, p.96) makes a good point when distinguishing tactics from strategy doing the analogy to the advanced-technology project manager and the research administrator, where the first is considered the tactician and the other the strategist. Therefore, project managers are not directly seen as a strategy deliver role as Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6) citing Thomas, Delisle, Jugdev, and Buckle argue. In addition project managers are seen as strongly execution oriented role, as per project management responsibilities, and as such, they are not perceived as strategically important by senior managers.Although, Pellegrinelli and Bowman (1994, p.126) see that projects are grouped in programmes to actually achieve beneficial changes of strategic nature for an organisation.

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Unlike project management, Pellegrinelli, Partington and Young cited in Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.8) see implementation of strategy through programme management, as well as McElroy cited in Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6) emphasizes the need for senior management involvement for successful strategy implementation. A more realistic view from Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.8) is that many commentators position projects as more appropriate for implementing “deliberate” (planned) strategies, while considering programmes for both deliberate and “emergent” (unplanned) strategies. Including the view of the Association for Project Management (APM) cited in Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6) for good governance practice is that now clearly requires alignment between business, portfolio, programme and project plans, and transparent reporting of issues throughout the strategic hierarchy as well as Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6) defend that these should have a reciprocal relationship.

Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.8) bring to this context that corporate strategy is not translated into project strategy by a simplistic process. It is further complex and it requires an extensive range of management competencies and a clear definition of roles and responsibilities. See Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 – Organisation’s Strategic Hierarchy

Subsequently, Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.16) defend that the hierarchy of objectives and strategies, represented in Figure 1 by the interconnectivity between those 5 blocks, enable organizations to cascade strategy in a systematic way, such as the Archibald’s model mentioned in Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6) specifies, objectives and strategies are developed at the policy, strategic, operational and project levels and cascaded down, thereby ensuring alignment and continuity of strategy. Partington cited in Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6), suggest three levels of strategy (See Figure 1) as corporate, business and operational being operational level focussed on programmes and projects. Yet, according to Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6), this hierarchy of objectives and strategies can generally be formed as a result of using a strategy planning process which in turn can be a highly effective mean of structuring and managing strategy, and communicating it to the organization and throughout.

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Johnson and Scholes cited in Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.5) highlight that,

‘strategic management is often ambiguous, complex and dynamic, fundamental and organization-wide, and generally has long-term implications’.

Although, there may be pre-established strategy planning processes and practices, strategy may not be realized in a straightforward way as many planners assume according to Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6). Baker, Bard, Cooper and others cited in Srivannaboon and Milosevic (2006, p. 494) argue that aligning project management with the business strategy is not a clear process but Gomolski cited in Rathnam (2004, pp. 2-3) defend that with business ownership and accountability can lead the way to ensure alignment of business strategy. Most studies link business strategy with project management through project selection and see that as part of the alignment process. Others such as Thompson cited in Henderson and Venkatraman (1990, p.26), see alignment made not only of static elements but a combination of strategy dynamics and behaviors which are managed by external factors to the organization. Supporting this view, Mintzberg and Waters (1985, P. 271), argue that managing requires:

´a light deft touch to direct, in order to realize intentions while at the same time responding to an unfolding pattern of actions.’

Again, the interaction between projects or programmes and the organization’s strategy may be both “deliberate” and “emergent” when attempting to implement the intended strategy, according to Grabher, cited in Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.6).

The UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.8) considers the alignment between strategy and projects to be one of the main benefits of programme management. However, this seems out dated regarding recent guidance on governance. It is expected that increasing need to understand this alignment issue will be translated in to more literature and experience based contributions on this subject.

The project management has become an important business process for organizations and Srivannaboon and Milosevic (2006, p.493) support that project management and the business strategy alignment help organizations to focus on the right projects, given the objectives of the business strategy. On the other hand, any misalignment may cause an organization to lose market opportunities and the organization’s recovery process might be difficult. Therefore, to effective project management and to achieve the business strategic alignment it is required to have a deeper understanding of these complexities. Accordingly to Shirley (1982, p. 268) it is in the study of such complexities in relation to internal strengths, weaknesses, and values of the organization that students and faculty are challenged and also confused with processes involved in strategy making.

This is furthermore complex when various organisations are working together to deliver the projects objectives and therefore the business strategy. Accordingly to Haniff and Fernie (2008, p.9), each individual organisation has got their one project strategy that aligns with the organizational strategy. This results in individual team members influencing at some level the project strategy by creating an emergent project management strategy. Similarly, Jamieson and Morris cited in Srivannaboon and Milosevic (2006, p.495) suggest that most of the elements of the strategic planning process, such as internal analysis, organizational structures, and control systems, are strongly linked to project management processes and activities and thereby strongly influence ”intended” business strategies. Accordingly to Mintzberg and Waters (1985, p.272) this strategic control mentioned above may be in managers which is further recognized by the patterns and actions of managers on their own actions within the organization configuration.

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Despite project management processes, other issues co-exist such as the lack of a single coherent project strategy that can lead to loss of business understanding and directly influencing the link between business strategy and project implementation which may be extremely affected according to Morris and Jamieson (2005, p.11). In addition, Rathnam (2004, p.2) draws attention to research made by others that leads us to communication and understanding to be the strategy alignment problem. Morris and Jamieson (2005, pp.7-8) also point out that the business and operating requirements of a project frequently affect the project strategy significantly. Per instance, in the IT industry as Rathnam (2004, pp.4-5) shows, the lack of business strategy, lack of focus on business process, misalignment between business areas and organization structural barriers, lack of an enterprise-wide view, business against IT mentality, lack of awareness in need for strategy alignment, difficulty in communicating and understanding IT, resistance to escalate misalignment conflicts to executive management and rapid rate of technological change where considered the main gaps for strategy alignment. Cicmil et. al. (2006, p.679) argue that,

‘If projects fail because of miscommunication and failure to meet expectations, what is it about project management that makes this happen so much in a project environment?’

Projects are very complex and characterized by issues related to uncertainty, control and mutual interaction among project intervenients according to Cicmil et. Al. (2006, p.676). In addition Cicmil et. al. (2006, p.683) claims that management actions to accelerate perturbed projects make the problem worse which is the case when the project is heavily time-constrained. Avots (1969) adds that the wrong man appointed as project manager, lack of support from the company management, inadequate task definitions, management techniques not appropriate or project termination not well planned are also the reasons for a project failure. Despite the fact that organisations may be using projects to secure business benefit, Midler cited in Maylor et. al. (2006, p.669) question whether this is actually being achieved by these management practices.

The existing concepts for what constitutes a project may not be in agreement within the project management practitioners’ community. Also the temporary organisation (project team) and expectancy of the project outcomes may not be consistent with all intervenients. This is a result of organisational projectification and as such we shall reconsider the term ‘project’ given this paper.

It is evident that in a multi project level is where we can find a bigger gap in maintaining the strategic alignment through project management and projects. Therefore this presents an area of great interest for both practitioners and scholars.

Different project management approaches and methodologies are now being used by organizations at all stages of the project life cycle with project strategy development, review and optimization occurring at specific points.

A high percentage of organizations define the personal project management competencies required to develop project strategy.

Several organizations stressed the leadership qualities that they expected of their executives in shaping and delivering strategy, at both the project level as well as the corporate level. It can be concluded, therefore, that although project strategy management is an underexplored and insufficiently described subject in the business and project literature, it is, in fact, a relatively well-trodden area, deserving of more recognition, formal study, and discussion.

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