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Towards situational project management method engineering for SMEs: a case study at Nibag B.V.

Heupers, E.B. (2011) Towards situational project management method engineering for SMEs: a case study at Nibag B.V.

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Abstract:This research is initiated based on the desire at Nibag B.V. to professionalize their project management. This follows from the recognized opportunities for quality optimization and need for standardization by company management in the company year-plan. Based on this desire, a practical as well as theoretical study has been conducted. Despite all research and experiences in project management, failure rate of projects in general remains high and tailoring of project management approaches to the project situation was found in literature as a way to reduce this. Application of Project Contingency Theory (PCT) was identified to be a connection between project management and the project situation and extension of this theory contributes also to the theoretical relevance of this research (Howell, Windahl, & Seidel, 2010). By means of semi-structured interviews insights were derived on current approaches to project management, problems with these approaches and the relevant contextual factors on project management. By conducting a systematic literature review on contingency factors, a combination could be made based on theoretical as well as practical insights and a list of 28 relevant factors was constructed. In an online workshop with an innovative software tool, the top 10 of these factors was identified as well as the most important project management activities at Nibag. These elements were then combined in a possibility matrix and the data were derived from the practitioners. This process has lead to the construction of the decision tool with the likelihood of activities under certain circumstances. Next to this tool, a consensus matrix was created in order to visualize the diversity of opinions on this subject. Concerning this diversity the tool should serve well in being the foundation for a practitioners meeting in order to further professionalize project management and development of the tool. Ideas for this process are presented as the implementation guidelines based on brief analysis of change management literature. The described research process lead to the conclusion that the designed artifact is a first step towards a decision aid for practitioners to connect project management activities to the situation of the project and further evaluation, practical as well as theoretical, is necessary. In this development it is concluded that company culture is an important facet and especially the soft aspects of the change process should receive close attention. These conclusions lead to the formulation of the following propositions:  The decision tool should be used by project managers at Nibag, because this matrix provides insights in important activities under specific circumstances of their project. This is relevant, since we recognized the complexity of their decision making and hence support in decision making concerning the project management approach is desirable.  The second recommendation follows from the consensus matrix where it can be concluded that there is a great diversity in opinions on the values of the decision tool. It is therefore recommended to create a task force, consisting of project managers that have a clear image of the work processes, have considerable knowledge on project management and above all have a high social impact in the organization. They should organize a workshop in order to clarify this variety of answers with the other project managers. This is an important step since the tool is all about the sharing of knowledge and the value of the matrix is based on the experience of the practitioners.  A third recommendation is based on the preliminary state of the design. Since the field of research is in its early days and a new artifact was to be designed, further development is needed. It might be that the selected top 10 of contingency factors will not describe the context to a sufficient extent or that additional information is needed with the matrix in order to be of practical use. Therefore we advise the company to thoroughly test this matrix in a pilot setting.  A fourth recommendation is to extent the matrix with tasks and techniques. This will operationalize the decision tool and makes it of even more practical use for the project managers. Use of new technology, for example an intranet, is crucial to make this knowledge explicit and available for all practitioners.  Fifth recommendation concerns the implementation process of the matrix. As concluded in the chapter on the deployment a holistic view to implementation is advisable. Based on earlier research, soft aspects concerning this type of change yields are often overlooked. It is especially the people that need attention and involvement of the practitioners in the further development of the tool is highly recommended. The task force, with project managers who have a high social impact, is critical in this process.  Finally, in line with recommendations two and five is the company culture. At the moment the culture is far from ideal to optimally conduct knowledge sharing. Momentarily, practitioners are not used to the transfer of knowledge and theoretical thinking on their project management approaches. Although this is gradually improving, attention is advised in order to optimize the company culture. Several techniques are suited to this end and a combination of further development of the matrix and optimizing culture is a possibility to efficiently use time and resources. Concerning the management of Nibag B.V. these propositions have the following consequences:  In order for practitioners to use the decision tool, further development will be necessary. This means that time and resources should be made available in order to further evaluate and conduct the pilot projects.  To increase understanding among practitioners and to higher the value of the tool, meetings should be organized which also implicate that time and resources should be made available.  In order to improve company culture and stimulate knowledge sharing, new initiatives are needed. This means that time and resources should be made available for research in cultural aspects, training and other valuable activities that contribute to the improvement of the company culture. Based on these recommendations this research contributes heavily in professionalizing project management in practice. Project managers are given a language with which they can discuss their approaches more efficiently and this yields optimization of project management at Nibag. Furthermore, the process in which this research was conducted has already helped the project managers in a first change towards a knowledge sharing culture.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Nibag B.V.
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Industrial Engineering and Management MSc (60029)
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