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Between the Idea and the Reality: Exploring the Limits of Projectification in Contemporary Organisations

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Thursday 18 February 2010, 16:30
Storey Institute, Lancaster

Damian Hodgson

Manchester Business School

Abstract: In recent years, projects have increasingly been promoted as “universally-applicable templates for the deliberate integration of diverse specialisms, enabling the organisation of flexible, autonomous, and knowledgeable individuals into temporary teams for the timely, efficient and effective accomplishment of defined goals” (Hodgson and Cicmil, 2007: 222). This process of projectification typically relies on the depiction of the project as an organisational form and management technique supremely suited to the new knowledge-based capitalist economy (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005). At the same time, this extension of project organising is often undermined by the limitations of structured project management methodologies, and by the contrasting experiences of project managers attempting to fulfil this heroic mission. Drawing on a a series of structured group discussions with project managers from a range of industrial sectors and organisations, the presentation explores the tensions implicit in the process of becoming a project manager, identifying a number of conflicts that arise between the overarching philosophy of project management and the process of enacting the role of project manager. These conflicts arise from significant discrepancies between the interviewees’ expectations and experiences of the status, organisational value, power, and influence of the project manager, and bring into question the contribution that project management can make in contemporary organisations.

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