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Governance and methodology

Design the project process
We’re using systems thinking, complex systems theory, and change management to increase adaptability, and suit oversight to uncertainty to challenge the traditional model of project management.

The world has moved on a long way since the post-WW2 era in which project management was originally developed.

We now expect projects to be nimble, agile, and able to embody the dynamic capabilities that allow us to respond to change and uncertainty.

However, assumptions of stability and political simplicity still underly mindsets and many of the most popular approaches to managing projects.

We’re seeking to change this. We want to equip project, program, and portfolio managers with the tools they need to conceive, lead, and benefit from projects, even when they are delivered in a complex and contested world.

Our research addresses issues related to

  • improvement of the project management process at all stages of the lifecycle, 
  • interdisciplinary collaboration, 
  • developments on processes of governance, and 
  • ways of streamlining the management process. 

Our research

Our expert: Associate Professor Julien Pollack

Project management is generally seen as good for business, but do we actually have proof that project management has a positive impact on productivity or profitability, or are we just assuming that it does?

There is actually little published research that directly questions this assumption, which is why our research tests whether there is a relationship between the use of project management as a core business skill, and organisational productivity and profitability.

We used data from over 10,000 survey responses from Australian businesses. It showed that there was a significant relationship between use of project management and business productivity, profitability, and total sales.

Businesses that used project management reported sales figures that were on average three times higher than those that did not. Approximately 15% more of the survey respondents who used project management reported increasing in productivity, compared with those who didn’t.

Our results clearly indicated that using project management skills to undertake core business activities makes a significant contribution to financial performance.

Our expert: Professor Lynn Crawford

Projects are a means to an end and are undertaken by organisations for many reasons. Undertaking projects may be the organisational strategy or it may be the way in which organisational strategy is implemented.

In either case, organisational capability to manage projects is either a core or enabling competence.

One size fits all best practice and maturity models have been referenced as a guide to improving organisational project delivery capability. Our research questioned this approach and proposed that different organisational strategies would drive different configurations of project delivery capability.  

Responses from senior managers in over 400 organisations demonstrated that there are strategic drivers that are characteristic of different industry sectors giving rise to different configurations of project management capability. One size does not fit all.

Rather than using generic best practice guides for development of organisational project management capability, organisations should place emphasis on those aspects of capability that are most important relative to their strategic context and drivers. 

In terms of benchmarking, with a view to practice improvement, results of this research provide guidance when seeking benchmarking partners. 

Our experts: Professor Lynn Crawford, Associate Professor Julien Pollack

Many projects involve an organisational change component. Project management and change management have the potential to jointly contribute to the delivery of organisational changes. However, there is not much clarity about the boundary and relationship between these disciplines. Our research identifies how professionals trained in these disciplines can most effectively work together.

Project management and change management contribute to very different success criteria, and professionals trained in these disciplines have very different views about what they contribute, and how the other discipline should contribute, to successful delivery.

There are fundamental differences in world view between change management and project management. Our research provides practical guidelines to help project managers and change managers determining the ways these disciplines should work together to mitigate risks associated with specific critical success factors.

Both of these disciplines provide essential perspectives on how organisations can achieve strategic priorities. Together, they can increase the likelihood of user uptake, senior stakeholder engagement, and successful delivery.

Our expert: Dr Louis Taborda

Most organisations are executing a portfolio of projects which will utilise shared resources or impact common shareholders. The resulting interdependencies make project execution difficult.

Traditional project management approaches break down in the face of this sharing and there is greater need for coordination and collaboration across projects. Without this, projects executing in isolation can have unrealistic plans which are prone to "surprises" that result from the inter dependencies.

Traditional governance suggests a program structure to group like projects, however there is evidence that in larger portfolios this does not happen. Instead, release management (part of the question and answer processes) attempts to mitigate the problems by temporal partitioning - grouping connected projects into releases.

Techniques to pre-empt and manage interdependencies have the potential to:

  • better prioritise work to drive outcomes instead of simply delivering features,
  • increase execution efficiencies by avoiding delays caused by interdependencies related log jams, and
  • seek and find synergies in the portfolio to avoid duplication of effort.

Our expert: Dr Karyne Ang

We're investigating how different agile project portfolios aim to maximise strategic value, particularly in decision making involving multiple stakeholders. 

It provides a rich narrative of the multiple interpretations and applications of agility and value in different project portfolio contexts.

Our research reveals how different stakeholders make sense of value for decision making in their various agile contexts. It research draws on sensemaking principles through a multi-stakeholder value framework, and the research methodology is underpinned by the philosophies of engaged scholarship and interpretivism.

Case studies with four Danish organisations, workshops and Delphi surveys with engaged industry organisations are underway.

Our expert: Dr Marzena Baker

We assessed the impact of equality initiatives in Australian construction, property and mining organisations. 

The human resources equality initiatives seem to have no real impact on women's representation in those industries. However, an improved representation of women across management and non-management levels can be seen from implementation of work–life initiatives. 

Our research also found that organisations with even low numbers of women in their top management teams are more likely to improve the effectiveness of their work–life initiatives. 

Leveraging female talent can improve organisational competitiveness and outcomes. However, project-based organisations in those industries are missing out on the performance gains that can be derived from diversity.

Our research showed that the impact of women in management on organisational performance is stronger in project-based organisations than in non-project-based organisations.

Large Australian organisations are required to develop formal initiatives to embrace equality and diversity. However, our research found that leaders tend to select equality and diversity initiatives based on legislative and industry requirements rather than developing a strategic business approach, remaining limited by indifference to the substantive issues of equality and diversity, reinforcing systemic inequalities.