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Insights on project leadership

Research insights toward better projects
Project leadership is crucial in achieving positive outcomes. As projects grow in complexity, our research supports project leaders in setting up project governance.

Project leadership is distributed within and across organisations. A challenge for project sponsors, leaders and managers is how to empower others and provide leadership in their context to create value. The capable owner plays a significant role, with organisations making leadership, sponsorship and governance decisions across portfolios, programs and projects. To achieve our ambition to provide a 'go-to' place for advice on how to conceive, set-up and execute projects, our research is focused on project leadership. Current research themes include:

What model is appropriate for your project? We are interested in using data-driven approaches to support decision-makers in conceiving and setting-up complex projects.

By bringing together insights on project delivery models and methods with those on systems integration and the transformative nature of digital information we aim to provide rich information on the patterns of project outcomes, starting in areas such as engineering and health. 

To achieve this we draw on expertise across the University of Sydney, including AI, data science and medicine to understand areas of application such as hospital and disease response projects.

Example outputs:

Whyte, Jennifer (2019) How Digital Information Transforms Project Delivery Models. Project Management Journal. 50(2): pp. 177-194. [freely available]

Remington, Kaye and Pollack, Julien (2016) Tools for Complex Projects, Routledge. 

How can you manage an evolving project? Project leaders have significant responsibility as they grow teams, manage temporary and changing organisations, and hand over into operations. A strand of our work examines project strategies, practices and processes. Researchers are examining projects as a form of large-scale organising, taking process perspectives to address questions of their temporality, as well as examining how boards make decisions about organisational change projects and studying questions about people in projects and human resource management in project-based organisations.

To achieve this we draw on expertise across the University of Sydney, including in the Business School and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Example outputs:

Clegg, Stewart R., Skyttermoen, Torgeir S. and Vaagaasar, Anne Live (2020) Project Management: A Value Creation Approach, Sage Publishing.

Whyte, J., & Nussbaum, T. (2020). Transition and Temporalities: Spanning Temporal Boundaries as Projects End and Operations Begin. Project Management Journal, 51(5), 505–521.

How can we use projects to achieve a better future? We are interested in project leadership in emerging industries, questions of resilience and complexity, the role of projects as interventions and how they address uncertainty, emergence and stakeholders. This interest includes work on net-zero and new forms of energy; and wider questions of humanitarian engineering, societal connections and environmental impact.

Our work draws on expertise across the University of Sydney, including civil and humanitarian engineering, disasters and complex systems, and internationally with colleagues in other institutions including Imperial College London. 

Example output:

Naderpajouh, Nader, Matinheikki, Juri, Keeys, Lynn A., Aldrich, Daniel P., & Linkov, Igor (2020). Resilience and Projects: An interdisciplinary crossroad. Project Leadership and Society, 1, 100001.

Whyte, J., Mijic, A., Myers, R. J., Angeloudis, P., Cardin, M. A., Stettler, M. E., & Ochieng, W. (2020). A research agenda on systems approaches to infrastructure. Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems, 37(4), 214-233.

Our research informs our work with leading project-based organisations in Australia and internationally to develop new insights into project leadership in a changing world. We are one of a small number of Centres of Expertise globally, as summarised in this recent guide from the Association of Project Management

For more details please email: or join us at our events, including the online symposium on Project Leadership for a Changing World.