Systems Thinking in Innovation Project Management: a match that works SIG: PROJECT ORGANIZING TRACK 19: Project Futures - in Research and Practice Dr Maria Kapsali
Outline Research Questions 1. Theory 2. Evidence 3. Recommendations 1. Why are conventional PM methods not effective to manage innovation projects? 2. What can we improve? 3. How can we apply Systems Thinking concepts? Which are the obstacles to do this? Which is the way to do this?
Theory 1. Why are conventional PM methods not effective to manage innovation projects? Because Conventional project management methodologies are not adequate tools to manage the serendipitous, evolutionary and experimental nature of innovation projects Overemphasis on operational control and lack of flexibility to manage relations and operational change not suitable for non-linear processes Because Conventional methodologies result in a closed systems mentality where the influences from the environment are locked in due to the hard boundaries of the system Because Conventional methodologies were designed to manage linear activities in engineering and construction projects
Evidence 12 Multiple Embedded Case studies 12 embedded multiple case studies (3 EARSS and 9 eTEN projects). 9 Within and cross-case comparative analysis.
Evidence 12 Multiple Embedded Case studies Focus of analysis: Project Management Tasks – as planning, communicating and task control-coordination The results of the projects (outcomes like the rate of deployment and operationalization of the technology) Changes and change management(Nature of changes in the plans and activities, Dealing with change issues , Priority of project performance objectives) The link between tasks- change management- results (Elements to be developed in their projects – flexibility-dependability- relations-other)
Evidence 12 Multiple Embedded Case studies EARSS
Systemic Project Management
Manage relationships to satisfy stakeholders and achieve as many of the objectives as possible – compromise - calibrate
Flexibility to make decisions according to circumstances
Normative Project Management
Manage the process in order to satisfy the main stakeholder at the expense of the project goals
Evidence 2. What can we improve? When project practices (plan, communications and control activities) are built upon Systems Thinking constructs the projects achieve goals better Evidence from the case studies reveal that the when the constructs of causal connectedness to manage external relations and equifinality to manage operational change are the most successful to be embedded in managerial practice
Recommendations 3. How can we apply these Systems Thinking concepts? Causal connectedness has to be studied through the dynamic interactions and boundary management embedded in the relations between systemic actors Equifinality can be studied through flexibility - the slack given to activities in terms of resources and action to change in an agile way
Recommendations 3. Which are the obstacles to do this? Systems Thinking constructs are difficult to be built in project practices-activities because of their over generalized nature that makes them difficult to operationalize and measure Reasons for that are the insufficient definition and analysis of the issues of holism, flexibility and causality that are the basis of Systems constructs like causal connectedness and equifinality.
Recommendations 3. Which are the obstacles to do this? The application of open Systems Thinking constructs in empirical studies is inhibited by the lack of metrics that are easily operationalisable and measurable. Different perspectives suffer from lack of consensus on measures, factors of success and research analysis units.
Recommendations 3. Which is the way to do this? Study holism, flexibility and causality as they are applied in operational activities and relations in projects Project boundary relations and operational activities should be the target of new research projects Conventional methodologies should be infused with ST constractsto achieve more flexible and responsive operations to alter practices