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Projektledning i praktiken: Observationer av arbete i korta projekt
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business.
2008 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Project management used to be described as rational and well structured - a notion that builds on a traditional view that project management is about planning, budgeting and controlling. Nevertheless, it has been questioned if this is a full description. Even though project management techniques were developed for large projects, those techniques and models are used today in small projects of short duration - projects that are quite dissimilar to the large ones. The present study takes a practice perspective to investigate what project managers do when they lead such short projects. Its observations and interviews are used to analyze what happens in the everyday life of project managers. Using classical managerial behaviour studies as a foundation, seen through a practice perspective lens, the study finds that the work of project managers in a software development project is fragmented – their time is filled with formal and informal meetings of different kinds and efforts to resist disturbances in the project.

Three challenges were found in the project manager’s work. The first was to Understand: to create meaning. The plans were clearly defined at the start of the project but as the goals were later re-defined, it was scarcely possible to finalize them before delivery. Contrary to the traditional view that plans are inflexible, these plans were discussed, negotiated and interpreted throughout the project. This was the continuous work of creating both meaning in the plans and a common understanding of the project.

The second challenge was to Order/coordinate: to manage resources. The project manager reacted to emerging issues rather than acting to prevent things from happening. These reactions led to creative ways of managing and finding solutions to problems. One important way of managing new or changed conditions was to reorganize resources to cover the needs of different teams. The meetings played a central role in this work as arenas for negotiating resources, which became especially evident in times of stress or high workload.

The third challenge was to Make it in time: to manage time. Time is a central aspect of project management as projects are temporary organizations; they have a beginning and an end. Previous research has found a point in time, in the middle of a project, when the team starts to feel pressured and stressed about meeting their deadlines. For project managers there is always a struggle to manage time, as dates for delivery are one of the things in a project that are not negotiable. In short-duration projects where projects follow each other seriatim, there is an almost constant feeling of urgency; stress and pressure. The project manager used experiential data to determine and plan the amount of time that would be needed to manage changes in the project, intending that the slack created would enable the project to deliver on time. Although changes and deviations were expected, the project manager rarely knew beforehand what they were or when they would come.

The three challenges, previously described as separated from each other, were observed to be all managed simultaneously. The site, the practitioner and the practices influence daily work practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet , 2008. , 242 p.
Studier i företagsekonomi. Serie B, ISSN 0346-8291 ; 63
Keyword [en]
Project management, Practice, Observations, Managerial work, Executive behaviour, Leadership, Practice perspective, Project-as-practice, Short-duration projects, Challenge
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1652ISBN: 978-91-7264-588-2OAI: diva2:141711
Public defence
2008-06-05, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal B, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 15:15
Available from: 2008-05-15 Created: 2008-05-15 Last updated: 2011-11-07Bibliographically approved

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