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Proceedings of PICMET '15: Management of the Technology Age

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Technological Change, Decision making, Technology -- Management


As a discipline, project management has been accused of having lost its relevance for innovative initiatives because it emphasizes planning and control over the flexibility and learning-based strategies that are needed to succeed under uncertainty. Several authors therefore recommend adaptive project management practices - sometimes named “targeted flexibility” - that respond to project characteristics commonly found in innovation, namely novelty, complexity, speed and - as a result - uncertainty. This paper investigates how this proposed adaptation of project management occurs in a context with high levels of novelty that organizes work in projects and needs to accommodate projects of different pace, complexity and innovativeness: product development in small and medium enterprises that do research and development work in the same organizational unit. Results of a literature review and two exploratory studies, covering a total of 8 companies with multiple projects each, are presented. Implications for a future framework for targeted flexibility are developed, leading to the identification of the following needs for project management: (1) better understanding of the many ways in which project management impacts exploration and exploitation activities, (2) improved attention for the currently poorly supported pre-project and early initiation stages, (3) a shift of focus from monitoring against plans toward monitoring against achieved learning, and (4) the formulation of transition paths from current new product development practice to higher project management maturity.


This is the publisher's final pdf. Copyright © 2015 by PICMET. Paper delivered at Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), 2015.



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