Article # 9 Reference Rolstadås, A., Tommelein, I., Schiefloe, P. M., & Ballard, G. (2014). Understanding project success through analysis of project management approach. Int J Managing Projects in Bus International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 7(4), 638-660. doi:10.1108/ijmpb-09-2013-0048 Abstract Purpose
– The purpose of this paper is to show that project success is dependent on the project management approach selected, relative to the challenges posed by the project, and to develop an analytical model for analyzing the performance of the project organization. Design/methodology/approach
– The research is based on literature review, model development, interviews, and case studies.
– The findings define two different approaches in project management: The prescriptive approach focusses on the formal qualities ofthe project organization, including governing documentation and procedures. The adaptive approach focusses on the process ofdeveloping and improving a project organization, project culture and team commitment. The two approaches have been identified through studies of three different case projects. An analytical model, referred to as the Pentagon model, has been applied for analyzing the performance of the project organization and explaining the project management approach. The model focusses on five different organizational aspects: structure, technologies, culture, social relations and networks, and interaction.
– The research is limited to megaprojects and to project management success.
– It is suggested that project teams consider and select their project management approach at project initiation, and accordingly decide on relevant success factors to focus on. The adapted Pentagon model can be applied to develop the project managementorganization and assess its performance in the course of project delivery.
– The contribution of the research is the application of the analytical model, and the identification as well as illustration of the prescriptive, vs adaptive management approach. I have a attached the full paper for reference. Two things need to be prepared: 1- a summary of the paper contains the following: a. Introduction b. Purpose of Paper c. Methodology d. Results e. Evaluation 2- A presentation about the paper for 10 minutes.
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Understanding project success
through analysis of project
Department of Production and Quality Engineering,
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Civil and Environmental Engineering Department,
Project Production Systems Laboratory, University of California,
Berkeley, California, USA
Per Morten Schiefloe
Department of Sociology and Political Science,
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, and
Civil and Environmental Engineering Department,
Project Production Systems Laboratory, University of California,
Berkeley, California, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show that project success is dependent on the project
management approach selected, relative to the challenges posed by the project, and to develop an
analytical model for analyzing the performance of the project organization.
Design/methodology/approach – The research is based on literature review, model development,
interviews, and case studies.
Findings – The findings define two different approaches in project management: The prescriptive
approach focusses on the formal qualities of the project organization, including governing
documentation and procedures. The adaptive approach focusses on the process of developing and
improving a project organization, project culture and team commitment. The two approaches have
been identified through studies of three different case projects. An analytical model, referred to as the
Pentagon model, has been applied for analyzing the performance of the project organization and
explaining the project management approach. The model focusses on five different organizational
aspects: structure, technologies, culture, social relations and networks, and interaction.
Research limitations/implications – The research is limited to megaprojects and to project
Practical implications – It is suggested that project teams consider and select their project
management approach at project initiation, and accordingly decide on relevant success factors to focus
on. The adapted Pentagon model can be applied to develop the project management organization and
assess its performance in the course of project delivery.
Originality/value – The contribution of the research is the application of the analytical model, and
the identification as well as illustration of the prescriptive, vs adaptive management approach.
International Journal of Managing
Projects in Business
Vol. 7 No. 4, 2014
r Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This research was supported by a gift from Statoil to launch the Megaprojects Leadership
Initiative of the Project Production Systems Laboratory (P2SL) at the University of California,
Berkeley. This support is gratefully acknowledged. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or
recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect
the views of P2SL or Statoil.
Keywords Project management, Organizational performance, Project success,
Construction megaprojects, Management approach, Megaprojects
Paper type Research paper
The Boston Big Dig, completed in 2007, was one of the most expensive highway
projects in the USA and notoriously famous for a 190 percent cost overrun, many years
of delay, design flaws and corruption. In 2010, however, an article in the Boston Globe
stated that the project in fact has proved to be a success: “For two decades, the Big Dig,
with its ballooning price tag and inscrutable traffic patterns, made Boston the nation’s
laughingstock. Now, the joke is on everyone else” (Gelinas, 2010). The arguments are
that the new infrastructure has met the goals of improving the traffic situation and also
has contributed to an increase in property values.
This ambiguity in the meaning of “success” is due to the fact that success may be
measured against any one of several different sets of objectives (Rolstadås, 2008):
project objectives – i.e. what the project organization is expected to deliver at the
close of the project (scope, quality, cost, time).
business objectives – i.e. what the project owner expect to obtain from using the
project results after the project has been handed over to them from the project
social and environmental objectives – i.e. what benefits the local society expect
from the project both during project execution and during the use of the
The above view is supported by de Wit (1988), Cooke-Davies (2002), and others who
distinguish project success (measured against the overall objectives of the project, i.e.
the business objectives) from project management success (measured against the
widespread and traditional measures of performance against scope, quality, cost, and
time, i.e. the project objectives). Belassi and Tukel (1996) also discuss this ambiguity
and propose a framework classifying the success factors into four groups: related
to project, related to project manager and team members, related to organization,
and related to external environment). Shenhar et al. (2001, 2002) describe a multidimensional
concept with four success dimensions: project efficiency, impact on the customer, direct
business and organizational success, and preparing for the future. The first dimension
is connected to fulfilling the project objectives (project management success), whereas
the last three are connected to fulfilling different business objectives for different
stakeholders (project success). Cooke-Davies (2002, p. 185) claims that the question
“Which factors are critical to project success?” differs considerably dependent on which
of the following three questions are asked:
What factors are critical to project management success?
What factors are critical to success on an individual project?
What factors lead to consistently successful projects?
Early research on success factors such as Pinto and Slevin’s (1987) list of ten factors did
not distinguish between different success dimensions as is the case with later works
referenced above. The Boston Big Dig example illustrates it is important to distinguish
whether the project outcome is perceived as a success (measured against the business
objectives) from whether the project team is successful in managing the project
(measured against the project objectives). A project result can be successful even
though the project was unsuccessfully managed. The opposite may also be the case.
A project may be perfectly managed, but still come out as a business disaster, e.g.
due to changing markets. In this paper we address the performance of the project
management organization, and thus concentrate on project management success.
Well-developed tools are available to support project management. For example, the
PMI Guide to the Body of Knowledge (PMI, 2013) defines suitable practices widely
applied. Chapman and Ward (2003) and Raz and Michael (2001) among others offered
tools for project risk management. Williams (1995) developed a classified bibliography
on project risk management research. Jugdev and Thomas (2002), Ibbs and Kwak
(2000), and Yazici (2009) showed how maturity of the project organization can be
measured. Despite excellent competence in project management, however, overruns
and delays still occur.
A common description of what influences project success relies on critical success
factors (CSF) which Müller and Jugdev (2012, p. 758) defines as “elements of a project
which, when influenced, increase the likelihood of success” in their overview of the
historical development and state of the art on CSF.
Many authors have studied success factors (e.g. Rockart, 1979; Pinto and Slevin,
1987; de Wit, 1988; Belassi and Tukel, 1996; Shenhar et al., 2001; Cooke-Davies, 2002;
Fortune and White, 2006; Müller and Jugdev, 2012). Most of the factors identified tend
to be rather generic and as such may look obvious to an experienced project manager.
We believe that to fully understand what leads to project management success it is also
necessary to look at the project management approach applied. This view is supported
by some of the recent research on different schools of thought in project management.
Would an approach based on a particular school have a better chance of leading to
success than other schools? Our starting point is that there is no generic answer to
this question. On the contrary, what kind of management approach which will lead
to success depends on the actual project and the actual project organization.
Our research question was:
RQ1. How can the project management approach influence the probability of success?
And the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that project success correlate to the
project management approach selected. In this effort we use an analytical model
(the Pentagon model) for categorizing factors influencing the performance of the
project organization. As indicated, we limit our study to success measured against
the project objectives. We also limit our study to megaprojects.
The results from the analysis reveal two different project management approaches,
named, respectively, the prescriptive and the adaptive approach. Our findings are in
line with Shenhar and Dvir’s (2007) discussion on reinventing project management,
distinguishing between traditional project management and adaptive project
management. In later works they refer to adaptive project management as strategic
project management (Patanakul and Shenhar, 2012).
2. Literature review
2.1 Success factors
Within the field of project management, the search for CSFs began in the 1960s. Daniel
(1961, p. 116) introduced the term success factor in relation to the “management
information crisis” that was being brought about “by too rapid organizational change.”
In the 1970s studies on project success focussed on measuring time, cost and functionality
improvements, implementation, and delivery systems. Academic discussions on “What
leads to project success?” started in the 1980s. This was a period with intense research
allowing factors beyond time, cost, and functionality to be considered. Many authors
began producing lists of CSFs. Pinto and Slevin’s (1987) list of ten success factors is now
a classic piece of work. Müller and Jugdev (2012) recently published a review of the
research on CSF and, while underscoring the significance of the early works, claim that
success is now more broadly viewed.
An author that early broadened the view on CSF is Turner (1999) who published the
seven forces model for project success: context, attitude, sponsorship, definition, people,
systems, and organization. Christenson and Walker (2008) add that a well-communicated
and convincing project vision make a strong impact upon perceived project success.
Shenhar et al. (2002) argue that different factors influence different kinds of projects
and that we must adapt a more project-specific approach to identify the causes
of project success or failure. They studied 127 projects in Israel and recorded 360
managerial variables. They were and presented these in a list of 22 factors critical
for project success independent of the project’s characteristics. Their conclusion is that
success factors are dependent on contextual influence. This view is supported by
Müller and Turner (2007) who observed that the importance attached to project success
criteria and project success rates differ by industry, project complexity, and the age and
nationality of the project manager.
Fortune and White (2006) reviewed 63 publications focussing on CSFs. In addition,
they also reviewed the criticisms, and then tried to show how their formal systems
model can be used to “solve” the problems connected to measuring/discovering CSFs.
Table I shows their top ten CSFs and the number of corresponding citations. Totally,
81 percent of the publications include one or more of the following three factors:
“support from senior management”; “clear and realistic objectives”; and “strong/
detailed plan kept up to date.”
2.2 Project management schools of thought
A comprehensive amount of research has been published on success factors as shown
by Müller and Jugdev (2012, p. 758). They argue that the interest in project success is
evident from the streams of research identifying different “schools” or “perspectives”
Support from senior management
Clear realistic objectives
Strong/detailed plan kept up to date
Skilled/suitably qualified/sufficient staff/team
Effective change management
Competent project manager
Strong business case/sound basis for project
Sufficient/well allocated resources
Source: From Fortune and White (2006)
Count of citations
Major success factors
in the field. A project management approach could be associated with a school of
thought or a perspective. Bredillet (2007) identified nine such schools of thought.
He claims that it is common to assume that projects are fairly homogeneous, but that
there is a growing understanding that projects are different, that success can be judged
in different ways, and that different projects require different competence profiles.
This viewpoint corresponds with Söderlund’s (2010) study of pluralism in project
management where he discusses the balance between unification and specialization
and argues that a too strong focus on unification may hinder the advancement of
ingenious thinking and creative tensions, and that a more diversified view is necessary
to explore and explain the difficulties of generating, forming, managing, and (eventually)
killing projects. He sums up by defining seven schools of thought as shown in Table II.
Andersen (2005) discusses different project perspectives where a perspective can be
regarded as a school of thought. Two such perspectives are highlighted: the task
perspective with main focus on the task to be accomplished, and the organizational
perspective with main focus on the temporary organization. Rolstadås (2008) similarly
distinguishes two different schools: one that emphasizes planning and control techniques,
and one that emphasizes organization and human relationships. He argues that both are
equally important and necessary.
The task perspective corresponds to what we in this paper characterize as a
prescriptive project management approach, whereas the organizational perspective
equals a more adaptive approach. This distinction between prescriptive and adaptive
project management approach is also claimed by Shenhar and Dvir (2007) when they
distinguish between traditional and adaptive approach.
It should be noted that the two different approaches are theoretical constructs which
we use to understand the performance of the project organization. In a real situation
these approaches are not mutually exclusive, but may be combined in different ways.
3. The Pentagon model
In order to assess the performance of a project organization executing a megaproject,
we need an assessment tool. Several such tools are available for business processes in
general, but we have not come across many tools that are applicable for evaluating the
effect of different project management approaches.
The Pentagon model, originally developed by Schiefloe (2011), is, however, such
a model for analyzing the performance of complex organizations. It was developed and
applied in connection with the causal analysis after the gas blow-out at Statoil’s Snorre
A platform in the North Sea in 2004 (Schiefloe and Vikland, 2006, 2009). The analysis is
based on a system-oriented approach. To understand the working situation for the
different actors involved, it combines a system perspective with a social constructivist
Söderlund’s (2010) seven
schools of project
Main focus of analysis
Planning, breakdown techniques, and scheduling of complex tasks
Success factors and project outcomes/project performance
Project organization design/structure
Project organization processes
Governance of project organizations/transactions
Management of the formation and development phase of projects
The interplay among decision makers in the early stages of projects
theoretical approach, characterized by keywords such as interpretations, sense making,
The Pentagon model takes both formal and informal aspects into account. As the
name Pentagon indicates, it analyses five different aspects:
social relations and networks.
For our purpose, we had to make several adaptions to the model. We needed to
distinguish clearly between formal and informal qualities of the project organization,
and also to include relationships to external contexts and stakeholders (as the
Pentagon model itself focusses on the internal project organization). For each of the five
aspects we set up a list of questions in order to develop a suitable interview guide for
the application. In developing the interview guide we also took into account the
industrial practice within oil and gas and within commercial building construction.
Accordingly, we had to adapt the model to a project organization working with the
principles of lean construction and integrated project delivery. It is beyond the scope of
this paper to describe these principles, but an overview can be obtained from Ballard
et al. (2002), Koskela et al. (2002), Thomson et al. (2009), and Smith et al. (2011).
In complying with the lean principles, it was important to take into account the
dynamic situation arriving from the application of the Plan – Do – Act – Check cycle.
A large project is an ad-hoc organization, comprising a number of actors who join and
leave the project team as the project progresses. These actors operate under tight
constraints, often coping with complex external conditions. Organizing and managing
this kind of open system is demanding, and success depends on the management of
a set of organizational processes matching the Plan – Do – Act – Check cycle (Figure 1).
Challenges a project management team encounters grow as the number and
diversity of stakeholders (both internal and external) increases, as more differentiated
cultures are involved, and as communication distance increases.
Our version of the Pentagon model is illustrated in Figure 2. We used this model
successfully to study the performance of the project management of megaprojects as
well as smaller construction projects.
in project execution
External relations (stakeholder influence)
Roles and responsibilities
Rules and regulations
Values and attitudes
“Ways of working”
Social relations and networks
Power and alliances
Competition and conflicts
External context (frame conditions)
Source: Based on Schiefloe (2011)
Structure covers defined roles, responsibilities, and authority in the formal …
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