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Essay: The importance of culture for project success

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Research has shown that an organisation’s culture directly impacts its bottom-line (Kotter & Haskett 1992 cited by Cooper, 2000). In projectised organisations, where the bottom-line is determined via the delivery of successful projects, this phenomenon can be a blessing or a curse (Ikeda, 2006), depending on whether the organisational culture is supportive of project management, or not. An organisational cultural unsupportive of project management, will actually adversely influence traditional, and proven, project management methodologies (PMI, 2013; Axelos, 2017), leading to not only failed projects, but also a number of other issues.

The existence of a symbiotic relationship between organisational culture, project management and project success, means that project managers need to adapt to their environment’s organisational cultural style, if they, and project management itself, are to survive in the projectised organisation. The former has taught the researcher that the management of organisational culture is a more valued skill than project management education. Alas, projectised organisations that do not support project management becomes a victim of its own culture: “The bottom line for leaders is that if they do not become conscious of the cultures in which they are embedded, those cultures will manage them” (Schein, 2004:23).

Case study research will be used to identify this phenomenon in the researcher’s working environment, collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, to prove the hypothesis that there exists a critical relationship between organisational culture and project management. Secondary data will be collected from the literature study, and real-world case studies, to provide a proposed solution for the mitigation of this problem in the researcher’s working environment.

Organisations accomplish strategic and business goals through the delivery of projects to accomplish tasks (Du Plessis & Hoole, 2006a; Swan, Scarbrough & Newell 2010). Projects are predominantly conceptualised and delivered within organisations, and as such are prone to be influenced by an organisation’s prevailing culture. Studies have revealed that the culture of an organisation has a significant influence on project and organisational performance (Yazici 2010 cited by Wiewiora, Murphy, Trigunarsyah & Coffey, 2012; Nguyen & Watanabe, 2017). Larson and Gray (2011:79) supports this assertion, noting the existence of a strong connection between organisational culture, project management and project success.

However, the influence that organisational culture exerts on project management is not always positive. The researcher has observed this phenomenon first-hand, from starting his career as a project team-lead at Siemens telecommunications, to his current dual role as a senior project management consultant for an Information Technology (IT) business consultancy called Moyo Business Advisory (MBA) and programme manager for the Information Management (IM) division of Anglo American. In both instances, the researcher has observed that it is the organisation’s cultural style (Cooke and Rousseau, 1988; Lynch, 1997; Groysberg, B., Lee J., Price, J., Yo-Jud and Cheng, J., 2018: Online) that plays the dominant role in determining the way in which projects are managed, and ultimately the project’s success, not project management principles. The latter phenomenon leads to project management being no more than an administrative function, instead of the leadership role that it is intended to be (Patah, 2004; Banister-Hazama & Hazama, 2014), leading to not only disillusionment amongst project managers, but also various other issues, for example impacting on the bottom-line of projectised organisations (Kotter and Haskett 1992 cited by Cooper, 2000; Kreitner & Kinicki, 1998:67 & Suda, 2008).

The aforementioned issues all exist within the environments in which the researcher currently resides. Du Plessis and Hoole (2006a) encountered the same phenomenon and developed an organisational culture assessment tool (Du Plessis and Hoole, 2006b) to determine an organisation’s cultural affinity with project management, with the aim to establish a more project-centric organisational culture and deliver more successful projects within projectised organisations. Morrison, Brown and Smit (2006) developed a theoretical model to address the same issue, which places project management at the centre of projectised organisations. The researcher intends to study the impact that organisational culture has on project management, to supplement the works of Morrison, Brown and Smit (2006) and Du Plessis and Hoole (2006a; 2006b) inter alia, and propose ways in which to harmonise the hypothesised critical relationship between organisational culture and project management, not only within the researcher’s environment, but also the broader project management community as a whole.

According to Suda (2007), “understanding the culture of your organisation is critical to running successful projects”. The researcher will attest that this is true, however, project success, as defined by an organisation’s cultural style, is not necessarily congruent with the gospels of internationally recognised project management standards (PMI, 2013; Axelos, 2017). The observed consequences of this are multiple:

The role of a project manager is diminished, in that it becomes an administrative, instead of a leading, function. Morale is negatively affected (Banister-Hazama & Hazama, 2014), especially amongst formally trained and more experienced project managers. Less experienced project managers are taught that organisational culture is the main driving force behind project success, neglecting project management principles (PMI, 2013:35; Axelos, 2017:24-25), leading to project managers managing the organisational process, instead of the project. Finally, the role of the PMO and programme managers becomes ambiguous within the organisation (PMI, 2013; Ward & Daniel, 2013; Aziz, 2014).

The research problem that will be investigated within the ambit of this research study, reads:

Organisational culture has a debilitating effect on project management, influencing the determination of project success, overriding the presence of project management support structures, and negating the impact of a project management subculture.

The primary research question forming the crux of this research study, reads:

Can issues related to project management be attributed to the organisation’s cultural style, and if so, can the inductive inference be mitigated, so that it is not the primary driving force behind the determination of project performance?

The secondary research questions, which will be researched in support of the primary research question, are listed below:

  • How is project and programme management influenced by organisational culture?
  • How is the role of the PMO influenced by organisational culture?
  • What are the consequences, of the impact of organisational culture on project management, to the organisation?
  • What are the factor(s) that can mitigate the influence of organisational culture on project management?

The research hypothesis, which will also serve as the ‘statement of the research’, reads:
There exists a critical relationship between organisational culture and project management.

The primary research objective of this of this research study, reads:
To determine whether issues related to project management can be attributed to the organisation’s cultural style, and if so, if the inductive inference can be mitigated, so that it is not the primary driving force behind the determination of project performance.

The secondary research objectives of this research study, are listed below:

  • To determine how project and programme management is influenced by organisational culture.
  • To determine how the role of the PMO is influenced by organisational culture.
  • To determine the consequences, of the impact of organisational culture on project management, to the organisation.
  • To determine the factor(s) that can mitigate the influence of organisational culture on project management.

The term ‘culture’ was derived from anthropological studies done during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, on societies that were considered primitive at that time. These studies were undertaken to understand the way in which these societies adapting to, and survived in, their environments (Denison & Neale, 1996; Schein, 2004:7). With the advent of organisations, the findings from these studies were applied to organisations, to define and explain why things were done as they were, in organisations (Fleury, 2009).

Organisational culture has since been defined in various forms, by various authors and researchers. The common denominator amongst academics, is the definition or organisational culture: the social values, norms, beliefs, assumptions and principles, that has been adopted by an organisation’s members, in order to adapt to, and survive in, their organisational landscape, often referred to as an organisation’s personality (Greenberg & Baron, 1993:313-315; Lynch, 1997:278; Suda, 2007; Banister-Hazama & Hazama, 2014; Denison & Neale, 1996). Schein (2004) describes culture as an ‘abstraction’, stating that the forces created by the latter is actually very influential in the way it determines the way in which things are done in an organisation.

Researchers and academics have identified various cultural styles emanating from organisational culture (Handy 1993 cited by Cacciattolo 2014; Cooke & Rousseau, 1988:258; Kreitner & Kinicki, 1998:65; Lynch, 1997:282 & Groysberg et al., 2018: Online). These cultural styles each have unique attributes that influence the organisation in some specific manner. With specific reference to projectised organisations, the type of cultural style that dominates an organisation, will impact the way in which projects are managed. This means that the existence of established, and acceptable, practices for ‘getting the work done’, for example for initiating and planning a project, will differ from the methods prescribed by global project management bodies (PMI, 2013:20). The various organisational cultural styles are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1: Organisational Cultural Styles (Sources: Cacciattolo, 2014; Lynch, 1997:282; Cooke and Rousseau, 1988:258; Kreitner and Kinicki, 1998:65, Larson and Gray, 2011:72; Groysberg et al., 2018: Online).

Cultural Style Description

Achievement culture

Organisations that perform well and encourages employees to set their own goals. A standard of excellence is openly pursued.

Approval culture

Organisations where confrontation is avoided and approval of one’s colleagues is considered more important than conflict resolution. The opposite of this culture is an ‘oppositional’ culture.

Authoritative / Competitive culture

Endurance and perseverance are the key organisational attributes, with strong focus on winning at any cost. Huawei Technologies embodies these traits.

Avoidance culture

Organisations which are hierarchically controlled, with people only doing what they are told, i.e. doing what is expected, nothing more.

Caring / Affiliative culture

Companies that focusses on people, with emphasis on communication and honesty, for example Disney.

Humanistic or Helpful culture

Organisations which are managed in a participative and person-centric way. It is expected of members to assist each other in achieving the companies’ goals.

Enjoyment culture

Organisations that encourage its employees to have fun at work, shifting the focus from just making money.

Learning / Self-actualisation culture

Innovative and forward thinking companies, striving to produce next-generation products, valuing quality over quantity. A modern-day example is Tesla Motors.

Perfectionist culture

At these organisations, perfectionism, hard work and persistence are valued above all else. Mistakes are avoided at all costs.

Personal culture

Individuals view themselves as unique and superior to the organisation, for example a firm of professionals.

Power culture

People with power make the decisions in these organisations. Organisational control emanate from the core of these companies.

Purpose culture

Companies that concentrate their products and services around a singular vision.

Role / Order / Conventional culture

Companies driven by rules, structure, regulations and governance, often regarded as bureaucratic. This is typical of companies operating in a controlled environment.

Safety culture

Risk-averse companies, seeking to understand their environment, and associated risks, before undertaking an endeavour.

Task / Results culture

Organisations that are geared towards achieving objectives via projects or tasks, via specific work teams. Apple is a good example of a results-orientated company.

In addition to the existence of organisational culture, there sometimes exists distinct subcultures within organisations. Cooke and Rousseau (1988) describe organisational subcultures as a “natural by-product” resulting from varying levels of work within an organisation. Nguyen and Watanabe (2017) identify four typical, overlapping subcultures which can exist within a typical projectised organisation, namely organisational, operational, professional and individualistic subcultures.

It is the professional subculture genre that pertains most to this proposed study: the project management subculture, and its use as a measure to mitigate the influence of organisational culture on project management, will be elaborated upon later in this abbreviated literature study.

Project management is a leadership role within a company (Patah, 2004; Banister-Hazama & Hazama, 2014), tasked with the responsibility of facilitating project success (Crawford, 2000). The PMI ascribes technical project management, leadership and strategic and business management, as the ideal skill set of a project manager (PMI, 2018: Online). For project managers holding the PMI’s project management professional (PMP®) certification, it is a requirement to continuously grow all three these skills sets. Kerzner (2009:158) describes the ‘next-generation’ project manager as a business manager, whose main skill-set must include intricate knowledge of the business, the management of risks and the integration of all the elements that may impact on a project’s performance.

Figure 1: Project manager skills pie chart (Sources: Kerzner, 2009:158; PMI, 2018: Online)

Project managers accomplish tasks on projects via managing project work teams and stakeholders, but are seldom given any real authority (Slevin and Pinto, 1987; Kreitner and Kinicki, 1998:7), even though Steyn (2017: Online) recommends that they should be given full authority over project work. Swan, Scarbrough and Newell (2010) argue that project work requires a high level of project autonomy from the project leaders. As such, project managers require a good balance of ethical, interpersonal and conceptual skills to assist with analysing, and reacting to, each unique situation that arises during the project life cycle. (PMI, 2013).

Furthermore, organisations require project managers that can operate cross-culturally (Larson and Gray, 2011:84; Aidane, 2014), who are able to appreciate, understand and manage organisational culture (O’Donnel and Boyle, 2008) and interpret the way in which it effects project performance (Greenberg & Baron, 1993:313-318; Suda, 2008). According to Schein (2004:3), if one doesn’t understand the way in which cultural forces operate, one becomes a victim to it. Ikeda (2006), states the following: “The curse of project management is the failure to account for culture and strategy when implementing project management within an organisation”.

A programme manager fulfils all the roles of a project manager, including the integration of all tasks and elements, within budget and schedule constraints, which effects a group of projects that share a strategic initiative (Aziz, 2014; Steyn, 2017: Online). In addition, a programme manager must manage all conflicts within the organisation, and the overall project environment, related to the programme, within the culture and value system of the organisation (Kerzner, 2009; PMI, 2013:9).

Organisational culture can adversely influence all the aforementioned tasks and responsibilities of project and programme managers, to varying degrees (Suda, 2007). It is the project/programme manager’s responsibility to manage all the particular issues created by the organisation’s cultural influence. In extreme cases, the organisational cultural influence extends to the point where it adversely influences job satisfaction amongst project and programme managers (Taşkiran, Çetin, Özdemirci, Aksu, & İstoriti, 2017), creating disillusionment within the ranks of project and programme managers.

The PMBOK® defines the PMO as a “…management structure that standardises the project-related governance processes, and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques” (PMI, 2013:10). Kerzner (2009:169) further describes the project (management) office as an “…organisation developed to support the project manager in carrying out his duties” and “…the most important project management activity of the decade” (2009:955).

The PMBOK® (2013:10) attributes a wide range of responsibilities to the PMO, from providing project management support, to actually managing projects. The responsibilities of the PMO is further described as being either supportive (to project managers), controlling (governance focussed) or directing (completely controlling projects). Kerzner (2009:955-968) describes some of the key responsibilities of the project office as (1) dissemination of information, (2) mentoring (noted as a critical activity), (3) development of standards and templates, (4) business case development, (5) customised training, (6) managing stakeholders and (7) capacity planning. Aziz (2014) postulates a three tier approach as to the purpose of the PMO, with the responsibilities of the PMO increasing as the tiers do within the organisation, supporting Kerzner’s view.

Nevertheless, the mere presence of a PMO does not guarantee project success in projectised organisations (Ikeda, 2006). Ward and Daniel (2013), found that, on occasion, the presence of a PMO actually reduces senior management satisfaction, while Aziz (2014) points out that there exists ambiguity with regards to the role of a PMO when considering the environment in which the PMO is created. As organisational cultures determines organisational environments, it is the organisational culture that will determine the role, and ultimately the effectiveness, of the PMO.

Denison, Haaland and Goelzer (2003) studied the relationship between organisational culture and effectiveness among a number of companies globally, over time, and a correlation between organisational culture and business performance. They identified four organisational cultural traits – involvement, consistency, adaptability and mission – that they directly related to a number of organisational effectiveness criteria, namely sales growth, profitability, market share, product quality, employee satisfaction and overall company performance (Denison & Mishra 1995 cited by Denison, Haaland & Goelzer, 2003:207; Denison & Neale, 1996).

Kotter and Haskett’s landmark study found that an organisation’s culture directly impacts its bottom-line, with culture-supportive organisations outperforming their counterparts (Kotter & Haskett 1992 cited by Cooper, 2000; Kreitner & Kinicki, 1998:67 & Suda, 2008). Projectised organisations accomplish strategic and business goals through the delivery of projects, so an organisational culture which is not supportive of project management, valorises a weak project management environment, leading to an adverse impact on the projectised organisation’s bottom-line (Du Plessis & Hoole, 2006a; Swan, Scarbrough & Newell, 2010).

Nguyen and Watanabe (2017) studied the impact of organisational culture on the performance of construction projects in Vietnam, and found that there were various cultural factors that influenced the performance of Vietnamese construction projects, with one cultural factor standing out, namely lacklustre contractor commitment to contract agreements. Fleury (2009) investigated the interaction between culture and competence, and found evidence of certain values dominating others in organisations, leading to the dominating value becoming the leading determining factor of project success. The former is also supported by Greenberg and Baron (1993:316-318). It can thus be deduced that organisations with a, for example, learning / self-actualisation culture, will most likely attribute project success to factors such as market innovation, instead of the more traditional, and proven, project success factors mentioned in various project management literature (Slevin & Pinto, 1987; Crawford, 2000; Kerzner, 2009:60-63). The following Tesla Motors case study serves to illustrate this view.

Tesla’s organisational culture is unique in the car manufacturing industry. It is primarily driven by chief executive officer (CEO) Elon Musk’s very particular and strong leadership personality (Schein 2004:242), and their roots as a start-up in Silicon Valley. The company’s main cultural principle is to “move fast and break things” (Bučko, 2018). This culture has proven to not be beneficial to the timeous completion of projects, as illustrated by the numerous delays of Tesla’s Model 3 sedan. In the third quarter of 2017, Tesla delivered just 222 of the 400,000 sedan on order (Wieczner, 2018: Online). After this production delay, the car’s delivery was postponed to the end of the fourth quarter 2017, with the date later again moved forward to January 2018. Tesla justified the production delay by stating the company was focussing on delivering a quality product (Stewart, 2018: Online). Towards the end of 2018, Musk confessed that Tesla “came within single-digit weeks of death before it was able to meet its Model 3 production goals” (Kovach, 2018: Online).

The project management subculture is created by the personality traits of project managers, the skills they require to be successful in managing projects, and their technical competence. It can further be broader defined as the behaviour of stakeholders within projectised organisations (Du Plessis & Hoole, 2006a). In many projectised organisations, the project management subculture is an already-existing strong subculture within the organisation’s culture (Banister-Hazama & Hazama, 2014). According to Kerzner (2009:80-81), project management cultures are based on the nature of an organisation’s business.

However, just like the PMO, the mere existence of a project management subculture will not guarantee project success in a projectised organisation, or at least that a project will be perceived as being successful (Greenberg & Baron, 1993:74; Ikeda, 2006). Fleury (2009) investigated the interaction between culture and competence and found that culture will always be the determining factor for what is considered to be competent behaviour for a particular group. Because of this cultural bias, the project management subculture needs to be the dominant subculture in projectised organisations, if it is to be the determining factor in project performance; Du Plessis and Hoole (2006a) contend that one of the main causes of project failure, is an organisational culture that doesn’t support project management.

To address the latter, Du Plessis and Hoole (2006a) developed an ‘operational project management culture’ framework, focussing on four project elements, namely (1) project process, (2) people in projects, (3) project systems and structure, and (4) the project environment. The framework is intended to assist projectised organisations, which does not have an established project management culture, to deliver more successful projects. Furthermore, they developed a ‘project management culture assessment tool’, which organisations can use to determine the maturity of their project management culture, and thus determine the potential project performance issues they might experience (Du Plessis & Hoole, 2006b).

In their literature study to identify the dimensions of an organisational culture supportive of project management, Morrison, Brown and Smit (2006:48) proposes a theory that puts project management at the centre of an organisation’s culture, with the effective management of projects taking centre stage with regards to organisational capability. Further theories on how to balance project and organisational culture is put forward by Kerzner (2009:936) and Larson and Gray (2011:77), with Kerzner asserting that project management methodologies should be designed to support an organisation’s culture, and Larson and Gray (2011:85) proposing an organisational model which balances the needs of the project with that of the organisation.

For project management to be truly successful in projectised organisations, senior management must initiate organisational change to create a corporate culture that supports project management (Kerzner, 2009:76), effectively changing the organisation’s DNA (Prahalad & Hamel 1990 cited by Fleury 2009). Leadership has a profound impact on organisational culture (Schein, 2004; Banister-Hazama & Hazama, 2014; Groysberg et al., 2018: Online), and as such not only influences organisational culture, but is also responsible for any changes to an organisation’s culture (Kreitner & Kinicki, 1998:496). Steyn (2017: Online) asserts that this change can actually be accomplished via projects and programmes, with a structured approach limiting resistance to change within the organisation.

To initiate such organisational change, leadership needs to introspectively assess their environment, determine their ‘desired organisational capabilities’, and initiate the re-engineering of the organisation’s business processes to be more supportive of a project management culture (Ostadi, Aghdasi & Alibabaei, 2010). However, should an organisation’s leadership decide to take this leap to change its business processes to be more supportive of project management, it need to ensure that their culture adapts too (Patah, 2004; de Oliviera, Patah & Chen, 2007). A case in point is the implementation of the ‘PM@Siemens’ programme at Siemens.

To facilitate the successful delivery of projects, projectised organisations require some form of project management culture – a subculture to the organisational culture. This is best illustrated by the case study of the introduction of a programme called ‘PM@Siemens’ that revolutionised the way in which projects were managed at Siemens (Patah, 2004).

First introduced in 2001, the aim of the program was to standardise the way in which projects were managed across the Siemens group globally, by standardising project management roles and responsibilities across the organisation. The program not only improved on the delivery of projects within the organisation, but also started changing the culture at Siemens with regards to how the delivery of projects were approached, as well as perceptions within the organisation as to what it meant for a project to be successful. Changing of perceptions is important, because project success is actually a matter of perception amongst key project stakeholders (Baker, Murphy & Fisher 1988 cited by Crawford, 2000). The realised benefits of the deliberate training programmes and coaching were legion: a uniformed project management culture was established across Siemens, there was improved cross-organisational communication (related to project success), more consistency with regards to project planning and controls, and increased opportunities due to increased customer satisfaction, directly related to better delivered projects (de Oliviera, Patah & Chen, 2007).

Organisational culture, and its associated cultural styles, plays an integral role in project performance. This is a problem in projectised organisations where the dominant culture is not supportive of project management (Du Plessis and Hoole, 2006a), leading to ambiguity with regards to the purpose, and role, that project management needs to play in the organisation. The literature seems to suggest that the solution to this problem, is the entrenchment of a healthy project management culture within the projectised organisation, with support from organisational leadership. The investment in project methodologies and standards, and the people that implement them, is thus the key differentiator between high and low yielding project organisations (Jones 2013 cited by Aziz, 2014).

The research process, which will be followed in this research study, is elaborated upon below:
The researcher studied the research-process recommendations of Watkins (2016:41) and Kreitner and Kinicki (1998:645), the guidelines for a first time quantitative study by Kotzé (Online), the case study research guidelines of Yin (1994; 2002), Stake (1995; 2006) and Merriam (1998; 2009 cited by Yazan, 2015) and the structure of a typical research project by Walliman (2011:31) and decided upon the following research process:

  • Identify a researchable problem by conducting a holistic overview of the environment, and industry, in which the researcher finds himself in, supportive of the researcher’s own experience and education.
  • Prepare a research proposal, which will include a problem statement related to the identified problem, a hypothesis and an abbreviated literature study, which will serve as the theoretical framework for the study. Furthermore, the research proposal will include the research design and data collection methodology.
  • Create an in-depth literature study, further investigating the research problem.
  • Obtain the requisite permissions from the relevant authoritative instances where the research will be conducted.
  • Gather the requisite data by conducting the research as per the research design and methodology set forth in the approved research proposal, within the constraints of the ethical considerations outlined in the research proposal.
  • Analyse and validate the collected qualitative and quantitative data to confirm that the primary and secondary research questions have been answered.
  • Validate the data using the using the metrics outlined in the research proposal.
  • Use the data to determine whether the research proposal hypothesis has been accepted or rejected as a result of the research, finally qualifying the result with proof from the research.
  • Assemble and complete the final dissertation, and then proofread before submission to Cranefield College for formal vetting.

Case study research was selected as the primary research method for this proposed study. The fundamental goal of case study research is the in-depth analysis of an issue, which in this case is the observed adverse influence which organisational culture has on project management, with the aim to understand the issue from the perspective of the affected participants, which, in this case, is project and programme managers, and the PMO, of the selected populations (Merriam 1998; 2009, Simons 2009, Stake 1995; 2006 & Yin 2014 cited by Harrison, Birk, Franklin and Mills, 2017). Furthermore, both Yazan (2015) and Harrison et al. (2017) cite the works of case study research proponents Yin (1994, 2002), Stake (1995, 2006) and Merriam (1998, 2009) who each promote the collection of qualitative and quantitate data, from multiple sources (also referred to as triangulation), when performing case study research. This comprehensive data collection and analysis methodology aligns with the case study research description of Watkins (2016:73; 2018:47), who describes case study research as a “comprehensive research strategy”.

For this research study, a ‘large-scale survey’ using ‘questionnaires’ was selected as the primary data collection methodology for the populations ‘Anglo projects staff’ and ‘MBA consultants’, to elicit their views on their respective roles and responsibilities, in their respective cultural environments. In addition, ‘in-depth-surveys’ using ‘interviews’ and ‘observations’ was selected as a secondary data collection methodology, to supplement the data obtained from the ‘questionnaires’, as recommended for case study research (Yin 1994; 2002, Stake 1995; 2000 & Merriam 1998; 2009 as cited by Yazan, 2015).

A ‘body of individuals’ will serve as the unit of analysis, namely ‘Anglo projects staff’ for Anglo American and ‘MBA consultants’ for Moyo Business Advisory.

Variables in the case of ‘Anglo projects staff’ will be all Anglo American staff, permanent and contracting, who is involved in IM projects. The latter will include project and programme managers, business analysts, members on the Anglo American PMO and senior management to whom the aforementioned project and programme managers report to. In the case of ‘MBA consultants’, variables relates to staff acting as project and/or programme managers, for all of MBA’s clients.

From a population of 150 ‘Anglo projects staff’, a representative sample of 108 was selected for ‘questionnaires’, to ensure a margin of error of no more than 5%, using the recommendations of Krejcie & Morgan (Krejcie & Morgan 1970 cited by Research Advisors, 2006: Online). For the collection of the supplementary data, using ‘interviews’ and ‘observations’, ‘judgement sampling’ will be applied to ‘interviews and ‘convenience sampling’ will be applied to ‘observations’, to ensure the biggest possible representative samples. The ‘MBA consultants’ population is smaller than 50, so the researcher will endeavour to elicit feedback from the entire sample when using the ‘questionnaires’, as per the recommendations of Watkins (2016:96). The sampling method, for the collection of the supplementary data, to be used for ‘Anglo projects staff’ will also be applied to ‘MBA consultants’.

‘Questionnaires’ are an objective means of collecting information about people and their behaviours within a specific environment (Oppenheim 1992 & Sapsford 1999 cited by Boynton and Greenhalgh, 2004). The latter is supported by Banister-Hazama & Hazama (2014). ‘Questionnaires’ are used to measure constructs such as personality, motivation and cognition, how these constructs interact with each other and how they manifest into other behaviours based on the surrounding environment’s influence (Privitera, 2014: Chapter 8). The data on the aforementioned constructs will be collected qualitatively and quantitatively via ‘open’ and ‘closed-ended’ questions (Watkins, 2016:104,169).

‘Interviews’ are a data collection methodology falling within the ambit of collecting qualitative information. It is necessary when certain behaviours or feelings cannot be observed (Merriam, 1998: Chapter 4). There are three interview types that can be used to collect the intended qualitative data, namely structured, semi-structured and unstructured. Within the context of this research study, semi-structured interviews will be used (Merriam, 1998: Chapter 4; Watkins, 2016:99) to elicit the required data from both the ‘Anglo projects staff’ and ‘MBA consultants’ sample populations.

The use of ‘observations’ as a research data collection methodology, is described by Simpson and Tuson (2003) as the method of actively or passively observing a specific phenomenon to be studied, while recording the data in some form. For this research study, active (participative) will apply for the ‘Anglo projects staff’ population as the researcher is part of this population. The description of ‘observations’ is also supported by Watkins (2016:100-101), with Banister-Hazama & Hazama (2014) adding that ‘observations’ is a good technique to define values in an organisation. Furthermore, for many researchers, ‘observations’ is one of the most rewarding techniques of data collection (Delamont 1992 cited by Simpson and Tuson, 2003), yielding permanent and systemic records of social interactions. It can also be used to supplement data gathered by other techniques (Simpson & Tuson, 2003:16-17).

The following aspects pertaining to data validity and reliability will be applied to this research study:

  • Construct validity: Construct validity will be applied to this research study to ensure valid data (Yin, 1994:34-35; Watkins, 2016:50). The researcher will correlate the theoretical framework built from the literature study with the collected research data and data from similar studies conducted by Du Plessis (2006a) and Morrison, Brown and Smit (2006), to showcase the existence of the hypothetical constructs attributed to the influence of organisational culture on project management.
  • Internal consistency method: To ensure reliability, the internal consistency method will be applied, whereby every item in a sample is correlated with every other item in the same sample to establish an inter-item reliability index (Yazan, 2015:150; Watkins, 2016:51).

The following ethical considerations will be applied to this research study:

  • Informed consent.
  • Right to privacy.
  • Honesty with professional colleagues.
  • Voluntary participation.
  • Anonymity and confidentiality.

The following assumptions are upheld with respect to the research in this research study:

  • Conducting the research within the sample population of ‘Anglo projects staff’, will occur in an environment where the researcher is not a permanent employee. It is assumed that obtaining permission to conduct the research in this environment will not be an issue.
  • The population of ‘MBA consultants’ is smaller than 50. It is assumed that the maximum number of participants will partake in the research to ensure validity of the data.
  • Due to the nature of the research, studying the constructs related to the adverse influence of organisational culture on project management, it is assumed that all research participants will answer truthfully, without fear of retribution (Kerzner, 2009:962).
  • The prevailing cultures, of the affected organisations, can be determined by way of collecting qualitative and quantitative data, related to the various cultural attributes identified during the in-depth literature study.

Limitations’ pertaining to the research, are listed below:

  • This will be the researcher’s first research study.
  • Although the ‘MBA consultants’ population is smaller than 50, the researcher will endeavour to collect data from the entire population, as recommended by Watkins (2016:96). If the latter is not attainable, it may impact the credibility of the ‘MBA consultants’ population.
  • The research is limited to the IM industry, so the research findings cannot necessarily be applied to project management outside of the realm of IM projects, without further investigation.
  • The findings of the research cannot be generalised to the broader Anglo American project management community.

De-limitations’ pertaining to the research, are listed below:

  • The scope of the research study is restricted to IM projects.
  • The research is limited to studying the influence of organisational culture on project management; any other management structure which may be impacted by organisational culture, will not be studied.
  • Any factor, other than organisational culture, that adversely influences project management, will not be studied.
  • The research populations will be limited to the populations stipulated in the data collection methodology.

The chapter and content analysis applicable to this research dissertation are elaborated upon below:

Chapter 1: Orientation and background to the research study. In this chapter, the phenomenon of organisational cultural influence on project management will be introduced, by focussing on what organisational culture is, the cultural styles that emanate from it and the impact it has on project management, programme management and the role of the PMO. This chapter will include the research problem with associated questions, the research hypothesis as well as the research objectives. The research design and data collection methodology will be briefly explained.

Chapter 2: Organisational culture influence on project management: A literature study. In this chapter, the abbreviated literature study, developed as part of the research proposal, will be elaborated upon, by the researcher analysing current literature on organisational culture and its influence on project management. The researcher will show that, more often than not, organisational culture adversely influences project management, leading to it being no more than an administrative function in an organisation.

Chapter 3: Research and data collection design and methodology. In this chapter, the case study research methodology will be analysed in detail. Furthermore, the target populations will be selected and the data collection methodology will be elaborated upon. The chapter will conclude with a list of research questions.

Chapter 4: Data analysis and interpretation of results. In this chapter, the data collected during the data collection process, will be analysed and interpreted, using descriptive and inferential statistics. The findings will be applied to answering the research questions and hypothesis, accepting or rejecting the hypothesis.

Chapter 5: Conclusion and recommendations. In this chapter, the conclusions derived from the answering of the research questions will be elaborated upon, leading to the provision of recommendations into the mitigation of the research problem. In addition, areas for further research will be identified.

It is anticipated that the research, which is to be embarked upon within the framework of this research proposal, will return the following significant outcomes:

  • Within the ambit of the researcher’s role as a project management consultant, for Anglo American, the findings from the research will enable Anglo American IM leadership to better understand the adverse influence which organisational culture can have in the delivery of projects. This will not only lead to better management of existing project management staff, but also more scrutiny with regards to the appointment of new project management staff.
  • Within the ambit of the researcher’s role as business consultant for MBA, the research findings will lead to a better understanding with regards to the types of project and programme managers which MBA can put forward to potential clients, potentially leading to market expansion.
  • There is a potential positive monetary implication for both companies to which the researcher is affiliated to: the delivery of more successful projects for Anglo American, within the required constraints, will lead to the allocation of bigger budgets in the following financial years, which will lead to bigger and more significant projects being delivered. For MBA, the implication is the growth of the consultancy business as whole, leading to an increase in the company’s footprint.
  • Within the broader project community as a whole, the researcher believes that this research can add to the work done by other researchers in the field, like Crawford (2000), Du Plessis and Hoole (2006a; 2006b), Morrison, Brown and Smit (2006) and Nguyen and Watanabe (2017). Crawford (2000), notes that an area for further research is the effect of cultural differences on perceptions of project performance, hinting at the prospect of further research into the influence of organisational culture on project success, with Morrison, Brown and Smit (2006) concluding that organisational culture is a relevant influence on project management, but that the profile of an organisation, supportive of project management, still needs to be properly mentioned in project management literature. Nguyen and Watanabe (2017) state that the implied relationship between organisational culture and performance, remain blurred.


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