Management Success Factors

Project Management Success Factors

Abstract

Whitireia Community Polytechnic commissioned a critique of an article by J.Rodney Turner and Ralf Muller, “The project manager's leadership style as a success factor on projects: a literature review”.

The core question posed is:

Whether competence, including personality and leadership style, of the project manager is a success factor for projects; and If different competence profiles are appropriate for different project types. (Turner & Muller, 2005)

Turner and Muller conducted a literature review, which focused on:

* Review of general management literature, with a focus of successful leadership theory through 20th century

* Review of project management literature on project success and project manager's leadership style

Surprisingly the literature review did not find evidence to answer the core question.

As a result Turner and Muller acknowledge it is conceivable that the leadership style and competence of the project manger have no impact on project success, but recommend further research be conducted as they view this as unlikely.

They suggest it is likely the lack of evidence is due to the fact that the question has not been directly measured.

The critique gives praise for asking a valuable question and for the writing style, structure and referencing, but is critical of:

* The quality of the thesis statement

* The lack of primary research

* The lack of stated criteria for including or excluding literature

* Two key assumptions not being stated nor justified

Turner and Muller present a valuable question. The answer could greatly influence future development in Project Management; unfortunately the question was not answered. However further commitment and research by the team is leading to a more definitive answer and the adoption of primary research has proven to offer deeper insight.

Although Turner and Muller are well qualified to conduct the research, they were reliant upon secondary research which failed them. As later work has proven, the question needed to be well measured and was reliant upon primary research to give a more definitive answer.

Background Information

A critique has been commissioned by Tony Assdi, tutor Project Management, Whitireia Community Polytechnic, on “Project Management Success Factors”.

The purpose of the critique is to evaluate an article by J.Rodney Turner and Ralf Muller, “The project manager's leadership style as a success factors on projects: a literature review”.

The article was commissioned in 2005, by the Project Management Institute and aimed to identify:

o Whether the competence, including personality and leadership style, of the project manager is a success factor for projects; and

o If different competence profiles are appropriate for different project types.

(Turner & Muller, 2005)

Turner and Muller conducted secondary research of literature that focused on manager leadership styles and success factors on projects.

The purpose of the literature review was to seek evidence to support their thesis.

The secondary research revealed support that a manager's leadership style and competence is key to successful performance in business. However the same support was not found in the area of project management.

As a result Turner and Muller acknowledge it is conceivable that the leadership style and competence of the project manger have no impact on project success, but recommend further research be conducted as they view this as unlikely.

They suggest it is likely the lack of evidence is due to the fact that the question has not been directly measured.

Method

Turner and Muller conducted secondary research of literature that focused on two streams of evidence:

* Review of general management literature, with a focus of successful leadership theory through 20th century

* Review of project management literature on project success and project manager's leadership style

There was no primary research conducted in the course of their research.

Within the secondary research there were a variety of sources referenced. The individually research methodologies were not identified nor critiqued within the work presented in the article.

The method used to analysis the data presented from the literature review was not stated and as such it is unclear why key literature review paths were chosen over others. As an example, within the work presented, a key decision is to focus on “competency school” theory; however no statement is made identifying analysis method used to reach such a decision.

Critique
Thesis

The thesis presented by Turner and Muller was:

o Whether the competence, including personality and leadership style, of the project manager is a success factor for projects; and

o If different competence profiles are appropriate for different project types.

(Turner & Muller, 2005)

A thesis should establish a problem and give a proposed solution. This article presents a solid question that has real value, if a definitive answer is proven. If this thesis is confirmed it is sure to shape future projects, project manager selection and training methods.

The thesis is not stated as a solution or claim, rather it is a question. It would have been more effective to have stated the thesis as a belief and as such prove or disprove belief.

An example would be:

* The competence, including personality and leadership style, of project manager is a primary (or secondary) success factor for projects; and

* The following profiles (based on competence) are appropriately matched to the following project types

o E.g. Profile type 1 (defined) matches project type 1 (defined)

It would also add value to establish a measurable thesis. In this case it would be important to define the term competence and have a useful scale. This would give the ability to grade research participants as fitting within the scale during any primary research, such as interviews, questionaries and studies of completed projects.

Gathering Data

It is important when critiquing research to understand the methodology used in collecting data. In this case the data is previous research and literature. As part of the process of literature selection, it was identified literature was being sourced with a focus on:

* Leadership theory in the 20th century

* Behaviour of team members

* Cultural behaviours of managers

* Competence of leaders

There were no statements determining any selection criteria, other than above. There was no scientific method stated confirming a method of including or excluding literature.

The lack of stated selection method leaves the research open to criticism as there may well have been excluded literature that could give contradictory evidence.

An example of excluded work is an article “A leadership profile of American project managers”, (Zimmerer, Thomas, Yasin, & Mahmoud, 1998).

The article presents primary research on success of project managers and conducted a survey of senior American project managers. The research concluded:

Project managers need to have leadership skills that suit the internal motivation of the project team. (Zimmerer, Thomas, Yasin, & Mahmoud, 1998)

The article offers some evidence confirming Turner's and Muller's thesis and as such would be relevant, yet was excluded. Interestingly the work was also published by the “Project Management Institute”, whom commissioned Turner and Muller's work.

Method Not Stated for Results

As a result of the literature review, Turner and Muller draw the following possible conclusions:

1. Project managers may not contribute to project success

2. Cited project management literature maybe bias, as it focused on asking project managers their opinion, and project managers may not recognise themselves, their leadership style, or their competence as contributing factors

3. Cited project management literature may have not measured the impact of the project manager on project success

There is no statement identifying how these conclusions were drawn. The conclusions are not unreasonable based on the lack of evidence, however without a statement identifying a process; it appears it was based on commonsense alone. This devalues the conclusions as there may well have been a more formal method used to reach conclusions.

Underlying Assumptions

A number of assumptions become apparent through out the article.

Key Argument

The key argument presented, is that given the sourced literature supports the belief that a manager's leadership style and competence is key to successful performance in general business, it should be reasonable to expect a similar result when reviewing literature on project success and project manager's leadership style.

The assumption is not formally stated and therefore there is a need to elicit this from the text of the article.

Competency School

It was stated clearly that “competency school” theory would form the basis of the research, and this suggest the assumption that this theory is more relevant than other theory. However this is not stated clearly, nor is this decision justified.

Overall Conclusions

What Conclusions are Drawn by the Authors

Turner and Muller conducted secondary research of literature that focused on manager leadership styles and success factors on projects.

The approach taken was to review:

o General management literature, with a focus of successful leadership theory through 20th century

o Project Management literature on Project success and Project Manager's Leadership style

The purpose of the literature review was to determine if existing theory supports the thesis.

The key argument is sourced literature supports the belief that a manager's leadership style and competence is key to successful performance in general business and as such it should be reasonable to expect a similar result when reviewing literature on project success and project manager's leadership style.

However, this was not the case and this is theorised as being due to one of the following reasons:

1. Project managers may not contribute to project success

2. Cited project management literature maybe bias, as it focused on asking project managers their opinion, and project managers may not recognise themselves, their leadership style, or their competence as contributing factors

3. Cited project management literature may have not measured the impact of the project manager on project success

The authors also recommend further research and frame this within the context of specifically measuring project manager's impact on project success.
Are These Conclusions Valid

These are reasonable conclusions that will assist directing further research. However there is no evidence presented to support the above rational for reaching the conclusions. The conclusions are based on commonsense alone.

It would have been useful to explorer more deeply the methods used by sourced literature and therefore confirm if belief 2 and 3 are reasonable.

Based on the lack of evidence to support the thesis, Turner and Muller concluded that:

It is conceivable that the leadership style and competence of the project manager have no impact on project success, and the unique, novel, and transient nature of projects (as well as the risks involved) means that leader has less of an impact on performance. But that question can only be answered if it is directly measured. (Turner & Muller, 2005)

The conclusion is appropriate based on the lack of supporting evidence; however it is disappointing that primary research had not been conducted as this may have offered the evidence required to draw a more definitive conclusion.

In addition there may well have been excluded literature that offered more definitive evidence (as stated with example of article “A leadership profile of American project managers”, (Zimmerer, Thomas, Yasin, & Mahmoud, 1998)).

Furthermore, Turner and Muller held that it should be reasonable to expect a similar result between general management and project management with regard to leadership influencing success. As this was a belief held, it would have been worth while providing evidence confirming parity or at least confirming that project management is considered a sub-group of general management, and therefore some of the findings from general management could be applied to project management.

General Feedback

Professional Standing and Peer Review

Turner is Professor of Project Management at the Lille Graduate School of Management and Muller is Assistant Professor at Umea University in Sweden. They have both previously published articles in the Project Management Journal. All published articles have undergone a peer review by the Project Management Institute's international and multi-disciplinary review team which has a mandate to review articles and ensure quality of content and reputation among the academic community.

Writing Style and Referencing

The article has a description of how the literature review will occur and the article content follows the same structure, as such the article was clear, logical and easy to follow. The article has been well referenced and has followed APN standards.

Further Research

Turner and Muller have conducted further research which is closely aligned the with literature review article.

One example is:

"Choosing Appropriate Project Managers: Matching their leadership style to the type of project". (Turner & Muller, 2006)

The article stands out due to its qualitative research approach and also offers stronger conclusions.

The research looked into the interaction of the project manager's leadership style with project type, and their combined impact on project success.

A web-based questionnaire was used and the results were validated against semi-structured interviews of managers responsible for assigning project manager to projects.

Turner and Muller present a valuable question. The answer could greatly influence future development in Project Management; unfortunately the question was not answered. However further commitment and research by the team is leading to a more definitive answer and the adoption of primary research has proven to offer deeper insight.

References

Turner, J., & Muller, R. (2006). Choosing Appropriate Project Managers: Matching their leadership style to the type of project. Project Management Institute .

TURNER, P. J. (2006). PROF J RODNEY TURNER. Retrieved from Happy Projects: http://www.happyprojects.at/fileadmin/pmtage.at/happyprojects_student_papers/happy_projects /Abstracts_CVs_09/CV_Turner.pdf

Turner, R. J., & Muller, R. (2005). The project manager's leadership style as a success factors on projects: a literature review. Project Management Institute, Vol. 36, No 1 , 49-61.

Zimmerer, Thomas, W., Yasin, & Mahmoud, M. (1998). A leadership profile of American project managers. Project Management Journal .

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