A Contingent Approach for Project Management and Organisation: An Empirical Analysis

Maan Aljawder
2015, May
Published in: 
The University of Sydney
The context in which projects operate constantly influences the way projects are structured and managed. Due to increasing movements owing to global development, projects are becoming dispersed on multi sites where people and tasks are distributed. Coupled with the inherent complexity of development, complex projects become even more complex. Thus, the location of work and complexity are considered contextual factors that moderate how projects are managed. Studying the impact of these factors on project performance is of significant importance. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to contribute to the body of knowledge of project management research by offering a better understanding of the impacts of contextual factors on projects’ success. This is achieved through the development of a contingent model that has the potential to deal with the variability and constraints imposed by the extent of the location of work and project complexity. In this research, a model is proposed based on the assumptions of contingency theory. A contingent approach was adopted in order to theorise the influences of the work’s location and complexity as contingency factors on the relationship between structure and performance of projects. Moreover, the impact of ICT use on project performance and its mediating role between a project’s structure and performance was also addressed. A conceptual model was developed which divided projects into four types: Simple Co-located, Simple Dispersed, Complex Co-located, and Complex Dispersed projects. These types were the results of two continuums of project context: Location of Work and Project Complexity. Each quadrant (type) suggests that when a project’s location of work and complexity are at certain levels, its structural and technological characteristics are fitted in a certain way to achieve a successful project performance. Based on this model we tested a number of hypotheses. As a first phase of the empirical testing of the conceptual model, qualitative interviews were conducted. In this phase, experienced project managers and executives were interviewed and the outcomes were used to refine the operational path model and the measurement instrument. In the second phase, the measurement instrument, a self-administered questionnaire, was administered to two samples selected from two different groups of projects (Construction and Software Development) in 40 project-based organisations in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Data were collected, from 63 projects altogether, on team autonomy, ICT use, commitment to quality and project performance. PLS-SEM was used to analyse the data, validate the model, and to test the proposed hypotheses. The empirical results showed, at a path model level, differences between Simple Co-located and Complex Dispersed projects in terms of the composing elements of its path model’s constructs. As partially hypothesised in the operational path model, team autonomy in Complex Dispersed projects was found positively to affect a team’s commitment to quality but there was no evidence of its affecting the overall performance of the project. Surprisingly, in the Simple Co-located projects, the same positive relationship existed; this did not support the hypotheses of its relevant model. Our findings suggest that providing team members with a greater capacity to make decisions improves the commitment to quality but does not necessarily improve the ultimate performance of both Simple Co-located and Complex Dispersed projects. ICT use positive effect was evidenced on project performance for Complex Dispersed and Simple Co-located projects, and only on the team’s commitment to quality (a performance indicator of adherence and compliance to processes and procedures) in Complex Dispersed projects. Furthermore, in regard to the effect of utilising information technologies for the accomplishment of the project goals, ICT use was found to have no mediating effect between the team autonomy and commitment to quality in Complex Dispersed projects.