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Continuous improvement: challenges for the project-based organization
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4885-0819
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering.
2018 (English)In: International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, ISSN 0265-671X, E-ISSN 1758-6682, Vol. 5, no 7, p. 1306-1320Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose

There are limited studies of Continuous improvement from the perspective of a project-based organization (PBO). Hence, this article explores challenges that PBOs may encounter when applying Continuous improvement.

Design/methodology/approach

An exploratory and qualitative approach has been used, involving six management teams in six different project-based organizations, using focus groups interviews as data collecting method.

Findings

A high degree of autonomy among project managers seems to limit a collective approach to project management in PBOs. As a consequence the overall PBO performance becomes subordinate to the individual project performance – an approach opposite to that of Continuous improvement. Further, the management teams themselves seem to uphold a project focus, also complicating improvement initiatives from a PBO perspective.

Research limitations/implications

The management teams have been the unit of analysis, where the PBOs mainly conduct projects in an engineering and construction context, and are located in the same country and region. This approach enables the thorough study of a phenomenon, while preconditions for generalization are limited. However, the findings could be used by researchers as a basis for more in-depth studies of specific challenges, and for making surveys to obtain generalization of results.

Practical implications

The results can induce awareness and understanding of different challenges if applying Continuous improvement in a PBO, hence a starting point for finding ways to overcome these challenges.

Originality/value

The article contributes to an increased understanding of challenges that PBOs may encounter when applying Continuous improvement, confirming and presenting additional findings compared to previous studies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2018. Vol. 5, no 7, p. 1306-1320
National Category
Reliability and Maintenance
Research subject
Quality Technology & Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-69659DOI: 10.1108/IJQRM-12-2016-0229Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85050088335OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-69659DiVA, id: diva2:1220640
Note

Validerad;2018;Nivå 2;2018-07-26 (inah)

Available from: 2018-06-19 Created: 2018-06-19 Last updated: 2018-09-30Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Towards systematic improvement work in project-based organizations: An efficiency and effectiveness perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards systematic improvement work in project-based organizations: An efficiency and effectiveness perspective
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Systematiskt förbättringsarbete i projektbaserade organisationer : Med utgångspunkt I inre och yttre effektivitet
Abstract [en]

Project-based organizations (PBOs) have adopted projects as a primary tool for carrying out most of their operations. By doing so, the PBO operates mainly on two organizational levels, the project level and the organizational level. For these organizations, improving project management (PM) performance is central for the survival of the organization, since PM is considered both a strategic competence and a source of competitive advantage for delivering customer value. For PBOs, prioritizing efficiency has often been described as a short-term focus meeting time and budget targets. The need to shift focus toward value creation in PM is suggested to be of importance to succeed in delivering value to customers. Project performance, and the separate but interlinked concept of project success, can be described using the two concepts of efficiency—doing things right—and effectiveness—doing the right things. However, although commonly used within the field of quality management, the application of these two concepts in the PM literature and practice has proven to be unclear which has implications on organizational improvement.

It is through the two concepts, efficiency and effectiveness, that systematic improvement work in PBOs can be understood. This thesis addresses the need for influences from other research fields, by approaching improvement work in PBOs from a quality management perspective. More specifically, the purpose is to advance our understanding of how PBOs can work systematically toward improvements, from an efficiency and effectiveness perspective. This is done by exploring challenges related to improvement work in a PBO operating as a subsidiary to the Swedish minerals group LKAB. In order to do this case study research has been used, including a combination of data collection methods: including semi-structured interviews, participant observations, and document analysis. Case study findings have continually been compared to theory in order to reach conclusions.

The findings indicate that an organizational-level improvement process is missing, and that PBOs need to link such a process to project-level processes, in order to work toward improvements. Applying an efficiency and effectiveness perspective further clarifies the division of practice and responsibility between PBO and the client. Further, it is suggested that the role of the project manager as an improvement agent in PBOs should be formalized and clarified, in order to support learning and organizational-level improvement. Finally, the need to clarify and manage what constitutes value and value creation among stakeholders in projects is emphasized, in order to support both efficiency and effectiveness in project work.

The thesis contributes to the literature by discussing the prerequisites for PBOs to work toward improvements, and by approaching project management from a quality management perspective. From a managerial perspective the thesis emphasizes the importance of clarifying responsibilities regarding project value creation, as current practice seem to promote a separation of responsibility, in which the PBO is responsible for aspects of efficiency, and the customer is responsible for aspects of effectiveness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå University of Technology, 2018. p. 110
Series
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
Keywords
Project Management, Project-based organization, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Improvement
National Category
Business Administration Reliability and Maintenance
Research subject
Quality Technology & Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-71040 (URN)978-91-7790-216-4 (ISBN)978-91-7790-217-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-11-27, A109, Luleå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-10-01 Created: 2018-09-30 Last updated: 2018-11-08Bibliographically approved

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Backlund, FredrikSundqvist, Erik

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