Conceptualising uncertainty in safety-critical projects: a practitioner perspective

F.C Saunders, Andrew Gale, Andrew Sherry

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In safety-critical organisations such as civil-nuclear and aerospace, managing uncertainty is of particular importance as the consequences of failure can be potentially catastrophic. The challenge facing project managers in these complex, socio-technical environments is how to better understand the sources of project uncertainty and how to navigate a path through them in pursuit of successful project outcomes. This exploratory study analyses the literature on the management of uncertainty in projects using Söderlund’s (2011) seven schools of thought on project management. Additionally it draws on interviews with project management practitioners from several large-scale projects in civil-nuclear and aerospace companies in the United Kingdom to posit the “uncertainty kaleidoscope” as a means of understanding the sources of uncertainty in safety-critical projects and identifies four conceptual approaches that may be adopted by project managers to attenuate the impact of uncertainty on the delivery of successful project outcomes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)467-478
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


    • project uncertainty; safety-critical; managing uncertainty


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