An exploratory investigation into how project management methods are chosen and implemented by organisations in the UK

  • David Biggins

Student thesis: Phd


This research investigates project management methods (PMMs) and, in particular, how UK-based organisations choose and implement them. Through the development of a life cycle model of PMMs comprising five distinct stages: Select, Embed, Tailor, Operate and Develop, this research focuses on the first two stages. The impact of the ‘Select’ and ‘Embed’ stages on those stages which follow in the life cycle highlights the importance of this research, an area currently unstudied in project management literature. This research uses an exploratory, deductive, mixed methods design underpinned by a pragmatic ontology and epistemology. Qualitative data was collected from 18 interviewees and quantitative data from 71 respondents. For the ‘Select’ stage, the findings are that PMMs have many potential benefits but that organisations do not set out with a clear vision of what the PMM is to achieve. Organisations select PMMs quickly and the decision is heavily influenced by the past experiences of those involved. The dominant reason for selecting a method was process improvement. For the ‘Embed’ stage, it was found that organisations do not analyse the change situation before embarking on the implementation and that change management tools are not used. Embedding is a long stage that continues while the PMM is in use and is characterised by intermittent actions to encourage the change, the nudging of project staff and reactions to driving and restraining forces in the environment as they arise. In looking at whether the espoused method was the same as the in-use ways of managing projects, it was found that project staff’s use of their own processes could be viewed as either positive or negative depending on the perspective taken. The findings show that organisations do not set goals for PMMs and thus are unable to assess the success of either selection or implementation. Three environmental variables, maturity, culture and organisational structure were found to have no, strong and weak influences respectively on the ‘Select’ and ‘Embed’ stages. The many factors that comprise culture and the flux over time suggest that the selection and embedding of PMMs is unique to organisations and that there is therefore no single, best way to carry out these stages. This research makes a contribution to academic knowledge due to the gap it fills between research on why organisations select PMMs and the benefit that PMMs bring to organisations. Understanding how organisations select and embed PMMs bridges this gap and helps to provide explanations for the results from using PMMs. From a practitioner perspective, the research provides assistance including lists of the performance criteria, risks relevant to PMMs and a descriptive model of how these stages are managed in reality, information that can be used to improve the selection and embedding and, ultimately, the performance of PMMs.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorFrancis Fenn (Supervisor) & Therese Lawlor-Wright (Supervisor)


  • Project management methods

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