A Framework for Understanding the Role of Project Culture for Organizational Project Maturity

A Framework for Understanding the Role of Project Culture for Organizational Project Maturity

Ivan Daniel Rincon (University of Victoria, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3197-5.ch008
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Many factors have been analyzed to qualify objectively the maturity of an organization to execute projects. However, there are other aspects that have to be considered. One of them, closely related to the well-known concept of “organizational culture,” is the “project culture.” Project culture can be defined with analogous elements to those of the organizational culture as a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that govern how people behave towards projects in an organization. Very few studies have been made formally available to understand how organizations culturally face projects as opposed to operational activities. This chapter presents existing literature and augments the evidence through several practical examples. Moreover, this chapter attempts to understand why some organizations, even when aware of their organizational culture, either fail to pass on the culture to project activities or even create a completely different and distinct project culture.
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Organizational Project Management Maturity in the context of projects is a very well researched field. PMI defines a standard for maturity as a model called OPM3®. It outlines the maturity of an organization against a comprehensive set of organizational best practices. This maturity model, along with others found in the literature, relies on objective assessments of practices, tools, and capabilities.

Some dimensions typically measured are: what the organization knows, its attitudes, and their actions (Andersen, 2003). Practitioners and researchers have used these criteria via different tools to assess the maturity level of organizations (Grant, 2006; Gonzalez, 2007; Backlund, 2014; Okar, 2011). These tools and their results when applied to organizations with some degree of maturity provide some interesting conclusion about the presence of soft factors in project management maturity. However, these same studies fail to address possible links to classical management areas like organizational culture.

At the same time, organizational culture, as a well-established knowledge and research field of administration and organizational psychology, has for many years attempted to describe how organizations behave as a consequence of subjective factors. Schein (1990) presents one of the first frameworks to define variables to define and analyze culture.

However, it’s not easy to find literature linking those two concepts. A few papers, mostly based on specific examples (Van Marrewijk, 2007; Zuo, 2005; Palmer, 2002; Stare, 2011) attempt to explain what project culture represents for organizations. None of these works cover the overarching question of what represents elements of project culture.

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