Culture, Knowledge Management, and Maturity in Complex Engineering Projects

Culture, Knowledge Management, and Maturity in Complex Engineering Projects

Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5864-4.ch003

Abstract

This chapter opens a discussion of how mature organizations in project management deal with culture and knowledge management in complex projects. This discussion also includes organizational structure and communication aspects. This chapter seeks to establish relationships between these four aspects and the three main characteristics of complex projects: ambiguities, multiple stakeholders, and multinationality. At the end of chapter, a table summarizes these relationships. The purpose of this chapter is to begin a discussion of the culture and knowledge management aspects of mature organizations dealing with complex projects. Along with culture and knowledge management, the authors also cover aspects of organizational structure (for project implementation) and communication, since they have a strong relationship with each other. In fact, the boundaries between these four aspects (culture, knowledge management, structure, and communication) are not clear and there are overlaps between them.
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Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to begin a discussion of the culture and knowledge management aspects of mature organizations dealing with complex projects. Along with culture and knowledge management we will also cover aspects of organizational structure (for project implementation) and communication, since they have a strong relationship with each other. In fact, we can say that the boundaries between these four aspects (culture, knowledge management, structure and communication) are not clear and that there are overlaps between them.

Let's highlight some concepts related to complex projects that will be used in this chapter.

Increasing the pace of change, growing economic complexity, and global competition require executives to re-examine their strategies to meet stakeholder expectations and meet market needs. It is in this context that maturity in project management fits.

The Project Management Institute (PMI, 2013a) has published a specific edition of complex projects called “Navigating Complexity” in one of its “Pulse of profession in-depth reports”. In it, which also addresses this context, PMI indicates the reasons that make it highly relevant to discuss complexity in projects. He says that complexity tends to grow larger and that it is usually associated with significant budgets. Thus, knowing how to deal with complexity becomes a competitive advantage for companies.

In the same report, PMI (2013a) lists the eleven main characteristics that define a project as complex, as follows:

  • 1.

    Multiple stakeholders;

  • 2.

    Ambiguity of project features, resources, phases, etc;

  • 3.

    Significant political/authority influence;

  • 4.

    Unknown project features, resources, phase, etc;

  • 5.

    Dynamic (changing) project governance;

  • 6.

    Significant external influences;

  • 7.

    Use of a technology that is new to the organization;

  • 8.

    Use of a technology that has not yet been fully developed;

  • 9.

    Significant internal interpersonal or social influences;

  • 10.

    Highly regulated environment;

  • 11.

    Project duration exceeds the cycle of relevant technologies.

Many of these characteristics are directly related to the first two: ambiguity and multiple stakeholders. Thus, for our discussion, complex projects are those that have ambiguities and multiple stakeholders.

On ambiguities, it is convenient to highlight that they are conceptually related to enterprise environmental factors, which are input to several of the processes proposed by the PMBOK (PMI, 2013c), which are also related to the concept of risks. Concerning stakeholders, it should be mentioned that different stakeholders may have different expectations, which can compete with each other and create conflicts within the project. Our discussion will also consider the combination of these two characteristics, that is, projects that have stakeholders with ambiguous positions.

A third characteristic that we will consider in our discussions of complex projects is multinationality. Multinationality is understood as the characteristic of projects whose activities are dispersed in diverse places of the globe, something usual in our globalized world. Multinationality can make the issue of (multiple) stakeholders more complex by adding the ingredient of potentially meaningful cultural differences between them. These cultural differences can bring new ambiguities to the project.

An example of complex projects where stakeholders have ambiguous positions are those that have a significant impact on the communities where they are located, especially if they are small communities. Many mining projects or hydroelectric plant projects fall into this group. These are projects that, in addition to internal stakeholders, have a number of external stakeholders, such as:

  • Public administration;

  • Regulatory agencies;

  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs);

  • Local merchants;

  • Local workers;

  • Residents of the community, among others.

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