Sunday, November 15, 2009


I am currently conducting interviews to identify management strategies in use to deal with rapid change in the project environment. Rapidly changing environments are a newly recognized and increasing challenge in the field of project management.

Traditional prescriptive approaches, orientated around process control, are considered sub optimal in meeting this challenge (Ashton, Johnson, & Cook, 1990; Koskela & Howell, 2002; Sachs & Meditz, 1979, p. 1081; Sugden, 2001; Williams, 2004). We have therefore embarked on an exploratory theory-building study aiming to identify the project management approaches used by experienced practitioners to respond to rapidly changing environments.

Interviews are being conducted with participants across all industries. Past examples include defence, community development, construction, technology, pharmaceutical, film production, start-ups, venture capital, space, and research. Findings are analysed according to the planning styles used. Project management approaches employed by experienced practitioners in mature organizations are being identified. Results are used to build a model for better management in rapidly changing environments.

Research Design

A qualitative research design is used to develop an understanding of a topic about which little is known (Creswell, 2003). Grounded theory is used as a way to build a theory on how practitioners implement strategies. In-depth, semi-structured interviews allow the participants to elaborate on their understanding of the issues and explore their understanding of the problem and the relevance of strategies used in addressing change in project management environments. Constant comparison is being employed, yo continuously draw interpretations and refine concepts from one participant to the next (Creswell, 2003; Yin, 2003). The spread of participants across diverse industries ensures that a broad range of approaches to managing dynamic environments were explored, and commonalities identified. The constant comparative thematic analysis of interview data facilitates the analysis across multiple participants and enabled comparison across industries.


Only participants who perceived they were significantly challenged by the dimension of dynamism are included in the study. Participants are not identified in any publications.


Semi-structured interviews are used to explore, clarify, and confirm participants’ views on challenges and strategies (Creswell, 2003; Flick, 2006). All participants give permission and are provided with a participant information sheet. Each interview begins with an open question “what do you think are the causes of dynamism in your industry, and the project management challenges created in managing this dynamism?”. Participants are asked to illustrate their responses with indicative, pertinent examples. Interviews are either conducted face-to-face or in written form by email response. Following analysis of the interview, participants may be interviewed a second or third time, to verify, confirm or clarify the researcher’s interpretations.

Transcription of the Interviews

All digitally recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and all written responses were transferred into Word documents and de-identified. In all interview transcripts participant names and company names and any information that might potentially identify participants was deleted or replaced with general descriptors (e.g. city, company, director).

Data Analysis

Interview transcripts and field notes are analyzed as data collection progresses. Transcripts are read and re-read for content themes according to the research questions. Researchers discuss the data to identify content themes, explore any possible alternative interpretations of the data, to arrive at a consensus on the findings (Flick, 2006). Interview transcripts ae coded according to the content themes that are then organized into broader categories of meaning as they emerge (Creswell, 2003).

Verifying and Confirming Interpretations from the Data.

Participants are sent summaries of their interview with an invitation to amend or add to the information. This procedure enabled the researchers to verify that their identification of themes were an accurate representation of the participants intended meaning (Creswell, 2003).

The Approaches in Summary

A full explanation of the approaches from the first of three studies can be found in the publications.


This studies deliberately used “maximum variation sampling” to obtain views from diverse industries to facilitate cross pollination of ideas. However, it is certainly possible that the approaches used in one industry may not apply at all in another. While meeting the aims of this study, the sampling technique and qualitative research design means that results cannot be generalised to all project managers within each of the participants' industries.


Simon Collyer