An Investigation of the Influence of Organisational Culture on Project Management
To explore the link between organisational culture and project management.
To evaluate the impact of organisational culture on innovation and project management success.
To formulate recommendations on the impact of organisational culture on the management of projects.
This literature review explores the main issues surrounding the influence of organisational culture in the management of projects within the National Health Service and financial institutions (banks). The literature review will also review the available guidelines that assist project managers in tackling the identified issues. To this end, this review will draw on a series of landmark studies in the current body of literature in order to facilitate a structured and critical analysis of the ways in which organisational culture influences project management. Firstly, in order to address this question, the term “organisational culture” needs to be defined. The enquiry into “culture” first began at the end nineteenth century (Deshpande and Webster, 1989; Reigle, 2003; Bertho et al., 2001). However, there has been no single, universal definition of organisational culture. Marshall and Marshall (1993) define organisational culture as a melting pot of beliefs, rules, actions, regulations, and attitudes that guide behaviour in an organisational context. In this way, every organisation has its own organisational culture that is formed by its members (Cleland & Ireland, 2006). An organisation’s culture can also be formed through the different rites, rituals and the expected patterns of communication and behaviour within the organisation (Mullins, 2007). A more conventional way of defining culture, however, is the procedure by which things are carried out and achieved in a given organisation. For example, Atkinson (1990) offers a definition of organisational culture as a set of underlying processes that influence the way in which work is performed. Researchers such as Kilman et al., (1985) and Sackman (1991) corroborate this view and see culture as “the way we do things around here”. In this way, every organisational culture carries its own modus operandi that has positive and negative aspects. For the purposes of this project, this will be the definition that shall guide the literature review and following study. Considerable research has suggested a significant influence of organisational culture on project performance, and the subsequent success of organisations (Yazini, 2009; Brown, 2008; Andersen et al., 2009). For example, a number of studies have shown that organisational culture influences specific project organisational culture, such as goal planning, employee commitment to project goals, and the performance of project teams (Stare, 2011). Organisational culture can also exert its influence on organisational processes that include decision-making, design, structure, motivation, job-satisfaction and management control (Pheysey, 1993). Moreover, organisational culture has also been found to influence the “sub culture” of a project team as indicated in research by Kerzner (2001) who found that organisational culture can impact the trust, connection and co-operation within a project team. Organisational culture can also critically influence innovation, group effectiveness and achievement, and the overall success of an organisation (Reigle, 2001). However, project management has also been found to play a critical role in an organisation’s success. For example, Tidd and Bessant (2009) found that the commitment level of top management is linked with the innovation of an organisation. Moreover, project management is important in maintaining a balance between a team’s culture and an organisational culture. In the current times of economic instability, project management is needed to allow individuals to accomplish their individual goals and aspirations as well as the objectives and goals of a project. Moreover, whilst an organisational culture can change, adapt and evolve over time, individuals are often more resistant to change, especially if organisational changes have not been adequately explained to them and they are ignorant of the benefits to the organisation (Cleland & Ireland, 2006). In these cases, a project manager is needed to step in and motivate his/her team so that the change takes place smoothly. Given the importance of both organisational culture and project management on the success of an organisation, a limited amount of research has indirectly drawn links between organisational culture and project management. For example, Shore (2008) hypothesised that the way in which projects are carried out is deeply influenced by both the project leader, but also the way in which the organisation performs its work. Schein (1991) also suggested that individuals within an organisation cannot create a new organisational culture, but can contribute to its evolution over time. Consequently, an organisation can learn to embrace a completely different modus operandi and adopt a novel way of doing things. However, these kinds of transformations demand high degrees of tolerance and acceptance of change. These changes also often require organisations to be open to deviating from traditional norms and operating in flexible and adaptive ways. In such cases, the role of effective project management is essential, as it is needed to equip others with skill-sets in which they can face changes in the organisational culture. Similarly, Mullins (2007) noted that every organisational culture differs from one region to another, and therefore, the project management must be formulated in such a way that it is able to adjust to these changes and explore opportunities for development. Moreover, for an organisation to be successful in the management of projects, the project team culture must hold values, principles, procedures and management philosophies that are in line with the organisation’s culture (Cleland & Ireland, 2006). In other words, there must be equality within the organisational culture. Cultural equality ensures that the management of projects is consistent with the organisational culture that supports a project’s advancement and success. However, this consistency will not exist unless senior managers are able to develop and communicate a vision that effective project management is important, worth doing, and actively supports the use of resources to accomplish project objectives, (Cleland & Ireland, 2006).Due to the aforementioned strong links between organisational culture and project management, some researchers have modified the definition of organisational culture to be a reflection of management authority (Cartwright, 1999). In other words, this definition proposes that an organisational culture that is widely accepted, can help employees align themselves with their organisation, internalise the organisation’s beliefs as their own and motivate employees to achieve the organisation’s objectives (Cartwright, 1999). This research therefore, begs the central question of whether organisational culture impacts the management of projects. In line with this question, research by Pinto (2010) has revealed four different ways in which organisational culture can influence project management. Firstly, culture impacts the ways in which teams and departments communicate and interact with each other when faced with tasks and goals. Secondly, organisational culture influences the attitudes that employees hold towards project goals. Thirdly, culture affects the planning that takes place in preparation for a project. Finally, culture impacts the ways in which managers evaluate project team performance and a project’s success. Using this research as a grounding framework, the current study addresses the paucity of research on the impact of organisational culture on project management and aims to delve further into an understanding of the different ways in which culture exerts its impact using an inductive approach. The findings may, in turn, make significant theoretical and applied contributions. In the former case, the research will provide support for a previously under-studied topic. In the latter case, a greater emphasis on project managers in relation to the organisational culture may challenge the “not invented-here” mind-set (Tidd & Bessant, 2009) in which organisations resist change and fail to see the potential of new ideas and inventions. By understanding the relationship between organisational culture and project management, this research will point to the mechanisms such as training of the necessary staff and effective communication that will accommodate changes and bring about enthusiasm, commitment and a sense of involvement for all employees and managers (Tidd & Bessant, 2009).
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Kerzner, H. (2001). Strategic Planning for Project Management: Using a Project Management Maturity Model. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Pinto, J. K. (2010). Project Management: Achieving Competitive Advantage. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.