New research has revealed the extent of the impact of complex human interaction on the effectiveness of project management practice.
In his PhD thesis, Human Interaction in Project Management, Dr Mano Nugapitiya, recently graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney's School of the Built Environment, explored the many social processes that take place concurrently with the technical process, and how these social processes come to influence a project outcome.
"My research moves beyond traditional project management theory, in that I examined why project managers choose the tools and techniques at their disposal, not what they have chosen, or how they have succeeded or failed," said Dr Nugapitiya.
Indeed, Dr Nugapitiya believes that he and his supervisors at UTS - Patrick Healy and Professor Spike Boydell - have entered into unchartered areas in project management research, and have potentially unlocked new research opportunities in the field.
A key finding of the research is recognition of the capacity and strength of 'face-to-face' interactions, such as project start-up meeting, community briefings, and informal meetings and get-togethers.
“Project management practice needs to focus on to ‘face-to-face’ encounters, just as much as the technical, dry processes, as written documentation alone does not provide the means to solve issues. Rather, ‘face-to-face’ interaction and documentation should compliment each other.
“We have to be acutely aware that we are human, not robots, and our projects have impact on the lives of the local community,” said Dr Nugapitiya.
Through the study, Dr Nugapitiya developed a management tool which stresses the importance of positioning the project manager’s ‘self’ as an entity and the other participants subjectively. Such a positioning provides significant insights into the role of self-concept, the generalized other, gestures, meanings and intersubjectivity in project management.
Human Interaction in Project Management explored project management practice by an examination of the lived experience of the project manager, and was based upon a major project management case study: the rebuilding of the Alpine Way after the Thredbo landslide disaster in 1997, where Nugapitiya was resident engineer.
“By examining project management through the lived experience of the project manager, the research moves outside the current project management base to identify a set of concepts that can provide an alternative view and analysis that is based on people’s views, interpretations, feelings and things that are subtle and not readily identifiable,” he said.
Considering these issues, Human Interaction in Project Management provides the grounds for an alternative approach to viewing project management's theoretical framework, hence setting a new standard in project management.