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کد مقاله سال انتشار مقاله انگلیسی ترجمه فارسی تعداد کلمات
3061 2006 10 صفحه PDF سفارش دهید محاسبه نشده
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عنوان انگلیسی
The role of intuition and improvisation in project management
منبع

Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)

Journal : International Journal of Project Management, Volume 24, Issue 6, August 2006, Pages 483–492

کلمات کلیدی
بدیهه سازی - شهود - مدیریت پروژه
پیش نمایش مقاله
پیش نمایش مقاله نقش شهود و بدیهه سازی در مدیریت پروژه

چکیده انگلیسی

Improvisation consists of a combination of intuition, creativity, and bricolage. Intuitions are rapid, affectively charged, holistic judgements arrived at without the apparent intrusion of rational thought. Improvisation and intuition represent two important and related aspects of management in general and of the management of projects in particular. There have been few, if any, studies that have examined the relationship between intuition and improvisation in the context of the management of projects. In this research we used a model of the relationships between project managers’ intuitive decision making behaviours, their use of improvisation and project outcomes in order to examine whether or not intuition is used in the management of projects, how it relates to improvisation and how intuition and improvisation are linked (if at all) to project outcomes. The research employed a cross-sectional survey design (N = 163) administered in two waves. Mediated multiple regression analyses revealed a number of statistically significant effects (p < 0.05), namely: (1) there is a positive relationship between the use of intuitive judgements and improvisation; (2) there is a positive relationship between experience and improvisation; (3) there is a positive relationship between the use of intuitive judgements and experience; and (4) the use of intuitive judgements is related to externally focused project outcomes. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for the following: role of intuitive judgements and improvisation in the management of projects; the ways in which both intuition and improvisation are conceptualised; and the training and development of project managers.

مقدمه انگلیسی

The long-standing dilemma of whether effective managerial action is better served by analytical or intuitive judgements [1] applies as much as to project management as it does to other aspects of business. Managers in general often need to make decisions in loosely structured situations where there may be a paucity of relevant information (leading to uncertainty) or where time is of the essence (and compelling them to act quickly). In such situations managers may call upon their intuitive decision making skills and improvisatory capabilities. In this research we used a model of the relationships between project managers’ intuitive decision making behaviours, their use of improvisation, and project outcomes in order to examine whether or not intuition is used in the management of projects, how it relates to improvisation, and how intuition and improvisation are linked (if at all) to project outcomes. This research is significant both for researchers and practitioners because it has the potential to shed light upon the ways in which project managers process information and make judgements, and upon any improvisational behaviours which they may deploy. Moreover, it contributes more generally to the evolving understanding of the role of intuitive decision making in management. The research is significant for project managers in that its findings may, if incorporated into their training and development programs, enable them to come to a better understanding of the role of intuition and improvisation in projects. 1.1. Improvisation Improvisation is becoming recognised increasingly as a means by which managers implement and embed strategic change within organisations [2], and an evolving literature is attempting to explain and contextualise this phenomenon. Improvisation has been identified as a combination of intuition, creativity, and bricolage that is driven by time pressures. In a project context improvisation involves moving away from an agreed plan in order to accelerate the implementation of actions [3], [4] and [5]. Recently, the various constructs that combine to explain organisational improvisation have been extended to include elements of adaptation, compression (of timescales), and innovation [6]. In the 1960s, improvisation was seen by scholars such as Quinn [7] as an organisational dysfunction, in that it led away from the traditional incremental route of ‘plan, then implement’. However, Weick [8] was an early advocate of improvisational activity, and the growing interest in and acknowledgement of this aspect of management has resulted in improvisation being more widely accepted as a skill that can assist in corporate planning exercises. This movement has accelerated in intensity in the 1990s, and given the need for faster cycle times and more innovative solutions to gain or retain competitive advantage [9]; these shifts show few signs of abating. The move towards managerially sanctioned improvisational activity appears to be affecting how organisations address both the way in which work activity is achieved, and the way in which it is supervised. Many organisations are allowing employees to create time and opportunity to experiment with new, innovative, and hopefully more effective ways of executing work; one result of this is new and complex management challenges. If organisations are creating time, space and opportunity for employees to use improvisational working practices to develop new ways of undertaking tasks, this poses challenges for the control and supervision of work, and also creates opportunities for organisational learning and knowledge creation (via mechanisms such as those suggested by Nonaka and his colleagues whereby tacit knowledge may be made explicit). Moreover, the implications for the training, development and education of managers may be significant. Improvisation may be seen as relating to how thoughts and action develop over time and in response to environmental cues and stimuli. Ryle [10] suggests that: “the vast majority of things that happen [are] unprecedented, unpredictable, and never to be repeated…[and]… the things we say and do … cannot be completely pre-arranged. To a partly novel situation the response is necessarily partly novel, else it is not a response” (p. 125). Ryle’s assertion is that however much an activity is planned there will always be a novel set of circumstances to deal with (which echoes Donald Schon’s notion of ‘artistry’ of professional practice). Improvisation requires using resources that are available to hand to resolve unforeseen circumstances: this is the essence of bricolage [11]. From the mid-1990s onwards much of the literature on improvisational work practices within organisations took this stance and applied it to organisational routines and processes. Some of these debates use metaphor to explain the way improvisation is used, for example adopting and applying ideas from jazz performance [12], [13], [14], [15] and [16], and from improvisational theatre [9], [17] and [18]. Later work used grounded theory to consider the temporal aspects of improvisation, and particularly the pressure to achieve complex tasks to a demanding or compressed timetable [3], [4] and [19]. These theoretical advancements provided the foundations for subsequent empirical work – for example, Akgun and Lynn’s [20] study of the links between improvised new product development and speed-to-market. Latterly, consideration has also been given to the interactions between improvisation and learning [2] and [6], improvisation and entrepreneurial activity [21] and [22], the ways in which the tacit knowledge upon which intuition may draw is acquired [23], and the role of experience in the acquisition of tacit knowledge [24]. 1.2. Intuition Alongside these developments there has been an upsurge of interest in the role of intuition in management as one way of overcoming the limits of rationality in loosely structured situations [25], [26], [27], [28] and [29]. In this context intuition may be defined as “a cognitive conclusion based on decision maker’s previous experiences and emotional inputs” [30, p. 93 emphasis added]. The view that we are advocating of intuition accommodates the notion of experiences and analyses ‘frozen into habits’ (to paraphrase Herbert Simon). These previously learned patterns leads to decisions being executed, often very rapidly, upon the basis of an ‘unconscious reasoning’ process which may have an affective component (a ‘gut feel’ or ‘hunch’). This may give the impression almost of a ‘sixth sense’ whilst actually being based upon expertise and prior learning (both explicit and implicit). With respect to intuition’s affective facet neuro-physiologists such as Antonio Damasio (see below) have advanced the hypothesis that ‘gut feel’ acts as a somatic ‘alarm bell’ warning for or against particular courses of action in advance of conscious reasoning (he and his colleagues refer to this as the ‘somatic marker hypothesis’). The definition of intuition offered above (a cognitive conclusion based on decision maker’s previous experiences and emotional inputs) is that of Burke and Miller [30] who derived it from a study that employed in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 60 managers across medium to large sized firms in the USA (each of whom had at least 10 years experience). A majority of respondents (56%) were of the view that intuition was decision making based upon experience and almost half (47%) reported using intuition often in the workplace. For the majority of respondents it was external as opposed to internal factors that prompted intuition; for example, if a situation had no predetermined guidelines to be followed, objective data appeared to be wanting, or where there was an overwhelming mass of information. It was those situations that lacked explicit cues, routines or procedures where experience-based intuition was relied upon (so-called ‘loosely structured’ situations). Paradoxically in Burke and Miller’s study too much data (information overload) also appeared to lead to intuition being employed, presumably in an attempt to cut through a swathe of detailed information, see the bigger picture and avoid ‘analysis paralysis’. Whilst Burke and Miller did not explicitly test the quality of the intuitive decisions arrived at by managers, they did ask them to report on their perceptions of the quality of such decisions. Two thirds of respondents reported the view that intuition had led to better decisions. The specific benefits reported were in terms of more expedient decision making (“leads to quicker decisions”), improved quality of decision (“provides a check and balance [on rational analysis]”) and facilitation of personal development (“develops a full tool set”). Burke and Miller concluded by suggesting that incorporating intuition into decision making is valid when time is of the essence, explicit cues are lacking, uncertainty prevails and when intuition is used as a balance to rational analyses. More recently Dane, Rockman and Pratt [31] found that analytical decision making works better in highly structured tasks, while intuition is most effective compared to analysis when decision-makers are domain experts who are facing tasks that are poorly (loosely) structured. The cognitive experiential self-theory (CEST) put forward by Epstein and his colleagues [32] is helpful in conceptualising and explaining the rational and intuitive facets of managerial cognition. In this theory they argue that human information processing is executed by two parallel cognitive systems: the rational system which is affect-free and operates at the conscious level; and the experiential (or intuitive) system which is associated with affect and operates at an automatic, preconscious level. Managers’ conscious thoughts and behaviours are a function of the interaction of these two systems and the degree of dominance of either system [32]. The rational and intuitive systems, and the extent to which an individual relies upon one or the other, may be thought of as preferred ways of processing information and decision making (sometimes referred to as cognitive styles or thinking styles [33]). To our knowledge there are no previous studies that have specifically examined the role of intuition per se in the context of project management. A study by Tullett [34] looked at the adaptive and innovative cognitive styles of male and female project managers and the implications for the management of change. This work was based on Kirton’s [35] adaptor-innovator theory which posits a continuum of style ranging from adaption (preferring to work by improving consensually agreed methods, products and practices) to innovation (preferring to work by reassessing and redefining problems thereby proposing changes which may appear unexpected and difficult to accept). Tullett found the mean score for project managers on the Kirton Adaption-Innovation (KAI) inventory to be significantly more innovative than that of the general population of managers. One of the main practical implications that Tullett drew from this finding was that when a relatively innovative project manager finds him or herself working with a relatively adaptive client manager there may be conflicts and differences in opinions. In the absence of clients moderating their preferences, the project manager (effectively the supplier in the relationship) may be forced into adopting a coping strategy (for example, by paying more attention to detail, de-risking decisions and being more aware of consensually agreed rules) [35, p. 364]. 1.3. Intuition, improvisation and project management Some three decades ago March [36] urged us, in our desire to understand the way in which individuals and organisations act, not to focus entirely on rational and analytic logic. Instead, he suggested that we should increasingly consider the softer sides of the human intellect, and specifically, the importance of intuition in human action. This view caused some tension in an era where management was seen as the science of planned and pre-conceived action, based on rationality and systematic forecasting. Indeed, the traditional project paradigm (as in many other areas of management practice) is one of ‘plan-then-execute’, but project management practitioners are aware that in modern, turbulent business environments, often the plan may cease to be effective at precisely the time when one tries to execute it. This is where intuition and improvisation may come into play. As noted earlier, Moorman and Miner [3] and [4] identify intuition as a key element of improvisation (along with creativity and bricolage). A mixture of serendipity, intuition, and intentional processes may combine to influence the direction of any improvisation, which may be prompted by a belief that one can do something better or in an improved way by means other than following the plan. Improvisation is however more usually triggered to gain or recover time or react to unplanned occurrences. Within projects, as well as other areas of management, the capacity to exercise intuitive judgements (as opposed to ill-informed snap decisions or guesswork) is likely to be derived from patterns that are stored in long term memory and upon which the experienced and expert performer can call on the basis of cues observed in the environment [27]. The ‘expert performer’ as described by Dreyfus and Dreyfus [37] and Benner and Tanner [38] is someone who appears to have little reliance upon guiding rules or maxims, but instead has an fast-acting, intuitive grasp of situations and how to act, unlike the novice who may follow a heuristic in a detached manner ignorant of the subtleties of the context. Eisenhardt [14], writing about organisational improvisation in terms of the metaphor of jazz improvisation, argued that the adaptive yet well executed performance, analogous to that witnessed in expert jazz musicians, is critical for effective decision making. The analogy holds since to be an improviser in jazz one has to be well-schooled in the techniques of performance upon one’s chosen instrument; unskilled or naı¨ve musical improvisation will possess a blatant lack of credibility. Switching to organisations, crucial decisions often are executed by highly skilled and experienced individuals who possess high levels of expertise acquired through explicit and implicit learning. Such expertise manifests itself as the capacity to intuit responses in complex decision scenarios with speed and flexibility. There is a long tradition of research into bounded rationality in decision making and readers are referred elsewhere for summaries (for example: [26], [27], [28], [29] and [30]); suffice to say here that according to Simon [39, p. 38] intuition and judgement are “analyses frozen into habit and into the capacity for rapid response through recognition”. Klein’s studies [27] of emergency services and the armed forces in the USA found little that corresponded to the accepted rational model; rather there appeared to be a rapid and unconscious situation assessment and recognition from an array of stored templates, followed by the taking of appropriate action on the basis of an action script when a fit with a pattern was found. The actual decision making process which Klein described involved an expert encountering a problem (i.e. a situation which has a set of particular cues), the information being matched to a familiar pattern from an array of stored templates (pattern recognition) and a decision protocol (an action script) being executed almost ‘automatically’ [27]. Klein argued that 80–95% of decisions in loosely structured, time pressured situation use this recognition-primed (intuitive) decision process. This corroborates Burke and Miller’s [30] finding that only 10% of the managers in their sample rarely or never used intuition. One explanation for this view of intuition is that it is the product of explicit and implicit learning that manifests itself as tacit knowledge drawn upon unconsciously or with apparently low levels of cognitive effort, and often accompanied by affect. Damasio and his co-workers argue that ‘gut feel’ has evolved for a purpose; that the affect which accompanies intuition is functional to the extent that it is often not possible to come to decisions without taking feelings into account. Moreover, to the extent that intuition and improvisation and the tacit knowledge which may underpin them are partly products of exposure, learning and experimentation we would expect them to be related to experience (and not necessarily age since it is possible to be older but inexperienced in a specific job role). Furthermore, if improvisation is viewed as the application of expert knowledge by seasoned and experienced ‘performers’ one would expect it to be related to the extent to which such individuals draw upon tacit knowledge by a process of intuiting.

نتیجه گیری انگلیسی

These data suggest that project managers’ intuitive decision making is positively related to their use of improvisation. Furthermore, their use of intuition also appears to be related to the extent to which they treat customer satisfaction issues as important outcomes of projects. Rationality (need for cognition) on the other hand was not associated with the use of improvisation. In terms of what this means behaviourally, these findings indicate that improvisation is associated with the extent to which managers trust their initial feelings, rely upon ‘gut feel’, have faith in their initial impressions and are inclined to trust their ‘hunches’. The association between the use of intuitive judgements and external outcomes may suggest that because the latter involves greater use of complex (and people-related) judgements, experience and expertise may have a role to play. These unstructured situations may be dealt with more efficaciously (accuracy and speed of response) by deploying intuition [31]. Internal outcomes are more likely to be amenable to rational analysis (resource allocation, return on investment, risk exposure and so forth), whereas external outcomes are related to customers and have more difficulties to take into account (satisfaction, change resistance and so forth). Another related explanation of this may be that the use of intuition could well be linked to confidence (since intuitions are often accompanied by a confidence in their rightness or wrongness) and by association expertise (since intuition as defined in this research is a manifestation of experience and expertise). However, in the absence of further evidence the latter remains speculative. Empirical evidence from Leybourne [41] indicates that experienced project managers improvise more than those with less experience – a finding supported by the present research. Intuition was positively associated with the extent to which managers felt that they engaged with meeting customers’ requirements and satisfaction needs (one of our outcome measures) – these are the ‘softer’ outcomes requiring more complex, interpersonal judgements (drawing perhaps upon facets of emotional intelligence and social intuition). The relationship with improvisation is explicable in terms of the extent to which managers are drawing upon unconscious expertise and tacit knowledge (which they may label as a ‘hunch’ or a ‘gut feel’). The relationship with customer satisfaction is perhaps explicable in terms of the role of feelings and emotions; managers who are amenable to the influence of their own feelings and emotions in their behaviours (as manifested in their faith in intuition) may also be sensitive to the needs, wants and feelings of customers. They may therefore be more prepared to expend additional effort in order to meet customer expectations than are managers who are less sensitised to intuition and who may be more ‘coldly rational’. However, these are issues which future research might aim to explicate in greater depth. Another influence may be the fact that we are specifically dealing with the intellectual and emotional working practices of project managers, and a core consideration within the basic project management paradigm is meeting the three key deliverables of a project, namely time, cost and scope. Of these, scope is basically the customer requirement in respect of what is to be delivered, and project managers must therefore be strongly focused on meeting those documented customer expectations. A related issue is the covertness of improvisation within projects. Knowledgeable and experienced project managers are tasked to deliver outcomes within organisations quickly and incurring the minimum of risk. However, moving away from a documented plan is seen as risky, and the safety net of joint planning and agreement on schemas of action is removed when a project manager decides to improvise. Against this backcloth it would not be unsurprising if rational analysis legitimised authority and actions. Because of this, much improvised activity may happen surreptitiously, and take place ‘below the surface’, and perhaps even instead of the documented and agreed tasks and activities required by the formal project plan. In Agor’s study of intuition [49] nearly half the respondents indicated that they kept the fact that they relied upon intuition a secret, whilst others reported a posthoc rationalization for decisions arrived at intuitively (a finding replicated a decade later in Burke and Miller’s study). However, notwithstanding these issues, it is certainly inevitable that experienced managers build a personal repertoire of routines, practices and mechanisms that are recognised by them and others as known remedies for problems that may arise during the project. Much of their repertoire of patterns and associated scripts is built up as a result of the capture of successful improvisational activity, some of which may be acquired through implicit learning and stored as tacit knowledge and best passed on through processes such as observational learning and role modelling in a community of project practitioners. An unexpected outcome from this study was the lack of any statistically significant relationship between improvisation and satisfactory project outcomes. Many project managers profess to improvise in the expectation that this will have a benefit in achieving the deliverables of their project. There is however evidence that much improvisational activity is incurred to ‘claw back’ time and cost over-runs, or to meet customer demands for changes to scope to provide increased functionality. Many project managers would argue that this is endemic because unrealistic goals or objectives have been imposed upon them by senior managers or project sponsors with insufficient knowledge of the challenges of the proposed programme of work. The evidence from this study identifies a link between experience and a tendency to improvise. Perhaps this experience, informed by the tacit repertoire of routines, practices and mechanisms built up over time, and coupled with an intuitive feel for the inherent problems within a given project, encourages improvisation to lessen the impact of unrealistic project targets and deliverables. Future research might examine the relationship between intuitive judgements, improvisation and outcome measures (ideally of a non-self-report nature). This research project was focused upon a specific sector (financial services). Future research might usefully focus upon the question of whether or not improvisation and intuition vary across different types of projects rather as well as sectors. For example, with regard to technically complex projects such as those in aerospace or clinical research the question of improvisation and intuition are relied upon, what might be the effects of improvisation and intuition, and what are their impacts further down the project? One might anticipate that in tightly structured situations (for example, where salient variables are known, quantifiable and controllable) there may be no need for intuition or improvisation; however, the question is raised of how do experienced managers act in those loosely structured situations which are prone to uncertainties and changes and many of which may be difficult or impossible to predict? What roles do experience and expertise play in the success or otherwise of intuitions in these scenarios? There is a pressing need for additional research which examines the relationships between project type, environmental uncertainty and level of experience and expertise of managers and their effects upon outcomes. The issue of job level has not been examined in this study, but questions remain about the extent to which seniority confers upon managers the opportunity to improvise and intuit. Future research might overcome the limitations of this cross-sectional study by employing laboratory studies, experimental and longitudinal research designs as well as critical incident reviews of those remembered scenarios in which intuition helped and those in which it hindered.

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