یادگیری در سازمان های مبتنی بر پروژه : نقش سرمایه اجتماعی تیم های پروژه برای غلبه بر موانع یادگیری
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|4345||2013||13 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Journal of Project Management, Volume 31, Issue 2, February 2013, Pages 239–251
It is a major challenge for project-based organizations to learn across project boundaries by making project-level knowledge available to the organization as a whole. This study argues that project teams' social capital is conducive to overcoming barriers to learning in project-based organizations. Based on a large-scale analysis of engineering projects in Germany, the study shows that project teams' social capital, i.e. the intra-organizational social ties of project teams with their colleagues outside the project, compensates for project teams' lack of opportunity, motivation, and ability to make project-learnings available to the organization as a whole. By contributing to overcoming barriers to learning in project-based organizations, social capital represents an important driver of organizational learning about market conditions, products and technologies as well as project management.
Organizations increasingly rely on projects to carry out their business activities (Midler, 1995 and Whittington et al., 1999). If most or all business activities of an organization are undertaken in the form of projects, these organizations are referred to as project-based organizations (Hobday, 2000). Project-based organizations are the prevalent mode of organization in a variety of industries, including engineering (Shenhar and Dvir, 1996), advertising (Grabher, 2002), construction (Winch, 1989), and film (Bechky, 2006). Whereas early literature mainly focused on the achievement of project goals and accordingly studied techniques and tools that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of individual projects (White and Fortune, 2002), more recent research has emphasized organizational learning as a key performance driver in project-based organizations (Blindenbach-Driessen and van den Ende, 2006, Brady and Davies, 2004 and Söderlund, 2004). Organizational learning in project-based organizations most commonly refers to the process of making newly created project-level knowledge available to the organization as a whole by sharing, transferring, retaining, and using it (Argote and Ophir, 2005 and Prencipe and Tell, 2001). Organizational learning is regarded as a key performance driver in project-based organizations because prior projects offer potentially valuable experiences that can be applied in similar projects in the future or generate new knowledge about the organization's technology and market base that could lead to new business offerings (Brady and Davies, 2004). While projects are widely recognized as being wellsprings of learning and innovation (Davies and Hobday, 2005), organizational learning from projects however faces substantial challenges (DeFillippi and Arthur, 1998, Edmondson and Nembhard, 2009, Keegan and Turner, 2001, Lundin and Söderholm, 1995 and Scarbrough et al., 2004). These difficulties arise due to the unique and discontinuous nature of project-based work which creates intra-firm boundaries that hinder the transfer and use of valuable knowledge gained within particular projects by subsequent projects and/or the project-based organization as a whole (Gann and Salter, 2000 and Prencipe and Tell, 2001). It thus seems important to understand how project-based organizations can overcome impediments to learning from their projects (Lindner and Wald, 2011). Empirical research has provided evidence that organizational learning in project-based organizations is supported by specific context conditions. A number of studies examined technical and structural remedies for overcoming barriers to organizational learning, for example, knowledge management systems (Cooper et al., 2002, Koskinen, 2004 and Williams, 2004), IT-infrastructure (Laurikkala et al., 2002), memory objects (Cacciatori, 2008), or post-project reviews (Koners and Goffin, 2007). Yet learning foremost is a social process in which individuals and groups augment their knowledge. Therefore, it seems appropriate also to consider how the social context may enhance learning in project-based organizations. However, only few studies have illuminated this aspect highlighting the roles of communities of practice (Ruuska and Vartiainen, 2005 and Wenger, 2000), partnering flexibility (Schwab and Miner, 2011), culture and leadership (Lindner and Wald, 2011), and knowledge sharing networks (Bresnen et al., 2003, Kratzer et al., 2010 and Maurer et al., 2011). Despite these important contributions, our understanding of how social context conditions facilitate learning across project boundaries is still incomplete and requires additional research (Bresnen et al., 2005). In particular, we need to further unpack which specific social context conditions lead to different organization-level learning outcomes and why (Bakker, 2010). Heeding this call, the present study extends prior research on organizational learning in project-based organizations by spelling out how project teams' internal social capital affects three organization-level learning outcomes that are crucial for organizational performance. Drawing on the social capital literature (Adler, 2002), we argue that project teams' intra-organizational social capital, i.e. the structure and quality of project team members' social ties with their intra-organizational colleagues in the project-based organization, facilitates organizational learning because it affects their opportunities, motivation and ability to share knowledge across project boundaries, thus alleviating barriers to organizational learning. On the basis of a large sample of project-based organizations in the German engineering industry, the study shows that project members' intra-organizational social capital enhances organization-level learning in three knowledge domains that are crucial for organizational performance: knowledge about market conditions, products and technologies, as well as project management. This study makes two main contributions to emerging research on how social context conditions affect organizational learning in project-based organizations (Bakker et al., 2011 and Bresnen et al., 2003). First, it introduces theory and related evidence that advance understanding about how and why project teams' intra-organizational social capital facilitates organization-level learning in project-based organizations. It thus extends the discussion of how barriers to organizational learning in project-based organizations can be overcome (Ajmal and Koskinen, 2008, Brady and Davies, 2004 and Söderlund, 2004). Second, this study contributes to earlier research on learning outcomes in project-based organizations (Bakker et al., 2011 and Kasvi et al., 2003) by unpacking how project teams' intra-organizational social capital affects organization-level learning outcomes in three distinct knowledge domains that are crucial for organizational performance.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Recently, Bakker (2010) identified project-based learning as one of the hot issues in the project literature. It relates to the question of how project-based organizations can access and sustain the knowledge that is created within a temporary organizational form. This question is of considerable theoretical and practical interest, because making project-level knowledge available to the organization as a whole is both a challenge and a key performance driver in project-based organizations (Brady and Davies, 2004). The temporary and discontinuous character of projects creates particular intra-organizational barriers to learning disrupting the knowledge flow between a project and its wider organizational context. Learning barriers can be traced back to a lack of opportunities, ability, and motivation for learning in project-based organizations. As social capital has been asserted to impact these mechanisms of learning (Adler and Kwon, 2002), we argued and indeed found empirically that project teams' social capital facilitates learning about market conditions, products and technologies as well as project management across project boundaries. Project teams' social capital thus represents a possibility for sustaining knowledge within the discontinuous and fragmented learning environment of project-based organizations. These findings have several theoretical as well as practical implications. First, our study contributes to the literature on project-based learning by improving our limited understanding of both barriers and drivers of learning in project-based organizations (Bresnen et al., 2005 and Lindner and Wald, 2011). While we know that knowledge sharing among different organizational subunits can be a source of competitive advantage (Argote and Ingram, 2000 and Gupta and Govindarajan, 2000), research has emphasized the specific difficulties faced by project-based organizations when passing knowledge from one project to the next or to the project-based organization as a whole (Bresnen et al., 2004 and DeFillippi and Arthur, 1998). Earlier studies have viewed project-based learning from a formal and/or technical perspective of knowledge processing and storage. Accordingly, they emphasized managerial, organizational and technical means for overcoming barriers to learning (e.g. Bstieler and Hemmert, 2010, Koners and Goffin, 2007, Laurikkala et al., 2002 and Lindner and Wald, 2011). Our study complements this research by focusing on the social aspects of learning. Drawing on social capital research (Adler and Kwon, 2002 and Nahapiet and Ghoshal, 1998), we introduce theory and related evidence that illuminates how and why project teams' social capital facilitates organizational learning in project-based organizations. Specifically, we argue that the social embeddedness of project teams within the wider context of the project-based organization as a whole can help to bridge critical intra-firm barriers to learning that arise due to the dispersed and discontinuous nature of project-based work. Our empirical findings indeed are consistent with the notion that project teams' intra-organizational social capital, in terms of the number, strength and cognitive similarity of ties with their intra-organizational colleagues, enhances the opportunities, motivation, and ability to transfer knowledge from the project to the project-based organization as a whole, retain and apply it. Second, our study underlines the importance of social capital as a source of continuity in the discontinuous setting of project-based work. Projects are characterized as an unstable and discontinuous organizational form (Gann and Salter, 2000 and Prencipe and Tell, 2001) that poses particular challenges with regard to the coordination of both knowledge stocks and flows in project-based organizations. Achieving continuity thus represents an important challenge for project-based organizations (Sydow et al., 2004). In an exploratory study, Bechky (2006) illustrates how people in film projects rely on interpersonal and informal mechanisms to coordinate work and maintain continuity across different projects. Her findings imply that in discontinuous and dispersed work environments formal organization structures become inadequate or even impossible. Therefore, project-based organizations move towards social modes for coordinating tasks, equipment, and workforce, i.e. their knowledge stocks. Our findings add to this argument by highlighting that project-based organizations may rely on intra-organizational social capital to channel knowledge flows across projects. Strong relational and cognitive ties among project teams and their colleagues outside the project can be an important source of continuity and organizational stability in the discontinuous setting of project-based organizations. Third, our findings further complement earlier research on the implications of project-level social capital in project-based organizations. Di Vincenzo and Mascia (2012) demonstrate empirically that project teams' intra-organizational social capital in terms of network cohesion and range positively affects dimensions of project performance. Our study shows that project-level social capital can also have consequences beyond the individual project, as it positively affects learning outcomes at the level of the project-based organization. By emphasizing project-level characteristics that facilitate organizational learning in project-based organizations, our findings also extend the recent findings by Bakker et al. (2011). These scholars find that features of the project-based organization, such as its absorptive capacity, are important preconditions for project-to-organization learning in project-based organizations. Together, these findings underscore that organizational learning in project-based organizations involves multiple levels of analysis, as it is influenced by features of individual team members, project teams, the project-based organization, and industry context (Schwab, 2009). Finally, this study contributes to earlier research on learning outcomes in project-based organizations by unpacking the effects of project teams' social capital on different knowledge domains. According to the knowledge-based view of the firm, knowledge and the ability to learn are central for achieving competitive advantage (Eisenhardt and Santos, 2002 and Grant, 2002). Our findings suggest that learning with regard to market conditions, products and technologies as well as project management could represent important mediating concepts between antecedents of learning and competitive advantage that might be further scrutinized by future research within the knowledge-based view, as the knowledge in these three domains has been shown to be particularly critical for the performance of (project-based) organizations (van Donk and Riezebos, 2005 and White and Fortune, 2002). Besides these theoretical contributions, the study's findings provide some implications for practicing managers in project-based organizations. To the extent that social capital is an important driver of learning and innovation in these organizations, project managers seeking to enhance these dimensions of project performance should not only focus on formal organizational and managerial means but could also enable the development of social ties between project team members and their intra-organizational colleagues outside the project. This is a challenging task, however, as social ties can hardly be established by means of a directive from a higher level in the hierarchy. However, prior conceptual (Inkpen and Tsang, 2005 and Kang et al., 2007) as well as empirical (Maurer, 2010 and Smith et al., 2005) work introduced a number of organizational human resource practices and structural solutions that seem conducive to the development of social ties between individual members of an organization. Accordingly, it might be fruitful if managers established organizational structures, practices, and processes under which social capital in project-based organizations is likely to develop. There are several theoretical and empirical limitations to this study that might indicate fruitful opportunities for future research. Because our empirical study rests on project-based organizations from a single industry, research in other project-based industries is needed to examine whether our findings hold in those contexts. Also, it might be fruitful to examine other possible elements of project members' social capital with their colleagues outside the project such as mutual trust or a shared language. Finally, instead of examining the likely outcomes of intra-organizational social capital, future research should seek to discover the factors that support its formation. Despite these open questions, this study provided evidence that illuminates how project teams' social capital can contribute to bridging barriers to learning in project-based organizations. In conclusion, our study points out that in addition to established formal and technical means, such as knowledge management procedures and information systems, project teams' intra-organizational social capital plays an important role in facilitating organizational learning in project-based organizations.