On the politics of change in academia: projects as negotiated, contested spaces

BEACH, Yvonne (2021). On the politics of change in academia: projects as negotiated, contested spaces. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00404


There has been a significant growth in the use of projects as a method to implement organizational change. As a project management practitioner, senior leader in a Higher Education Institution and a researcher, I have experienced significant tensions between the traditional assumptions of project management – linearity, predictability and controllability – with the complexity of organizational change. This issue was investigated within this programme of research through asking, ‘What tensions might exist in embracing socio-political complexity within the project management tradition of controllability during the pre-initiation phase of organizational change projects?’ Fieldwork consisted of a single-case study (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2018), following an inductive logic, and pertaining to a large-scale project within a UK Higher Education Institution. It builds empirically grounded theoretical insights that aligned with the knowledge constituting assumptions of neo-positivism. Data sources included 14 semistructured interviews, which were triangulated with observations and transcripts of 21 project-related meetings and 134 project documents. Two phases of data analysis were conducted. First, the data was analysed to delineate discernible perspectives of the nature and boundaries of “the project”. The second phase identified and examined the sociopolitical complexities at the intersection of the formal and informal life of the project. The findings demonstrate project management to be more than organising tasks and resources in a neutral, apolitical way. The implication is that change projects call for a shift away from assumptions of a bounded rationality towards the project as a negotiated and contested space. To be involved in project work relating to organizational change is inevitably to be involved in power and politics. It is thus time to reimagine the project management orthodoxy and this research is a step toward that goal. In doing so, the study expands the debate on the social and institutional context of projects in the nascent literature on ‘Project Studies’

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Coule, Tracey
Thesis advisor - Johnson, Philip
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Tracey Coule / Supervisor: Prof. Philip Johnson.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00404
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2021 17:03
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2023 14:43
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/29326

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