A Particularly Helpful Reference
There was, however, one reference in the list that does deal with the issues being discussed here, namely a book called Making Projects Critical, edited by Damian Hodgson and Svetlana Cicmil.
Interestingly, in their introduction, this book's editors make the point that:
"As a tentative starting point, therefore, we would pose some fundamental questions, which might guide our reflection on how projects are conceived and how they could be conceived:
- Is there a universal explanation of what projects are and how projects evolve?
- What is the meaning behind the concepts in use, that is, the terms such as 'project', 'project management' and 'project success'?
- What are the implications of the 'mainstream' definitions of 'project' and 'project management' for the nature of knowledge and the intellectual foundations of studies of project-based organising, work and management?
- What are the consequences of project organising as currently prescribed, both for project managers and project workers?
- What alternative perspectives upon projects exist beyond the mainstream?
- Whose interests are being served by the reproduction of the status quo in the field?"
Unfortunately, it did not appear to us that any of the authors contributing subsequent chapters actually tackled the first three bullets. However, under a section headed "Accounting for the failure of project management", the editors also observed:
"Despite a high level of research enthusiasm against the background of instrumental rationality in decision-making and control, it is increasingly apparent that accepting and applying such orthodoxy does not eliminate project failures, nor does it guarantee project success (Williams, 2004)."
We think it is quite unfair to the project management community to keep harping on the high levels of project failure, when the identification of "failure" (and hence success) is frequently misdirected, or not defined at all. In any case, projects in general have varying levels of risk, which implies risks of failure. If some part of a project has only, say, a 60% probability of success, even though the potential payoff warrants that kind of risk taking, then it follows that some 40% of like undertakings must be expected to fail. Entrepreneurial undertakings, product development and seeking new drugs, to say nothing of modern Olympics, are all good examples of high-risk projects.
26. Hodgson, D., and Cicmil, S., Making Projects Critical, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire and New York, 2006. Item #14 in the Appendix. Unhappily, the content of this book is very "unfriendly" due to poor editing and presentation.
27. Ibid, p3
28. Ibid, p6