A critical evaluation of the organisational learning that takes place in a project management environment
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This study contends that organisations in the modern day business environment are continuously faced with an increasingly competitive operational milieu that demands constant improvements in the quality of products and services. The study specifically focuses on project management organisations and the fact that for the latter type, organisational quality improvement translates into meeting the customer's requirements within the project's budgetary, time and technical constraints. It is proposed that it is no longer sufficient for project-based and team-based organisations to rely on traditional project management methodologies. Instead, these types of organisations need to learn from past actions and performances in order to improve future management ability, and consequently the quality of projects delivered and their organisation's competitive edge. The primary objective of this study is to critically evaluate the phenomenon of organisational learning in the context of a project management environment in order to extract an understanding of its implemental flaws and to suggest a proposed project life cycle model that could address these shortcomings. To achieve this objective, the study includes a literary review aimed at gaining theoretical knowledge of organisational learning strategies and the implemental shortcomings of these strategies in the creation of a "learning organisation" insofar as it is applicable to a project management environment. This theoretical knowledge and the knowledge gained from a pilot study was then utilised to design the research tools required to meet the objectives of the empirical study. The empirical study, in turn, focuses on critically evaluating the phenomenon of organisational learning in the context of a project management environment so as to extract an understanding of its implemental flaws and to suggest a proposed project life cycle model that could address these shortcomings. The empirical study utilises a qualitative research approach designed to determine the perceptions of and practices utilised by 21 project management team members across various functional disciplines and from a variety of project management organisations in terms of the learning that takes place in their various organisations. Results suggest that there is often a chasm between the process during which an organisation acquires knowledge and the path by which improvement takes place as a result of such newly acquired knowledge. This is predominantly attributable to the challenge of transferring organisational knowledge across projects and project phases in such a manner that project team members throughout the organisation can readily obtain and beneficially implement organisational knowledge. Findings indicated that the biggest shortfall in the transferability of knowledge is not rooted in the availability of transfer tools, but in the application of these tools at various time slots in the project management life cycle. As such the study recommends a revised approach to the project management life cycle, involving the implementation of a learning checklist during each phase of the project life cycle in order to achieve effective integration of project learning activities into the project management life cycle. The latter approach is aimed at designing a project life cycle model that facilitates learning across projects and project phases which is most suited to the relevant organisation based on its unique requirements, competencies and resource constraints. Post-interview clarification sessions with participants in the empirical study are used as a forum to propose a hypothetical project management life cycle model for one of the participant organisations.