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Empower future leaders to sustain project knowledge ecosystems

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Harnessing the capacity of a future generation of strategic decision-makers is crucial for the continuity of organisations involved in project and programme research, according to a new study supported by Association for Project Management (APM).

The research by Project X – a major research collaboration between UK universities, the Cabinet Office and Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) – provides a starting point for identifying institutions around the world involved with project and programme research (PPR). The findings are recorded in a new report titled Project and programme research centres: Lessons for scholarship, policy and practice, which aims to improve awareness of the work these institutions do and clarify the different models that have been adopted around the world to facilitate collaboration between business, government and academia. Such ‘knowledge ecosystems’ generate many benefits for universities and affiliated organisations.

The report breaks down the geographic distribution of institutions involved in PPR and provides analytical detail on their business-sector focus and research priorities. It also provides detailed case studies of four PPR institutions to highlight the similarities and differences between them. These four cases observe the importance of:

  • collaboration between industry, academia and government
  • interdisciplinary work across sectors, organisations and academic fields
  • balancing long and short-term outputs
  • mentorship and leadership of a future generation of researchers and decision-makers
  • convening networks of which professional bodies such as APM can play an important role.

Finally, the report highlights that research capability alone is not enough to sustain PPR organisations. There is also a need to empower the next generation of leaders in areas such as proposal writing, budget development and strategic decision-making in order to diversify leadership in these institutions and ensure long-term success.

Dr Rehema Msulwa, post-doctoral research associate at the University of Bath, is one of the report’s authors. She said: “Project research is crucial because projects are increasingly important in all sectors and organisations. It also informs professional standards that practitioners use to assess personal, project and programme performance and to advance their professional development.

“In preparing this report, research participants highlighted that, as in entrepreneurial ventures, there is a tendency in big centres for those in leadership positions to stay on longer than is beneficial to the group. Empowering the next generation of leaders, however, reduces the extent to which such institutes are dependent on a single person or group of people and therefore the likelihood that without those people the institute will disintegrate. Mentorship and leadership training are therefore important to avoid an unintentional break-up of the teams and research discontinuity.”

Daniel Nicholls, research manager at APM, said: “Knowledge ecosystems generate many benefits for universities and affiliated organisations. The findings in this report have practical implications for those attempting to develop project-related institutes, as well as interested parties from the private or public sector looking to collaborate with such institutes. It also provides insight into potential collaborators doing complementary work.

“As the leading source of knowledge and insights for the project profession, APM helps to develop and promote a profession built around learning and collaboration. Research such as this advances new and existing knowledge in the delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios. I would like to thank the authors and acknowledge the support of colleagues within the Project X research initiative.”

Download the research report here.


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