Project management and productivity review

How does project management relate to productivity?

There is recently renewed policy, practice and research interest in the topic of productivity.  While the contribution of project management to productivity has often been assumed, evidence about this relationship is rarely examined.

In this systematic review of 146 published studies, we examined the research question, methods and conclusions of previous research into how project, programme and portfolio management contribute to productivity and productivity improvements.

Who is the intended audience?

The main audiences for this study are policy and decision makers, academics with an interest in project management and/or productivity and project professionals.

Who took part in the research?

The study was a systemic literature review so there were no direct participants. There was however, an advisory group made up of practitioners and academics who assisted.

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Why is it important?

The purpose of this systematic review is, therefore, to examine published evidence to establish quantitatively and qualitatively how project management contributes to productivity. Its specific objectives are:

  • to determine the value of project management methodologies and skills in driving productivity improvements in projects, at the workplace and in industry/economy;
  • to compare productivity studies of a range of project-based industries in order to identify points of convergence and points of divergence in relation to project management methodologies and expertise;
  • to highlight key project management practices across target setting, incentivisation and monitoring that enable productivity improvements, and;
  • to produce qualitative vignettes that clearly show promising project management practices that lead to productivity improvements.

What were the main challenges?

Identifying papers and journals related to project, programme and portfolio management alongside productivity.

What did we discover?

A number of recommendations have emerged from this study:

  1. There is a need for much broader definition of “project management” that goes beyond the tactical to the strategic.
  2. There is a need to develop new measures of “productivity” that take into account a more holistic understanding of value and outcomes. This renewed focus on outcomes should align with growing emphasis on benefits realisation in the profession.
  3. There is a need for closer inspection of how incentivisation for productivity works in the management of projects, programmes and portfolios.
  4. There is a need for systematic case study research that zooms into how particular practices over the whole project life cycle can impact on productivity outcomes.
  5. There is a need for studies in knowledge-based work in sectors outside traditional production (e.g. the service sector, public sector and third sector).
  6. There is a need to study how project management can add value to the management of intra- and inter-organisational change.
  7. There is a need to undertake studies into how non-project managers perceive the value of project management practices.
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