Projectification in western economies: a comparative study of Germany, Norway and Iceland

Article Highlight:

This paper tests and confirms a common assumption that projectification is increasing in companies, economic sectors and whole economies in the western world. The research presented contributes to making the term ‘projectification’ a fact based on sound empirical evidence.

Keywords

  • Projectification
  • Projects
  • Project management

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What does the paper cover?

The term projectification was first used in 1995 by Christophe Midler, who observed that ‘ordinary work’ was increasingly being carried out as defined projects. Many more articles have been written on the subject since then. This paper looks at the outcomes of three recent comparative studies in Germany, Norway and Iceland which aimed to quantify how much projectification was taking place in those countries.

The study was carried out in four steps:

  • A measurement for the degree of projectification was developed that could be
    compared to the gross domestic product in an economy. ‘Project’ was defined as a nonroutine
    task with a clearly specified target and with a minimum duration and participants.
    Projectification was then measured as the share of project work in an organisation.
  • The authors used the measurement to collect representative data from a random sample
    of 500 private and public organisations in Germany covering six economic sectors.
  • The study was then repeated in Norway (1,412 organisations), using a web-based
    survey, and finally again in Iceland (142 organisations).

The three countries studied indicate that the current degree of projectification in western economies is around 30 per cent, which means that roughly one third of all economic activities are carried out in the form of projects.

The studies also showed that, in all three countries, most projects are internal ones and therefore not noticed by the public. The more visible, external projects represented only a small portion of projects; between 16 per cent and 22 per cent.

Methodology

The authors developed a formula to measure the share of project work on total work (in working hours) in an organisation. The same formula can be applied to all types of projects, including both external projects and internal change projects, and can also be applied to all kinds of industries regardless of organisational factors such as size and structure.

In the original study of organisations in Germany, data was collected by way of telephone interviews. In Norway and Iceland, data was collected using an online survey, with a few telephone interviews taken in order to test whether the questions were well understood by the respondents.

Research findings

The three studies show that the share of project work in advanced economies is about one third, even where there are differences between individual countries’ size and industry structure.

The results also confirm that projectification has increased over time and estimates of projects to come show that it will continue to do so.

Conclusions

Project work is a widespread phenomenon in all sectors of western economies and is increasing.

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