Capturing and evaluating individual and social factors that influence critical project decisions

What is the research?

The study seeks to increase project management knowledge in three interrelated areas; firstly, identifying how decision-makers actually make decisions in the complex situations they encounter during a project’s life.  The purpose is to empower project decision-makers to critically assess their own intentions, thinking and perceptions of the decision. 

Secondly, the study will enhance understanding of the complexities and factors that influence decisions at a social level, through reflective practices and team coordination. 

Thirdly, at a systems level, the research will demonstrate the ways individual and social factors influence project decisions, building an awareness of underlying barriers, conflicts, enables and leverage points, ultimately improving decision-making practices through systemic practices. 

An innovative five stage methodological framework will be implemented and tested within a project context investigating how project decisions are created using a holistic approach.  The methodology builds upon long standing and well-proven techniques such as the Repertory Grid, visual card sorting and the Viable System Model. 

Why is it important?

Decision-making is central to the effective management of projects.  Yet it is deemed to be one of the most difficult processes that a team can undertake (Rolstadas, et al., 2015) and associated with notable causes of project failure (Dove, 2004; Cervone, 2005; Shore, 2008). 

This study seeks to undertake exploratory research that complements conventional decision-making theory and practice. This study seeks to answer the following research question: 

How can real-time critical project decisions be captured, mapped and measured to gain insights into the ways that decisions are actually made in projects?

This is further supported by three research questions:

RQ1        What are the salient features of project decisions?

RQ2        How does an awareness of the salient features influence the project decision?

RQ3        What influence does the individual have upon project team’s decision?

Who is the intended audience?

There are three core audience groups:

  • Project managers and those responsible for making decision, such as clients, team managers and core project stakeholders.
  • The APM and other professional bodies responsible for advancing the project management Body of Knowledge.
  • Academics working in the field of business and management, especially those involved in project management and those involved in the field of organisational and social psychology.

How can I take part in the research or find out more?

Why not help shape the outcome of the research and get involved?

For further information or to get involved please contact Dr. Natalie Marguet directly via:

At least three projects will be used as cases and are expected to fulfil the following criteria;

  • The project team should be involved in a critical and current project decision
  • Access given to all decision makers involved in making the project decision
  • All decision-makers are expected to complete an individual interview (60-90 minutes), followed by a single group project meeting (90 minute) and a short online questionnaire.
  • The project team should consist of a minimum of 6 decision-makers

All participants will be provided with a summary of the findings of the research in advance of publication. 

What are the benefits in taking part?

This study is predicated on the view that current perspectives, tools and techniques do not offer a complete picture of the challenges of making project decisions.  In addition it offers support and guidance to Project Managers on how to become influencers.  The purpose of the study is to elicit and map project decisions from the perspectives of decision makers.  The benefits of doing this are;

  • Engage the diverse and multiple perspectives through the articulation and documentation of personal motives, interests and underlying assumptions.
  • Challenges assumptions through the surfacing and sharing of worldviews at a deeper level of abstraction.
  • The ability to identify and steer project decision-making through the consideration of:
    1. Barriers– provides the prospect of addressing issues before they are problematic
    2. Enablers– provides opportunities to exploit, driving commitment and change forward
  • Conflicts, similarities and tensions that occur between individual decision makers due to personal values, experiences and role requirements
  1. Demonstrate how policy and identity act as a homeostatic loop through the creation of viable project decisions.
  • Notable improvement in learning from experience, continuous learning and systems thinking.

Any other considerations?

The research has been approved by the Liverpool John Moores University ethics committee. As such it follows stringent ethical procedures including guaranteeing the anonymity of organisations and individuals, and handling data confidentially and in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

Who is the research lead?

Natalie Marguet is Senior Lecturer of Project Management at Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University and has a PhD awarded by the University of Manchester, Manchester Business School.

Patrick Hoverstadt is a consultant specialising in the use of systems approaches.  He has written numerous research papers, authored several books, and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences.  He chairs SCiO a group of systems practitioners and is a Visiting Research Fellow at Cranfield School of Management.

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