Learning between projects : - in product development contexts -

Abstract: A project is often formed with the intention to bring forth a deliverable within a certain time frame. This goal-focus however may lead to suboptimizations on the organizational level. At the same time projects more often than not underperform in a number of aspects, with an especially huge gap in the learning aspect.Thus the research questions addressed in this work concern what is done in organizations to foster organizational learning in project-based contexts, how different actions arc implemented and how the relation between the project and the functional organization affects organizational learning. Deming' s profound knowledge structure has been used to structure the theoretical aspects.It was found that learning in a project context is not a typical activity and needs to be organized for. The reinvention of the wheel still remains a major, unsolved problem for organizations that develop their products via projects. That is partly due to the fact that a project is a natural forum for learning new things. but not a natural forum for learning from past experience. A central finding of this work is that a systems perspective is necessary in project management contexts. Categories related to learning that have been identified are a category relating to documented knowledge, a category relating to learning in personal interaction and a category regarding organizational aspects.Regarding documented knowledge it was found that among practitioners there seems to be an unjustified belief in the ability of documents to solve learning problems of projects. Personal interaction was found to be an effective way for learning, but the risk of information overload by meetings is considerable. Bounded rationality seems to play an important role. As conflicting value systems meet. The forward-orientation, action-focus of projects meets with the long-time perspective of organizational learning.Important elements when researching learning between projects are amongst others feedback, learning incentives. modularization, location of project team members. organizational size, inter-project competition, full-time project managers and the formulation of a learning mandate for the project.

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