Project Management - Multidimensional Leadership

Abstract: Project management is increasingly becoming a complex role that more and more people within industry need to master. Today, project organising is used to perform tasks and solve problems of almost any magnitude, complexity, and direction. In many organisations, a significant part of the daily work is conducted by means of projects. This is a change from running one huge project at a time for exceptional purposes.

This thesis aims at contributing to project management theory by investigating the issue of leadership in product development projects. It presents a situational approach to management of product development projects. Investigating project management as a complex multidimensional leadership issue is different to much of the literature on project management, which addresses it mainly as a static kit of behavioural tools that must be mastered to keep the project to its plan.

The knowledge of project leadership is gained from applying leadership theory to empirical studies of 19 product development projects and one change project, all with clearly defined project managers. Moreover the leadership behaviour of a manager is closely studied. Leadership in project management is investigated by using a variety of methods; studies of documentation, questionnaires, open-ended individual interviews (about 130 interviews), a video recorded group interview, collective reflection, observations and guided reflection sessions.

Structure, relation, change and politics are presented as important project leadership behaviour dimensions and a model for situational multidimensional project leadership is proposed. The model illustrates the ongoing process of reflection that is needed for adapting project management to varying situations.

The conclusion is that project management is a complex leadership issue, and that there is no one right way to lead a project. Instead, the results propose that by reflecting on the project characteristics and how they change and by reflecting on what balance of leadership dimensions the project situation needs, the project manager learns about how to lead different types of projects. However, more research is needed to validate the proposed situational approach to project leadership.

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