A case study on the adoption of project management in an organization


In today's business environment, organizational change initiatives are the focus of many operational business strategies. Research indicates that project management practices can substantially enhance the successful execution of these initiatives. In spite of substantial research supporting the value of project management, effective implementation of project management within an organization remains elusive. Previous research literature on implementing project management focuses on a macro perspective, such as the organization's culture, structure, and environment. Recently, research is emerging where the focus has been on reactions of the individuals to organizational change. Despite the claim that human behavior may be the main perpetrator of organizational change failure, organizational researchers and practitioners know little about the multifaceted, attitude-related nature of change. Based on a four-year research study, the findings in this paper can be useful in diagnosing the degree of buy-in among change recipients on the implementation of project management. By understanding the five change beliefs, change agents can better plan and execute the implementation process.

Looking Beyond the Growth Curve

Changing market demands, advance technological innovations, and their effect on business practices and processes are the focus of many organizational change initiatives. A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (2007), found that more than four out of five organizations (82%) had implemented or planned to implement new processes, products, services, and/or policies requiring organization-wide change management initiatives. To keep pace in a constantly evolving business world, organizations often find it necessary to implement major organizational changes affecting their processes, products, and people. As organizations examine how they can improve their competitiveness, project management is becoming accepted as a “primary candidate in executing business strategy” (Shenhar, Milosevil, Dvir, & Thamhain, 2007, p. 3). Organizations successfully utilizing standard project management practices realize improved organizational performance and other tangible and intangible results (Thomas & Mullaly, 2008).

The Rise of Project Management

In 2008, Project Management Institute determined from a multi-method, multi-disciplinary research study, “…unequivocally that project management adds value to organizations” (Thomas & Mullaly, p. 349). Having uniform or standardized project management procedures, processes, and systems has the greatest impact on achieving value. The study provided explicit and compelling evidence of the value organizations achieve when project management is appropriately implemented. What emerged from this study is value, both tangible and intangible, which appears to increase in proportion to the maturity of the project management implementation. Tangible value relates to specific value that can actually be measured directly in financial terms. Examples of tangible value include increases in revenue, expansion of market share, and reductions in costs. Intangible value relates to benefits, which are much more difficult to quantify, but are often quite important to organizations. Examples of intangible value include enhanced reputation, improvements in management capabilities, enhanced strategic alignment, and the attraction or retention of employees. Another key finding emerging from this research study is the significant role of the organization's culture in determining the implementation of project management practices and the value, which can be realized. Thomas and Mullaly (2008) stated, “The degree of value that organizations realize is determined by how well what is implemented meets the needs of the organization” (p. 360).

During the last ten years, organizations are facing increased competition, increased rates of product, service, and process innovation, and an increasing emphasis on time to market. As part of the response to the new challenges and to increase both the number and the strategic importance of projects, many organizations have implemented a new organizational entity, often called the project management office (PMO). Dai and Wells (2004) showed that the number of organizations with PMOs has increased sharply since 1994, and 76% of the executives surveyed are saying they have created a PMO within the past three years. The PMO is clearly an important part of project management practice today.

The Fall of Project Management

With costs of organizational change initiatives ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of dollars, the need for a successful change initiative is vital to the financial health of a company. In spite of substantial research supporting the benefits and value of project management practices, effective implementation of these practices within an organization is difficult to achieve (Martinsuo, Hensman, Artto, Kujala, & Jaafari, 2006). While there is recognition of the value of project management, research on the implementation of project management practices contends that the cultural change required within an organization is a major barrier in the implementation (Bredillet, Yatim, & Ruiz, 2010; Kwak & Anbari, 2009). The change of an organization's existing business processes present many challenges for an organization and its members.

PMOs have been popular since the mid-1990s. The study by Thomas and Mullaly (2008) found that the PMO is often a central component of the implementation of project management. Surprisingly, ESI International (2012) found that 54% of PMOs in existence today were created in the last two to four years. The study also reported that in 2012, 72.4% of respondents claimed to have a PMO compared with 82% in 2011. While new PMOs are being created at a relatively high rate, they are also being shut down or radically reconfigured almost as quickly. These findings were confirmed by the results of research conducted by Hobbs and Aubrey (2010). The study found that organizations that had PMOs for several years had to reconfigure their PMOs every few years. These results have led to a fundamental change in the way PMOs should be conceptualized. If most PMOs are reconfigured every few years, then they should be considered temporary or transitory arrangements, and both studied and managed as such. In this context, a PMO often has only a short time to demonstrate its ability to create value before it is restructured or closed down. This may be an indication that organizations are experimenting with PMOs and have not yet found an adequate fit for them in their respective structures.

Project Management Implementation

The complex nature of adopting project management in an organization presents numerous risks resulting from organizational resistance, communication breakdown, and insufficient time devoted to training, but many organizations believe the expected benefits outweigh these risks. Supplemental research has provided additional evidence that the implementation resulting from corporate cultures is slow or may not occur at all (Kwak & Anbari, 2009). However, the underlying reasons for these failed change initiatives have not been fully explained.

The implementation of project management constitutes a significant organizational change initiative because it will affect business processes, organizational structures, and even the required skills of the workforce (Bredillet et al., 2010; Kwak & Anbari, 2009). In spite of substantial research supporting the benefits of project management practices, effective implementation of these practices within organizations remains elusive (Kwak & Anbari, 2009; Martinsuo et al., 2006). What organizational leaders are finding is that the complex nature of organizational change initiatives can be extremely difficult to achieve. Research by the Center for Business Practices (2006) found that inconsistent project management practices remain one of the most prevalent challenges of today's organizations.

Project Management Methodology

The use of project management has been widely recognized in the business sector. Research conducted by the Center for Business Practices (2006) concluded that, “implementing project management adds significant value to organizations” (Para. 1). The study reported significant improvements in organizational measures of finance, project/process, learning, and growth. The results of the study further implied that to improve the results of the execution of projects, executive management needed to incorporate formal project management practices. Research indicates that project management practices substantially enhance successful organizational change initiatives. Kerzner (2010) argued that the need to implement major enterprise-wide changes requires the extensive use of project management practices.

Organizational Fit

Recently, the focus in project management literature has shifted from performing project management to integrating it into the organization (Thomas, 2009). Ives (2005) found there is little research related to the effective fit of projects into organizations. Underlying the concept of fit is the value of project management is a function of how well the implementation fits the needs of the organization derived from the organization and business environment using it.

“Getting a new idea adopted, even when it has obvious advantages, is difficult” (Rodgers, 2003, p. 1). So is the case for the adoption of project management practices. It is important for organizational leaders to know and understand that the adoption of project management practices constitutes in and of itself an organizational change initiative. Adopting project management within an organization may encompass new processes, structures, methods, technical systems, and behavioral patterns (Martinsuo et al., 2006). The adoption of project management within an organization has received little empirical research. This paper utilizes different models of diffusion theory to better understand the adoption of project management within an organization and to contribute to project management research.

Technology Adoption Life Cycle

In 1991, Geoffrey Moore introduced the technology adoption life cycle in his book titled, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers. The technology adoption life cycle is a model for understanding the acceptance of new products in which Moore classified consumers into five adopter categories: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. What Moore discovered was that our attitudes or beliefs about technology, or any innovation, is significant when we are introduced to any products that require us to change our current mode of behavior. In academic terms, these change-sensitive terms are called discontinuous innovations. The contrasting term, continuous innovation, refers to products not requiring us to change behavior. For many individuals and organizations, the implementation of project management practices can be viewed as a discontinuous innovation, a new managerial approach requiring us to change our behavior.

According to the technology adoption life cycle model, the five adopter categories, each has its own psychographic response to a discontinuous innovation. Understanding each group's psychographic response and how its adjacent category responds is critical to gaining enterprise-wide acceptance of the new technology or innovation. The following are short descriptions of the five groups.

Innovators: The Technology Enthusiast. Innovators are people who enjoy exploring new technology or innovation. They are the first to buy into the next great “fad,” and the first to move on to the next latest, greatest new technology.

Early Adopters: The Visionaries. The Early Adopters are the “visionaries.” Early Adopters are able to imagine, understand, and appreciate the benefits of new technology. They are the rare breed of people who have the insight to match an emerging technology to a strategic opportunity.

Early Majority: The Pragmatists. The Early Majority represent the key to successfully implementing new technology or innovation in the organization. They are hard to win over because of their strong sense of practicality. They are content to take a “wait and see” approach before they buy into the new technology. They demand solid references that guard against potential failures.

Late Majority: The Conservatives. The Late Majority are extremely resistant to new technology. They believe more in tradition rather than progress. And when they find something that works for them, they stick with it. They will wait until there are proven standards in place before adopting the new technology.

Laggards: The Skeptics. Laggards are skeptics who would prefer to avoid new technologies altogether. They will only use the new technology or innovation if they really must.

Moore (1991) suggests that for discontinuous innovation, there is a gap or chasm between the Early Adopters (the visionaries) and the Early Majority (the pragmatists) (Exhibit 1). Moore believes visionaries and pragmatists have very different expectations and to successfully cross the chasm between the two groups requires different techniques. When an innovation is introduced, it typically moves from left to right in the technology adoption life cycle. Moore believes that there are gaps between each group, which can reduce the momentum of the acceptance. The chasm that exists between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority represents a critical transition from Early Adopters to enterprise-wide acceptance by the Early Majority. Where the Early Adopters want to achieve a breakthrough and the Early Majority only require an improvement. The secret to crossing the chasm is addressing the key differences between the two groups on either side of the chasm. On the one side is a group that is willing to accept a new innovation because of the potential it promises; on the other side, is a group wanting the innovation that is proven.

The Adoption Categories

Exhibit 1 – The Adoption Categories.

Diffusion of Innovation

The new paradigm on organizational change that is emerging is based on the dynamics of readiness for change. Readiness for change is an organization's capacity to change and the extent to which individuals perceive the change is needed. By distinguishing between resistance to change and readiness for change, a more proactive view of change occurs. Rather than monitoring signs of resistance to change (a management function), creating an organization's readiness for change involves proactive attempts to influence the beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors of change participants (a leadership function). This different perspective puts the emphasis where it needs to be—on leadership.

The Basis for the Study

The theoretical basis for this research study was the diffusion of innovation. In 1962, Everett Rogers introduced the diffusion of innovation theory as “the process by which an innovation is communicated through channels over time among the members of a social system” (p. 11). The diffusion of innovation is an extensive psycho-sociological theory that describes the patterns of adoption, explains the method, and predicts the successful implementation of a new invention (Rogers, 2003). The diffusion of innovation theory has made significant contributions to the understanding and promotion of behavioral change. Theories are like constellations—they are not intended to change in themselves; their value is providing us with a solid framework on a highly changing world.

Diffusion is a social process that involves interpersonal communication relationships. Interpersonal channels are those communications transmitted between two or more individuals. Past diffusion studies show that “most individuals do not evaluate an innovation on the basis of scientific studies of its consequences…most people depend mainly upon a subjective evaluation of an innovation that is conveyed to them from other individuals” (Rogers, 2003, p. 18). These subjective evaluations can create or persuade an individual's attitudes or beliefs regarding the adoption of an innovation (Bouckenooghe, 2010; Vishwanath, 2009). These subjective evaluations are used to create meaning about the innovation in an effort to influence others.

The Innovation-Decision Process

Rogers (2003) described the innovation-decision process as “an information-seeking and information-processing activity, in which an individual is motivated to reduce uncertainty about the advantages and disadvantages of an innovation” (p. 172). The innovation decision process refers to the process by which an individual experiences the first knowledge of an innovation (knowledge stage) to form an attitude toward the innovation (persuasion stage), to a decision to adopt or reject the idea (decision stage), to implement the new idea (implementation stage), and to confirm the decision (confirmation stage). The innovation-decision process provides a framework to successfully plan and sustain the adoption and implementation of an innovation.

Rogers (2003) differentiated the knowledge stage from the persuasion stage in that the knowledge stage targets cognition, whereas the persuasion stage targets affection of an individual. In the persuasion stage, individuals form attitudes based on their beliefs about the innovation, which then form their perceptions regarding the adoption of the innovation (Exhibit 2). The opinions and beliefs of an individual on the innovation are influenced by colleagues and peers (Bouckenooghe, 2010; Vishwanath, 2009). Subjective evaluation from peers is more credible in shaping the decision to adopt the innovation than the evaluation of experts. According to Rodgers (2003), it is at the persuasion stage that a general perception of the innovation is developed. The persuasion stage is an important aspect to this study on the adoption of project management practices within an organization, because in the persuasion stage, individuals form attitudes based on their beliefs about the innovation (Rogers, 2003).

The Innovation – Decision Process

Exhibit 2 – The Innovation – Decision Process.

The Five Change Beliefs

Black and Gregersen (2003) argued that to strategically change an organization, you must first change the individual. Unlocking individual change starts and ends with the beliefs that we carry in our heads. Black and Gregersen (2003) claim our beliefs direct our behavior. If organizational leaders cannot change the individuals' beliefs, they will not be able to change the organization as a whole. One source of opportunity is the change beliefs that determine the degree of buy-in of the organizational change recipients. If an organization does not take into account the psychological processes of the change recipients, the organizational change initiative is likely to fail. Getting people psychologically ready to make a change is vital for success. It is essential to bolster positive attitudes and diminish negative attitudes toward change. To determine if people are ready to change, five change beliefs can be assessed of their overall readiness for change.

The decision to adopt an innovation requires adjustments in individual beliefs (Armenakis, Berneth, Pitts, & Walker, 2007). Armenakis et al. (2007) stated in “any organizational transformation, change recipients formulate precursors (e.g., cognitions, emotions, and intentions), which become part of their decision processes that result in resistance or supportive behaviors” (p. 482). Armenakis proposed a set of five key change beliefs that were essential to encourage the adoption of an innovation. Armenakis defined a belief as “an opinion or a conviction about the truth of something that may not be readily obvious or subject to systematic verification” (p. 483). Understanding the beliefs of the change recipients can improve the effectiveness of planning and implementing the organizational change initiative.

Discrepancy – Is there a need to change?

Discrepancy is the belief that there is a need to change from the current state to a future state (Armenakis et al., 2007). This belief is grounded in external contextual factors, such as social, economic, political, and competitive environments to justify the need to change.

Appropriateness – Is this the right choice?

Appropriateness is the belief that questions what the desired future state will be (Armenakis et al., 2007). Certain future states, such as organizational survival, are rarely questioned, but the appropriateness of other future states may be. The emphasis of leadership, creating a vision, and gaining acceptance becomes important for change recipients.

Efficacy – Do we have the capability to change?

Efficacy refers to organizational change recipients' shared beliefs in their collective capabilities to organize and execute the proposed change. Low levels of confidence in one's capabilities to execute an organizational change can influence one's decision to undertake implementation of a proposed organizational change (Armenakis et al., 2007).

Principal support – Do the opinion leaders support the change?

Principal support looks at how organizational members exchange information with one another in order to reach a mutual understanding. Principal support describes when individuals develop a belief toward change through a process of individual reflection and may also be shaped by the beliefs of others (Bouckenooghe, 2010).

Valence – What is in it for me?

Valence refers to the benefits change recipients anticipate the organizational change will produce for the organization, their fellow employees, or for them personally (Weiner, 2009). Valence is a multi-faceted construct where change recipients might value a planned organizational change because they believe that the change is needed and that the proposed change will solve an important organizational problem.

The Research Design

This research consisted of a single case study utilizing an explanatory sequential mixed methods research approach with an embedded unit of analysis aimed at examining the five change beliefs of members of an organization regarding a given organizational change. The embedded unit of analysis consisted of executive management, change agents, project managers/project leaders, and project management practitioners from a selected organization.

The explanatory sequential design was implemented in two distinct phases. The first phase involved collecting and analyzing quantitative data. A validated survey instrument was used for quantitative data collection and descriptive quantitative analyses were performed. The qualitative data collection consisted of semi-structured interviews with participants from each of the four subgroups. Thematic construction and categorization were used for the qualitative data analysis. An interactive strategy of merging the quantitative and qualitative data was used to bring the two sets of results together for combined analysis.

The Case Study

The case study method is chosen to understand the real life phenomenon in depth by understanding important, contextual conditions (Yin, 2009). This single case study utilized an embedded design consisting of subunits of analyses, which added significant opportunities for extensive analysis and enhancing the insights into the single case (Yin, 2009). In the context of this study, the embedded units of analyses were executive management, change agents, project managers, and project participants of a selected organization.

Description of the Selected Organization

The research involved a single case study conducted with a single organization at one location. An entrepreneurial organization was selected as the case site due to their knowledge regarding project management practices to help them manage their projects more effectively. For the purpose of this study and anonymity, the name of the organization will be called ABC. Founded in 1995, ABC is a growing biomarketing firm that manages patient education programs for billion-dollar healthcare and consumer brands. Their clientele includes life science companies, pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies. When a new drug is ready for market, ABC assists healthcare providers in the creation of educational programs, the design and deployment of customized communication and training, and meeting facilitation for healthcare professionals.

Executive management stated that the needs of their clients have changed in the last couple of years and ABC has had to adjust its business model. In 2011, ABC experienced its first reduction of revenue. Executive management attributes this loss of revenue to the demand their healthcare clients place in reducing costs. As a result of these cost reductions and other competitive pressures, executive management believes that the adoption of project management practices will improve cost and time efficiencies, profitability, and market share.

The Findings

The Organizational Change Recipients' Beliefs Scale (OCRBS) developed by Armenakis, et al. (2007), was the survey instrument used for the quantitative portion of this study. The OCRBS is a validated, psychometrically sound, self-report questionnaire consisting of twenty-four items. The instrument determines the degree of acceptance among the change recipients, identifies deficiencies in specific change beliefs, and provides a basis for planning and executing the implementation.

An explanatory sequential design was conducted in two distinct phases. The first phase involved collecting and analyzing quantitative data based on the OCRBS. In phase two, the researcher conducted one-on-one semi-structured interviews for collecting qualitative data. Meaning condensation and categorization were used for the qualitative data analysis.

The procedure for an explanatory sequential design is to use a qualitative strand to explain the initial quantitative results (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Sampling of the organization was based on stratified purposeful sampling of four sub groups, which included executive management (EM), change agents (CA), project managers (PM), and project participants (PP). This research design facilitated data analysis and comparisons of the organization and between the four subgroups from both quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Discrepancy – Is there a need to change?

Discrepancy is the belief there is a need to change from the current state to a future state.

OCRBS Survey n = 50 (70% of the Organization) Strongly Disagree Moderately Disagree Slightly Disagree Undecided Slightly Agree Moderately Agree Strongly Agree
The Organization 2.0% 3.0% 5.0% 5.5% 37.0% 32.5% 15.0%

Based on the semi-structured interviews, there were 186 comments with regard to discrepancy and the need to change. Notable comments from the semi-structured interviews were…

Discrepancy (The Organization)

Exhibit 3 – Discrepancy (The Organization).

“We are so regulated on some of the front end that it is causing our timelines to be even more compromised. When we get to a place where timelines are comprised, we open ourselves up for greater risk. Not only regulatory risk, which could have a huge implication for us if we get a violation that's reportable to the FDA. It could mean our contract's null and void and we could lose millions of dollars in revenue.” ∼EM

“I feel like project management will really help us even internally to all get on the same page and what that looks like and then I think externally too. There's just a lot of, in my mind, efficiency and effectiveness that can be pulled from project management.” ∼CA

“I think what we have to be wary of is defining it as some process that makes people feel hemmed in.” ∼CA “If it's not a process that is official, I will not do it. I am trying to keep up with what I've got here. If senior management is not telling me I have to do it that way, I won't do it that way.” ∼PM

“It is a hard question to answer. I think there's definitely probably a need for some more consistency.” ∼PP

Appropriateness – Is adopting project management the right choice?

Appropriateness is the belief that questions what the desired future state will be.

OCRBS Survey n = 50 (70% of the Organization) Strongly Disagree Moderately Disagree Slightly Disagree Undecided Slightly Agree Moderately Agree Strongly Agree
The Organization 0.0% 0.4% 0.8% 19.6% 21.2% 37.6% 20.4%

Based on the semi-structured interviews, there were 103 comments with regard to appropriateness that project management was the right choice. Notable comments from the semi-structured interviews were…

Appropriateness (The Organization)

Exhibit 4 – Appropriateness (The Organization).

“I don't know that our market requires us to do project management. I think project management enables us to do things more successfully and will allow us to ultimately provide a better product to our client.” ∼EM

“I think one of the key hurdles in dealing with project management is it feels too processy. We're supposed to be creative and I'm good at my job.” ∼CA

“There are no surprises. Everybody knows when they are supposed to do something, what they are supposed to do, who it is due to. The problem is not everybody refers to it.” ∼PM

“I think that it needs to be flexible. I think that it needs to be something that works with people's individual personalities and like I said, not a computer program.” ∼PP

Efficacy – Do we have the capability to change?

Efficacy is the belief in the capability to organize and execute the implementation of the proposed change.

OCRBS Survey n = 50 (70% of the Organization) Strongly Disagree Moderately Disagree Slightly Disagree Undecided Slightly Agree Moderately Agree Strongly Agree
The Organization 0.0% 0.8% 5.2% 6.0% 22.8% 33.6% 31.6%

Based on the semi-structured interviews, there were 289 comments in regards to efficacy that the organization is capable of implementing project management. Notable comments from the semi-structured interviews were…

Efficacy (The Organization)

Exhibit 5 – Efficacy (The Organization).

“I do think we're capable. My concern is much more; my concern is around capacity more than capability.” ’EM

“I think we're capable if it's set up correctly. And I think we need to have employee buy-in. I think employees have to be involved in the process, in the decision.” ∼CA

“I think there is just going to be a lot of pushback just because everybody has too much work, not enough resources, not enough time in the day.” ∼PM

“Like anything that is going to create initially more work, even though it might help in the long run, there is going to be pushback to it.” ∼PM

“One of the biggest barriers is that we are full speed ahead; we don't pull ourselves up and ask the appropriate questions that we need to ask in the planning process or the different phases.” ∼PP

Principal support – Do the opinion leaders support the change?

Principal support is the belief that individuals develop a certain belief toward change through individual reflection and collective sense-making that comes from a series of interactions with their colleagues.

OCRBS Survey n = 50 (70% of the Organization) Strongly Disagree Moderately Disagree Slightly Disagree Undecided Slightly Agree Moderately Agree Strongly Agree
The Organization 0.0% 1.0% 6.3% 16.3% 24.7% 31.0% 20.7%

Based on the semi-structured interviews, there were 222 comments with regard to principal support in adopting project management. Notable comments from the semi-structured interviews were…

Principal Support (The Organization)

Exhibit 6 – Principal Support (The Organization).

“We have some who might say, ‘Yeah, I totally support this,' but they'll support it as long as it gets them what they want when they want it. As soon as the fact that we need to have a requirement session or sign off impedes their ability to get something done, then it's, ‘Well no, we can't say no, we just have to do it. Processes be damned.'” ∼EM

“I think it's more what their past history has been. Maybe that's not fair, but the ones that I'm thinking of right now that are the most trouble; they just haven't been anywhere else; they just haven't, so they just don't know.” ∼EM

“We have in the past been notorious in making decisions and then shoving it down people's throats.” ∼CA

“My concern is I see this as a fad of the month because I feel that senior management rolls out a lot of things and then it just kind of like fizzles and we're like I don't know what ever happened to that.” ∼PM

Valence – What is in it for me?

Valence is the belief that adopting project management will be beneficial for them personally.

OCRBS Survey n = 50 (70% of the Organization) Strongly Disagree Moderately Disagree Slightly Disagree Undecided Slightly Agree Moderately Agree Strongly Agree
The Organization 5.5% 6.0% 10.0% 31.0% 16.0% 17.5% 14.0%

Based on the semi-structured interviews, there were 133 comments regarding intrinsic and extrinsic factors in adopting project management. Notable comments from the semi-structured interviews were…

Valence (The Organization)

Exhibit 7 – Valence (The Organization).

“Not wanting to screw something up. I do not like to fail. For me, it would help think through all the pieces and parts versus I didn't think through it all.” ∼EM

“I think it would take a lot to motivate me to do it.” ∼CA

“My motivation is, if I can find something that's going to make me more effective, more efficient, and add value outside of my expected value, then that's where I want to be.” ∼CA

“It gets to the point that I don't care because I'm going to be here 10 hours a day anyway and you adding more to me is like, it's probably not going to happen.” ∼PM

“If it's required, I will adopt it. If it's not required, I may adopt it.” ∼PP

“It's got to be beneficial to me in terms of…there's got to be incentive to do it. Why should I do it your way instead of my way, because I feel like I'm pretty efficient so you better teach me something new if I'm going to try and do it your way.” ∼PP

“A lot of it is because they do not know if this is a career ending change for me or is it a growth change for me and senior management has not conveyed that. It is one of those we are going this way and we are going to force it.” ∼PP

Overall, the quantitative data indicate that the organization agrees to adopt project management practices with the exception of the change belief for valence. Qualitative data, obtained from the semi-structured interviews, provided valuable information for senior management on how to effectively communicate the necessary change messages to successfully adopt project management into an organization.

Contribution to the Field of Project Management

“Getting a new idea adopted, even when it has obvious advantages, is difficult” (Rodgers, 2003, p. 1). So is the case for the adoption of project management practices. As project management is increasingly used as a means to achieve an organization's strategic objective, it is important for organizational leaders to know and understand that the adoption of project management practices constitutes in and of itself an organizational change initiative.

Research on organizational change is becoming increasingly important as evidence shows that most change initiatives result in failure. As the number of failures continues to increase, researchers are pointing to the readiness for change as a possible source. Given this assertion, change management experts are now advocating a greater focus on planning for change to effectively manage the change process to improve the adoption and sustainability of the change initiative.

The diffusion of innovation theory was the theoretical basis for this study. Within the diffusion of innovation, the innovation-decision process was used to gather information about an innovation and reduce uncertainties about its advantages and disadvantages. This study investigated the persuasion stage of the innovation decision process, which allows an individual to exhibit a belief (favorable or unfavorable) about the innovation. Additionally, this study incorporated the beliefs of the change recipients to effectively plan and execute how the innovation would be implemented.

This study contributed to the literature of project management on the adoption and diffusion of project management in organizations. The benefits of the study included: (a) insight into the five change recipients' beliefs that could aid or hinder a proposed organizational change to adopt project management, (b) an understanding of the persuasion stage of the innovation-diffusion process regarding the adoption of project management, and (c) a greater awareness to adequately plan and execute the implementation to successfully introduce change into an organization. The research findings provided valuable information for decision makers on how to effectively communicate the necessary change messages to successfully adopt project management into an organization.


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©2012, Stephen C. Burgan and Diana S. Burgan
Originally published as part of the 2012 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Vancouver, BC, Canada



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