Ambidexterity through Project Portfolio Management

Resolving Paradoxes in Organizations

img WHITE PAPER

2017

Yacoub Petro, PhD, CEng, PMP

June 2017

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

Abbreviations

Preface/Acknowledgments

Profile of the Researcher

Executive Summary

Chapter 1 Research Summary and Aim

1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 Background and research problem

1.1.2 Project summary and research approach

1.1.3 Sites selection

1.1.4 Research questions

1.1.5 Specific aims

1.2 Contribution to knowledge

1.3 Research structure

Chapter 2 Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Demistifying ambidexterity

2.2.1 Purpose

2.2.2 What is ambidexterity?—Explaining exloration and exploitation

2.2.3 Why ambidexterity?—Exploration or exploitation

2.2.3.1 The exploration-exploitation race

2.2.3.2 Exploration or exploitation

2.2.3.3 The performance contest

2.2.4 How to become ambidextrous—Routes to ambidexterity

2.3 Approaches to ambidexterity

2.3.1 Purpose

2.3.2 A process approach

2.3.3 A multilevel approach

2.3.4 A paradoxical approach

2.4 Systematic review of ambidexterity

2.4.1 Purpose

2.4.2 Review methodology

2.4.2.1 Methodology for review

2.4.2.2 Methodology and data analysis

2.4.2.3 Literature selection

2.4.3 Analysis of the literature

2.4.4 Levels, dimensions, and mechanisms of ambidexterity

2.4.4.1 Strategic level, dimensions, and mechanisms

2.4.4.2 Projects level, dimensions, and mechanisms

2.4.4.3 Operations level, dimensions, and mechanisms

2.4.4.4 Individual level, dimensions, and mechanisms

2.4.5 A comprehensive definition of ambidexterity

2.5 Tension in organizations

2.5.1 Purpose

2.5.2 The theory of paradox

2.5.3 Tension in organizations

2.5.4 Tension resolution

2.5.5 The theory of ambidexterity

2.6 Project-based organizations

2.6.1 Purpose

2.6.2 Project management

2.6.3 Program management

2.6.4 Portfolio management

2.6.5 Project-based organizations

2.6.6 Dynamic capabilities in project-based organizations

2.7 Project portfolio management frameworks and practices

2.7.1 Purpose

2.7.2 Project portfolio management framework

2.7.3 Project portfolio management practices, context, and standards

2.7.3.1 Practices

2.7.3.2 Context

2.7.3.3 Standards

2.7.4 Project portfolio management effectiveness

2.8 Summary

Chapter 3 Conceptual Framework

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Features of a conceptual framework

3.3 Steps of building the conceptual framework

3.4 The study conceptual framework

3.4.1 Background of the framework

3.4.2 Conceptual framework

3.4.3 Research problem and questions and their relevance to the conceptual framework

3.5 Summary

Chapter 4 Research Methodology

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Theory-building process

4.2.1 Observations and empirical generalization

4.2.2 Building theories and hypotheses

4.2.3 Logical deduction versus induction

4.3 Research methodology

4.3.1 Methods of research

4.3.2 Qualitative approach—Multicase study

4.3.3 Quantitative approach

4.3.3.1 The field survey

4.3.3.2 The quantitative method

4.3.4 Sample selection

4.4 Theoretical perspective

4.4.1 Purpose

4.4.2 Theoretical stance

4.4.3 Theoretical perspective

4.5 Ethical considerations

Chapter 5 Field Investigations

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Qualitative research

5.2.1 Purpose

5.2.2 Methods

5.2.3 Research context

5.2.4 Data collection

5.2.5 Data analysis

5.2.6 Findings

5.2.6.1 General findings

5.2.6.2 Dimensions of ambidexterity

5.2.6.2.1 The knowledge dimension

5.2.6.2.2 The behavior dimension

5.2.6.2.3 The technological dimension

5.2.6.2.4 The processual dimension

5.2.6.3 Mechanisms of ambidexterity

5.2.6.3.1 Structural design of the organization

5.2.6.3.2 Learning mechanisms

5.2.6.3.3 Selection mechanisms

5.2.6.3.4 Communication mechanisms

5.2.6.4 Portfolio management and its relation to ambidexterity

5.2.7 Summary of the qualitative study

5.3 Quantitative research

5.3.1 Purpose

5.3.2 Quantitative research model

5.3.3 Sampling and data collection

5.3.4 Constructs, operationalization, and hypotheses

5.3.4.1 Constructs and operationalization

5.3.4.2 Hypotheses

5.3.5 Measures and operationalization

5.3.6 Descriptive analysis

5.3.7 Confirmatory factor analysis

5.3.8 Correlation analysis

5.3.9 Regression analysis and test for mediation

5.3.10 Post hoc analysis—The effect of size and industry

5.3.11 Summary of the quantitative study

5.3.12 Triangulation

5.4 Overall chapter summary

Chapter 6 Discussion

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Transforming a research problem into questions and objectives

6.3 Overview of the research outcomes

6.4 Limitations and future studies

6.5 Contribution to knowledge

Chapter 7 Conclusions and Recommendations

7.1 Introduction

7.2 Restructuring organizational ambidexterity

7.2.1 Redefining ambidexterity

7.2.2 Restructuring ambidexterity

7.2.3 Mechanisms of ambidexterity

7.3 Project-based environments

7.3.1 Project-based organizations (PBOs)

7.3.2 Project portfolio management practices

7.3.3 Project portfolio management practices and ambidexterity

7.4 Effect of ambidexterity on organizations

7.4.1 General effect

7.4.2 Small to medium enterprises

7.4.3 Public versus private organizations

7.4.4 Generalizability of the results

7.5 Summary and recommendations

References

Permissions

Appendix A – Qualitative Study Semi-Structured Questionnaire

Appendix B – Case Study Interviews: Summary Per Informant

Appendix C – Cross-Case Analysis

Appendix D – Quantitative Study Constructs

Appendix E – Quantitative Study Questionnaire

Appendix F – Descriptive Analysis

Appendix G – Regression Analysis

List of Figures

Figure 1-1: Proposed progression of the research

Figure 2-1: Association between exploration and exploitation (source: Lavie et al., 2010)

Figure 2-2: A framework for exploration and exploitation (source: Lavie et al., 2010)

Figure 2-3: An input-process-output view of ambidexterity (source: Simsek, 2009)

Figure 2-4: A multilevel model of organizational ambidexterity (source: Simsek, 2009)

Figure 2-5: Virtuous cycles of ambidexterity (source: Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009)

Figure 2-6: Plot of all research on ambidexterity against time of publication up to 2016

Figure 2-7: Historical development for the levels of ambidexterity

Figure 2-8: Levels of ambidexterity, dimensions, and mechanisms

Figure 2-9: Levels, dimensions, and mechanisms of ambidexterity—General framework

Figure 2-10: Strategic-level ambidexterity

Figure 2-11: Projects-level ambidexterity

Figure 2-12: Operations-level ambidexterity

Figure 2-13: Individual-level ambidexterity

Figure 2-14: Organizational tensions (source: Smith & Lewis, 2011)

Figure 2-15: A dynamic equilibrium model of organizing (source: Smith & Lewis, 2011)

Figure 2-16: A typical simplistic organizational structure for a PBO (source: Thiry & Deguire, 2007)

Figure 2-17: Vertical and horizontal integration in PBOs (source: Thiry & Deguire, 2007)

Figure 2-18: Dynamic and project capabilities (source: Davies & Brady, 2016)

Figure 2-19: Strategic orientation effect on portfolio success (source: Meskendahl, 2010)

Figure 2-20: Portfolio management framework—Project portfolio structure (and practices)

Figure 2-21: Portfolio management framework—Project portfolio success and effectiveness

Figure 3-1: Process of building conceptual frameworks

Figure 3-2: An overview on the conceptual framework embedded in a holistic framework

Figure 3-3: A holistic overview of the conceptual framework

Figure 3-4: Conceptual framework

Figure 3-5: Conceptual framework, research problem, and research questions

Figure 4-1: The scientific theory-building process (source: Handfield & Melnyk, 1998)

Figure 4-2: Development of the research methodology

Figure 5-1: Cross-case analysis for dimensions of ambidexterity

Figure 5-2: Cross-case analysis for mechanisms of ambidexterity

Figure 5-3: Research model

Figure 5-4: Research model constituents and variables

List of Tables

Table 1-1: Research map

Table 2-1: Number of publications by each refining step

Table 2-2: Overview of the selected sample of the 24 papers per step (6)

Table 2-3: Analysis for levels of ambidexterity through the review of literature

Table 2-4: Analysis of dimensions of ambidexterity through the review of literature

Table 2-5: Analysis of mechanisms of ambidexterity through the review of literature

Table 2-6: Literature crisscross analysis between levels and dimensions of ambidexterity

Table 2-7: Literature analysis between dimensions and mechanisms of ambidexterity

Table 2-8: Paradoxical situations within dimensions and levels of ambidexterity

Table 2-9: Categories of paradox with levels and dimensions of ambidexterity

Table 2-10: A summary of portfolio management Knowledge Areas per PMI standards

Table 2-11: A summary of portfolio management key inputs per PMI standards

Table 2-12: A summary of portfolio management key outputs per PMI standards

Table 2-13: Categorization of portfolio management tools and techniques per PMI standards

Table 2-14: Proposed mapping of PPM practices, along with mechanisms of ambidexterity

Table 2-15: A summary of established relationships that involve PPM effectiveness

Table 2-16: PPM effectiveness and success attributes

Table 3-1: Constituents of the study's conceptual framework

Table 4-1: Theory building (source: Handfield & Melnyk, 1998; Stuart et al., 2002)

Table 4-2: Approach to research questions

Table 4-3: Research parametric tests and multivariate analysis methods (source: Forza, 2002)

Table 4-4: Effect size and statistical power and sample size (source: Forza, 2002)

Table 4-5: Sample selection criteria

Table 4-6: The modern and the postmodern perspectives (source: Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013, p. 15)

Table 5-1: Overview of case firms

Table 5-2: Describing the core content of the qualitative questionnaire

Table 5-3: Comparison between mechanisms of ambidexterity and PMI PPM practices

Table 5-4: Comparison between mechanisms of ambidexterity and APM PPM areas

Table 5-5: Industry frequency

Table 5-6: Frequencies of organizations’ size

Table 5-7: Cross-reference between employees’ level in the organizations and the organizations’ size

Table 5-8: Cross-reference between the industry and organization size

Table 5-9: Factor analysis for PPM effectiveness

Table 5-10: Factor analysis for ambidexterity

Table 5-11: Factor analysis for business performance and success

Table 5-12: Reliability test and KMO results for all factors

Table 5-13: Correlation analysis

Table 5-14: Results of regression analysis for small and medium enterprises only

Table 5-15: Means for ambidexterity against size and industry

Table 7-1: Proposed high-level scorecard system for ambidexterity

Abbreviations

ANOVA Analysis of Variance
APM The Association of Project Management
APMBOK Association of Project Management Body of Knowledge
BIM Building Information Modeling
CEO Chief Executing Officer
CFA Confirmatory Factor Analysis
CIOB Chartered Institute of Building
COO Chief Operating Officer
DBO Design Build Operate
DSO Days Sales Outstanding
EBSCO Elton Bryson Stephens Company
EFQM European Foundation for Quality Management excellence model
FCM Financial and Cost Management
GCC Gulf Corporation Council
GIS Geographic Information System
HC Human Capital
HR Human Resources
IC Intellectual Capital
IJPM International Journal of Project Management
IM Integrative Management (APM, 2012)
IP Intellectual Property
ISRI Institute for Scrap Recycling Industry
IT Information Technology
JSTOR Journal STORe
KIF Knowledge Intensive Firms
KMO Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy
KPI Key Performance Indicator
MEED Middle East Business Intelligence Magazine
NGO Nongovernmental Organization
NPD New Product Design
OC Organization Capital
OGC Office of Government Commerce
OLS Ordinary Least Square
OS Organization Science
TMT Top Management Team
PBO Project-Based Organization
PMBOK® Guide A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)
PMI Project Management Institute
PMIS Project Management Information System
PMJ Project Management Journal®
PMO Project Management Office
PPM Project Portfolio Management
PPP Private Public Partnership
PRINCE Projects in Controlled Environments
QM Quality Management
RBV Resource-Based View
ResM Resource Management
RFP Request for Proposal
RM Risk Management
ROI Return on Investment
RQ Research Question
SC Social Capital
ScM Schedule Management
SM Scope Management
SME Small or Medium Enterprise
VIF Variance Inflation Factor

Preface/Acknowledgments

Organizational ambidexterity is the ability of an organization to simultaneously explore the market and the surrounding environment, and exploit one's own knowledge base and resources to improve performance and drive through sustainability. Due to ambidexterity's importance in achieving simultaneous capabilities to efficiently manage today's business challenges and at the same time to have the competency to cope with future business challenges and changes, as well as the role that organizational ambidexterity plays in improving business development, marketing activities, and project delivery, I opted to commission a research project, which was funded by the Project Management Institute (PMI), to understand ambidexterity in greater detail – what drives it and what could influence it.

Today, most organizations are projectified or “projectized.” It can therefore be safely assumed that everything in the current business world is run through projects. This research aims to build an understanding of how ambidexterity can be achieved in the project-based environment, and in particular in project-based organizations (PBOs). As the title of this study implies, project portfolio management was proposed here as a standard practice to show the path to ambidexterity in project-based organizations.

This research makes recommendations for organizations, particularly project-based ones, on the means of applying project portfolio management practices to better achieve ambidexterity. In addition, the first part of this research carries out a detailed analysis of ambidexterity and generates a comprehensive and detailed definition for what ambidexterity could be and how it may be achieved. This detailed discussion on ambidexterity should ease the reader's way toward understanding this organizational capability and its possible relationship with portfolio management.

Researching and studying organizational ambidexterity in this context along with the portfolio management practice took me a total of three years. This period involved conducting extensive studies and research on this subject followed by focused and directed field investigations with the aim to prove the theories generated by this research.

Now, since this research has come to an end, I would like to thank all the organizations and colleagues for their participation in the field investigation and their assistance in carrying the message to others to invite them to participate as well. I am also grateful to the Project Management Institute (PMI) that awarded me a research grant, which gave me the drive to carry out this research with great determination and to get it done with quality and knowledge enhancement in mind. I am also grateful to the other organizations (whose names cannot be disclosed) that participated heavily and financially to drive the work behind this research. I am grateful to my doctoral supervisor for his direction and support in helping me overcome numerous obstacles that I faced through my research. I would also like to thank my fellow doctoral students for their feedback, cooperation, and, of course, friendship.

I would like to thank my friends for accepting nothing less than excellence from me. Last but not least, I would like to thank my family: my wife and my daughters, from whom I have been distant during most of the period of this research, for them supporting me spiritually throughout the writing of this research and my life in general.

Profile of the Researcher

Yacoub Petro is the regional director of projects and the commercial leader for MWH, now part of Stantec, Middle East. Yacoub enrolled in the project management doctoral program at the British University in Dubai to pursue further career development and to grow as a researcher, enabling him to carry out further studies in similar contemporary and pressing subjects.

Yacoub has considerable years of experience in dealing with projects’ delivery and various project management issues relevant to projectized organizations all mixed up with the dynamic and tough market conditions caused by the residuals of the 2008 financial crisis. During his work experience as a project manager, Yacoub has been exposed to various situations, which are relevant to the subject of this study. These situations, along with project management issues, have encouraged him to find solutions that could create resilience in today's organizations.

In his academic life, and prior to enrolling in the doctoral program, Yacoub was awarded his master's degree in project management. He was awarded this degree with distinction for his novel and insightful contribution to designing strategic directions and implementations in project-based organizations with a particular focus on leveraging the efficiency of business units. His master's dissertation was well received and published by the International Journal of Project Management, one of the renowned academic journals in the field of project management.

Yacoub is originally a civil engineer and a Chartered Engineer (CEng). He received his CEng from the United Kingdom's Engineering Council (EC) through the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). Apart from leading the project management department of MWH with a Project Management Professional (PMP)® hat, he has a passion for structural engineering and used to be the structural design lead in his organization. Working with the professional staff closely, Yacoub was able to create structural design capabilities in his organization, followed by project management capabilities upon leading the project management department for the entire region.

Yacoub's plan after publishing this study is to find ways to apply its outcomes in real-life situations by advising organizations on how to become more sustainable through the application of the simple rules of ambidexterity discussed in the following pages of this research. This advisory work may be followed by further developing the models and frameworks suggested herein.

Executive Summary

This research aims to build an understanding of how ambidexterity can be achieved in project-based organizations (PBOs). Ambidexterity is the organizational ability to simultaneously explore the market and exploit one's own knowledge base and resources to improve performance and drive through sustainability. Ambidexterity has been known to overcome situations and issues that could occur in dynamic environments. This research proposes the use of project portfolio management (PPM) as standard practice to show the path to ambidexterity in dynamic, albeit project-based, environments. It does so by providing an answer to the following research questions:

RQ 1: What is organizational ambidexterity and how can it be defined within the context of project-based organizations (PBOs)?

RQ 2: What is the range of mechanisms needed to support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

RQ 3: How can project portfolio management (PPM) as a process support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

This study generates a comprehensive definition for ambidexterity moving away from the level of abstraction previously used to address this organizational capability. It restructures what ambidexterity looks like and how it should be dealt with in organizations in general and in PBOs in particular. The redefining and restructuring of this organizational capability facilitates understanding ambidexterity and applying it in the context of PBOs. By doing so, the study generates mechanisms that can be used to achieve ambidexterity in organizations in general and in PBOs in particular. Those mechanisms are comparable with known practices, such as the PPM practices, which can be applied to PBOs.

The study adopts a unique theoretical perspective to define the underpinning theory. This perspective represents a careful merger of the modern perspective and the postmodern organizational perspective that has been proposed in the literature. This merger suggests the application of a mixed-method research design in defining and proving theory. A qualitative method that adopts the subjective traits of the postmodern perspective is used to develop the theory through the use of multicase study design and analysis. A quantitative method that takes on the objective traits of the modern perspective is considered to test some of the specificities generated by this theory.

In light of the above, ambidexterity has been redefined and restructured in this research to represent the ability of the organization to employ a range of techniques to resolve paradoxical challenges within all levels (separate and interwoven) of the PBO to overcome external competition and dynamics, taking into account internal limiting factors, such as size, resource availability, and absorptive capacity of the organization.

Subsequently, this study establishes a link between PPM practices as represented by the effectiveness of their application and ambidexterity; it also found a relationship between ambidexterity and the performance of organizations in general and performance of projects in PBOs in particular.

This study was conducted in various organizational contexts, such as industries and sizes. The study outcomes conferred more importance on achieving ambidexterity in small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) compared to the other organizational types. Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) face competitive pressures to pursue exploitation and exploration with the lack of resources they tend to have compared to their larger counterparts. SMEs’ lack of resourcing, or the nonslackness of those resources that they do have, combined with the lack of administrative and hierarchical systems that may help larger firms in managing their conflicting processes (or paradoxes), affect the ambidexterity of the organization.

Moreover, an analysis was carried out in an attempt to create clusters of organizational sizes and/or industries, or a combination of both. However, the study found no real statistical difference between those assumed clusters. The lack of clustering agrees with the research findings—that the achievement of ambidexterity requires the realization of certain processes and the application of certain mechanisms, and that has nothing to do with size or industry.

This study has significant implications for practitioners and scholars in that it proposes taking forward the practices of PPM to establish a link with ambidexterity. This link, once established, can offer new methods for practitioners to enhance the performance of PBOs. Moreover, the theoretical product/outcome of this study extends the theory and applications of ambidexterity and also feeds into the field of portfolio management, its theory, and its applications.

For practitioners, this research provides new means and measures that can be used to assess gaps in organizations, with a particular focus on PBOs. The study suggests ways to bridge those gaps and achieve ambidexterity. Moreover, this new conceptual development in the area of ambidexterity, combined with its alignment with PPM practices, helps practitioners and managers comprehend the importance and the real influence of this dynamic capability on PBOs, particularly when located in complex and dynamic environments. For scholars, this research provides a new theoretical development in the field of ambidexterity. It also generates the substance of a new paradigm shift in this area of knowledge as indicated in literature. This new shift in paradigm and the development of a new theoretical framework for ambidexterity can be used as a foundation by scholars to build on for future studies.

Finally, this study offers a new perspective on projects and PPM within the project-based environment. This new perspective solidifies the relationship between operations and projects and PPM in PBOs, an area that is being looked at in recent research.

The study is limited from the perspective of global application in that the empirical data utilized in drawing the study's conclusion were not drawn from a global audience. Moreover, there was no real focus on how organizations in the public and private sectors achieved ambidexterity, or whether ambidexterity mattered in these sectors to the same extent as was shown in the research outcomes for SMEs. This research therefore opens doors for future studies to look into this matter and to delve in greater depth into the relationship between SMEs and their organizational ambidexterity.

KEYWORDS: Project-Based Organizations (PBOs), Project Portfolio Management (PPM), Organizational Ambidexterity, Exploration, Exploitation, Dynamic Capabilities, Small and Medium-Size Enterprises (SMEs)

Chapter 1 Research Summary and Aim

1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 Background and research problem

A recurring theme in the literature is the challenges faced by modern organizations in coping with the various changes affected by dynamic environments (Duncan, 1972; Milliken, 1987; Teece, Pisano, & Shuen, 1997; Teece, 2007; Ambrosini & Bowman, 2009; Barreto, 2010; Voss & Voss, 2013; Birkinshaw, Zimmermann, & Raisch, 2016; Vahlne & Jonsson, 2017). These challenges could be managerial in nature (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008) or operational (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009, 2010; Matthews, Tan, & Marzec, 2015), or a combination of both. In the face of rapid technological changes, for instance, market needs, combined with the ever-changing resource requirements and skill sets, require organizations with dynamic capabilities (Barreto, 2010; Birkinshaw et al., 2016; Vahlne & Jonsson, 2017). Arguably, those dynamic capabilities can be filtered into the notion of ambidexterity, with ambidextrous organizations positioned to handle these changes and challenges. In effect, these are organizations that are efficient in meeting today's demands and adaptive in handling changing market conditions (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008; Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008; Chebbi, Yahiaoui, Vrontis, & Thrassou, 2015; Jurksiene & Pundziene, 2016; Teece, Peteraf, & Leih, 2016). One of the initial discussions on organizational ambidexterity emerged from March's (1991) study on the need of organizations to have simultaneous capabilities of exploitation and exploration to tackle issues arising from the external environment. March's (1991) research on organizational ambidexterity generated a considerable number of studies on inputs, outputs, and characteristics of ambidextrous organizations, most of which cite performance of their operations as the focal point of research.

Project-based organizations (PBOs) could face difficulties in handling dynamic environments due to known rigidities of project management (Ford & Randolph, 1992; Hodgson & Cicmil, 2007; Geraldi, 2008; Lenfle & Loch, 2010; Candi van den Ende & Gemser, 2013). These rigidities could impede the flexibility needed to manage projects in today's dynamic business and operational environment. It has been recognized that most PBOs could fall short of a holistic view on projects and this may contribute toward these rigidities (Levine, 2005). In this regard, the literature suggests that adapting a centralized management of the project management processes, methods, and technologies employed by project managers, better known as project portfolio management (PPM) (Levine, 2005; Thiry & Deguire, 2007; Patanakul, 2015), could enhance the ambidextrous capabilities that PBOs require to deal with dynamic environments (Lee, DeLone, & Espinosa, 2006; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2010; Chandrasekaran, Linderman, & Schroeder, 2015). It is suggested therefore in this research that adapting the holistic approach of project portfolio management in project-based organizations could enable managers to be more efficient in handling the external environment.

Organizational ambidexterity calls for sustainability and flexibility in the operation (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008; Simsek, 2009; Teece et al., 2016; Turner, Maylor, & Swart, 2015; Tamayo-Torres, Roehrich, & Lewis, 2017). Achieving ambidexterity in organizations may not be an easy task, and organizations apply various techniques to achieve such a state (Turner et al., 2015). Among these techniques are structural separation (Lavie, Kang, & Rosenkopf, 2009), which involves setting up different structural departments to handle exploration and exploitations separately; temporal differentiation (Lavie, Stettner, & Tushman, 2010), which gives the responsibility of exploitation and exploration to a single departmental scope, with each of the two functions being handled at different times; and the targeted application of projects and programs (Pellegrinelli, Murray-Webster, & Turner, 2015), with projects providing more of an exploitation through control, and programs providing more of an exploration through diversity of scope and coverage. The literature is generous with more research that targets other approaches to achieve ambidexterity in the organization (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; He & Wong, 2004; Venkatraman, Lee, & Iyer, 2007; Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009; Simsek, 2009). All these approaches try to infuse ambidexterity into the organization and they may all lead to a performance that is envisioned through ambidexterity (Turner et al., 2015)—which leads to the principal of equifinality or internationality in seeing the same solution using various methods (see Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000). However, a possible problem that emerges here stems from the “ad hoc” approach, which organizations use to achieve an ambidextrous state, particularly in the case of PBOs. This may create inconsistency in the different methods used to achieve the required state of ambidexterity—or an imbalance between exploitation and exploration—that, in turn, may lead to a lack of real performance exhibited by these organizations. An example is the case of BlackBerry. When BlackBerry indulged itself in internal exploitative and sole project management functions and disregarded threats from Apple, this led to the indirect rise of the iPhone (Fingas, 2015). While BlackBerry was busy with internal exploitations, Apple managed to achieve this position by carefully balancing between exploration and exploitation to support its current and upcoming projects and future needs.

To resolve the matter of achieving ambidexterity in project environments, and in reference to O'Reilly and Tushman's (2008) concerns regarding the lack of real mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity, Turner, Swart, and Maylor (2013) suggested harnessing the use of intellectual capital, as summarized by the human capital (HC), the organization capital (OC), and the social capital (SC) of the organization, to see ambidexterity through. This research, on the other hand, proposes the use of project portfolio management (PPM) as a standard practice to establish new mechanisms for ambidexterity in project-based organizations. This proposition emanates as a means to unite the different practices and/or the claimed dynamic capabilities and performance of organizations along with business sustainability concerns. In order to achieve this proposition along with the objectives of this research, organizational ambidexterity is analyzed in this document in sufficient detail by way of a systematic review of the literature to understand all of its requirements, definitions, and applications—to the best of the author's knowledge, this manner of analysis has not been undertaken previously. A comprehensive and a structured definition of ambidexterity will facilitate and enhance the creation and adoption of these newly claimed practices.

1.1.2 Project summary and research approach

In light of the brief outline of literature in the previous section, this study critically examines organizational ambidexterity through the lens of PPM practices. The research seeks to establish a relationship between ambidexterity and PBOs, which operate in dynamic environments. In the process, this study seeks to evaluate the nature of relationships within the context of organizational events when dealing with internal and external factors within the project-based environment. Achieving this objective requires an assessment and evaluation of these relationships.

The initial choice of research approach entails selecting between inductive (exploratory and/or theory-development) and deductive (explanatory and/or theory-testing) approaches. Barratt, Choi, and Li (2011) suggested that in making such choices:

research should always start with a phenomenon, which in this case is organizational ambidexterity and the mechanisms of achieving such a state in the organization, and

a literature review to be conducted around this phenomenon.

The second point in Barratt et al. (2011) implies the generation of a theoretical or a conceptual framework when sufficient knowledge is available around the subject under study. This is usually followed by establishing propositions for testing through deduction. However, if sufficient knowledge was not found around the subject under concern, this calls for a more of an exploratory approach (i.e., induction). Induction, in this case, would lead into generating a new theory.

This research uses an approach that combines deductive and inductive research. The deductive approach was used to decide on variables, constructs, and their correlations and regressions, while induction facilitated relevant questions of “how” and “why” (Stuart, McCucheon, Handfield, McLachlin, & Samson, 2002). The deductive part of this research resonates with Ketchen, Thomas, and Snow's (1993) comparative research on the various approaches to find the best organizational configurations and their resultant performance. Ketchen et al.'s (1993, p. 1278) research concluded that “deductively defined configurations explained performance better than the inductively defined configurations.” This notion underpinned the rationale behind the selection of deduction represented by the quantitative approach to answer performance-related research questions. An inductive approach represented by the qualitative exploration was used to answer questions that require in-depth explanations of organizational events (Handfield & Melnyk, 1998; Stuart et al., 2002). The overall approach used in this research agrees with a modernist perspective in most of its parts (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013). It also allows postmodernism (Parker, 1992; Boje, 1995) to take effect through subjectivity. The mix between a modernist perspective (achieved through a quantitative approach) and postmodernism (achieved through a qualitative approach) allows for triangulating the research results (Jick, 1979; Denzin, 2012), and this introduces greater reliability for the research outcomes (Denzin, 2012).

1.1.3 Sites selection

This research is set within a number of organizations selected from both the private and the public sectors. The private sector was initially selected to facilitate the qualitative data collection due to its perceived ease of access for the researcher (e.g., conducting interviews). A quantitative study covered areas and investigated the two sectors in order to enhance the generalizability of the results by accessing data from both sectors, which was not otherwise possible through the qualitative data collection (Holsti, 1969; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Second, and due to the realized differences between the private and the public sectors in defining organizational configurations (Mercer, 1991; Boyne, 2002; Van der Wal, De Graaf, & Lasthuizen, 2008), this study created clusters for data collection so that findings from the public sector could be compared with and distinguished from data collected from the private sector (Boyne, 2002; Jung, 2014)—conclusions gathered from the data analysis on this part are presented in Chapter 6.

Several organizations were approached to conduct the qualitative and the quantitative investigations. Prior to formalizing and finalizing the field survey questionnaire relevant to the quantitative part of this investigation, or the semi-structured questions relevant to the qualitative part, an extensive and a systematic literature review was conducted to help determine the research variables and the probable relationships, after which interview sessions were conducted as part of the qualitative approach. The qualitative approach used in this research consisted of investigations through the use of case studies. Semi-structured questions were prepared based on the outcomes of the literature review and the inspection of the research variables to systematically investigate those cases. As per the suggestions of Sandberg (2000), along with Handfield and Melnyk's (1998) recommendations, 12 case studies were selected, with each case representing one study organization from countries distributed all over the Middle East.

While conducting and finalizing these interviews for those selected case studies, the questionnaire was revised to take into account comments from the analysis as it progressed; also, a final touch was added to the field survey questionnaire for the quantitative study. A total of 160 responses were collected from various organizations that offer services in dynamic and project-based environments and used for the quantitative study analysis. The number of collected responses facilitated the production of a statistically viable size, which corresponds to methodologies with proven and realistic results in social sciences research (Verma & Goodale, 1995; Forza, 2002). The aim of the survey was to gather readings from each firm's various organizational levels to establish reliability of the study variables. The quantitative analysis of the collected survey questionnaire was carried out in accordance with guidelines set out in the methodology chapter.

Post the quantitative analysis, both the outcomes of the qualitative and the quantitative research components were assessed for comparison and cross-verification purposes as part of a triangulation exercise to ascertain more reliability for the research results (Denzin, 2012).

1.1.4 Research questions

In light of the above introduction, it can be observed that achieving an ambidextrous state in PBOs arms them (the PBOs) against the vagaries of a dynamic project environment. At the heart of organizational ambidexterity is its ability to run simultaneous (or balanced) explorative and exploitative functions (Birkinshaw et al., 2016), which this research argues could be achieved through the application of sound PPM practices. The predominant approach in applying PPM practices has its conceptual roots in the project management theory (Patanakul, 2015). However, and prior to carrying out investigations into creating or adopting any such practices to achieve ambidexterity, ambidexterity in the project management context shall be investigated and defined in more detail. This may entail an extensive literature review on this construct to create a more comprehensive and structured definition for it. Such a comprehensive research on ambidexterity in this context shall act as a foundation for this research moving forward. Therefore, and based on this contention, the first research question to be addressed in this study is:

RQ 1: What is organizational ambidexterity and how can it be defined within the context of project-based organizations (PBOs)?

This research question, being tied to project management in general and to organizational ambidexterity in particular, is researched and answered through a systematic review of the literature. Recent literature on organizational ambidexterity is rich (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008; Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008; Smisek, 2009; Tamayo-Torres et al., 2017), but not in relation to, or specifically about, project management (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015). Also, to the best of the author's knowledge, no research has provided a complete or comprehensive definition for ambidexterity in such a way that could facilitate the creation of mechanisms or practices to see it through (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008; Turner et al., 2013). On the other hand, literature on projects and PPM is invariably rich and covers many aspects that are relevant to organizational theory and organizational structure (Gobeli & Larson, 1985; Gray, Dworatschek, Gobeli, Knoepfel, & Larson, 1990; Turner & Keegan, 1999, 2001; Thiry & Dequire, 2007; Lechler & Dvir, 2010). This implies that prior to establishing such a link between these two areas of knowledge, literature reviews and definitions shall be aligned.

Having addressed what organizational ambidexterity is and how it can be defined within the context of project-based organizations (PBOs), our next interest is to investigate the mechanisms required to be applied in organizations to see ambidexterity through. This forms the basis of the second research question, which moves from the creation of a comprehensive definition of ambidexterity for its later application to inject a layer of specificity into the study. The second research question is:

RQ 2: What is the range of mechanisms needed to support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

The review of literature on organizational ambidexterity generated some important relationships. For instance, researchers such as Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004); He and Wong (2004); Lubatkin, Simsek, Ling, and Veiga (2006); and Venkatraman et al. (2007) have established relationships between organizational ambidexterity and business performance. On the other hand, studies on PPM and business performance were not explicitly found in the literature, though it was implied that a PBO would benefit from the successful application of PPM practices (Martinsuo & Lehtonen, 2007; Voss, 2012; Voss & Kock, 2012; Beringer, Jonas, & Kock, 2013; Teller & Kock, 2013; Patanakul, 2015; Petro & Gardiner, 2015). It is not the intention of this research to reprove or re-establish the linkage between ambidexterity and performance, or portfolio management and performance or business success. The intention behind this research, as is articulated in the third research question, is to highlight the significance this research has in supporting performance by linking the practices of project portfolio management to organizational ambidexterity to see if the latter can act as a vehicle to carry those mechanisms of ambidexterity. Therefore, based on this contention, the third research question highlights the direct relationship between ambidexterity and PPM:

RQ 3: How can project portfolio management (PPM) as a process support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

It is to be noted here that ambidexterity is an organizational characteristic, a state, or a capability (Chandrasekaran, Linderman, & Schroeder, 2012), any of which can be achieved via different routes. Some studies discuss achieving ambidexterity via the application of innovation strategies, being incremental in some cases or radical in others (Jansen, Bosch, & Volberda, 2005; O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008; Simsek, 2009). Others linked the application of programs to exploratory traits and projects to the exploitative ones (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015). Mom, Bosch, and Volberda (2007) established a link between the type and direction of knowledge flows in the various organizational layers and the ability of the organization to become ambidextrous. Lubatkin et al. (2006) linked it to the traits and behaviors of the management team. Lavie et al. (2010) talked about the various organizational structures and their means to achieve ambidexterity; in their research, they described the following routes to ambidexterity: contextual, organizational, temporal, and domain separation. Turner et al. (2013) used the intellectual capital of the organization to propose micro-mechanisms for achieving ambidexterity. This study, on the other hand, comes with a new proposition to find better practices and solutions that can help see ambidexterity through in organizations, and it links ambidexterity with portfolio management.

1.1.5 Specific aims

This research aims to build an understanding of how ambidexterity can be achieved in project-based organizations (PBOs). To achieve this, the study suggests uncovering the structure and complexities that these organizational traits and practices may bring about to knowledge and the academic literature. The research touches on the relationships between portfolio practices and organizational traits, and investigates correlations and indirect effects on performance.

Based on the aim of the research as mentioned above, below are the accompanying specific objectives:

Review the concept of ambidexterity in order to generate understanding, and review the ambidextrous characteristics of PBOs;

Examine and identify the range of mechanisms needed to support PBOs in developing ambidextrous capabilities; and

Assess the ability and readiness of PPM practices to support ambidexterity in PBOs.

The rationale behind using project management theory in general and project portfolio management (PPM) practices in particular to define ambidexterity stems from the perceived theoretical connections between the two areas of knowledge (i.e., ambidexterity and PPM). In this context, an ambidextrous status of an organization refers to its ability to shift between two “perpendicular” functions with dexterity (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004), while PPM practices vote for allocating resources appropriately to serve the various needs of projects and operations (Levine, 2005). Hence, the optimum selection and allocation of resources becomes of utmost importance to achieve and maintain such an organizational state. On the other hand, PPM interacts heavily with operations and the operational budget, and that comprises allocating and reallocating resources to projects, programs, portfolios, and the operation. Resources allocation and reallocation reflects the organization's ability in pursuing new investments on one hand, and getting the job done on the other hand. The governance of a portfolio is established by a body that makes decisions about “investment priorities [i.e., exploration functions] for the portfolio, and ensure[s] portfolio management processes are followed to sustain the organization [i.e., exploitation functions]” (PMI 2013c, p. 5). Consequently, it is rational to consider here that the effectiveness of PPM practices and applications has a direct effect on organizational ambidexterity as governance aligns strategic directions to internal requirements and external needs (Patanakul, Curtis, & Koppel, 2013).

The above information, along with a concise summary of the entire research structure and its intended outcome and theory, is summarized in a research map presented in Table 1-1.

1.2 Contribution to knowledge

Research has shown that ambidextrous organizations would invariably experience enhanced organizational performance (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004), projects performance (Serrador & Turner, 2015), firm profits (He & Wong, 2004; Venkatraman et al., 2007), and firm sustainability (Simsek, 2009; Tamayo-Torres et al., 2017). This has been demonstrated in a number of both quantitative studies (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; He & Wong, 2004; Venkatraman et al., 2007) and qualitative research (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). Taking ambidexterity into perspective, and considering ambidexterity as a state that organizations would like to achieve or a competency that organizations would like to have (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012), this research proposes integrating knowledge on ambidexterity developed in organizational behavior literature into the project management discipline by bringing forward the PPM practices. This relationship, once established, will provide a new path for practitioners to consider when looking at new methods to enhance the performance of PBOs and, in the process, arguably contributes to the project management research agenda that seeks to “offer alternative perspectives on projects, project management and project success or outlining how the field is broadening beyond its current limits” (Svejvig & Andersen, 2015, p. 283).

Since March (1991) and Duncan (1976) published their research on organizational ambidexterity, scholars have tried to define and discern ambidexterity further. Some of those scholars looked into the benefits of organizational ambidexterity and the effect on the outcomes of the ambidextrous organization (Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008; Simsek, 2009). Others theorized how ambidexterity can be achieved on account of innovation (Jansen, Bosch, & Volberda, 2006; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009), or be reflected in the behavior and attitude of employees (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004) and top management (Lubatkin et al., 2006). The role of human capital (Hess & Rothaermel, 2008; Turner et al., 2013) and the use of projects and programs (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015) were also looked at. Little or no research was found in the literature that theorized or established a relationship between portfolio management and ambidexterity. In this regard, this study may be viewed as unique because, to the best of the author's knowledge, it is the first to tread the path toward creating and testing such a theory. This theory could have a significant impact on knowledge and academia due to some of the novelty it brings to the field of study.

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Table 1-1: Research map.

1.3 Research structure

Figure 1-1 presents an overview of the remaining sections of this research. Chapter 1 is the research introductory chapter and is followed by the literature review in Chapter 2. This literature review chapter includes a conceptual build-up for a comprehensive definition of ambidexterity. This build-up is accompanied by a review on the application of ambidexterity to the project-based environment. The literature review links the ongoing discourse on ambidexterity with a hierarchy of authority in the organization in a way that facilitates its integration with project and portfolio management.

In Chapter 3, a conceptual framework is presented, which uses the build-up of the literature and the conclusion of the systematic review of it. In Chapter 4, the research presents a detailed discussion on research methodology. It starts off with a discussion on methodologies and means for selecting the needed method of research. Chapter 5 gathers the results and the outcomes from the qualitative and quantitative research. Chapter 6 discusses the results presented in Chapter 5 and links those back to the literature review and the rest of this research. Chapter 7 concludes and provides a summary of the recommendations and implications of the research, its limitations, and any directions for future studies. Figure 1-1 provides a graphical representation for the intended progress of this research.

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Figure 1-1: Proposed progression of the research.

Chapter 2 Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

Drawing from Tranfield, Denyer, and Smart (2003) and Rowley and Slack (2004), the aim of this chapter is to undertake a review of the literature and in the process present a synopsis of the subject field that supports the main theories that underpin this study, namely 1) ambidexterity, 2) project portfolio management, and 3) project-based organizational theory. In the process, the literature review will serve as “a summary of a subject field that supports the identification of specific research questions” (Rowley & Slack, 2004, p. 31).

The first two sections explain organizational ambidexterity in sufficient detail. The term ambidexterity may not be common terminology among casual business readers, project management practitioners, or even scholars. This research aims not to enhance knowledge of just the scholarly body; it also targets practitioners, and it aims to benefit the practice of project management and PPM as well. It is therefore important to bring all readers to a similar level of understanding when it comes to discussing one of the major elements of this study. Scholars and practitioners who are knowledgeable about this terminology may skip the next two sections.

Section 2.4 carries out an extensive and a systematic literature review on ambidexterity. The aim is to answer the first research question—to provide a comprehensive definition for ambidexterity. This section therefore uses taxonomical analysis on literature collected since the 1990s with 2017 as a cut-off year to conclude with part of the foundational results presented in this chapter. These results are used throughout this study. Section 2.5 complements the systematic review of the literature and extends it from the theory of paradox, revealing various types of tensions in organizations, part of which could contribute to their ambidexterity when resolved virtuously. Section 2.6 introduces and reviews the literature on project-based organizations, their functions, and their operations. It then covers their dynamic and project capabilities, giving way to their ambidexterity (Turner, Kutsch, & Leybourne, 2016). Section 2.7 introduces and then analyzes portfolio management practices, their context, and their relevance to ambidexterity. The study uses PMI portfolio standards, which are internationally known and the most commonly used, and links them with the outcome of the systematic literature review and the rest of the research. The study does not disregard the importance of other standards, such as the Association of Project Management (APM) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), and these studies are considered in the relevant sections of this document.

2.2 Demistifying ambidexterity

2.2.1 Purpose

In this section, ambidexterity is explained in more detail, from its origin to its current consideration in scholarly research. First, ambidexterity and its functions, “exploitation” and “exploration,” are explained. The section then moves on to explaining why organizations chase either exploration or exploitation, or both, and why that is important. It then explains the routes to ambidexterity.

2.2.2 What is ambidexterity?—Explaining exloration and exploitation

In a seminal article published in 1991, James March presented his research on organizational ambidexterity, basing his studies on Duncan's (1976) earlier publication on the same subject. Duncan was one of the pioneers in organizational studies, and it was he who coined this terminology. March (1991) published the first systematic study on organizational ambidexterity following from Duncan's (1976) work, which puts him at the forefront of organizational configuration academic studies. March's work on ambidexterity was cited more than 15,000 times as of the date of preparing this research.

Ambidexterity is defined in The Concise English Dictionary (2004) as “unusual cleverness,” or the ability to be “two sided, using both hands with equal facility.” This definition, when superimposed on organizational sciences, implies cleverness of organizations in using their own functions with “equal facility.” Exploitation is one organizational function that allows the organization to exploit and use its own knowledge base to implement, deliver, and benefit from its own backlog or work to justify its own existence (March, 1991; O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008). Exploration, on the other hand, is a second organizational function that permits the organization to expand, look abroad, and invest in the future to sustain and infuse trust in the current operation while justifying its continuity (March, 1991; O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008). These two functions, as argued by Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004), act in perpendicularity to each other's direction, thus deeming organizations that can successfully exploit them simultaneously ambidextrous.

Following on March's (1991) earlier research, where he generally described the intentions behind exploration and exploitation, Levinthal and March's (1993) research came into play to set some boundaries to this description, and by that they linked both functions to the perception of knowledge capture and learning. They linked, for instance, exploration to the “pursuit of new knowledge,” considering such pursuit a future investment. On the other hand, they attached exploitation to the “use and development of things already known” (Levinthal & March, 1993, p. 105). Hence, exploration infers variations and big jumps in knowledge—similar to radical innovation, and exploitation calls for the use of existing knowledge with logical and structured variations to the existing knowledge base—similar to incremental innovation (He & Wong, 2004).

The distinction between both organizational functions—exploitation and exploration—has not been so clear, and in some cases, it triggered a matter of relativity or relatedness to the organization (Lavie et al., 2010). Exploration in some organizations may be viewed as exploitation in others, which is a matter of market understanding or perception (Bednarek, Burke, & Jarzabkowski, 2016). On the other hand, exploitation may be viewed as exploration in other organizations, which could be a matter of organizational capability (Birkinshaw et al., 2016). This relatively new understanding for the two functions places them on a continuum, with each function pointing different ways (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008)—this understanding contradicts Gupta, Smith, and Shalley's (2006) notion of “orthogonality” or “perpendicularity,” which means that the two functions are perpendicular to each other and cannot exist in one organization simultaneously. The pulling force that each of those vectors assumes can hypothetically determine the degree by which the organization tries to strategically enforce any of the functions. For example, Apple's continuous new-product breakthroughs recognize the company's willingness to invest in exploration and the extent of the force Apple applies in that direction. On the other hand, Apple's continuous improvement to its existing products in making them more efficient and reliable reflects the company's pulling force toward exploitation. In the context of Apple and the market it has acquired, a new company that tries to enter Apple's market will have to pull hard in the exploration direction rather than in the exploitation direction; once successful, that new company would ease up on the exploration and balance it out with more exploitation. A similar situation occurred when Apple entered the telecommunication market, as can be seen from the rise and the fall of the BlackBerry brand. When Blackberry disregarded threats of the iPhone and eased up on exploration, this caused the rise of the iPhone (Fingas, 2015). Apple managed to attain this position by carefully balancing out between exploration and exploitation.

The above contention indicates that successful organizations should strive to have a carefully calculated balance between exploration and exploitation (Chebbi et al., 2015). An exploration effort, when successful, would spill over into the exploitation function (Chandrasekaran et al., 2015). An exploitation function would build on the organizational resources and capabilities to allow the organization to seek further exploration. Figure 2-1 depicts a graphical representation of the association between the two functions explained above.

The figure denotes that exploration in this context would bring in opportunities, while exploiting these opportunities using company resources would bring in income; this income can then be used to further explore new opportunities. Careful and timely considerations of both functions would keep the ball rolling for the organization and infuse sustainability into its operations.

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Figure 2-1: Association between exploration and exploitation (source: Lavie et al., 2010).

2.2.3 Why ambidexterity?—Exploration or exploitation

2.2.3.1 The exploration-exploitation race

Upon deciding on strategic directions, organizations would set out toward investing in exploitation or exploration or both; the degree of this would be governed by market needs and organizational capabilities. Allocation of resources to these two functions would dictate the intensity the organization would like to throw at either of the directions (Lavie et al., 2010). More resources directed at exploratory activities marks the organization as flexible, and emphasizes its willingness to accept changes (Lewin, Long, & Carroll, 1999), which would support its preparedness for the future. On the other hand, the direction of resources to exploitative activities denotes that the organization is stable and one that would not readily accept changes (Cao, Kavadias, & Gaimon, 2009).

The above discussion on resources allocation assumes that both exploration and exploitation can be applied in various intensities—intensities that would convert the organization from being flexible at one end, to being inflexible and stable at the other end (Cao, Kavadias, & Gaimon, 2009). Revisiting the example of Apple overtaking BlackBerry due to an exploratory focus from the Macintosh side (Grossman, 2007; Duhigg & Bradsher, 2012), one can explain the same situation by considering a deliberate change of resources allocation and focus (Cao, Kavadias, & Gaimon, 2009; ; Koen, Bertels, & Elsum, 2011). Macintosh, for instance, may have had the capability to overcome such competition with a slight variation to its resources focus. An incremental change to the knowledge base may be viewed as exploitation of Apple's resources rather than full-force exploration as was assumed the first instance this example was presented—that is, lower-intensity exploration in combination with high-intensity exploitation (De Oliveira, Teixeira, & Werther, 2013; Turner & Kutsch, 2016). This variation on explaining Apple's example, and the contention of varying intensities between both exploration and exploitation, assumes that a tensile force acts from within the exploration/exploitation continuum. In such a case, Apple claimed its status in the market with the application of the iTunesTM “disruptive innovation” (Chiaroni, Chiesa, Franzò, Frattini, & Urbinati, 2016). This tension, if not balanced properly, may weaken organizational capabilities to shift, balance, or trade off between the two organizational functions (Sorensen & Stuart, 2000; Alblas & Jayaram, 2015).

Performing organizations can manage to adopt both functions simultaneously (Katila & Ahuja, 2002; Knott, 2002). It is argued that their ability to overcome this tension and tame it toward their own benefits stems from the capability of their senior management team (Katila & Ahuja, 2002). Organizations that perform on one side of the exploration/exploitation continuum while neglecting the other side may face tremendous drawbacks in performance (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004) due to an imbalance in their investment profile versus their delivery capability (Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008; Lavie et al., 2010).

In light of the above, it has been assumed that exploration and exploitation could not be overly separated and hence are “inseparable,” as described by Flyod and Lane (2000). In line with this argument, a measure was proposed to capture the value of organizational ambidexterity. He and Wong (2004), for instance, measured organizational ambidexterity by calculating the relative difference between calculated values for exploration and for exploitation. Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) used a multiplication function between both to arrive at the same purpose, whereas Lubatkin (2006) proposed combining them. Lubatkin (2006) conducted a comparative study among the three methods of measuring ambidexterity to find that the “additive” method was superior, as it managed to produce a better simulation of reality.

2.2.3.2 Exploration or exploitation

This subsection covers the race that has emerged between exploration and exploitation and explains why organizations favor exploration versus exploitation, or vice versa, or both in varying degrees of intensity. The subsection sheds some light on the factors or antecedents that could lead them to take some or all of these decisions.

One of the factors discussed at the onset of this chapter is the dynamism of the environment and its relevance to ambidexterity. A dynamic business environment tends to infuse uncertainty into the market, which in turn would be reflected in the operational side for those organizations that operate from within. Similarly, at the cost of sounding repetitive, a dynamic project environment tends to infuse uncertainty into projects, which would be reflected in the operational side for PBOs that are implementing those projects. Dynamic environments drive unpredictable changes in the market represented by changing technologies, customer tastes, or changes in supply and demand (Dess & Beard, 1984). Lant and Mezias's (1992) model, by which they simulated organizational learning functions, ascertained that companies would inject more resources into exploratory activities in uncertain market conditions. The intensity of such exploratory activities would vary with the frequency and scale of the environmental turbulence (Kim & Rhee 2009). On the other hand, Lant and Mezias's (1992) model showed that resources injected into exploitative activities would best suit a stable environment.

Under the environmental factors, Lavie et al. (2010) added “exogenous shocks,” denoting sudden and unexpected changes in environmental factors deeming exploration as a must; “competitive intensity,” which refers to the severity of attacks from the surrounding competition rendering resources insufficient and market shares as slim—hence, the need for more exploratory activities to capture more of the market; and “appropriability regime,” which could render exploratory activities obsolete when governments weaken protection against intellectual property (IP) rights.

Other factors that could determine the drive toward exploration or exploitation are relevant to the organization (including PBOs) itself. The organization's absorptive capacity, for instance, enhances the organization's capability in exploratory activities, which capability is nurtured by continuous improvements in organizational learning and familiarization with its own knowledge base—that, in its turn, leads to improvement in its intra-unit communications (Rosenkopf & Nerkar, 2001). Excess resources—or what both Nohira and Gulati (1996) and Lavie et al. (2010) refer to as “slack resources”—in the organization can be applied to exploratory activities and radical innovation due to the fact that they are slack. However, Lavie et al. (2010) claim that such resources may not have the same drive or motivation the other resources may have due to the fact that they are slack. Moreover, slack, or extra resources, may not carry the skills set required to drive exploration.

The organizational structure, or the design of the organization, has an effect on the operative use of exploration and exploitation. A mechanistic structure, for instance, reflects centralization and is associated with more rules and process standardizations. Such a design might not be effective in a dynamic environment (Banner & Gagne, 1995; Robbins & Judge, 2001); hence, it may not be successful in exploration (Lavie et al., 2010). The organic structure, on the other hand, provides a less rigid entity, where decentralization is possible, and innovation would work best in such an organizational design. Such a design would be ideal to operate in a dynamic environment and be productive in exploration (Burns & Wholey, 1993; Banner & Gagne, 1995; Robbins & Judge, 2001).

The design of the organization depends on many factors, which shall be taken into account when thinking about ambidexterity:

1. Banner and Gagne (1995) and Robbins and Judge (2001) linked the design of any organization to the dynamism of the environment—as discussed above, a dynamic environment would require a more organic type of structure to make it more effective;

2. the size of the organization determines its design as well—being larger in size requires a mechanistic structure with more of a rigid standardization for rules; contrary to this alleged misconception, Beckman, Haunschild, and Phillips(2004) and Rothaermel and Deeds (2004) arrived at two different conclusions when linking size to ambidexterity;

3. the type of technology being dealt with by the organization—the more complex the technology being handled by the organization, the more need for the organic flexibility;

4. the cluster of powers and the cultural background of the organization have a major say in determining its resultant design; and, finally,

5. the strategy and the strategic direction determine which design the organization would use.

Hence, and in reference to those factors and their relevance to ambidexterity, the research has so far assumed that successful organizations carry characteristics from both of the designs (mechanistic and organic), and that these characteristics shall be harnessed to serve ambidexterity.

Researchers such as Ford and Ford (1994) and Lewis (2000) claimed that this may not be possible, though. On the other hand, Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) opposed this contention; their research instead advised a certain structural design produced by applying organizational contexts to the two structural characteristics. In their research on organizational ambidexterity, they used Ghoshal and Bartlett's (1994) concept of organizational discipline, stretch, trust, and support to create what they termed “contextual” ambidexterity. They claimed that organizations can achieve an ambidextrous status using this concept.

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Figure 2-2: A framework for exploration and exploitation (source: Lavie et al., 2010).

Figure 2-2 represents a general framework inspired by Lavie et al. (2010), which explains antecedents of exploration and exploitation. From the framework, one can see the many factors that can affect the decision to exploit or explore—the decision would feed into the tension created between the two organizational functions. Balancing this tension should generate better performance. However, organizations may opt to side toward the less risky option of exploitation, become experienced in it, and consequently think they are in fact performing. These organizations would probably achieve a short-term imbalanced performance, but without balancing that out with future directions to feed into its pipeline, the wrongly claimed performance would soon lead to the organization's downfall (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008).

2.2.3.3 The performance contest

Continuing from the previous section, the implications for performance as a conclusion from the discussions on the literature can be noted. A short-term performance, for instance, was linked to exploitation, whereas a long-term performance was found to be attached to organizational skills and capabilities in exploration. It has been argued in extant research that performing in both exploration and exploitation at the same time would not bring anything more than a mediocre performance due to an unfocused pursuit, which Wernerfelt and Montgomery (1988) pointed to as an imbalance in “internal consistency.” Nevertheless, fairly recent empirical research suggested otherwise (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; He & Wong, 2004; Lubatkin et al., 2006; Venkatraman et al., 2007).

Several studies have suggested that organizations pursuing both exploration and exploitation simultaneously would exhibit better performance than those that do not. Figure 2-1 presented how the two functions are intertwined, which implies that any attempt to break—or infuse disproportionality to—this relationship would harm the “now” and “then.” On this note, Raisch and Birkinshaw (2008, p. 392) suggested that firms that invest more in exploration may risk becoming “trapped in an endless downward cycle of search, failure and unrewarding change,” whereas those firms that direct more focus to exploitation may achieve good but “not necessarily sustainable results.” Floyd and Lane (2000, p. 155), on this note also, suggested that an organization should “exploit existing competencies and explore new ones—and more importantly, that these two facets of organizational learning are inseparable.”

The above belief on performance requirements to balance exploration and exploitation in organizations raises questions such as: How much exploitation should counterbalance the exploration activities, and vice versa? What factors decide on this proportional mix, and what is the intensity of performance produced by those different mixes? It is to be noted here that the research has not produced enough reliable mechanisms that can be used to achieve ambidexterity with (Turner et al., 2013), or even sufficient enough to be used to balance between exploration and exploitation (Lavie et al., 2010).

The answer to the aforementioned questions is positive, as confirmed by various empirical studies and by applying research rationale (Lavie et al., 2010). Although the number of empirical studies on this subject is slim, as claimed by various researchers, such as Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) and Raisch and Birkinshaw (2008), these studies can still be viewed as a measure of and an indication about future research implying a level of positivity in this regard. To this note, studies such as O'Reilly and Tushman (2008) and Kim and Rhee (2009) confirmed that the intensity and variability of application for those two organizational functions is dependent on the dynamism of the market. Performing organizations should be able to measure market uncertainty to tweak and vary the application of exploration and exploitation using resource allocations as a capability. Some organizations try to create separate business units and physically separate both of the functions so that each capability is grown in its own incubator. Venkatraman et al. (2007), on the other hand, claimed that working on both of the functions within one business unit and in concurrence would result in negative performance outcomes. Large organizations operate in an opposite direction, and they believe they can better perform with no separation due to their size, which breeds flexibility (Lavie et al., 2010). Lavie et al. (2010) believe that separating exploration and exploitation across domains would be more beneficial in terms of enhancing economic returns, since this eliminates overheads arising from trade-offs and allocation management.

2.2.4 How to become ambidextrous—Routes to ambidexterity

This section addresses the structural and organizational means that organizations employ to achieve an ambidextrous status. Four structural routes to ambidexterity are discussed here; their origin and benefits of use are highlighted:

1. contextual ambidexterity assumes simultaneously achieving exploration and exploitation functions in the organization;

2. organizational separation assumes two business units operating in the organization, one for exploration and another for exploitation;

3. temporal separation assumes exploration and exploitation are carried out within the same business unit but in different tempos or times; and

4. domain separation assumes exploration activities are carried out by one domain while exploitation is carried out by another one; this route is assumed to lower the overhead structure and enhance the profitability of the organization.

It is to be noted that other means/approaches of achieving ambidexterity have been covered in the research. Some approaches address ambidexterity by efficiently handling various innovation activities (Jansen et al., 2005), knowledge flow (Mom et al., 2007), management behaviors (Lubatkin et al., 2006), and others. Other approaches to ambidexterity are covered in the following literature for the sake of completeness and their possible considerations in the research.

Contextual ambidexterity first originated in 2004 via the work of Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) and assumes the simultaneous application of both exploration and exploitation. Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004, p. 209) concluded that a “context characterized by a combination of stretch, discipline, support, and trust facilitates contextual ambidexterity.” Ghosal and Bartlett (1994) initially suggested such a context, and it assumes that performing organizations borrow their capabilities in achieving an efficient and performing status from the commitment and dedication of their employees. The employees’ willingness to go the extra mile (discipline and stretch), the trust they share among one another, and the support they receive from management and their colleagues nurtures their sense of responsibility toward the “we” rather than the “me,” and facilitates the simultaneous work on exploration and exploitation.

Organizational separation provides a complete physical separation between exploration and exploitation. While each of those is hosted in a different unit, the senior management of the organization assumes the coordination efforts between both, which sometimes could be hectic due to the cause of separation combined with major operational contradictions. Exploitative units are characterized as large units—centralized and inflexible (Bernner & Tushman, 2002; Bernner & Tushman, 2003). Their structure resembles a mechanistic one per the previous discussion; they have a tight culture and the focus is primarily on process that has the least amount of innovation possible. On the other hand, explorative units are smaller in size, more flexible, and decentralized with a loose culture; hence, the contradiction and the dilemma that senior management faces when trying to coordinate between both units. The separation could happen across organizational units or across hierarchal levels of the organization (Lavie et al., 2010).

Temporal separation has its concept rooted in the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which is drawn from the evolutionary theory that calls for continuous variation-selection-retention (Aaltonen, 2010). Similarly, the punctuated equilibrium theory calls for the continuous transformation of the organization through cycles of convergence and divergence following never-ending changes in technology (Lant & Mezias, 1992). Hence, based on this concept, temporal separation calls for a timely separation between exploration and exploitation. There would be times when the organization has to carry out exploration activities, which should be followed by quick cycles of exploitation, and vice versa. The risk in such a route to ambidexterity is the transition period between exploration and exploitation; this period requires the development of efficient procedures for efficient shifting between exploration and exploitation. Lavie et al. (2010, p. 134) added to this notion that the organization seeking temporal separation “requires an agile [operation] that excels in managing transitions between contradictory activities.”

Domain separation is a fairly new route to ambidexterity, with very little coverage in research. Domain separation mainly calls for exploring or exploiting in different domains, and ambidexterity is considered achieved when an overall balance across all domains is achieved. The advantages of this method are the avoidance of trade-offs between exploration and exploitation within one domain, and the reduction in resource allocation management. This method has been mostly used with alliances, as an alliance could be considered a separate domain. Lavie et al. (2009) showed how domain separation can provide a positive impact on profits due to perceived reduction in tension within the one unit or domain. In their study, Lavie et al. (2009) tested a software company that has an alliance that was acting as a separate domain. Apart from Lavie et al. (2009) and a handful of scholars such as Hess and Rothaermel (2008), research on this fairly new subject is still scarce and requires further future considerations and careful approach build-up (Birkinshaw et al., 2016).

Despite all this research and the available literature on ambidexterity and the proposed methods and organizational structures of how to achieve ambidexterity in organizations, micro-mechanisms used to define a certain and a solid methodology for achieving such a state remain unidentified per O'Reilly and Tushman's (2008, p. 188) stipulation:

what is missing is a clear articulation of those specific managerial actions that facilitate the simultaneous pursuit of exploitation and exploration … what is needed is greater insight into the specific micro-mechanisms required for a manager to implement and operate an ambidextrous strategy.

2.3 Approaches to ambidexterity

2.3.1 Purpose

The purpose of this section is to lay the foundation for how ambidexterity has been conceptualized in various settings in organizations to facilitate our comprehension of the term. The models and processes presented in this section depict a life like resemblance to how ambidexterity is embedded in the process of organizing. The section starts with a process (horizontal) approach and a multilevel approach as presented by Simsek (2009), and a paradoxical hierarchical/vertical approach as presented by Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009).

2.3.2 A process approach

Simsek (2009) proposed a simple input-process-output model to explain organizational ambidexterity. This model gathers all the previously discussed components that could be part of ambidexterity. The model presented in Figure 2-3 is inspired by Simsek's (2009) work, in that he intended to organize components of ambidexterity in preparation for a multilevel approach and understanding. The model starts with inputs to the organization that could trigger its need to become ambidextrous (i.e., antecedents of organizational ambidexterity). These inputs initiate a process within the organization, which would be determined by the strategic direction of the organization—explorative or exploitative, or both. The process phase results in consequences for what the selected strategic direction could bring to the organization; these consequences could be of an enhanced efficiency and the production of better financial performance.

Inputs to organizational ambidexterity have been discussed in the previous chapter and have been referred to as antecedents to ambidexterity, or as the components that cause the organization to decide to select the extent of its application of exploration and exploitation. These components could consist of environmental, organizational, or managerial factors (Lavie et al., 2009), and they contribute to determining what strategic direction the organization will follow in terms of exploration or exploitation, or both. The output in this regard is an implemented strategy, and some achieved results are represented in either enhanced efficiency or appropriating better financial results.

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Figure 2-3: An input-process-output view of ambidexterity (source: Simsek, 2009).

The process part presented in this model hosts the operation of where ambidexterity is (or should be) produced, and it sets out the path to how it is achieved. The appropriate strategic direction is decided according to the organizational inputs, and, in this instance, contributes to the components of organizational ambidexterity. Simsek (2009), in his model, categorized three ways to achieve ambidexterity: structural, behavioral, and realized. The structural means of achieving organizational ambidexterity resembles the organizational separation, temporal separation, and domain separation proposed by Lavie et al. (2009). It refers to the design the organization assumes in order to achieve ambidexterity. It could refer to producing separate business units, where each of those units is responsible for one of the organizational functions of exploration or exploitation, or it could refer to the systems, processes, and competencies needed to see the process of producing an ambidextrous organization through. The structural design of the unit or the organization, in this case, is a reflection of the organization's strategic direction and intent. The strategic intent of the organization decides on which line of business the organization would be investing in, the number and type of projects that should be in its investment portfolio, and the delivery process needed to deliver these projects (Meskendahl, 2010).

A multilevel approach and understanding of ambidexterity refers to the vertical distribution of organizational responsibilities between exploration and exploitation. For example, more senior management of an organization could assume the responsibility of market exploration (Bednarek et al., 2016). This responsibility results in feeding the organization's backlog of work with the appropriate number and type of projects. The downstream business units in this type of multilevel organizational design and structural unit separation would consist of workers whose prime responsibility lies in producing work. These workers would take into account exploitative functions delineated in exploitation of the organization's database of knowledge, their skill, and capabilities in order to deliver these projects.

The behavioral means of achieving ambidexterity refers to the behavior of the members of the organization. It resembles contextual ambidexterity as suggested by Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) in observing employees’ behavioral aspects that carry the organization through in its quest for alignment and adaptability—alignment with its internal capabilities and adaptability to the surrounding environment. The behavioral approach in this case calls for building cultural systems and processes that encourage the correct behavior for achieving the best for the organization. This can be achieved via a strong transformational leadership and applying the right behavior from the management team (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004). The role of the top management team (TMT) is therefore pivotal in achieving ambidexterity (Lubatkin et al., 2006), and their role becomes visible via many fronts. Apart from the essential role they play in encouraging team members to freely distribute their time to achieve the best of the business through the behavioral framework proposed by Ghoshal and Bartlett (1994), their perceptions could be shared to produce an environment that facilitates conflict resolution and knowledge exchange. A TMT with shared perceptions and integrated thoughts could facilitate organizational ambidexterity (Hambrick, 1995; Simsek, Veiga, Lubatkin, & Dino, 2005; Li, 2016; Venugopal, Krishnan, Kumar, & Upadhyayula, 2017).

The realized approach, on the other hand, is the approach that calls for an optimized balance between exploration and exploitation and refers to organizations that have achieved high levels of ambidexterity in both exploration and exploitation (Simsek, 2009).

2.3.3 A multilevel approach

The previous section took a process approach to explain ambidexterity. The process was represented by a three-phased model that starts with inputs to the organization. Inputs feed into the process phase; this phase resembles a strategy formulation and implementation phase. The output phase is the result of a successful resolution of the process phase. The process phase manifests in the strategic direction that the organization intends to adopt, which could entail a certain design of the organization with the purpose of achieving ambidexterity, a specific process design, or a policy reinforcement. In this regard, Simsek (2009) proposed a dual structural design for the process phase, as drawn from Simsek et al. (2005) and Hambrick (1995). Simsek's (2009) emphasis was on the organization level only (i.e., dual structure, behavioral context, and TMT behavior).

In light of the above brief on the process approach, this section expands on the process phase to add other levels that could assist in comprehending the interwoven requirements of the ambidextrous organization. The multilevel approach is presented in Figure 2-4, as drawn from Simsek (2009).

The inter-firm level, as noted from the model presented in Figure 2-4, views the organization as embedded in a central network with other organizations, individuals, and the industry. A central network position is key to the organization in getting the most out of knowledge and resources (Powel, Koput, & Smith-Doerr, 1996; Powel, Koput, Smith-Doerr, & Owen-Smith 1999). Centrality can be viewed as a measure for connectivity with other organizations that are similar in type or field and the industry. Connectivity of the organization, or its closeness (Wasserman & Faust, 1994), can facilitate both exploration and exploitation functions by simply achieving its results with the fewest possible links—or distance (Freeman, 1979). The closeness of the organization and its access to knowledge and resources as facilitated by centrality provides the organization with higher exposure. This exposure could introduce more social networks and more knowledge, and even expose the organization to more connected organizations (Powel et al., 1996). It is therefore posited by Simsek (2009) that the more central the organization is and the closer to the network it is, the more chance it has of becoming ambidextrous. Simsek (2009) proposes a point of diminishing returns, which could trigger unnecessary costs linked to excessive centrality. That is, the organization would reach a point of saturation with a certain number of connections; beyond this point, more connections may not make a major difference, and a marginal cost of centrality would kick in. It is worth noting at this point, however, that Simsek's (2009) theory of diminishing return remains untested. The dynamism of the environment that surrounds the organization may in fact require organizations to always renew their connections and diversify their ties to ensure that they maintain a fairly good position in the network and the market.

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Figure 2-4: A multilevel model of organizational ambidexterity (source: Simsek, 2009).

The diversity of ties of the organizational networks has an influence on ambidexterity and could dampen the effects of environmental dynamism (Simsek, 2009). The diversity of ties can emanate from the types of the relationships between individuals and organizations, or vice versa, and the extent of the social networks that produced those ties (Powel et al., 1996). It also relates to the type of the information being shared via those ties and the extent to which such information becomes redundant (Granovetter, 1973; Burt, 1992). Such ties can be formed using various means, such as alliances (Wassmer, Li, & Madhok, 2016) and partnerships in the form, for example, of supply chains with clients or other stakeholders (Koza & Lewin, 1998; Beckman & Haunschild, 2002; Beckman et al., 2004).

Diversity of ties (such as networks with other organizations and the market) can facilitate ambidexterity in various aspects of the organizational explorative and exploitative functions (Simsek, 2009). First, the organization can benefit from the heterogeneity of ideas when it comes to problem solving (Parkhe, 1991). This particular attribute may also benefit exploitative functions within the organization. It could also bring balance to both exploration and exploitation via the facilitation of constructive conflicts, comprehensive analysis, and design of problems and solutions. Second, diversity of ties could prevent organizations from falling into the familiarity trap when providing solutions (e.g., an organization would fall into this trap by excessively chasing a particular industry in its quest for exploration). The diversity of ties in this case could infuse a variation into this quest and provide diversifications for it. Third, diversity of ties could also prevent what Simsek (2009) terms the “propinquity trap” (p. 610), which refers to producing solutions from similar previous solutions. Not falling into a propinquity trap could also be viewed as a sign of dynamic capability of the organization (Wang, Senaratne, & Rafiq, 2015). A propinquity trap can therefore be observed when “success reinforces exploitation of existing competences and crowds out exploration of new competences, hindering the development of dynamic capability” (Wang et al., 2015, p. 26). The diversity of ties in this case allows the organization to look into more of an innovative combination of solutions and a creative variation to the course of conducting work.

Similar to the case of network centrality, too much diversity of ties, as posited by Simsek (2009), could incur extra costs for maintaining those ties. These costs could be seen in cost excessiveness needed to maintain both centrality and the diversity of ties while the number of ties established already may have reached a point of redundancy, making their value negligible or diminishing. A cost spent on a tie or a relationship that is diminishing in value is considered excessive and may not be overly feasible or beneficial. Moreover, the marginal increase in the cost of maintenance may not be on par with the benefits received by the organization. Similarly, too much centrality and diversity of ties would impose more requirements on the organization to manage, monitor, and maintain those ties.

A well-designed organizational structure could moderate the relationship between inter-firm-level attributes and ambidexterity. A dual structure, for example, can help in distributing the many responsibilities linked to centrality and ties diversification among the decentralized business units (Benner & Tushman, 2003; Simsek, 2009). A behavioral context, on the other hand, as posited by Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004), when combined with the right TMT behavior would motivate employees to stretch their capacity to manage all such ties. A TMT that is behaviorally integrated with the rest of the team creates an environment of collaboration and joint understanding, which would leverage the ambidexterity produced by centrality and diversity.

Finally, the model by Simsek (2009) presented in Figure 2-4 implies that an understanding of the surrounding environment is imperative when considering ambidexterity, as this environment can affect the organization by its dynamism and/or complexity. Dynamism of the environment refers to the rate of change of its inputs and outputs. It could range from being highly dynamic to being highly stable (Dess & Beard, 1984). Complexity of the environment refers to the variations that can affect its elements, the type of relationships among its factors, and the methods needed to see outputs through (Miller & Friesen, 1983; Dess & Beard, 1984). A highly complex environment characterized by rapid changes to its inputs, outputs, and requirements could affect technology, competition, supply and demand, and even regulations and policies (Eisenhardt & Bourgeois, 1988). An organization that operates in such an environment should be flexible enough to adapt quickly to these changes (Sidhu, Volberda, & Commandeur, 2004; Simsek, 2009).

In light of the emerging literature, it can be concluded that a highly dynamic environment may not be conducive to ambidexterity (Simsek, 2009); however, a highly complex one—while characterized by the complexity of links and relationships (Dess & Beard, 1984)—may in fact be. A complex environment requires the organization to act by providing a mix of talents, well-designed activities and methodologies, and many interactions with the outside world to overcome such complexity (i.e., centrality and diversity of ties). Simsek (2009) posits that a complex environment encourages the organization to enhance its centrality and diversify its ties, and hence, encourages ambidexterity. On the other hand, a dynamic environment is unpredictable compared to a complex environment; hence, any designed methodologies specified to overcome complexity may stand obsolete when policies keep changing or regulations are superseded. A dynamic environment, therefore, may not have room for innovation and creativity while a complex environment does (Sidhu et al., 2004).

2.3.4 A paradoxical approach

The previously discussed approaches to ambidexterity depicted a horizontal model where information starts off with inputs, then process, and ends up with outputs. Inputs to the process phase require a strategic direction and decision as manifested in the multilevel approach. This section proposes a vertical model, which simulates the flow-down of ambidexterity from an executive level down to the common employee or knowledge worker level. This flow-down of information creates a paradoxical tension among the various elements of the organization and feeds into the virtuous cycles of ambidexterity, as shown in Figure 2-5 (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009).

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Figure 2-5: Virtuous cycles of ambidexterity (source: Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009).

The model presented in Figure 2-5, inspired by Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009), depicts three tensional cascading categories, which could be viewed as paradoxes of organizational innovation. The executive level of the organization produces a nested tension of two paradoxical organizational requirements. An emphasis on generating revenue and seeking profitable investments takes on the exploitation side of the organization, while the need to explore for new breakthroughs represents a paradox that needs to be resolved at a managerial level. Flowing down to the next paradoxical level produces two approaches to delivering customer needs, one that seeks tight abidance to customer requirements, while the other urges divergence from these requirements to seek a more innovative style of delivery. The final flow-down cascades to the employee or knowledge worker level and that creates an internal, sometimes cognitive, paradox—that is, the paradox here is between the employee and the instruction received on the degree of abidance with customer requirements.

Those virtuous cycles of innovation within the ambidextrous organization provide a framework for managers and executive to conceptualize how strategy flows down to knowledge workers in the form of projects. Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009, p. 708) set it as follows:

Executives set the context, providing strategic leadership and allocating resources that determine their firm's portfolio of projects. Directors and project leaders, in turn, guide specific projects, ensuring adherence to clear development processes and encouraging improvisation as well as iterations between work modes. Finally, knowledge workers themselves choose when and how to best apply their discipline and passion to enhance product development. Together, these efforts reinforce each other in a virtuous cycle as ambidexterity becomes pervasive.

The shift between integration and differentiation efforts in achieving ambidexterity helps reduce the anxiety that may arise from the tension generated within and between the levels, as presented in Figure 2-5 (Lewis, 2000; Andiropoulos & Lewis, 2009). Differentiation calls for an outright segregation of efforts similar to the temporal separation design proposed by Puranam, Singh, and Zollo (2006). Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) suggest that differentiation in this case ensures attention and draws focus to the selected segregated items. Integration, on the other hand, calls for unifying efforts at the executive and behavioral levels. Here, Lubatkin et al. (2006) theorize that this helps in resolving issues arising from contradictory processes. Blending the two roles of integration and differentiation feeds into a virtuous cycle by showing the values of both synergy and distinction (Lewis, 2000). Integration, for instance, can work on social and cultural factors relevant to behaviorally combining exploration and exploitation (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004). Likewise, differentiation draws attention to hard facts, such as focusing on project delivery and linking projects to strategy (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009).

The shift between exploration and exploitation helps enhance the absorptive capacity in the organization (Jansen et al., 2006). An organization's absorptive capacity is its ability to comprehend new upcoming knowledge, assimilate it, and apply it (Dong-Gil, Kirsch, & King, 2005). Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009) recognize that exploitative efforts in the organization help the organization commercially, while if the knowledge pool is not renewed (i.e., absorbing new knowledge), then exploitation would come to an end. On the other hand, exploration helps feed the organization new knowledge to keep the ball rolling. This cycle of knowledge exploitation and knowledge creation resembles the innovation cycle, where attention needs to be drawn to existing knowledge and the creation of new knowledge (Smith, Collins, & Clark, 2005).

2.4 Systematic review of ambidexterity

2.4.1 Purpose

Survival of organizations in today's dynamic environment is dependent on their ability to perform in their present state and adapt to future needs (Beinhocker, 2006). The challenges faced by organizations in their quest for survival, and sustainability, stem from their ability to manage resources (owned or acquired) and direct them toward achieving a balance between using their own knowledge and technology versus the use of external innovation and acquired reliability (March, 1991; Levinthal & March, 1993). Organizations with such abilities possess what is called ambidexterity. Ambidexterity has been discussed above and has been identified as a state that organizations would like to achieve or obtain to enhance their performance. Nevertheless, what is perceived to have been overlooked in previous discussions and references on ambidexterity is processes or practices needed to achieve such a state. It has been claimed by Gupta et al. (2006), Kauppila (2010), and recently by Bednarek et al. (2016) that any guidance to build such processes or practices has been neglected by the literature or is not yet in existence. Similarly, scholars afforded no guidance to project managers on how to manage ambidextrously (Aubry & Lièvre, 2010; Leybourne & Sainter, 2012; Liu & Leitner, 2012; Eriksson, 2013), nor has any guidance been generated for individuals to act ambidextrously and support their organizations on their quest to build a sustainable, profitable business (Turner et al., 2013, Turner, Maylor, Lee-Kelley, Brady, Kutsch, & Carver, 2014). Therefore, this particular section sheds light on important aspects of ambidexterity generated by conducting a systematic review of the literature. These aspects provide new notions of ambidexterity by introducing levels, dimensions, and mechanisms into the mix. These notions may be used to think, process, and generate a practice.

This section starts by identifying a methodology for conducting a detailed and systematic literature review on ambidexterity. Drawing from the systematic review of literature (Tranfield et al., 2003; Dixon-Woods et al., 2006; Armitage & Keeble-Allen, 2008; Petticrew & Roberts, 2008; Hodgkinson & Ford, 2014; Haddaway, Woodcock, Macura, & Collins, 2015), the aim of conducting a detailed systematic review, and carrying it out in a methodology-like manner, is to corner what has been identified as ambidexterity within different aspects of an organization, and collect all knowledge that has been published so far on it. Section 2.4.2 discusses the way this review has been carried out to generate what this research has called levels, dimensions, and mechanisms of ambidexterity. The levels of ambidexterity were found to be embedded within the hierarchy of tasks in the organization, and they cover the strategic level, the projects level, the operations level, and the individual level. This review concludes that all such levels should act in simultaneity to achieve a state of ambidexterity. These levels constitute dimensions, which help see ambidexterity through at each level, and ambidexterity at each level and dimension can be achieved using the identified mechanisms of ambidexterity. It may be recalled that we had presented the first research question as RQ 1: What is organizational ambidexterity and how can it be defined within the context of project based organizations?

The levels, dimensions, and mechanisms of ambidexterity provided answers to the first part of RQ1 (i.e., What is organizational ambidexterity… .), and also provided a foundation to address the second part of the RQ1 (i.e., … and how can it be defined within the context of PBOs?) research question.

After the systematic review section presented in this section, along with the conclusions generated from answering the first research question, Section 2.5 describes the various tensions that can occur within the different levels of the organization. It links these tensions to the levels and dimensions of ambidexterity. The aim of presenting this section is to provide more examples of the various types of paradoxical situations that can be created within levels and dimensions and that, by their resolution, can generate ambidexterity. This next section provides further support on the objectives achieved by answering the first research question.

2.4.2 Review methodology

2.4.2.1 Methodology for review

This section elaborates on the selected methodology used to carry out the literature review. It first discusses some of the pros and cons of the available methodologies to conclude with the methodology selected for this research. The narrative method for conducting the literature review was compared with that of the systematic and rigorous means of review to find that the latest carried more structure, rigor, and reliability into the results and the review process.

A narrative review is carried out by summarizing research outcomes from various selected research articles (Aveyard, 2007). The criteria of literature selection and inclusion in the narrative may not always be clear (Cronin, Ryan, & Coughlan, 2008). One of the hidden concerns in such type of review is that articles or research materials are hand picked by the researcher to support a certain proposition, theory, or claim. This review generates a critique of the literature in order to support preconceptualizations, which may or may not be the creation of the research itself (Slavin, 1986). The selection criteria may not be presented in the final research, and that may create an issue for other interested researchers who may want to apply similar means of researching. Apart from some of the drawbacks that this method carries, it remains one of the more widely used methods in research, due to ease of commissioning (Slavin, 1986; Hodgkinson & Ford, 2014). Conducting this type of review would certainly cut research time short due to its forwardness in offering critical overviews and generating written and narrative assessments (Rousseau, Manning, & Denyer, 2008; Rousseau, 2012). As a result, the narrative review allows for almost no generalizations, as it is stripped of knowledge or literature accumulation or any other means of drawing a comprehensive conclusion (Greenhalgh, 1997). This method remains subjective and can attract disagreement.

The systematic review of literature carries less ambiguity, as it is more structured and organized (Tranfield et al., 2003; Urquhart, 2010). Its beginnings have roots in the meta-analysis method, which calls for exhaustive inclusion of literature (Glass, McGraw, & Smith, 1981). The development of the meta-analysis method saw Slavin's (1986) contributions with the inclusion of selection criteria that consider best evidence and the size of the study. Slavin (1986) calls this method the “best-evidence synthesis.” Opponents to the “best-evidence synthesis” method are concerned that the selection criteria may become mixed with the researcher's own perspective of evidence and perception of selection and quality (Slavin, 1986). A systematic review of literature resembles the “best-evidence synthesis” with due consideration to the scientific excellence and less consideration toward size (Tranfield et al., 2003; Hodgkinson & Ford, 2014). The systematic review starts by reiterating the importance of its criteria and presenting all its details. The quality of the literature plays a considerable part in the selection criteria and the involvement of more than one assessor may be called for to remove perception and bias upon selection when based on quality (Andrews, 2005; Hodgkinson & Ford, 2014). This renders the systematic review more time-consuming and labor-intensive (Denyer & Tranfield, 2009). The review and analysis work is exhaustive as well, which characterizes it with more rigor and in-depth reflection (Tranfield & Denyer, 2003). The end result, however, is greater reliability in the final outcome of the research and less material that is subject to scrutiny.

Taking the focus of this research into account, and the flow of reliabilities needed between the first, second, and third research questions, it has been determined that a narrative review may not serve this study well, due to its subjective means of generating the needed results. Since this study uses its first research question to build a strong foundation that should underpin the final conclusion of this research, a subjective answer to this question by means of a narrative review may not provide the envisaged strength to this foundation, and this will affect the reliability of the outcome of this research. A meta-analysis has also been disregarded due to its extensive means of literature inclusion and exhaustive need for review, which may not be considered feasible or valuable at this stage of the research. A systematic review of the literature was therefore selected due to its proven reliability, feasibility, time value, and transparency in sharing its methods and criteria.

2.4.2.2 Methodology and data analysis

In order to comprehend what makes various attempts to achieve ambidexterity unique, an understanding of an ambidextrous taxonomical structure was necessary. A taxonomical attempt and a literature analysis were conducted in this study by way of a systematic literature review to generate an answer to the first research question. The systematic review effort “provide[d] collective insights through theoretical synthesis” (Tranfield et al., 2003, p.220) and facilitated a conclusive comprehension of what this study has called levels, dimensions, and mechanisms of ambidexterity.

Traditionally, a systematic review used to consider only those studies with quantitative nature (Noblit & Hare, 1988). This view provides good insights into medicinal research, for instance, due to its dependence on objective measures with no allowance for subjectivity when a treatment or a disease is being researched. The systematic review of the literature was originated from these types of research; hence, the focus on objectivity and positivism (Tranfield et al., 2003). However, management research is eclectic in nature, and a focus on objectivity alone will create ontological and yet probable epistemological misconceptions (Byman, 1995). This could lead to losing the richness of the qualitative literature when not included in the analysis (Petticrew, 2001). This could well be exacerbated when such a constraint in research and analysis takes on a subject that is complex in nature, such as projects’ management and ambidexterity of the project organization (Geraldi, Maylor, & Williams, 2011). Therefore, current management research methods started considering data from both quantitative and qualitative sources (Pittaway, Robertson, Munir, Denyer, & Neely, 2004; Farashahi, Hafsi, & Molz, 2005; Knoben & Oerlemans, 2006). The review and analysis of the literature considered in this study follows.

A combination of two databases (EBSCO and JSTOR) was used as the starting point of this research; this was also used to trigger the systematic review needed to address the foundational conceptualization of the first research question. The search in databases was also supported by specific searches in journals that appeared to be leading the field for “ambidexterity”—organization science (OS)—and other journals with known support to project management literature such as the Project Management Journal® (PMJ) and the International Journal of Project Management (IJPM). The keywords used in the search consisted of: “ambidex*” and/or “project.” The search on these keywords varied as to their inclusion in the advanced search functionality of the database with the alternate use of “AND” and “OR” to ascertain that the entire body of literature on ambidexterity with specificities on project management was captured. The first of the research articles found on ambidexterity was published in 1991 by March. Hence, the time span of the selected research covered the period from 1991 to the present (2016/17). Books in press or unpublished articles were excluded from the selected sample. The initial sample was refined through a combination of steps suggested by Farashahi et al. (2005), Petticrew (2001), and Tranfield et al. (2003), with slight adjustments by the author to take into account the quality of the journal and the number of times the article was cited in comparison with the year of publication. Each search and the number of used and analyzed publications is summarized in Table 2-1.

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Table 2-1: Number of publications by each refining step.

2.4.2.3 Literature selection

The following steps were taken to filter out the initial identification of publications. These steps coincide with Farashahi et al. (2005), Petticrew (2001), and Tranfield et al. (2003), with slight adjustments by the author as discussed previously:

1. Identification of publications—this phase comprised the use of the keyword “ambidex*” and/or “project” in databases of EBSCO and JSTOR, and in IJPM, PMJ, and OS journals.

2. Focus on academic papers and removing any duplication between databases and the search in journals—this phase consisted of first removing any overlap between the databases and among the journals as well—an export to an Excel sheet was used for this purpose. Second, in press, non-peer-reviewed, and unpublished works were removed from the search results.

3. Focus on project management, project organizations, and ambidexterity—the abstracts of the remaining articles, title, and the conclusion section were checked to further refine the sample and remove articles where the subject was irrelevant to the aim of this research. Also, articles that did not contribute to the ambidexterity literature and/or its linkage with project management or the project organization were disregarded.

4. Checking completeness—the references of the remaining articles were checked for relevance to ensure that no relevant article was missed from the search. This contributed to the addition of 28 extra journal articles to the pool of search results.

5. Focus on quality—two quality checks were conducted—first, the quality of the journal itself; any articles that came from journals with a low-quality stream were disregarded; and second, the number of citations of the concerned article in combination with the year of publication and the quality of the journal was checked. That said, if a relevant article came from a low-quality journal but carried significance in the number of citations that exceeded at least 100 citations accumulated in the past five years, this article was not disregarded.

6. Final check with focus on “ambidexterity” in the relevant context—a consideration was provided toward articles that carried a qualitative or quantitative means of analysis. Most of the theoretical papers and sole literature reviews were dropped, but only after considering their list of references per step 4. The taxonomical levels of ambidexterity have been constructed based on this final step. However, some of the disregarded papers at steps 5 and 6 were considered in the study to identify indicators and attributes used to support the conceptualization arrived at this research.

Upon plotting the research that was filtered out per step 2 of the selection criteria against the time of publication, an interesting trend started taking shape. This trend shows that the research on ambidexterity started picking up in 2004. Another round of research proliferation in this area can be seen in the 2010, then again in 2015. This trend is presented in Figure 2-6. Therefore, the selected publications per the above criteria were captured between 2004 and 2016—during the peak of research, as shown Figure 2-6—seemingly due to the significance ambidexterity brought to the research post its conceptualization by March (1991), which may have taken a few years to materialize. Table 2-2 shows an overview of the selection at step 5.

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Figure 2-6: Plot of all research on ambidexterity against time of publication up to 2016.

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Table 2-2: Overview of the selected sample of the 24 papers per step 6.

2.4.3 Analysis of the literature

Analysis of the literature herein was inspired by Geraldi et al. (2011). Geraldi et al.'s (2011) five steps for analyzing the literature were customized to fit the purpose of this research. In the first three steps, the frameworks, definitions, and attributes of ambidexterity were identified from the relevant literature and further scrutinized to draw conclusions from them. In the last two steps, suitable indicators were identified to confirm the initial findings and the conclusions this analysis has gathered.

The first step extracted frameworks, definitions, and attributes, sowing the seeds toward conceptualizing the notion levels of ambidexterity. The second step consisted of grouping and meta-grouping efforts for those identified frameworks, definitions, and attributes. This has led to the realization of the different levels of the organization where ambidexterity can work in or be applied. Inserting the year of publication into the effort of grouping and meta-grouping revealed some interesting results, which accompanied the development of those levels over time. The time frame analysis for levels has identified their progression through time, as can be seen in Figure 2-7. Figure 2-7 shows that ambidexterity has started with a heavy conceptualization at an individual level (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; Beckman, 2006; Lubatkin et al., 2006; Mom et al., 2007; Swart, Turner, Van Rossenberg, & Kinnie, 2016; Zimmermann & Birkinshaw, 2016) with a slight consideration toward an operations level (He & Wong, 2004; Jansen et al., 2005). After 2009, Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009) introduced ambidexterity at a strategic level with their conceptualization of a paradox of profits versus breakthroughs. Kortmann, Gelhard, Zimmermann, and Piller (2014) conceptualized strategic flexibility in a trade-off with operational efficiency, while Chandrasekaran et al. (2012) introduced an ambidextrous strategic level with the presentation of “decision risks” as they occur at a leadership level. Ambidexterity at a projects level (Eriksson, 2013; Pellegrinelli et al., 2015; Turner et al., 2015; Bednarek et al., 2016) and at an operations level (Voss & Voss, 2013; Kortmann et al., 2014; Turner et al., 2014; Matthews et al., 2015) started picking up after 2014 with a slight consideration toward a strategic level. Although literature covering ambidexterity at the project and strategic levels is new, it remains deficient in regard to its coverage (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015; Turner et al., 2015). This is indicated graphically in Figure 2-7. The thickness of the borderline presented in Figure 2-7 represents the emphasis on publication and the coverage of research in the respective year. The thickness of the borderline was designed taking into account the systematic review carried out for the relevant literature. If any, this deficiency in literature confirms the benefits this research brings on board, not only by addressing but also by reinforcing the notion of ambidexterity at a projects (and portfolio) level. Since a portfolio conceptualization touches on the strategic level of the organization, this research can provide benefits toward this side as well. More details of and identifiers for these levels as derived from the literature are provided in Table 2-3.

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Figure 2-7: Historical development for the levels of ambidexterity.

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Table 2-3: Analysis for levels of ambidexterity through the review of literature.

Grouping and meta-grouping efforts carried out in the second step of the analysis not only contributed in generating a conceptualization toward the notion of levels; they also generated other notions—the dimensions of ambidexterity and the mechanisms of ambidexterity.

Dimensions of ambidexterity refer to those functions within the organization that have the capability of creating a paradox within which a resolution is required for better performance and sustainability. The second step of the systematic analysis generated four dimensions of ambidexterity: 1) a knowledge dimension, 2) a behavior dimension, 3) a technology dimension, and 4) a process dimension. For instance, March's (1991) initial conceptualization of ambidexterity aimed to resolve the paradox that occurs within a knowledge dimension when he differentiated between exploiting “old certainties” versus exploring “new possibilities.” Other scholars such as Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009), Mom et al. (2007), and Turner et al. (2014) followed March's (1991) lead. Researchers such as Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) took on a behavior dimension of individuals as another dimension for ambidexterity. Within this dimension, Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) provided a resolution to the paradox generated within the attitude and behavior of employees. This paradox is generated between “hard elements” of behavioral aspects—discipline and stretch, and “soft elements”—support and trust. A technological dimension was adopted by scholars such as Chandrasekaran et al. (2012), He and Wong (2004), Rothaermel and Alexandre (2009), and Voss and Voss (2013). This dimension covers aspects of technological innovation (He & Wong, 2004) or product exploration and exploitation (Voss & Voss, 2013). A process dimension simulates a trade-off or a resolution that takes effect between process variation versus process reduction and control (Matthews et al., 2015), or a trade-off between operational efficiencies and strategic flexibilities (Kortmann et al., 2014); the provision of control through projects implementation versus exploration ventures via the use of an overseeing program (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015); or the use and trade-offs within the processual intellectual capital in organizations (Turner et al., 2015). More details and identifiers for these dimensions as supplied by literature are provided in Table 2-4.

Mechanisms of ambidexterity refer to strategies that ambidextrous organizations adopt to resolve tension created within a paradoxical situation or dimension, as stated above. The second step of the systematic analysis generated four mechanisms or strategies used to resolve a paradox or a tension: 1) structural mechanisms, 2) learning mechanisms, 3) selection/allocation mechanisms, and 4) communication mechanisms. Structural mechanisms were the most mentioned in the literature, with many indicators or attributes that fell under this strategy. For instance, resolving tension by altering organizational structure using temporal differentiation compared with structural or spatial separation (Lavie et al., 2009), balancing versus combining exploratory and/or exploitative activities (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009), or the use of integration and differentiation methods to resolve a paradox (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009) all fell under structural mechanisms. Learning through process innovation versus learning through process control (Matthews et al., 2015), learning through applying emergent strategy compared to rationalization and adapting a deliberate and tested strategy (Mintzberg, 1994; Aubry & Lièvre, 2010), learning synergies through the interplay between exploration and exploitation (Jansen et al., 2006), and the absorptive capacity when applying new knowledge (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009) all fell under learning mechanisms. The allocation of resources to meet market demands (Fernhaber & Patel, 2012), balancing resources to equalize between codified knowledge and new knowledge (Matthews et al., 2015), the adaptive allocation and the use of resources to achieve better strategic flexibility (Kortmann et al., 2014), and the appropriate selection and/or allocation of alliances (Koza & Lwein, 1998; Rothaermi & Deeds, 2004; Lavie & Rosenkopf, 2006; Wassmer et al., 2016) or client portfolios (Bednarek et al., 2016) to enhance the matter of knowledge transfer (Nonaka, 1994; Eisenhardt, 2000; Skjølsvik Løwendahl, Kvålshaugen, & Fosstenløkken, 2007; Turner et al., 2014) or technological innovation (Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009; Voss & Voss, 2013) are all part of selection/allocation mechanisms. Decentralization and centralization of processes (Tushman & O'Reilly, 1996; Christensen, 1998; Benner & Tushman, 2003; Jansen et al., 2005; Raisch, Birkinshaw, Probst, & Tushman, 2009; Jansen, Simsek, & Cao, 2012; Eriksson, 2013), formalization and communication of rules (Mom et al., 2007), and the direction of the flow of knowledge (Mom et al., 2007) are all means that pour into communication mechanisms. More details and identifiers for these mechanisms as supplied by literature are provided in Table 2-5.

The literature also revealed some of the influencers or limiting factors that shall be taken into account when determining which level ambidexterity is being captured at or applied to, what dimension is being considered, and what mechanism is being applied to these dimensions or levels. These factors consist of external environmental factors (Lavie et al., 2010), internal influencers, such as the availability of resources and the size of the organization (Jansen et al., 2012; Choi & Phan, 2014) and the dynamic capabilities of the organization (Anand Ward, Tatikonda, & Schilling, 2009; Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009; Fernhaber & Patel, 2012). Figure 2-8 provides a graphical representation of these factors alongside the levels of ambidexterity, dimensions, and mechanisms.

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Figure 2-8: Levels of ambidexterity, dimensions, and mechanisms.

The third step of the analysis revalidated the notion of levels by revisiting 20 of the most relevant articles from the 24 originally filtered out per selection criteria. Identifiers, attributes, or definitions and frameworks were extracted from those 24 articles and were used to create Table 2-3. Table 2-3 provides a general understanding of the various levels of ambidexterity with sufficient evidence as to their coverage.

The fourth step of the analysis revalidated the notions of dimensions and mechanisms of ambidexterity. Similarly, identifiers, attributes, or definitions and frameworks were extracted but from the larger pool of literature, which consists of 45 articles, and were used to create Table 2-4 and Table 2-5. The intention behind this exercise was to gather the greater pool of research to explore all possible mechanisms of ambidexterity and categorize them for ease of use and identification. This step moves the research from using abstract definitions of ambidexterity toward providing a more definitive solution, and promotes a wider coverage and usage of this organizational ability.

Dimensions Attributes and/or identifiers
Knowledge Diffuse knowledge that results from R&D activities to projects (Eriksson, 2013); codify knowledge to achieve control and codify expertise to obtain new ideas and innovation (Matthews et al., 2015); depart from existing knowledge to pursue radical innovation (Jansen et al., 2006; Jansen et al., 2012); manage innovation paradoxes (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009); the development of deep knowledge structures to refine existing business, processes, and products (Rowley, Behrens, & Krackhardt, 2000; Jansen et al., 2005); proficiency in exploitation equips the organization with new capabilities of recognizing and assimilating new knowledge (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009); exploitation and exploration have a direct effect on the absorptive capacity of the organization (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009); the use of the “stock of knowledge” of the firm has a direct effect on ambidexterity (Turner et al., 2015); clients and portfolio of clients are a new and an external source of knowledge (Im & Rai, 2008; Bednarek et al., 2016); knowledge intensive firms (KIFs) can be considered ambidextrous with the correct processes in place (Bednarek et al., 2016); knowledge about market assists in building ambidexterity (Lubatkin et al., 2006; Wei et al., 2014); knowledge sharing between TMTs (Lubatkin et al., 2006 ); flow of knowledge and the direction of flow has an impact on ambidexterity (Mom et al., 2007); and projects are knowledge-based activities (Turner et al., 2014).
Behavior Managers use cognition to assign exploration and exploitation activities (Kaplan, 2008; Walsh, 2008; Chandrasekaran et al., 2012); ambidextrous and motivated individuals make their own judgment to distribute their own time among conflicting demands (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004); balance between stretch and discipline, and support and trust (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004); contextual ambidexterity—alignment and adaptability (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004); resolve the cognitive tension between two modes of action (Aubry & Lièvre, 2010); discipline versus passion during the course of delivery (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009); defenders provide exploration, while prospectors provide exploitation (Auh & Menguc, 2005); team composition and company affiliation (Beckman, 2006); and the ability of managers to simultaneously produce radical innovations during daily operational duties (O'Connor & DeMartino, 2006).
Technology R&D and technology projects (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012); mass customization and production and their effect on ambidexterity—operational efficiency (Kortmann et al., 2014); innovation in new product design industries (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009); product exploration emphasizes developing new product technologies and capabilities (Voss & Voss, 2013); internal versus external technology sourcing has an effect on ambidexterity (Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009); and technological innovation (He & Wong, 2004).
Process Ambidexterity through process improvement versus process control (Matthews et al., 2015); operational efficiency versus strategic flexibility (Kortmann et al., 2014); loose coupling versus tight coupling during delivery (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009); projects offer a process-oriented approach and programs offer flexibility and change (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015); process structures in business can see ambidexterity through (Rowley, 2000; Jansen et al., 2005); process of attaining knowledge through client portfolios (Bednarek et al., 2016); process innovation (Zahra & Das, 1993); ambidexterity used in production process to manage flexibility and efficiency (Adler et al., 1999); successful organizations exercise simultaneous autonomous strategic processes (Burgelman, 1991, 2002); and sensing opportunities requires set of routines such as strategic ones (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008).

Table 2-4: Analysis of dimensions of ambidexterity through the review of literature.

Mechanisms Attributes and/or identifiers
Structural Organizational structure for multi-unit firms as either centralized or decentralized can affect ambidexterity (Jansen et al., 2012); resource dependence across units (Jansen et al., 2012); structural separation between exploratory and exploitative projects (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012); advancing in mass customization in the operations side (Kortmann et al., 2014); partitioning involves separation between projects depending on their degree of innovativeness (Kortmann et al., 2014); complementary tactics through integration and differentiation across all levels (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009); the application of a structural process to balance between projects and programs (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015); the use of portfolio management (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015); decentralization of the various structures of the organization (Jansen et al., 2005); balancing versus combining exploitative and exploratory activities (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009); the selected use of mechanistic and organic organizational structure (Turner et al., 2015); cross-functional combination of exploitative and exploratory effort in both product and market domains (Voss & Voss, 2013); pursue an ambidextrous organizational design (He & Wong, 2004); organizational separation, temporal separation, and domain separation (Laive et al., 2010); the simultaneous use of structures enhances performance (Bradach, 1997); ambidextrous organizations consist of tightly coupled subunits (Benner & Tushman, 2003); and two parts of the organization operate in different ways (Kaplan & Henderson, 2005).
Learning Exploitative learning to reduce process variation through process control versus exploratory learning to increase process variation (Matthews et al., 2015); switching tasks between resources through cross-resources learning (Kortmann et al., 2014); learning through rationalization versus emergent learning through adaptation to future state (Aubry & Lièvre, 2010); the interplay between exploratory and exploitative activities enhances the absorptive capacity of the organization (Jansen et al., 2006; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009); execute projects with learning versus execution with efficiency (Edmondson, 2008; Turner et al., 2014); and existing competencies versus new competencies (Danneels, 2002).
Selection Selecting procurement methodologies to facilitate ambidexterity (Eriksson, 2013); select project teams in a way that facilitates ambidexterity (Eriksson, 2013); allocate incentives for teams to accomplish their assigned exploratory or exploitative projects (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012); adaptive allocation of resources to achieve strategic flexibility (Kortmann et al., 2014); employees’ “enrichment” with various tasks comprising routes for innovation- and/or efficiency-oriented tasks (Kortmann et al., 2014); allocation of resources to portfolio of projects by executives (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009); allocate resources to exploratory or exploitative projects depending on the size of the organization and availability of resources (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009); selection of the portfolio of clients (Bednarek et al., 2016); prioritize resources for technological innovation (He & Wong, 2004); strategic orientation contributes to resources allocation (Wei et al., 2014); exploration beyond organizational boundaries has more impact than exploration within organizational boundaries—source selection (Rosenkopf & Nerkar, 2001); capture knowledge from external resources such as clients (Bednarek et al., 2016); internal versus external technology sourcing (Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009); reconfiguring requires reallocating resources from declining business to growth opportunities (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008); and projects’ type selection (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015).
Communication The use of decentralization/centralization to facilitate communication and diffusion for R&D activities (Eriksson, 2013); resource dependence across units in a multi-unit context may increase/decrease reliance on communication (Jansen et al., 2012); decisions on ambidextrous efforts such as “decision risk” is communicated downward from executive management (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012); communication from top management to encourage employees to adapt to a certain ambidextrous responsive behavior (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004); connectedness of employees, social interaction, and knowledge flow (Jansen et al., 2005); the use of dense social networks to communicate knowledge (Turner et al., 2015); the flow and communication of knowledge (Mom et al., 2007); knowledge flow and behavior of TMTs (Lubatkin et al., 2006); and diversity of ties (Simsek, 2009).

Table 2-5: Analysis of mechanisms of ambidexterity through the review of literature.

The final step of analysis provides a crisscross analysis between levels of ambidexterity and its dimensions, as represented in Table 2-6. This final exercise helps us understand which dimensions of ambidexterity are expected at each level of the organization. A crisscross analysis was also applied between dimensions of ambidexterity and its mechanisms, as represented in Table 2-7. This exercise helps managers prepare with methods that can be applied at each level.

2.4.4 Levels, dimensions, and mechanisms of ambidexterity

This is a systematic review and analysis of the literature differentiated among several elements of ambidexterity. These elements include four levels (strategic, project, operations, and individual), four dimensions (knowledge, technology, process, and behavior), and four mechanisms (structural, learning, selection, and communication). To start with, a distinction between levels of ambidexterity was found in the literature and in research. Ambidexterity is found and can be applied at different levels of the organization—those are the strategic level, the projects level, the operations level, and the individual level. Similarly, the literature identified dimensions of ambidexterity, defined in this research as those features of the organization that have the ability to create a paradox within which a resolution is required for better performance and sustainability. Four dimensions of ambidexterity were found in the literature—those are the knowledge dimension, the behavior dimension, the technological dimension, and a processual dimension. The literature also distinguished between strategies by which paradoxes within these dimensions can be resolved; these strategies use the following mechanisms: structural, learning, selection, and communication.

The analysis of the literature carried out a cross-dimensional examination by applying a crisscross analysis among levels and dimensions (Table 2-6), and among dimensions and mechanisms (Table 2-7). This analysis concluded that each level in the organization consists of four dimensions of ambidexterity in most of the cases, and each dimension can be resolved by using four mechanisms in most of the cases. For example, the strategic-level ambidexterity consists of four dimensions relevant to this level—those are strategic knowledge (Jansen et al., 2012; Wei, Zhao, & Zhang, 2014; Bednarek et al., 2016; Gulati, 2013), behavior of executives and the board of directors (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012), technological sourcing (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012), and strategic processes (Burgelman, 1991, 2002; Kortmann et al., 2014). The paradox within the knowledge dimension in this case can be resolved using four strategies: structural (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009; Turner et al., 2015), learning (Edmondson, 2008; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009; Turner et al., 2014; Bednarek et al., 2016), selection (Cao, Kavadias, & Gaimon, 2009; Wei et al., 2014; Bednarek et al., 2016), and communication (Jansen et al., 2005; Lubatkin et al., 2006; Mom et al., 2007; Jansen et al., 2012; Eriksson, 2013; Turner et al., 2015). Those levels, dimensions, and mechanisms are presented in Figure 2-9. This figure presents a general framework for ambidexterity depicting the levels of the organization and the mechanisms needed to be applied to achieve ambidexterity in each of those levels. A discussion per level with their relevant dimensions and mechanisms is presented in the following sections, with each section containing a similar figure to Figure 2-9, with an emphasis shown as a highlight on the relevant level of discussion.

2.4.4.1 Strategic level, dimensions, and mechanisms

A strategic-level ambidexterity targets the highest authority in the organization and works at its very top. It is at the apex of the organization that a decision on degrees and means of achieving exploration and exploitation is generated (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). Decisions on centralization and decentralization within the multi-unit structure are generated at this level (Jansen et al., 2012). A strategic level determines the degrees of strategic flexibility an organization needs to invest in to see ambidexterity through (Kortmann et al., 2014). Strategic selection of clients in a way that generates new knowledge about the market falls under strategy and strategizing (Wei et al., 2014; Bednarek et al., 2016). A determination on a strategic market orientation in relation to knowledge about market—combined with internal and external knowledge and capabilities—can be used to resolve the paradox of knowledge at this level (Wei et al., 2014). The design of a client portfolio that follows a strategic orientation, and the selection of partners and alliances (Koza & Lewin, 1998; Holmqvist, 2004; Lavie & Rosenkopf, 2006; Tiwana, 2008; Wassmer et al., 2016; Gatignon & Xuereb, 1997), benefits the organization with a mixture of imported and existing high-level knowledge that can be used at a strategic level (Bednarek et al., 2016). Figure 2-10 represents this level with an emphasis on its dimensions and possible mechanisms.

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Table 2-6: Literature crisscross analysis between levels and dimensions of ambidexterity.

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Table 2-7: Literature analysis between dimensions and mechanisms of ambidexterity.

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Figure 2-9: Levels, dimensions, and mechanisms of ambidexterity—General framework.

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Figure 2-10: Strategic-level ambidexterity.

A knowledge dimension that sits at a strategic level addresses issues that are strategic in nature. Simply put, this dimension resolves the tension generated between appropriating new knowledge versus keeping old knowledge; generally this knowledge addresses issues of strategy, client, market orientation, and the like. These various types of knowledge necessitate sharing between the strategic units to see ambidexterity through (Jansen et al., 2012). Although White (1986) sees decentralization between these units as a means for enhancing growth, communication mechanisms by way of knowledge sharing among decentralized situations remain a must for knowledge diffusion and tension resolution (Eriksson, 2013). Knowledge diffusion reduces conflicting demands between units when decentralization takes effect, and that has a role in alleviating interdepartmental and multi-unit relevant tension (Orton & Weick, 1990).

A behavioral dimension at a strategic level is linked directly to the cognition of senior leadership employed in choosing among exploratory and exploitative activities (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). It is at this level that leadership can identify and manage strategic contradictions (Smith & Tushman, 2005). A technological dimension is similar to that of the knowledge, but it deals with the technological component of knowledge after processing (Burgelman, 1991, 2002). This dimension may not be apparent at a strategic level apart from determining the source of technology; this effort could fall under operations as well. A process dimension at a strategic level deals with aspects relevant to producing efficiency in operations while dealing with the flexibility needs of the organization (Kortmann et al., 2014).

A knowledge dimension and a technology dimension can benefit from structural resolution mechanisms by way of differentiation and integration techniques (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). The selection/allocation of resources to strategic projects or portfolio of clients (Bednarek et al., 2016) falls under selection resolution mechanisms and can be part of the integration techniques. Externally induced relationships with clients (Kauppila, 2010; Nosella, Cantarello, & Filippini, 2012) and strategic partners (Koza & Lewin, 1998; Holmqvist, 2004; Lavie & Rosenkopf, 2006; Tiwana, 2008) can help resolve tension created among the various modes of attaining knowledge. Clients’ and/or partners’ selection, in this instance, should not focus on mere profitability and revenue generation; strategizing for growth and “knowledge-development” (Fosstenløkken, Løwendahl, & Revang, 2003, p. 869) should be a constituent part of the selection criteria. A mixture between exploratory and exploitative selection types at a strategic level generates better sustainability, growth, and performance (Starbuck, 1992; Sarvary, 1999; Skjølsvik et al., 2007). Learning mechanisms can be seen at this level with Minzberg's (1994) differentiation between deliberate (planned) strategy and emergent (based on learning) strategy. Resolving tension between both can help achieve a balanced strategy implementation, which could lead to better performance and sustainability (Mintzberg, 1994).

2.4.4.2 Projects level, dimensions, and mechanisms

A projects-level ambidexterity addresses the level where the actual and/or physical work is carried out. This level consists of three sublevels: the projects level, the program level, and the portfolio level. This research treats them as one, for simplicity, but takes their separate effects into account. Figure 2-11 represents this level with an emphasis on its dimensions and possible mechanisms.

Project-based working and PBOs have prevailed in contemporary organizations (Davies & Hobday, 2005; Maylor, Brady, Cooke-Davies, & Hodgson, 2006; Winter, Andersen, Elvin, & Levene, 2006; Liu & Leither, 2012; Turner et al., 2015). To build ambidexterity in this environment, PBOs distinguish between two types of projects: the exploratory type and the exploitative type (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). To ensure the success of the two types, executives provide targeted incentives to see ambidexterity through (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). Andriopoulos and Lewis's (2009) research, on the other hand, sees ambidexterity in the method of project delivery. They distinguish between “loose coupling” and “tight coupling” methods for delivery. Loose coupling entails innovation in delivery and loose abidance with specifications and client requirements—this gives way to creativity upon delivery. Tight coupling is the complete opposite, as it provides rigid controls and tight abidance to project requirements and client needs. The two approaches imply different ways to handle ambidexterity. While Chandrasekaran et al.’s (2012) research calls for ambidexterity of projects in the organization, Andriopoulos and Lewis's (2009) work calls for ambidexterity in projects themselves—see also Eriksson (2013). Both, however, contribute toward an overall projects-level ambidexterity in the organization with each at a different sublevel. Chandrasekaran et al.’s (2012) research addresses a portfolio sublevel ambidexterity and Andriopoulos and Lewis's (2009) research addresses a single project delivery sublevel.

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Figure 2-11: Projects-level ambidexterity.

Pellegrinelli et al.’s (2015) research introduces a program sublevel ambidexterity and uses benefits offered by the flexibility accounted for during programs management. In their research, Pellegrinelli et al. (2015) mix the rigidities and controls offered by the project management delivery process with the flexibilities offered by overarching programs in the organization. The combination between flexibility and control kicks in ambidexterity at the projects level. This entails megaproject organizations with the lack of flexibility offered by an overarching program or a flexible organizational design as susceptible to high failure possibilities (Van Marrewijk, Clegg, Pitsis, & Veenswijk, 2008; Davies, Gunn, & Douglas, 2009).

A projects-level ambidexterity has dimensions that are similar to those of the strategic level with few hierarchal differences. A knowledge dimension at a projects level differs slightly from that of the strategic level; while a strategic-level ambidexterity views knowledge as relevant to market knowledge, clients’ understanding, strategic growth, and the like, the knowledge dimension at a projects level views knowledge as real/physical and tangible that requires processing and distribution. This knowledge exists in the form of raw data, information, or expertise (Nonaka, 1994) and is used during the course of project delivery. Eriksson (2013) uses knowledge produced by R&D activities to diffuse it to other projects, programs, and portfolios to see their benefits through the entire portfolio and the organization. A projects-level behavior dimension addresses the attitudes and the behaviors of the project team, and their discipline and commitment in splitting their time between exploratory and exploitative project activities (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004). A behavior level is also linked to the project manager's ability to rationalize during project delivery while using adaptive techniques (Aubry & Lièvre, 2010). A technology dimension follows through from innovation, R&D activities, and the knowledge dimension (He & Wong, 2004; Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). A process dimension distinguishes between a process control achieved from the abidance with project management rules (Vits & Gelders, 2002; Pellegrinelli et al., 2015) and a process variation that takes place through implementing continuous improvement projects (Anand et al., 2009; Matthews et al., 2014).

As the dimensions of knowledge and process are the most apparent in this level, structural and selection mechanisms can be most instrumental in this case. That, of course, comes without disregarding the importance of communication and learning mechanisms. Structural mechanisms can occur within projects and within the organization. Structural mechanisms within projects include the physical separation between projects in a way that differentiates between those projects with the exploratory type and those with the exploitative type (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). A differentiation mechanism between projects, along with benefits’ integration, generates an overall ambidextrous effect to the organization (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). A separation with regard to the project's degree of innovativeness falls under structural means as well (Kortmann et al., 2014); structural mechanisms within the project organization also target the structural design of the organization. A functional structure that is shaped around a matrix structure and that offers flexibility in distributing resources between projects and the operation, embedded in an overarching mechanistic structure that offers control, provides a sustainable effect in managing and has an effect on the overall performance of the organization (Turner et al., 2015). Selection mechanisms, on the other hand, see through the appropriate selection and allocation of resources among the portfolio of projects (He & Wong, 2004; Cao, Kavadias, & Gaimon, 2009; Eriksson, 2013); the selection of the various procurement strategies to tackle issues of design aspects versus construction aspects in the engineering and construction field (Eriksson, 2013), the selection of the source of technology to be used in project delivery (Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009), and the selection of the source of knowledge (Wei et al., 2014; Bednarek et al., 2016) are all part of selection strategies that are appropriate for use at the projects level.

Although communication and learning mechanisms seem to be less in use at this level compared to other techniques, their effect cannot be ignored. In communication, disseminating communication between the various projects and enhancing the social connectedness among the projects’ resources shields the organization against the obstructions of decentralization (Eriksson, 2013; Turner et al., 2015). In learning, learnings that take place through projects implementation facilitate future adaptation of resources (Edmondson, 2008), enable future placement for resources in the various types of projects (Danneel, 2002), and build on the switching capabilities of resources (Kortmann et al., 2014).

2.4.4.3 Operations level, dimensions, and mechanisms

An operations-level ambidexterity links the strategic-level ambidexterity with that of the projects level. This level works on translating strategic decisions into executable actions and sees them through via the implementation of projects (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). This level consists of processes, standards, practices, and routines, which would require constant improvements and innovation to enhance the ambidextrous capabilities of the organization at the process or operations levels (Kortmann et al., 2015; Matthews et al., 2015). These processes, standards, practices, and routines normally work on transforming strategies into actions, knowledge into technology, and technology into deliverables (also transforming exploration to exploitation, or vice versa). A focus on improving ambidexterity at a strategic level with no or slight consideration for the operational aspects reduces prospects of economies of scale (Kortmann et al., 2014). Such prospects are necessary for exploitations and short-term gains for the organization (Grewal & Tansuhaj, 2001; Kaplan & Norton, 2001). Figure 2-12 represents this level with an emphasis on its dimensions and possible mechanisms.

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Figure 2-12: Operations-level ambidexterity.

Similar to the other levels, an operations level has four dimensions of ambidexterity. However, not much support was found in regard to the behavior dimension. More support was apparent in the knowledge, technology, and (mostly) the process dimensions. A knowledge dimension is seen in the codification of knowledge, as suggested by Matthews et al. (2015); this arrangement generates control and more of an exploitative use of this dimension. A technology dimension sees itself in the codification of expertise, which could also lead to generating new ideas (Matthews et al., 2015). The codification exercise combines knowledge and technology into a processlike structure for ease of tracking and development. This process structure builds on the absorptive capacity of the organization and allows it to receive more of the new knowledge and technology (Cohen & Levinthal, 1990; Zahra & George, 2002; Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009). A technological dimension also considers the source of technology in the operation (Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009). A decision to bring in an internal source of technology, or an external source, or a combination of both, is an operational decision and is one that can invite ambidexterity into the mix (He & Wong, 2004)—this decision could be a strategic one depending on the extent of technology to be used. Operations that do not consider this mix into their decision making expose themselves to various types of risks. For instance, a tendency to only use internal sources of technology puts the operation at risk of “obsolescence” (Powel et al., 1996; Teece et al., 1997; Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000), while a tendency to use external sources of technology holds the organization hostage and impedes it from reaching an absolute competitive advantage (Teece, 1986). Organizational and technological boundaries of the organization shall be taken into account when selecting the source of technology (Rosenkopf & Nerkar, 2001). This careful consideration allows the organization to leverage its own competence and mitigate any of its weaknesses (Nicholls-Nixon & Woo, 2003).

The process dimension at this level covers many of the previously mentioned aspects of technology selection. It looks into the process of obtaining technology or knowledge to convert them into projects or deliverables. Such a process follows through what O'Reilly and Tushman (2008) called “sensing.” Sensing requires the use of carefully crafted routine structures, which enable the organization to sense external opportunities (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008). This dimension sees ambidexterity through the application of process innovation and process control (Zahra & Das, 1993)—also radical process variations versus process control (Matthews et al., 2015). This allows the organization to jump-start and move forward with large but carefully studied steps. A learning mechanism would kick in during such a process improvement plan to allow for learning from previous experiences for the radical jumps to be realistically implementable (Danneels, 2002; Matthews et al., 2015).

2.4.4.4 Individual level, dimensions, and mechanisms

Ambidexterity at an individual level addresses the workforce allocated within the different levels of the organization. Similar to the projects level, this level contains several sublevels: the top management/executive level (Lubatkin et al., 2006), the middle management/project managers’ level (Mom et al., 2007; Aubry & Lièvre, 2010), and the knowledge worker level (Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1994; Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). Figure 2-13 represents this level with an emphasis on its dimensions and possible mechanisms.

An individual-level ambidexterity started with Gibson and Birkinshaw's (2004) notion of contextual ambidexterity as defined by Ghoshal and Bartlett's (1994) framework of discipline, commitment, stretch, and support. Executives play a significant role in installing systems and processes, which allow such a context to emerge (Burgelman, 1983; Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1994). Once ambidexterity at an individual level is achieved, each individual transforms into an effective and an efficient engine with built-in self-cognition. This cognition leads to better management of paradoxical situations at the various levels of the organization, and better management of the time spent on exploratory and exploitative activities at each of these levels (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004). For instance, ambidexterity achieved at an executive level describes executives’ cognition of what needs to be done at a strategic level to achieve both flexibility and efficiency (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012), ambidexterity achieved at the mid-management level addresses project managers’ means of resolving tensions within and between projects and the operation (Aubry & Lièvre, 2010), and ambidexterity achieved at the knowledge worker level addresses the paradox that occurs between passionate delivery, which breeds creativity, versus disciplined delivery, which retains control (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009).

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Figure 2-13: Individual-level ambidexterity.

An individual-level ambidexterity consists of two dimensions: the knowledge dimension (Jansen et al., 2005; Lubatkin et al., 2006; Mom et al., 2007) and the behavior dimension (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009; Aubry & Lièvre, 2010). At least, this has been the case as far as the systematic review has revealed—this should not prevent other dimensions to be suggested for this level in future studies. Scholars such as Aubry and Lièvre (2010), Edmondson (2008), and Turner et al. (2014) suggested the application of learning mechanisms to resolve tension, and scholars such as Daft and Lengel (1986), Egelhoff (1991), Jansen et al. (2005), and Mom et al. (2007) suggested the use of communication mechanisms.

For learning mechanisms. Ambidextrous individuals have the ability to learn from previous events to enhance application for future circumstances. Also, they have the ability to learn as they go to adapt to current and new situations (Aubry & Lièvre, 2010). Learning can be applied at various hierarchal levels. Executives, for instance, learn from previous strategies (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012), clients (Bednarek et al., 2016), or strategic partners (Koza & Lwein, 1998; Rothaermi & Deeds, 2004) to apply and enhance their decision-making capabilities. Project managers apply “two modes of cognitive actions”: First, they rationalize delivery, and second, they use adaptations and execute as they learn (Mintzberg, 1994; Edmondson, 2008; Aubry & Lièvre, 2010). Knowledge workers use cognition and learning mechanisms to balance between their passion to be creative upon delivery and learning on new situations as they go versus their abidance to project requirements (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009).

For communication mechanisms. Knowledge sharing and communication are key to achieving ambidexterity (Daft & Lengel, 1986; Egelhoff, 1991; Jansen et al., 2005; Mom et al., 2007). First, an improved level of communication allows integration at all levels of the organization. Integration at the knowledge workers’ level can be achieved through heavy social networking, and this generates “trust and reciprocity” (Turner et al., 2015). Trust and reciprocity allow behavioral integration and dissolve unwillingness to share information (Granovetter, 1985; Coleman, 1990; Uzzi, 1997). A behavioral integration at the top management team (TMT) “influences how its members deal with the contradictory knowledge processes” (Lubatkin et al., 2006, p. 647) and facilitates “the processing of disparate demands essential to attaining ambidexterity” (Lubatkin et al., 2006, p. 646). Second, the direction of flow of knowledge carries a significant effect on achieving ambidexterity. Top-down knowledge flow at a managers’ level breeds exploitation (Mom et al., 2007). In this flow direction, managers pass down information that they know about and that they are already familiar with. This information could be used to solve a certain problem and would be stripped out of exploration due to the source and the direction it came from (Daft & Lengel, 1986; Egelhoff, 1991). Bottom-up knowledge flow is immersed in exploratory thinking along with suggestions and “out of the box” thinking and solutions proposed by knowledge workers; hence, this stimulates exploratory thinking (Burgelman, 1983; Sanchez & Heene, 1996).

Table 2-8 summarizes the levels of ambidexterity, along with their corresponding dimensions, as concluded after the systematic review and analysis of the literature. Table 2-8 presents each dimension with an example of a possible paradoxical situation most probably seen in ambidextrous organizations. Other possibilities of paradoxical combinations can be concluded from this baseline example.

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Table 2-8: Paradoxical situations within dimensions and levels of ambidexterity.

2.4.5 A comprehensive definition of ambidexterity

Organizational ambidexterity is a competency (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012) acquired by organizations that can help them achieve performance (Mom et al., 2007; Voss & Voss, 2013), growth (He & Wong, 2004), and sustainability (Starbuck, 1992; Sarvary, 1999; Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; Skjølsvik et al., 2007; Turner et al., 2013, 2014). This competency, however, has been broadly defined and applied in research (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008; Turner et al., 2013). Such a general and abstract definition deprives organizations from fully understanding or structuring mechanisms to help obtain this competency (Gupta et al., 2006; Kauppila, 2010). In a recent shift in modern organizations toward the use of projects as the basis of organizing (Davies & Hobday, 2005; Maylor et al., 2006; Winter, Anderson, Elvin, & Levene, 2006; Liu & Leither, 2012; Turner et al., 2015), understanding what ambidexterity means and what it requires becomes increasingly important.

Therefore, the point of departure for this research has been the need to provide a more comprehensive definition and description of organizational ambidexterity in the context of project organizations. The purpose for this more comprehensive and yet targeted definition is to build a solid foundation to use as a basis to achieve the overall research purpose. This foundation tends toward building a deep understanding of ambidexterity to facilitate establishing proper practices that can help organizations achieve this competency. This research has so far conducted a systematic review for the literature to generate a taxonomical analysis for elements and components of ambidexterity. Based on this analysis, ambidexterity elements were defined, regrouped, and divided into four hierarchal levels (the strategic level, the projects level, the operations level, and the individual level), which overlap at certain levels and sublevels. The taxonomical analysis has also promoted a link between the abstract levels of ambidexterity with what the research has identified as dimensions of ambidexterity. Those dimensions were also a product of a grouping and regrouping exercise, and they represent those organizational functions, which have the capability of creating a paradox; within this paradox, a resolution for better performance and sustainability is required. Those dimensions are: the knowledge dimension, the behavior dimension, the technological dimension, and the process dimension. The analysis of the literature has also generated resolution mechanisms, which could be applied to dimensions and levels of ambidexterity. Those mechanisms are: structural, learning, selection, and communication.

In light of the detailed analyses, grouping and regrouping exercise, and with the purpose of this research in mind, the following more comprehensive definition of ambidexterity in PBOs is presented:

Ambidexterity is the ability of the organization to employ structural, learning, selection, and communication techniques to resolve paradoxical challenges within intellectual, behavioral, technological, and processual dimensions in the various levels of the organization—these levels (strategic, projects, operations, and individual) can be separate or interwoven—to overcome situations of external dynamicity and competitive environments, considering internal limiting factors such as size, resources availability, and absorptive capacity of the organization.

The researcher posits that this definition of ambidexterity brings a more comprehensive understanding to this capability for use by both scholars and practitioners. Scholars can benefit from this structured definition to widen the pool of research, create more defined variables and constructs out of it, and harness it for use in other fields as appropriate. Practitioners, on the other hand, can learn how to enhance performance in their organizations by converting this structured definition into a tool that measures and analyzes ambidexterity in their organizations. They can also use it to develop processes and routines that help them achieve and maintain ambidexterity.

Organizational ambidexterity has taken the shape of a research paradigm in the organizational theory research (Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008). A research paradigm is a theoretical framework of a certain discipline that encompasses theories and testing methods altogether (Kuhn, 1962). Based on the work of Dubin (1978) and Fry and Smith (1987), theories require four conditions to affect a paradigmatic shift; those are the units of interest in the theory, congruence between these units, the boundaries within which a theory can be applied, and the contingency effects. This research has contributed so far with variables and elements that support the development of the new shift in paradigm. This new development could help scholars and practitioners work within definitive boundaries of ambidexterity instead of creating conceptualizations and testing methods for it.

2.5 Tension in organizations

2.5.1 Purpose

The previous section provided a systematic review of the ambidexterity literature and concluded with a comprehensive and more structured definition for ambidexterity. The comprehensive definition and the review of literature on ambidexterity proposed resolution mechanisms for paradoxical situations and tensional forces that can occur in organizations. It was explained that these tensional forces were necessary and that, by their resolution, those ambidextrous organizations step into a world of sustainability and better performance. The previous section has identified cases or situations of paradoxes generated within dimensions of knowledge, behavior, technology, and process as embedded in strategic, projects, operations, and individual levels of the organization. It has also identified resolution mechanisms for paradoxes generated within those dimensions. To support this conclusion, this section sheds more light on tensional forces in organizations and provides more knowledge on resolution mechanisms through what is called the theory of paradox.

2.5.2 The theory of paradox

Strategizing raises the need for organizing and putting systems and processes into place (Mintzberg, 1990). Organizing things by way of creating systems and processes leads to the creation and intersection of physical structures, social structures, cultures, and technology (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013). Therefore, while working on the product of this intersection, organizations face multiple internal tensions (Smith & Lewis, 2011). Internal tensions within the organization can either be inherent in the system of organizing, or can be viewed as a product of the social actors’ own perceptions and appreciation of the organization surroundings (Clegg, 2002; Papachroni, Heracleous, & Paroutis, 2016). Tension, for instance, can result from the act of collaboration and control within the organization (Sundaramurthy & Lewis, 2003; Papachroni et al., 2016), the drive to efficiency when preventing inflexible tendencies (Adler, Goldoftas, & Levine, 1999), radical innovation compared to incremental innovation (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009), exploration versus exploitation (Smith & Tushman, 2005), social responsibility versus growth and profit generation (Margolis & Walsh, 2003), and personal passion versus disciplined delivery of projects or tasks (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009).

Modern organizational theories, such as the contingency theory, offer collaborative means for coping with tension (Woodward, 1965). Contingency theory, for example, calls for identifying “the key contingencies in each situation … to determine the best fit between them” (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013, p. 32). It tries to find the best organizational alignment with internal processes and external environmental constraints to ease any tension that could arise from within the organization (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967). Smith and Lewis (2011) call the contingency theory's strategy for dealing with tension acceptance. That is, contingency theory accepts tension and tries to find the best organizational fit for the conditions that are causing the tension (Hofer, 1975). Smith and Lewis (2011) add a new strategy in response to this tension, which is resolution. Smith and Lewis's (2011) resolution complements the contingency theory's acceptance by way of dealing with tension (i.e., it deals with tension using openness). In other means, Smith and Lewis (2011) call for exploring tension to see if contradicting elements can be worked out simultaneously—similar to Gibson and Birkinshaw's (2004) notion of contextual ambidexterity. In their research on contextual ambidexterity, Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) established that exploration and exploitation can progress hand in hand and in a simultaneous rhythm by paying close attention to the behavioral context of the organization (Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1994). Smith and Lewis's (2011) means of achieving efficiency from this tension follows a theory of paradox that calls for embracing a “dynamic equilibrium” model for organizing.

2.5.3 Tension in organizations

Those internal tensional forces generated in organizations can be understood as inherent in the system of organizing, particularly when exposed to external influencers (Cameron & Quinn, 1988). Friction with the external world arises between the boundary of the organization and the complex human system (Smith & Berg, 1987). An example of that is the tension that arises between two different functional groups, a group and a subgroup, or an individual and a group, where one belongs to a different system or has an external influence. Tension can be socially constructed in the minds of social actors when placed in a certain situation or if they have certain preconstructed experiences (Ashcraft, Kuhn, & Cooren, 2009). This type of tension can be observed when employees interpret different meanings for the various organizational messages they receive (Putnam, 1986; Argyris, 1988). Another example of that is the tension observed at a particular situation or a location (Poole & Van de Ven, 1989).

Smith and Lewis's (2011) research draws from the literature of organizational tension and theorizes that balanced tensions, similar to the concept of ambidexterity, can breed sustainability. However, in order to achieve sustainability, the tension should be one that is healthy and paradoxical in nature. In that, Smith and Lewis (2011, p. 382) define a paradox with the set of “contradictory yet interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time.” In this regard, Smith and Lewis (2011)—based on the literature review by Lewis (2000), Luscher and Lewis (2008), and Quinn (1988)—defined four organizational paradoxes that represent the core elements of organizations to a certain degree. These paradoxical elements, when managed appropriately, can lead to sustainability (Smith & Lewis, 2011). The four categories are represented in Figure 2-14; they are the learning paradox, the belonging paradox, the performing paradox, and the organizing paradox.

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Figure 2-14: Organizational tensions (source: Smith & Lewis, 2011).

The learning paradox refers to internal tension observed at the organization, which deals with adding new knowledge into its knowledge base, thereby forcing the abandonment of old knowledge (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008). This tension could also be observed via the incremental and radical changes in innovation that could well occur during any knowledge base enhancement or update (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). It also could refer to the speed of the update on the knowledge base (Weick & Quinn, 1999) and the type of information added to it (Quinn, 1988; March, 1991; Ghemawat & Costa, 1993). The belonging paradox, as defined by Smith and Lewis (2011), refers to the tension that could arise between individuals with their own thoughts of belonging and the direction that their group intends to take, which may oppose the individuals’ own belonging (Brewer, 1991; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Pratt & Foreman, 2000; Huy, 2002; Badaracco, 1998; McKenna, 2006). The organizing paradox, as defined and constructed by Smith and Lewis (2011), refers to the tension that arises from the way the organizational system is directed to see emerging designs or products through (Ghemawat & Costa, 1993; Denison, Hooijberg, & Quinn, 1995; Adler et al., 1999; Flynn & Chatman, 2001; Siggelkow & Levinthal, 2003; Luscher & Lewis, 2008). For example, designing for competition can suppress collaboration (Murnighan & Conlon, 1991). The same applies to the differences inherent in a routine system that seems to be put in place in a prophylactic measure to oppose any change to the system (Denison et al., 1995; Gittell, 2004). Last is the performing paradox; this paradox is relevant to the contradictory requirements of the various stakeholders who wish to see their requirements delivered through the vehicle of the organization (Donaldson & Preston, 1995; Margolis & Walsh, 2003; Denis, Langley, & Rouleau, 2007; Jarzabkowski & Sillince, 2007). For all these paradoxical tensions, relinquishing to any of their sides resembles a modernist approach to achieving performance (i.e., acceptance strategy in the contingency theory). Such a strategy may see performance in the short term but would not guarantee a longer-term sustainable solution (Smith & Lewis, 2011).

These categories of paradoxes can create tension among themselves as well. For example, a paradox can be observed between the combination of learning and belonging (Ibarra, 1999; Fiol, 2002; O'Mahony & Bechky, 2006)—an individual belonging to a certain school while learnings of that school became history. Likewise, the combination of learning and organizing (Teece & Pisano, 1994; Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000)—when organizing for a certain system while the learnings behind that system became history. In the performing paradox and the belonging paradox (Dukerich, Golden, & Shortell, 2002; Kreiner, Hollensbe, & Sheep, 2006), tension arises from the generation of opposing goals by the various stakeholders each with goals that reflect their own identity. Finally, the performing paradox and the organizing paradox refer to the tension created between means and ends (Kaplan & Norton, 1996a; Gittell, 2004; Eisenstat, Beer, Foote, Fredberg, & Norrgren, 2008). Smith and Lewis (2011) conceptualize that tensions can also exist among and between each of the levels and layers of the organization.

2.5.4 Tension resolution

Two strategies for resolving internal tensions were explained briefly: acceptance, which is the outcome of a modernist perspective to organizational theory (Woodward, 1965; Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967; Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013), and resolution, following from the theory of paradox proposed by Smith and Lewis (2011).

Acceptance as a strategy refers to social actors coping with tension. This strategy requires social actors to “shift their expectations for rationality and linearity to accept paradoxes as persistent and unsolvable matter” (Smith & Lewis, 2011, p. 385). Based on this notion, and in alignment with the precepts of the contingency theory, performance can be achieved. However, such performance would be of a short-term nature since it is achieved via the alignment of the organization's internal processes with current tensions as they arise from the external environment (Woodward, 1965; Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967). Taking an example from the organizational ambidexterity literature: An external environmental change that entails an immediate effect on some technological need would influence organizations to align their internal systems and processes accordingly. This would entail shifting resources to the exploration side of the business and easing up on the exploitation side (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008). Such a shift may harm the long-term profitability and sustainability of the business. However, it resolves an immediate and a pressing need, which makes the organization see through a short-term performance or need (Smith & Lewis, 2011; Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013). Cameron (1986) sees this as relinquishing with the aim of refueling, which may be shortsighted, but is an absolute necessity and may also stimulate creativity (Beech Burns, de Caestecker, MacIntosh, & Mac-Lean, 2004).

Resolution, on the other hand, is an invitation to restructure the relationship between elements under tension (Bartunek, 1988). Under this strategy, Poole and Van de Den (1989) suggested strategies for handling tension to resolve conflicting demands (Argyris, 1988). Some of these strategies call for a structural separation between competing elements (Lavie et al., 2010). Structural separation is the physical separation between elements under tension by way of departmental separation, for example. Temporal separation is another strategy that uses time to separate elements under tension (e.g., exploration in the ambidextrous organization can be carried out at different times of exploitation to relieve some of the workload from shared resources) (Lavie et al., 2010). Synthesis tries to bring all tensional forces together in a bid for integration (Poole & Van de Ven, 1989; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). This resolution resembles the behavioral perspective in achieving ambidexterity (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; Simsek, 2009).

In light of resolution, Smith and Lewis (2011, p. 386) adopted Bartunek's (1988) notion for reframing “the relations between polarized elements” to create an “integrative model,” which seeks to achieve a dynamic equilibrium among contributing factors. Different from a static model, which measures equilibrium when all of its components are at rest, a dynamic equilibrium achieves such a state when all incoming and outgoing components—that is, the flow of information and conflicting demands—produce an equal flux of energy. Achieving such a balanced state would not only stabilize the system, but will help improve on it (Nonaka & Toyama, 2002).

Smith and Lewis (2011) proposed an integrative model, presented in Figure 2-15, which is based on the integration of acceptance and resolution. The integrative model proposes a dynamic equilibrium between vicious and virtuous cycles of tensions. The model presented propositions for the theory of paradox, which stood untested. Smith and Lewis's (2011) model starts with the paradoxical tensions presented in Figure 2-14. Smith and Lewis (2011) envisage that these tensions would start off as hidden (latent) until brought to the surface by external stimuli. When this happens, these tensions become noticeable (salient) with the requirement of an intervention. Without intervention, these tensions can drive the organization into what Smith and Lewis (2011) identified as “vicious cycles.” These cycles are characterized by personnel denials and resistance to change or collaboration (Cialdini, Trost, & Newsom, 1995). Such vicious personal drivers could feed into the organizational system and create an overall body that is resistant to change (Henderson & Clark, 1990; Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000; Gilbert, 2005).

Acceptance, as depicted in the dynamic equilibrium model presented in Figure 2-15, feeds into resolution. This denotes that individuals who have capabilities to manage tensions paradoxically (i.e., resolution) should have an acceptance capability as a prerequisite. Accepting tension on one of the sides and working through this tension on the opposite side reveals the individual's or the organization's creativity tendency (Beech et al., 2004), and facilitates the appreciation for and comprehension of the tension backgrounds and links (Smith & Berg, 1987). However, in order for an individual or an organization to obtain these capabilities, Smith and Lewis (2011, p. 391) propose training oneself on gaining “cognitive and behavioral complexity, emotional equanimity, and dynamic organizational capabilities.”

Individuals’ cognitive complexity is their tendency to comprehend such tensional interrelations and the creativity that they can bring in to resolve this tension (Smith & Tushman, 2005; Beech et al., 2004). Their emotional equanimity refers to their calmness in dealing with situations that are under tension (Huy, 1999). The dynamic capabilities of the organization are directly related to the processes within the organization itself that allow its leaders to foster a culture of dynamicity (Teece, 2007), integration (Smith & Lewis, 2011), collaboration (Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1994; Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004), and learning (Zollo & Winter, 2002).

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Figure 2-15: A dynamic equilibrium model of organizing (source: Smith & Lewis, 2011).

Based on this, it can be concluded that adopting one strategy to resolve tension may not bring the utmost optimization required to see performance or sustainability through. This notion proves that both strategies are not mutually exclusive and that they should be applied in complementarity to each other. Applying this notion in the perspective of an organizational context, the following proposition may take predominance:

Acceptance as a strategy could facilitate a short-term resolution, which feeds into a short-term success or performance, while at the same time this strategy could lay the path for a later resolution that takes on the longevity of the solution. However, working on the two resolutions in complementarity could reinforce the harmonization of the two strategies for the betterment of the organization.

This means that both strategies should feed into each other, and that one cannot decide on a resolution strategy separately from the other one. An example of this is the short-term solutions provided by exploitative efforts in an organization seeking sustainability while setting the path for long-term exploratory solutions. For example, for-profit organizations would accept carrying out a job at a loss in the short term in anticipation of long-term benefits. Long-term benefits in this particular case could be building up the company's resume and experience, or branding, or using current resources in projects lest the company lose them to competition. In this example, the resolution toward a long-term solution could lead to interim acceptance and the application of the short-term contingency theory. This example depicts a short-term acceptance of a situation that renders the company nonprofitable for a short period of time, while the longer-term strategy would be performance and sustainability, protection of brand, and maintaining key resources.

2.5.5 The theory of ambidexterity

The theory of paradox presented by Smith and Lewis (2011) contributed with four categories of paradox—the learning, the belonging, the performing, and the organizing paradoxes—while the systematic literature review on ambidexterity produced levels, dimensions, and mechanisms of ambidexterity. A high level of similarity can be noticed when comparing the theme brought up by levels and dimensions with the four categories of paradox. This similarity supports the notion raised by the systematic review of the literature on ambidexterity. The theme of a learning paradox, for instance, resides at a projects level and can be found as well in the strategic and operations levels. A belonging paradox can be found in an individual level with all its sublevels. A performing paradox can be found in both the projects and the strategic levels, and an organizing paradox can be found in the operations level. Similarly, the dimensions of ambidexterity can be mapped against the categories of paradox through their relevant level(s) in the organization. Table 2-9 presents an exercise of mapping among levels, dimensions, and categories of paradox. The mapping shown in Table 2-9 can be presented in other ways, basing the comparison against levels or dimensions rather than using the categories of paradox for this purpose. The end result, however, will not see any difference.

Categories of paradox Levels of ambidexterity Dimensions of ambidexterity
Learning
Old school/new school
Projects level
Strategic level
Operations level
Individual level
Knowledge
Behavior
Technology
Process
Belonging
Individualism/collectivism
Projects level
Strategic level
Operations level
Individual level
Knowledge
Behavior
Technology
Process
Organizing
Collaboration/competition
Projects level
Strategic level
Operations level
Individual level
Knowledge
Behavior
Technology
Process
Performing
Profit/brand
Projects level
Strategic level
Operations level
Individual level
Knowledge
Behavior
Technology
Process

Table 2-9: Categories of paradox with levels and dimensions of ambidexterity.

With this mapping in mind, more paradoxical situations or new tensional forces can be thought of. Thinking of new paradoxical situations or generating more areas where tension could occur helps us understand the mechanism of organizing and how organizations work. When this understanding is achieved, mechanisms for resolving tension can be made more efficient. To start with, generating new tensional forces by means of introducing the categories of paradox can support and augment the initial conclusions on tensions and dimensions presented in the previous section. Introducing Smith and Lewis's (2011) categories of paradox into levels and dimensions redefines how tension is shaped in the organization. This introduction suggests that tension can transcend the levels of the organization while respecting the dimensions of ambidexterity. For instance, taking the tension that can occur between the learning paradox and the belonging paradox as a case example, a subtensional force that combines the relevant levels or sublevels attached to learning and belonging can be thought of. In this particular case, and in reference to Table 2-9, it can be found that tension can happen between a projects level and an individual level around the knowledge dimension (i.e., individual knowledge may contradict a project's knowledge); a project could use old-school knowledge and a team member may view this as an old way of thinking. The successful combination between those two levels at the knowledge dimension produces (or calls for) ambidexterity. Another example is the tension created between the learning and the performing paradoxes. In this case example, a tension could be found to be generated between a learning paradox at the strategic level and a performing paradox at a projects level around the process dimension; that is, long-term strategy may infuse into a process of learning on the job, while project managers push back to achieve a process that sees through solid performance and better productivity. More examples and more combinations of paradoxical situations or tensional forces between levels and/or sublevels that require resolution can be thought of. Understanding this mechanism of tension generation and resolution sheds light on what is going on in the organization, which helps design a better system to overcome unresolved situations. It is not the intention of this research, however, to think of and present all possible situations or combinations of tensions and paradoxes in organizations. The research has so far presented examples and arguments that aim to stimulate the thinking of the reader toward this particular matter and to carry it over to the final conclusion of this study. Moreover, this argument has so far contributed to the addition of the identifier interwoven to the definition of ambidexterity presented in the previous section. Interwoven, in this case, represents the tension's ability of transcendence through levels of the organization that requires complex organizational capabilities to capture and resolve it.

Finally, the theory of paradox presented an important aspect of resolution mechanisms that require consideration. The dynamic nature of resolution mechanisms invited two strategies discussed previously: acceptance and resolution. Acceptance votes for short-term recognition and approval of the status quo while resolution looks for long-term goals. The dynamic application for both strategies shall be taken into account during the application of mechanisms of ambidexterity discussed earlier (i.e., structural, learning selection, and communication). Each of these mechanisms can be thought of as a continuum with two extents—those extents could represent exploration and exploitation, acceptance and argumentation, or any other polarized events or situations. For example, for structural mechanisms, these two extents could resemble the acceptance of a current inflexible structure versus the introduction of an opposing flexible structure, or vice versa (see Turner et al., 2015). In learning, these could represent the acceptance of old-school ways (exploration) versus arguing on new learnings (exploration). In selection, these could be represented by accepting—or not changing—current staff (exploitation) versus adding new staff who infuse new talents/clients/technologies/skills (exploration). In communication, this could be represented by the acceptance of instructions cascading from top management down to employees (exploitation) versus counterarguing those with a bottom-up and better-informed communication emanating from employees and their surroundings (exploration)—(see Mom et al., 2007).

2.6 Project-based organizations

2.6.1 Purpose

The purpose of this section is to shed light on project-based arrangements in organizations and the function of project-based organizations (PBOs) along with a description of their dynamic capabilities. The aim of this research is to build an understanding of how ambidexterity can be achieved in PBOs. For that, it looks into the performance and ambidexterity of organizations embedded in project-based environments, which is the case in most business arrangements today. The project-based organization hosts many projects and it dedicates its operation to the management and delivery of those projects and their overarching programs. These organizations mostly use project portfolio functions and practices as the core of their operation. Davies and Brady (2016) argued that these functions and practices provide the organization with its dynamic capabilities.

In light of this, this section starts off with explaining the nature and the requirements of project management and defines what a project is and how it contributes in forming a so-called “temporary organization.” It then sheds light on program management as a management function used to manage multiple projects with aligned benefits. Next, it discusses project portfolio management practices, the origin of these practices, and their applicability in the operation of PBOs. The section then describes what a PBO is and how it gathers all such functions beneath one umbrella. Finally, this section covers the dynamic capability requirements under such an organizational arrangement.

2.6.2 Project management

This section provides a brief discussion on the general conception and the definition of projects and project management. The discussion starts with laying out general definitions for projects, project management, and the temporary organization. It then hints on the classical handling of projects and project management with a mention of the modern conceptualization of project management and the temporary organization.

The discipline of project management—or classical/traditional project management (Svejvig & Anderson, 2015)—goes back to the 1950s, with claims that it even dates back to the 1930s (Svejvig & Anderson, 2015). The scholarly body has defined a project as a temporary endeavor, attempt, or exercise (Turner, 1990, 1993, 1999) that has a beginning and an end (Barnes, 1989), and that involves human interaction with the aim of creating an impact or a change (Anderson & Grude, 2009), which is complex and requires the input of compounded efforts to burn a budget and achieve a scope and a schedule (Cleland & King, 1983) for the sake of delivering a unique product or service (Smith, 1985). Projects are the building blocks of the modern organization (Grundy, 2000), and they have long been used to deliver its strategy. Project management is the collection of processes, practices, or methodologies needed to see the outcomes of the project through (PMI, 2013a). The successful delivery of projects leads to the success of the organization and the achievement of its strategy (Thiry & Deguire, 2007; Meskendahl, 2010). However, literature differentiated between two modes of success, one that is of a short-term nature (Cooke-Davies, 2002), which Serrador and Turner (2015) identified as efficiency to mark the efficient use of tools and techniques in the delivery organization. The efficient use of tools and techniques may not necessarily lead to the success of the organization rather than the success of the project management process on its own (Cooke-Davies, 2002). The long-term success of projects (Cooke-Davies, 2002), which Serrador and Turner (2015) called effectiveness, looks at the benefits the project provides to the organization and looks at its long-term strategy, its sustainability, and the longevity of its effect (Shenhar & Dvir, 2007). The two modes of success are of critical importance for the project-based organization, as they affect its shorter- and longer-term strategies combined (Shenhar & Dvir, 2007).

The literature review carried out by Turner and Muller (2003) considered a project a “production function,” where its function resides in the organization (Varian, 1987; Hart, 1989), by which a project manager is looked at as a salesperson who buys and sells inputs and outputs in the “open market” (Turner & Muller, 2003). Turner and Muller (2003) also considered a project a “temporary organization,” with the project manager acting as its CEO (Cleland & Kerzner, 1985), or an “agency of change,” where Anderson and Grude (2009) looked at it as a vehicle carrying a set of objectives and the project using its inertia to deliver the changes promised with these objectives. A project can also be considered an “agency for resources utilization” in the organization (Turner & Muller, 2003). The project in this case acts as a vehicle that helps assign resources with specific tasks in the organization (Cleland & Kerzner, 1985). Carroll (1995) linked the success of organizations to their ability to attract and assign resources in this case, whereby these resources can be taken forward to deliver change in the organization. Finally, Turner and Muller (2003) looked at the project as an “agency for uncertainty management.” The uncertainty of the product and the process has a major effect on deciding the contract and the contract management in a project organization taking into account the principal and agent theories (Muller & Turner, 2005).

Academics such as Anderson (2008), Lenfle and Loche (2010), Shenhar and Dvir (2007), and Svejvig and Anderson (2015) may be seen as initiators of a movement toward a new way of thinking about projects and project management. The discipline of project management is old and its practices have not been renewed. This triggered the need for a fresh look at so-called traditional or classical project management. For instance, in the traditional or the classical view of project management, a project was looked at as a tool (Packendorff, 1995), or a set of tools and techniques (Jugdev, Thomas, & Delisle, 2001), with their aim to just finish the project on time and on budget (Shenhar & Dvir, 2007) with the application of a simplistic life cycle model (Winter, Smith, Morris, & Cicmil, 2006; PMI, 2013a). The project was seen to be task oriented (Anderson, 2008) and infused with routine forthcomings and repetitive solutions to overcome uniqueness (Lenfle & Loche, 2010). The new movement of project management, called “rethinking project management,” looks at the project as a temporary organization (Karrbom-Gustavsson & Hallin, 2015; Burke & Morley, 2016; Ebers & Maurer, 2016; Peters & Pressey, 2016; Tukiainen & Granqvist, 2016); its management is holistic, with the aim of achieving innovation combined with effectiveness and efficiency (Prado & Sapsed, 2016); its success is measured by effectiveness, efficiency, and innovation (Jugdev et al., 2001); its aim is to achieve business results rather than a one-time goal (Shenhar & Dvir, 2007); and it uses more complex models that recognize the complexity of uncertainty (Winter, Anderson, Elvin, & Levene, 2006; Geraldi et al., 2011). The new movement toward the modern project management has a major role in building this research, as it plays an important part in forming the so-called project-based organization.

2.6.3 Program management

This section provides a brief discussion on program management, how it is defined, and why/how it is linked to strategy. This discussion also covers a review on program success, how it is looked at, and how it is being conceived.

A program is a collection of components, each of which could be a collection of tasks, projects, or even smaller programs and other components (PMI, 2013b). These components need to be managed all together in a coordinated fashion to achieve the benefits of the program (PMI, 2013b; Thiry, 2015). Program management is the coordinated management of these components in a way that leads to the achievement of the overall strategy of the organization through attending to and managing the program benefits (PMI, 2013b).

Literature has strongly linked strategy with program delivery, the scope of which works in most cases at an organizational strategic level (Thiry, 2015). An organization's strategy, which is delivered via a program, cascades down to projects, programs, and portfolios—as an effect of it being emergent (Mintzberg, 1990, 1994). In other words, the strategic implementation of programs could result in producing more strategic projects, programs, or even portfolios, where they all link back to the strategic direction of the organization, which could in its turn change during a program or a project implementation.

To mention some of the relevant literature on programs and to highlight the direct link they have with strategy: 1) Murray-Webster and Thiry (2000) equipped program management with modern techniques to integrate the benefits realized from projects with the organizational strategy, which leads to the formation of programs; 2) Thiry (2007) linked programs with the long-term strategic intent of the organization rather than the short-term achievements of project management, taking a slightly different view from what was perceived as traditional in project management; and 3) A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (PMI, 2013b) adopted a similar thought to Thiry (2007) in aligning program management with the strategic direction of the organization combined with the envisaged objectives and goals of the program.

The review on project management success introduced two definitions for success as discussed in the previous subsection: project efficiency, as defined by Serrador and Turner (2015), which promotes the efficient management of projects in satisfying the “golden triangle” of scope, cost, and quality (Gardiner & Stewart, 2000), and project effectiveness, which takes into account project strategic success. The latter links success and project outcomes to the benefits the project should realize, which, in turn, would help the organization achieve its strategy.

The success of programs is measured differently. It is measured against the realization of benefits, which is set during the formation of the program and its strategy (Thiry, 2007; Shao, Muller, & Turner, 2012). Those benefits should not be confused with any of the program or project deliverables, as they represent objectives and goals that emanate from strategy. The strategy that produces programs can be viewed as being emergent due to its vulnerability to evolving program needs, outcomes, the changing requirements of stakeholders, and never-ending technological breakthroughs (Mintzberg & Waters, 1994). Program success looks into the effectiveness of delivery, and hence, promotes benefits management via the delivery of its constituent projects. Program delivery is characterized by the longevity of the solution and the delivery process (Thiry, 2015); hence, its envisaged benefits are always susceptible to change (Thiry, 2002). Measuring program success against such changing benefits involves a cumbersome effort and requires major attention to stakeholders’ management combined with a careful management of the cascaded strategy.

Shao and Muller (2011) identified four constructs against which a program's success can be measured: 1) the efficient management of the program taking into account the impact on the program team (as being part of stakeholders) and stakeholders, as their satisfaction carries a significant weight; 2) business success as it relates to strategy; 3) the preparedness for the future; and 4) the social effects the program brings about. It is, however, imperative to consider programs within their contextual settings when taking a view on success. The context of a program is the “dynamic cultural, political, and business environment in which the program operates” (Pellegrinelli, Partington, Hemigway, Mohdzain, & Shah, 2007, p. 41). Due to its dynamicity, it is influential in determining the success of programs under execution.

Basing their research on Shao and Muller (2011) and Pellegrinelli et al.’s (2007) context and success, Shao et al. (2012) considered four measures for program success: 1) the “delivery capability” of the organization, which coincides to a great extent with the project level—this measure includes time, budget, functionality, member satisfaction, user satisfaction, customer satisfaction, supplier satisfaction, sponsor satisfaction, other stakeholders’ satisfaction, and achieving business results; 2) the “operational capability,” which looks at the process of delivery and the capability of the organization to deliver—although this was defined to be of a program, Turner, Ledwith, and Kelly (2009) used it to measure project success; 3) the “marketing capability,” which looks at repeat business and the power to influence other businesses; and 4) the “innovative capability,” which looks at new technologies and technological leverage.

A program and the management of programs can be looked at as a major constituent of the project-based organization, which is dependent on the scope and the coverage of the organization in comparison with the scope and coverage of the program.

2.6.4 Portfolio management

This section provides a brief introduction on project portfolio management, how it conceptually originated, and how it facilitates the link between project management and operations. Portfolio success or its effectiveness is not covered in this section in a similar fashion to the preceding discussions on projects and programs. A section on portfolio success and effectiveness is laid out separately in the literature review under Section 2.7.4 to allow a smooth flow of literature in alignment with the study objectives and research questions.

The discipline of project management began to grow in the 1950s, but it was not until recently that organizations started realizing the impact that projects would have on businesses’ overall profitability (Dinsmore, 1999; Levine, 2005). This has called for the evolution of what is known as enterprise project management (Dinsmore, 1999; Szymczak & Walker, 2003). Enterprise project management looks at leveraging the knowledge and learnings of all projects within the organization for the betterment of its operation (Szymczak & Walker, 2003). Executives started realizing the importance of the holistic management of projects within their organizations and began to look at how this is linked to the overall business performance and sustainability (Levine, 2005; Brook & Pagnanelli, 2014; Petro & Gardiner, 2015). This alerted executives to grasp the importance of knowing what type of projects shall be taken on board by the organization, the number of these projects, and their relevance to the operation and strategy. A mere enterprise project management ceased to achieve this objective. This objective therefore has called for changing the concept of the enterprise in extracting the knowledge out of projects and adapting to the projects operations side. This discipline is now called project portfolio management (PPM) (Levine, 2005). Project portfolio management can be seen as the link between operations and project management (Turner & Keegan, 1999, 2001; Levine, 2005; PMI, 2013c). Operations management provides for the management of strategies, objectives, overall performance, stakeholders, resources availability, and cash flows, while project management involves the management of the project schedule, project cost, project performance, scope control, resource utilization, and cash usage (Levine, 2005). Project and operations management should report to each other to infuse efficiencies into the business (Petro & Gardiner, 2015), and sustainability of the business and its products may not be easily achieved (Brook & Pagnanelli, 2014). Not only does project portfolio management facilitate bridging the gap between operations and project management, but it also provides a backward feedback loop between projects’ performance and operations to amend project selection and termination criteria (Unger, Knock, Gemunden, & Jonas, 2012). Projects’ selection and termination are considered main subsets to project portfolio management and are enforcers to its strategy (Meskendahl, 2010).

Levine (2005, p. 23) defined PPM as the “management of the project portfolio as to maximize the contribution of projects to the overall welfare and success of the enterprise.” Hence, and in this regard, projects shall be aligned with the strategic direction of the organization, its culture, and values. They also contribute to the cash flow of for-profit organizations, or value to the social organization, and they ensure effective usage for the available resources. Levine (2005) divides PPM into two phases: the prioritization, or the project selection phase, and the project management phase. The first phase guides the organization toward defining business needs for these projects for them to be selected or prioritized (Srivannaboon & Milosevic, 2006); it also helps determine their benefits to the organization (Cooke-Davies, 2002) and identifies any risks that they may impose on the overall organizational results (De Reyck, Grushka-Cockayne, Lockett, Calderini, Moura, & Sloper, 2005; Olson, 2008). This phase also decides on the availability of resources needed to execute projects (Archer & Ghasemzadeh, 1999). The second phase deals with the traditional project management for those selected projects. This phase entails the application of traditional project management processes and procedures per any of the known standards or practices such as APMBOK (APM, 2012), CIOB (CIOB, 2014), the PMBOK® Guide (PMI, 2013a), PRINCE2 (Bentley, 2010), or the like. The traditional management of projects should allow for the backward feedback loop to the organizations’ executives.

A portfolio manager under the title of chief operation officer (COO) or business director (BD) would normally assume the responsibility of leading the business project portfolio or portfolios to see the above through. The functional departments of the (matrixed) organization (Galbraith, 1971) would normally provide the resources needed for these projects. Project portfolios in this case, as they have their own internal planning, should align with the functional department resources’ future plans and envisaged engagements (Blichfeldt & Eskerod, 2008). This requires project portfolio management to be integrated with the marketing operation to facilitate the smooth and non-risky application of project portfolio management processes (Cooper, Edgett, & Kleinschmidt, 1999). Marketing in this case would tally with exploratory functions of the ambidextrous organization, and project management and the effective use of the available resources would tally with its exploitative functions.

Many studies and standards that emerged more recently in the 2000s suggested ways of dealing with project portfolio management and its processes and practices. The Project Management Institute (PMI) produced a standard that hosts processes of project portfolio management (PMI, 2013c). PMI (2013c) defines PPM as the “coordinated management of one of more portfolios to achieve organizational strategies and objectives” (p. 5). The third edition of The Standard for Portfolio Management identifies the importance of applying project portfolio management for all types of relevant organizations and their projects. This standard covers projects and organizations categorized as for-profit, NGOs, or governmental organizations that have internal or external projects managed through them, among others. The standard promotes the consistent use of vocabulary of portfolio management to systemize its application across all disciplines.

In a bid to systemize and standardize portfolio management, the PPM standard suggested three Process Groups for management. It starts with the portfolio definition group, which covers all processes relevant to defining strategy, business objectives, and the required relation to projects. The second group covers the alignment processes, which filters though the selection and termination criteria of projects within the portfolio. The third group of processes emphasizes monitoring and controlling the portfolio in relation to operations. The third group is set toward allowing the portfolio to achieve its intended objectives such as return on investment (ROI) or strategy implementation KPIs. Other researchers also proposed frameworks and processes for portfolio management. Archer and Ghasemzadeh (1999) proposed an integrated framework for this purpose; Cooper, Edgett, and Kleinschmidt (2001) and Cooper et al. (1999) applied their own framework to new product development and added functions that are relevant to marketing and market exploration; and Benko and McFarlan (2003) proposed a framework that aligns portfolio objectives to strategy. This study focuses more on using PMI processes as a base due to the breadth of its processes and the detailed inclusion of tools and techniques for PPM.

Project portfolio management can be (and should be) considered a major constituent of the management of the PBOs (Thiry & Deguire, 2007). It can also be looked at as a major supplement to sustain dynamicity and dynamic capabilities in these organizations (Davies & Brady, 2016); these capabilities are discussed in the following sections.

2.6.5 Project-based organizations

This section integrates the views and definitions for projects, programs, and portfolio management from the previous sections under one umbrella, which is the project-based organization (PBO). It then defines PBOs starting from their origin and links them to the general theory of organizing, displaying an initial conceptualization of how the structure of these organizations looks like.

Organizations nowadays look at the business world and business ventures as projectified activities (Thiry & Deguire, 2007; Geraldi et al., 2011). It is to this extent that the emergence of what has been called a project-based organization (PBO) has come into play (Sydow, Lindkvist, & DeFillippi, 2004). Grundy's (2002) conceptualization of projects as building blocks or vectors of the strategy has led to combining the general management of organizing with the temporary management of its constituent projects (Thiry & Deguire, 2007). These thoughts have drawn increased attention to this form of organizing, which held temporality in its folds (DeFillippi & Arthur, 1998; Hobday, 2000; Keegan & Turner, 2002; Gann & Salter, 2000; Lindkvist, 2004; Sydow et al., 2004). Hobday (2000, p. 874) defined a project-based organization as an organization where “the project is the primary business mechanism for coordinating and integrating all the main business functions of the [organization with] no formal functional coordination across project lines.” Thiry and Deguire (2007) added the necessity of integrating that with the IT functions within the organization to achieve a holistic capture of the project and portfolio management functions and the knowledge generated from the entire portfolio of projects within the organization. Hobbs and Aubry (2005) inserted the function of the project management office (PMO) or the program management office (PgMO) to maintain a smooth flow of information among all projects and programs of the PBO, along with a certain level of compliance with a standardized set of tools and techniques for their management. Martinsuo and Dietrich (2002) called for implementing the practices of project portfolio management (PPM) for the management of the PBO to see through a holistic management of its projects and programs along with an enhancement of the PBO's dynamic capabilities as inherited from the use of PPM practices (Davies & Brady, 2016).

Subsequently, the organizational structure of a PBO started looking much like the normal organization as adopted by the general management of organizations (Hodgson, 2002; Bredillet, 2004; Jamieson & Morris, 2004)—see Figure 2-16. Projects and their execution teams sit at the bottom of the hierarchy, with a layer of program management atop; a PMO or a PgMO sits at the side to ensure that sufficient support is provided for the two layers; the human resources function (HR), or the commercial management function, could either preside as external support or could reside in any of these supportive functions; and the portfolio management sits at the leadership and senior management level and has direct links to the top management where strategy is being formulated.

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Figure 2-16: A typical simplistic organizational structure for a PBO (source: Thiry & Deguire, 2007).

The typical organizational model presented in Figure 2-16 seems simplistic and may not simulate the complex nature of a PBO, particularly when embedded in a dynamic environment—which most of the PBO cases are. Hobday (2000), for instance, viewed PBOs as structural innovative bodies that form and reform strategies and structures around projects. Authors such as Bredillet, Thiry, and Deguire (2005); Bresnen, Goussevskaia, and Swan (2004); and Thiry and Deguire (2004) linked PBO structural models to the emergent strategy, which by nature changes in accordance to the requirements of the projects, programs, or the environment (Mintzberg, 1994).

This has called for a change in the conceptualization of a PBO's structural model to something that is more accurate and allows for the emergence of a strategy that is capable of kicking in when needed, and also something that caters to complex situations (Zuboff & Maxmin, 2002).

Thiry and Deguire (2007), in turn, proposed an organizational structural model that caters to a horizontal integration and management for all projects from one end to realize their benefits through program management, and a vertical integration for the projects that links them with the corporate strategy through portfolio management—see Figure 2-17. Here, they emphasized integration to see the benefits of the PBO through as follows (Thiry & Deguire, 2007, p. 652).

a well integrated PBO would be expected to display strong interrelationships between its projects and both its business and corporate strategies; in such an organization project managers would be expected to be appointed in senior management roles, or senior manager would be expected to view project management as an integrative process. A less integrated PBO should reveal focus on resource allocation and data gathering; project managers would be expected to play a purely product delivery role.

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Figure 2-17: Vertical and horizontal integration in PBOs (source: Thiry & Deguire, 2007).

A PBO is therefore looked at as one of the latest forms of a modern organization and how modern organizing should take place (Thiry & Deguire, 2007). This form allows the presence of dynamic capabilities to nurture the system of organizing. These capabilities enable PBOs to cater to a surrounding dynamic environment as presented in the simulation in Figure 2-17 and as discussed in Davies and Brady (2016).

2.6.6 Dynamic capabilities in project-based organizations

This section provides a foundational guide that helps us understand organizations’ dynamic capabilities, PBOs’ dynamic capabilities, and their relevance to operational and project capabilities. The section starts with defining what an organizational capability is; it then links it with what the dynamic capabilities for an organization should be, how and why a PBO should have dynamic capabilities of its own, and what these should entail. This section also sheds light on organizational “operational capabilities” and emphasizes their “project capabilities” to show how project and dynamic capabilities are linked.

Organizational capability is the organization's ability to process knowledge; pursue, comprehend, and learn new knowledge; and understand the dynamics behind strategic growth (Chandler, 1990). These capabilities are organization-specific and they develop through their own employees with the use of trial and error and feedback loops. Chandler (1990) distinguished between operational capabilities and strategic capabilities. Operational capabilities, per Chandler (1990), are those that the organization needs to run its day-to-day operations, such as the human resources operation, the financial management operation, production, general management, and general operations. On the other hand, strategic capabilities as defined by Chandler (1990) are those needed at the top management level and they are relied upon to guide the strategic direction of the organization, the allocation of its resources, and the allocation of its investments. The strategic capabilities for an organization perform a similar role to its dynamic capabilities (Teece, 2010). Organizational ambidexterity, for instance, is considered part of the organization's dynamic capability (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008)—that is, organizational ambidexterity is the organizational capability that an organization uses to prioritize its investments toward exploration and exploitation and to drive future investments (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012).

Davies and Brady (2016) argued that Chandler's (1990) definition and conceptualization of operational capabilities does not include that of the project capabilities. Davies and Brady (2016) and Brady and Davies (2004) drew their theoretical understanding on project capabilities from March's (1991) conceptualization of organizational learning and organizational ambidexterity. They argued that project capabilities are those capabilities applied to the management of projects and programs, and those capabilities support the strategic force of the organization. By that, their argument consisted of the need for the fluidity/adaptability of the organization's strategic base within a volatile environment with the use of exploratory projects that introduce new ideas, creative ventures, and innovation. This move is of a bottom-up nature, which feeds to the strategic direction from the lower end of the organization's hierarchy. Once this move in the organization's strategic base takes the form of routine work, it switches to a top-down feedback of exploitative routines (Davies & Brady, 2000)—this is what an evolutionary theory entails (Winter, 1995).

To provide more clarity on this subject, Davies and Brady (2016, p. 319) described the relationship between project capabilities and dynamic capabilities along with ambidexterity by identifying two types of projects:

(1) “routine projects,” which exploit the existing base, utilize proven technologies and mature products, and address current customer demands; (2) “innovative projects,” which support base-moving strategies that explore innovative alternatives, experiment with new ideas, scheme and approaches, and create entirely new technologies and markets.

By that, Davies and Brady (2016, p. 322) distinguished between project capabilities and dynamic capabilities as follows:

Project capabilities refer to the management of knowledge, structures and tasks required at the operational level to deal with different types of individual projects (project management for innovative and routine projects) or interrelated sets of projects (programme management), whereas dynamic capabilities are required to achieve a firm's longer term strategic objectives (portfolio management).

Drawing from the above definitions and conceptualization of the relationship between project capabilities and dynamic capabilities, Figure 2-18 provides a graphical representation of the relationship between the two as embedded in various types of environments (volatile, moderate, and stable). Davies and Brady (2016, p. 314) concluded that this relationship is “reciprocal, recursive and mutually reinforcing” due to the need for continuous feedback to create routine. In that context, projects and programs can be looked at as project capabilities due to their involvement in delivery, life cycle, and benefits management (Morris, 2013), while portfolio management can be identified and looked at as part of the organization's dynamic capability due to its role in high-level planning, prioritization of investments, and strategizing (Morris & Jamieson, 2005; Morgan, Levitt, & Malek, 2007; Martinsuo, 2013; Jonas, 2010; Davies & Brady, 2016).

Dynamic capabilities are associated with two traditions, perspectives, or views: the resource-based view (RBV) and the evolutionary theory (Peteraf, Di Stefano, & Verona, 2013; Di Stefano, Peteraf, & Verona, 2014). The importance and the functionality of these views are discussed as follows:

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Figure 2-18: Dynamic and project capabilities (source: Davies & Brady, 2016).

The resource-based view (RBV) looks at the dynamic capability as the organization's and the top management's ability to allocate resources and change allocations swiftly and appropriately to fit with the requirements of the external environment (Teece, 2007, 2010). This ability implies top management's understanding of the market and the surrounding environment and their ability to sense and seize opportunities as feasible and as appropriate (Teece, 2007, 2010). Eisenhardt and Martin (2000) added to the RBV view a contingency perspective, whereby they distinguished between “moderately dynamic markets,” where change is frequent but mostly predictable—dynamic capabilities in this case resemble the normal and sometimes complex operating procedures (Cyert & March, 1963)—and the “high velocity markets,” where operating procedures should revert back to simple and noncomplex routines (Eisenhardt & Sull, 2000). On the other hand, an evolutionary theory view of dynamic capabilities refers to Winter's (1995) conceptualization of learning, adaptation, and changing in routines to adapt with the dynamic environment (Zollo & Winter, 2002; Helfat & Peteraf, 2003). The evolutionary theory takes into account what are called “metaroutines” to help identify routines that are no longer working when change occurs (Knott, 2001; King & Tucci, 2002; Wezel, Cattani, & Pennings, 2006). Metaroutines in this case include a process of learning, comprehending, and seeking appropriate feedback to modify those old and nonworking routines (Amburgey, Kelly, & Barnett, 1993; Adler et al., 1999).

2.7 Project portfolio management frameworks and practices

2.7.1 Purpose

The purpose of this section of the literature review is to shed light on PPM-relevant frameworks and practices, their importance, and their effect on the portfolio success in particular and the business and the organization in general. The purpose of this study was made clear at its onset by its inclusion of PPM practices to study their effect on organizational ambidexterity as a mediator to success and performance. Organizational ambidexterity has been studied and analyzed in sufficient detail in this study. This study and the analysis have contributed so far to generating a comprehensive definition for this mediating construct. This definition was facilitated by way of a systematic review, which was carried out using top-tier academic journals and high-quality qualitative and quantitative research. This comprehensive definition is carried over in this research to help link organizational ambidexterity with portfolio management and its practices. As an initial suggestion, this research proposes the use of the mechanisms of ambidexterity as generated from the systematic review of the literature for this purpose as highlighted in the below carried-over definition:

Ambidexterity is the ability of the organization to employ structural, learning, selection, and communication techniques to resolve paradoxical challenges within intellectual, behavioral, technological, and processual dimensions in the various levels of the organization—these levels (strategic, projects, operations, and individual) can be separate or interwoven—to overcome situations of external dynamicity and competitive environments, considering internal limiting factors such as size, resources availability, and absorptive capacity of the organization.

PPM practices come into play in this section of the literature to lay the path for establishing relationships between PPM practices and organizational ambidexterity through the mechanisms of ambidexterity. The establishment of such a relationship may contribute in generating enhancements to known portfolio management practices for future considerations by scholars and practitioners.

This section of the reviewed literature is divided into three main subsections. The first subsection addresses known PPM frameworks and adopts the one presented by Meskendahl (2010) due to its relevance to the study. The second subsection addresses and reviews the practices of portfolio management. The third subsection is a review of the effectiveness of these practices through the introduction of a measure for PPM effectiveness, and exploring the various studies that have used such a measure before. This measure is used later in this study to represent PPM practices in the quantitative study in Chapter 5.

This section addresses and supports providing an answer to the third research question and links it to the answer provided for the second research question. The second and the third research questions are repeated below for ease of reference:

RQ 2: What is the range of mechanisms needed to support ambidexterity in project-based organizations?

RQ 3: How can project portfolio management as a process support ambidexterity in project-based organizations?

First, mechanisms of ambidexterity were identified in this study by providing an answer to the second research question. This has been partly provided through the systematic review of the literature carried out earlier in this chapter and verified later during the field investigations as presented in Chapter 5. Second, portfolio management practices are linked to those mechanisms via conducting a comparative review of the literature as presented in the coming sections of this chapter, and later, through the qualitative and quantitative studies presented in Chapter 5.

2.7.2 Project portfolio management framework

The strategic orientation for organizations has an effect on determining the processes and practices within which those organizations operate (Meskendahl, 2010). The strategic direction or orientation is not easily measured or quantified, as executives sometimes choose to narratively construct it (Andrews, 1997) and holistically refer to it as part of business plans (Venkatraman, 1989). It may therefore be subject to various interpretations (Sharma, 2000). Strategy may also be mixed up with other organizational functions such as operational effectiveness (Porter, 1996). Venkatraman's (1989) research has therefore created constructs to ease the quantification of strategic orientations. These comprise a combination of organizations’ aggressiveness in exploring or exploiting, their appetite for risk, the ways they prepare for the future, the means they employ to defend their territories, their proactiveness, and their means of analyzing the market internally and externally (Venkatranman, 1989; Shepherd, Johnson, Scholes, & Whittington, 2008). These constructs and their dimensions formed a strong basis for strategic measurements and found their way into many similar studies, such as in Morgan and Strong's (2003) business performance improvements; Rauch, Wiklund, Lumpkin, and Frese's (2009) study on the effect on entrepreneurship orientation; and Talke and Hultink's (2003) research on the impact of new product launch strategy on corporations—also see Lumpkin and Dess (2001).

Meskendahl (2010) adopted three organizational dimensions from Venkatraman's (1989) research that an organization would normally consider in constructing its strategic orientation. These are its analytic posture—which is the organization's means of understanding and analyzing its surroundings (Morgan & Strong, 2003; Shepherd et al., 2008), its risk-taking posture—which is the organization's risk appetite and the extent of uncertainty that it agrees with (Courtney, Kirkland, & Viguerie, 1997; Talke & Hultink, 2003; Talke, 2007), and its aggressiveness—which refers to the extent of the organization's hostility in the marketplace and its behavior upon exploring new opportunities (Covin & Covin, 1990; Fombrun & Ginsberg, 1990; Lampkin & Dess, 2001). The strategic orientation has a major effect on filtering market opportunities and the way the portfolio is formed with its evaluation and selection criteria (Muller, Martinsuo, & Blomquist, 2008; Meskendahl, 2010). For example, an organization that adopts a high analytical posture with its opportunities would normally have a more formalized approach toward project selection and resources exploitation (Meskendahl, 2010), while organizations that agree with major market hostility and risk-taking postures may provide less formalized means in adding projects to their portfolio to fulfill a yielding portfolio selection and evaluation criterion.

Examples of that would be hostile takeovers (Hirshleifer & Titman, 1990; Shivdasani, 1993) or endeavoring to enter new market sectors in a quick strategic response to changing technology (Utterback, 1994; Shepherd et al., 2008).

Meskendahl (2010) conceptualizes that strategic orientation has an effect on the structure of the organization's portfolio of projects, as depicted in Figure 2-19. Portfolio structuring is the organization's means of setting the relevant projects’ evaluation, assessment, prioritization, selection, and termination criteria (Archer & Ghasemzadeh, 1999; Cooper et al., 2001; Blichfeldt & Eskerod, 2008; Killen, Hunt, & Kleinschmidt, 2008). Portfolio structuring refers to: 1) the consistency of selection and termination and the consistency of applying the relevant criteria to the entire portfolio of projects within the organization (Jamieson & Morris, 2004); 2) the integration of the various operational functions within the organization with portfolio management, such as marketing, finance, production, or IT (Kahn, Barczak, & Moss, 2006; Coulon, Ernst, Lichtenthaler, & Vollmoeller, 2009); 3) the portfolio means (or formalization) in obtaining data on projects, applying analysis methods, and its transparency in applying rules and procedures of selection (Payne, 1995; Fricke & Shenbar, 2000); and finally, 4) the portfolio's diligence in bringing in the right number and type of projects in comparison to the number and type of committed resources in the delivery organization (Nobeoka & Cusumano, 1997; Martinsuo & Lehtonen, 2007). The structuring of a portfolio in such a manner is highly affected by the strategic orientation of the organization, which in turn is affected by the external environment (Petit, 2012). The external environment would dictate certain rules, or impose a new technology, which would activate the strategic orientation dimensions to trigger a certain portfolio structure. The portfolio consistency, formalization, integration, and diligence would be affected by such an imposition (Meskendahl, 2010). Choosing the right portfolio structure leads therefore to better organizational performance, business success, and portfolio success (Muller et al., 2008; Meskendahl, 2010).

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Figure 2-19: Strategic orientation effect on portfolio success (source: Meskendahl, 2010).

The drivers behind the success of a project portfolio have been researched by many scholars (Shenhar, Dvir, & Levy, 1997; Shenhar, Dvir, Levy, & Maltz, 2001; Petro & Gardiner, 2015). The outcomes of most of this research converge into the four portfolio success dimensions proposed by Meskendahl's (2010) conceptual framework presented in Figure 2-19. The first dimension of a portfolio success is the average success for those projects within the portfolio (Atkinson, 1999). This success entails the satisfactory completion of those projects in terms of scope, quality, budget (Pinto & Prescott, 1988), and stakeholder and client satisfaction (Griffin & Page, 1996; Dvir, Lipovetsky, Shenhar, & Tishler, 1998). The second dimension of success is the use of synergies in management and coordination for those projects (Platje, Seidel, & Wadman, 1994). A coordinated management leads to better benefits management and realization, the realization of which exceeds the sum of all individual benefits (Dickinson, Thornton, & Graves, 2001). Coordinated management would also enhance overall savings, which could emanate from the application of shared services or functions, such as sharing in market explorations (Loch & Kavadias, 2002; Pattikawa, Verwaal, & Commandeur, 2006), resources and knowledge exploitations (Verma & Sinha, 2002). The third dimension is the strategic fit (Patanakul, 2015), or the alignment of the coordinated and managed project goals with the strategic direction of the organization (Srivannaboon & Milosevic, 2006). This entails the alignment of projects’ objectives, resource skills and capabilities, and portfolio results with the set strategy of the organization (Dietrich & Lehtonen, 2005). This constitutes a backward link to the organization's strategic orientation. The fourth and final dimension per Meskendahl's (2010) conceptual framework is the portfolio balance, which calls for constructing a balanced portfolio that reduces unreasonable or unexpected risks (Mikkola, 2001). This could entail the balance between short-term and long-term benefits (Cao & Kavadias, 2008; Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009), the adequacy of resources to deliver all projects within the portfolio (Killen et al., 2008), or the constant usage of resources across all projects within the portfolio to guarantee a continuous cash flow into the business (Mikkola, 2001).

Business success is directly related to portfolio success in the project-based organization (Meskendahl, 2010; Petro & Gardiner, 2015). Business success can be short term in nature, where it leans on the economic success and financial performance, or long term, where it refers to the continuous planning for the future to secure the sufficient backlog of projects, cash, and resources (Shenhar et al., 2001). The economic success constitutes market performance and commercial success (Shenhar et al., 2001). Market success refers to success in securing a good market share (Anderson, Fornell, & Lehmann, 1994; Rust & Zahorik, 1994), achieving target sales, and achieving the minimum required volume of sales to support the operation (Czinkota & Johnston, 1983). Commercial success refers to the achievement of financial figures such as profits and ROI (Buzzell, Gale, & Sultan, 1975; Savitz, 2012). Preparation or planning for the future dimension resembles the exploratory function in the ambidextrous organization, which seeks to secure projects or opportunities for the organization. This dimension takes into account the creation of new markets (Dougherty, 1990; Griffin & Hauser, 1996) and the development or enhancement of old or new technologies or processes (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1995; Hargadon & Sutton, 1999).

2.7.3 Project portfolio management practices, context, and standards

2.7.3.1 Practices

Meskendahl's (2010) framework presented in Figure 2-19 and represented in a simplified manner in Figure 2-20 shows that the external environment gears up the strategic orientation of the organization, which in turn has a major effect on the portfolio structure, which embodies the practices of PPM. Portfolio structure in this case contains many elements, some of which are formalization, consistency, integration with the organization, and diligence. All such constituents of the portfolio structure rely on applying best practices of project portfolio management. Formalization is a measurement of the degree of abidance to rules, process, and procedures (Jang & Lee, 1998); this includes the consistent use of practices or defined methodologies for conducting business. In project management, this refers to the consistent use of tools and techniques of project management (Liu, Chen, Chan, & Lie, 2008). This can take place in the portfolio level as well (Teller et al., 2012). Integration of formalizations at both the project and portfolio levels leads to portfolio effectiveness and organizational success (Teller et al., 2012). Diligence in this case refers to the consistent and fair use and selection of projects, portfolios, and resources (Nobeoka & Cusumano, 1997; Martinsuo & Lehtonen, 2007), and the fair and consistent application of practices and methodologies (Teller et al., 2012).

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Figure 2-20: Portfolio management framework—Project portfolio structure (and practices).

Practices for both project and portfolio management have long been established via international known standards and protocols. These standards include The PMBOK® Guide (PMI, 2013a), The Standard for Portfolio Management (PMI, 2013c), the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®)Third Edition (PMI, 2013d), the Association for Project Management's Body of Knowledge (APM, 2012), the IPMA Competence Baseline (ICB) (Gaupin, 2006), the Standard on Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices, as published by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC, 2008), and the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), established by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI, 2010). All these standards comprise practices for project and portfolio management that can be used to affect good performance in PBOs. However, and as the focus of this research is that of portfolio management—and due to the resemblance noticed in most of these standards, combined with the detailed inclusion and presentation of processes and practices in the PMI standard—The Standard for Portfolio Management as published by PMI will be mostly referred to in this research, without discounting the importance of and the relevant reference to other standards as and when needed.

Although the use of standards and practices of portfolio management is being pushed forward to organizations to improve on their performance (Rousel et al., 1991; Cooper, Edgett, & Kleinschmidt, 1997, 2001; Benko & McFarlan, 2003; Laursen & Svejig, 2016), their real effect on the operation cannot yet be proven for issues that are relevant to generalizability of approach (Martinsuo, 2013); hence, their relation to portfolio effectiveness remains to be questioned (Petro & Gardiner 2015). It has been established by scholars such as Blichfeldt and Eskerod (2008) that portfolio standards cannot be pushed to apply to the entire portfolio of projects of the organization due to the existence of “pet projects” (Loch, 2000), or the lack of attention to other projects that should be in—but are not—in the portfolio (Blichfeldt & Eskerod, 2008). Lack of coverage of these practices within the entire project portfolio creates issues of quality (Lechler & Thomas, 2015), employee and resources management (Engwall & Jerbrant, 2003), and tensions across all levels of the organization (Blichfeldt & Eskerod, 2008). On the other hand, disadvantages of applying these practices can be found upon the rigid employment of the standards of use to all projects of the organization; these disadvantages shall be considered during any course of action. For instance, a rigid selection of projects for the strategic portfolio may contribute in killing innovation projects and creative ideas (Artto, Kujala, Dietrich, & Martinsuo, 2008a, Artto, Martinsuo, Dietrich, & Kujala, 2008b). Also, portfolio management practices assume that the portfolio has absolute control over resources, which is rarely the case (Nobeoka & Cusumano, 1995, 1997; Prencipe & Tell, 2001; Engwall & Jerbrant, 2003; Perks, 2007). This creates a paradox between the various degrees of application of these practices. This paradox poses a dilemma for portfolio managers and organizations. Loch (2000) was one of the early authors identifying this dilemma to generate his conclusion on the consistent use of these practices across organizations.

The paradox of this organizational dilemma could be resolved with careful consideration of the context within which the portfolio resides (Martinsuo, 2013). An understanding of the influences of the context on project practices and their effectiveness shall precede. For instance, authors such as Aaltonen (2010) addressed variations in project portfolio selection, or what Aaltonen (2010) has identified as co-selection. Co-selection occurs in the course of “variation, selection, and retention” evolutionary and co-evolutionary theory, which resembles evolutionary aspects seen in the science of biology. Co-selection in this case, which is combined with trial and error, can generate model misfit within a specific context. Blomquist and Müller (2006) conclude in their research that portfolio practices are affected by the types of projects being managed under the portfolio. Christiansen and Varnes (2008) and Killen et al. (2008) observed managers’ cognition and learning from the surrounding environment and context when selecting or managing portfolios. Also, in their study Blichfeldt and Eskerod (2008) addressed issues that could arise from the selective inclusion of projects in the portfolio. This all shows that planning has little to do with real portfolio management as claimed in the relevant standards; rather, it is the situation, context, and politics that control the portfolio (Martinsuo, 2013).

2.7.3.2 Context

The above concludes that practices, although applied through standards in most of the cases (such as the PMI or the APM standards), may not be applied consistently due to the influence of context. Each portfolio context shall be understood and dealt with uniquely, as it may have an effect on the applied practices. A lack of understanding of the various contexts within which portfolios reside can affect the effectiveness of application of those standards or practices (Martinsuo 2013). The context refers to the surroundings, the organization, and/or the environment within which those practices are applied. For instance, Biedenbach and Müller (2012) found a context in the organization's ability to absorb knowledge; they then linked portfolio management outcomes to the absorptive capacity of the organization. This capacity is a capability that defines a contextual ability of the organization (Zahra & George, 2002; Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009). In this particular case, failure to understand the extent of how much (and what type) of knowledge the organization can absorb will have a direct effect on the knowledge that needs to be processed through portfolio practices—the extent of this capability is linked to the availability of relevant knowledge, people with relevant knowledge, and processes that can administer a similar type of knowledge (see also George & Zahra, 2002). For instance, various degrees of absorption may require different types, or special versions, of portfolio management information systems (PMIS) to handle these variations (PMI, 2013c). Blomquist and Müller (2006), on the other hand, introduced complexity through organizational contextually and linked it to portfolio practices. Complexity of projects has been addressed as well by Geraldi et al. (2011). In their conclusion, Geraldi et al. (2011) postulated five dimensions of complexity—structural, uncertainty, dynamics, pace, and sociopolitical complexity. They claimed that “these five dimensions present individuals and organizations with choices about how they respond to each type of complexity in terms of business case, strategic choice, process choice, managerial capacity and competences” (Geraldi et al., 2011, p. 966). Complexity of projects therefore shall be taken into account as one of the determinants of the context and the environment within which the portfolio is being applied or implemented.

Muller et al. (2008) explored various contextual factors covered by dynamicity of the surrounding environment, governance type, and structure. Alongside context, other scholars identified risks and uncertainties as important aspects of PPM practices, which can help handle various portfolio settings (Olsson, 2008; Petit & Hobbs, 2010; Petit, 2012). Although risk management was identified previously as an area of knowledge in PMI and other standards, uncertainty was not (Petit, 2012).

The above argument corroborates that portfolio management practices are not as rigid as those of the project management, which makes a good case for nurturing ambidexterity traits in organizations. Although in project management, some of the practices need to be tweaked to fit a certain project type, the project life cycle and some of the main features of project management practices remain unchanged and they seem to be internationally accepted. This does not yet seem to be the case for portfolio management. As a result, portfolio management can be used efficiently to respond to uncertainties of the context and the surrounding environment and the complexities generated by the various operations. This allows portfolio managers to use their intuition in applying practices, and hence, portfolio management becomes a tool for “negotiation and bargaining” (Martinsuo, 2013, p. 799), and it permits the organization to restructure itself to respond to external dynamic influencers, which adds to its dynamic capabilities (Killen, Jugdev, Drouin, & Petit, 2012).

2.7.3.3 Standards

This section covers discussions on the third edition of the PMI standard for PPM. The reason for choosing to conduct this study using the PMI version of the portfolio management standard and practices compared to other available standards is its generalizability and its detailed inclusion of inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs, which allow a view of portfolio management through to implementation until its close-out and completion. This does not discount or reduce the importance of other standards or practices; therefore, they are referred to when and as needed in this research.

The Standard for Portfolio Management – Third Edition (PMI, 2013c) consists of three Process Groups distributed over five Knowledge Areas in a fashion that is similar to that of the PMBOK® Guide in all its versions (PMI, 2013a). The Defining Process Group is the first of all the groups and it starts with defining the portfolio, its plan, its road map and milestones, if any, along with any subsidiary plans. The Aligning Process Group optimizes the portfolio through evaluation techniques, modifications, eliminations, or inclusions of projects or resources in the portfolio. The authorizing and Controlling Process Group deals with authorizing work under the portfolio and monitoring performance of the portfolio and its projects. These groups do not resemble the project life cycle or the process groups of project management, as project management Process Groups end with closing out the project under consideration. On the other hand, portfolio process groups are continuous and repetitive across the life cycle of all projects within the portfolio, with all the portfolio operations until they all close out.

Similar to the project management's inclusion of Knowledge Areas, portfolio management has five Knowledge Areas. These are Portfolio Strategic Management, Portfolio Governance Management, Portfolio Performance Management, Portfolio Communication Management, and Portfolio Risk Management. Each one of those Knowledge Areas is presented with a brief description in Table 2-10; each area has its unique inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. These unique elements can be categorized and worked out in parallel during the operational life of the portfolio. Key inputs of these processes are summarized in Table 2-11, key outputs are summarized and presented in Table 2-12, and tools and techniques are categorized and presented in Table 2-13.

Portfolio Knowledge Area Description
Portfolio Strategic Management This is where the knowledge of developing the strategic plan for the portfolio is stored. This could include the development of organizational milestones (i.e., portfolio road map), the portfolio charter, and the assessment of projects’ alignment with strategy. This Knowledge Area involves responding to environmental changes, which could affect the organizational strategy.
Portfolio Governance Management This is where portfolio oversight is provided. It provides the tools and techniques needed to optimize the portfolio and authorize it through investment analysis and prioritization techniques.
Portfolio Performance Management This is where the portfolio performance is monitored through the continuous measurement of its value and the value of the projects within. This area has hands-on critical assets of the organization, such as finance, human resources, and the like, and it controls the allocation of resources through its supply-and-demand processes.
Portfolio Communication Management This Knowledge Area contains the tools and techniques that could facilitate the management of information within the portfolio; this could involve the management of information about portfolio risks, portfolio or business KPIs, resources, and the like—an example of that is the use of the portfolio management information system (PMIS).
Portfolio Risk Management This Knowledge Area is where the tools used to manage all portfolio risks are provided. Risk management in this manner allows portfolio managers to assess all risks that are relevant to the portfolio of projects, along with the operations or the business risks collectively.

Table 2-10: A summary of portfolio management Knowledge Areas per PMI standards.

Portfolio input Description
Portfolio process assets These include plans, procedures, and guidelines used to manage the portfolio. It could include historical information of the projects and the portfolio, if available, templates used to manage the portfolio and the business, lessons-learned databases, and the database of performance measurements.
Portfolio reports These include reports of various natures, such as performance reports, feedback report, variance reports, capacity and capability of resources, risk analysis reports recommendations, and decisions relating to the various natures.
Organizational process assets These are similar to the portfolio process assets, but they carry more relevance to the managing organization.
Enterprise environmental factors These are the internal and external influencers, which neither the organization nor the portfolio has any control over. These factors need to be considered during strategy formulation and monitored and measured throughout the operational life of the portfolio.

Table 2-11: A summary of portfolio management key inputs per PMI standards.

Portfolio outputs Description
Portfolio strategic plan This plan consists of the mission and the vision of the portfolio in relation to the organization. It may provide information or plans on fund allocations for the portfolio or its budgetary needs, the benefits of the portfolio, which could be represented by business plans, along with assumptions and constraints that need to be managed to see this plan through.
Portfolio charter It is this document (if it explicitly exists) in the organization that spells out the roles and responsibilities of the portfolio manager or the group of managers responsible for the portfolio of projects.
Portfolio management plan This plan is a direct translation of the strategic plan. It provides the approach for procuring or authorizing or chasing projects under the portfolio. The plan consists of a governance model, a communication and an information management model, a procurement model, and a prioritization and projects selection model.
Portfolio road map This is a plan that stipulates milestones (if any) of the portfolio that need to be seen through its management. This plan could see through the development of certain capabilities of the organization to seek new projects, or the build-up of the organization's entire capability and the upgrade of its resume.

Table 2-12: A summary of portfolio management key outputs per PMI standards.

Tools and techniques categorization Description
Tools and techniques used for analyzing These include tools of: strategic alignment analysis, projects prioritization analysis, scenario analysis, capability and capacity analysis (used for resources), interdependency analysis, cost/benefit analysis, stakeholder analysis, readiness analysis, portfolio organizational structure analysis, graphical analytical methods, quantitative and qualitative analysis, value scoring and measurement analysis, benefits realization analysis, communication analysis, and gap analysis.
Tools and techniques used for selecting These include tools for: portfolio component inventory, portfolio component categorization, weighing and ranking scoring techniques, and authorization.
Tools and techniques used for meetings These include the tools and techniques relevant to review meetings.
Tools and techniques used for informing These include tools for implementing: communication methods, elicitation techniques, PMIS, and the integration of the portfolio management plans.

Table 2-13: Categorization of portfolio management tools and techniques per PMI standards.

This section has so far provided a general overview on portfolio management practices as proposed by the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI proposes the use of these practices for the betterment of the organization in managing its portfolio(s), but it does not claim that abidance with its suggested rules provides the utmost solution for improving performance. As explained earlier, these practices shall be carefully considered and tweaked to fit the context within which the portfolio is being managed. That said, these practices shall not be considered static; rather, they shall be thought of as dynamic and flexible to provide the ability for the organization to change the extent of application of these practices to fit with the context. The tools and techniques proposed in the practice of portfolio management of PMI resemble the mechanisms of ambidexterity generated by the systematic review of the literature carried out so far. Therefore, it is proposed in this research that the careful consideration of those tools may generate ambidexterity—this proposition is tested in the coming chapters.

Mechanisms of ambidexterity Relevant PPM tools and techniques Explanation
Structural Portfolio organizational structure analysis, projects prioritization analysis, portfolio component categorization This is where the structure of the portfolio is determined and linked to the structure of the organization, along with identifying roles and responsibilities. These tools may generate the need to separate exploratory activities from those that are exploitative to form a temporal, a domain, or a structural separation. Prioritization of projects can be introduced to support the organizational structure; this can be accompanied with scenario analysis and categorization. A clear cut between organic and mechanistic structures can also be identified here.
Learning Elicitation techniques, review meetings This is where the portfolio manager learns the different requirements for the portfolio through brainstorming, facilitation, surveys, learning from, and collaborating with others, such as work groups, internal or external experts, alliances, clients, and/or stakeholders.
Selection Capacity and capability analysis, qualitative and quantitative analysis These tools allow the organization to assess its resources or its processes and procedures, capability, or capacity for allocation purposes. Quantitative and qualitative analyses here are not only linked to risk management; they also help identify the numbers and the capacity of resources.
Communication Communication methods and communication analysis The use of various communication and information transfer techniques can help generate ambidexterity when put through appropriate techniques, such as elicitations and review meetings.

Table 2-14: Proposed mapping of PPM practices, along with mechanisms of ambidexterity.

For simplicity, a few of these practices are marked in bold italics in Table 2-13 and their relevance to the mechanisms of ambidexterity is explained briefly in Table 2-14 in preparation for the qualitative analysis carried out during field investigations and presented later in this study. Later, these were verified and edited in Table 5-3 in Chapter 5. Table 2-13 and Table 2-14, and the later similar comparison tables (e.g., Table 5-3), represent a possible mapping between mechanisms of ambidexterity and PPM practices. Other arrangements are possible and scholars or practitioners can freely explore this area. The purpose behind this exercise was to prove the possible relationship between PPM practices and the mechanisms of ambidexterity, which have already been established.

The Association of Project Management (APM) has also developed its own code of practice, which it identifies as its body of knowledge (APMBOK). The sixth edition of the APMBOK distinguishes the context from the practice and emphasizes understanding the governance and the environmental settings of the portfolio as the main constituents of context. The APMBOK divides the knowledge behind managing the portfolio into seven areas of management: integrative management, scope management, schedule management, financial and cost management, risk management, quality management, and resource management. The APMBOK describes the role of portfolio management within each of these areas and gives the practitioner the freedom to apply the necessary practices to achieve the defined requirements of portfolio management under each area of management. That, in comparison with PMI practices, provides a more general approach to portfolio management and provides practitioners with more room to come up with their own practices, taking into account the context behind each portfolio. That, compared with PMI's The Standard for Portfolio Management, has more coverage of portfolio practices across more areas of knowledge. This research does not favor any of those standards of practice; rather, it highlights each one's means of application and further applies the practices adopted by PMI to define ambidexterity due to their unique and concise presentation in the standards.

2.7.4 Project portfolio management effectiveness

In light of the literature on practices, and in reference to Figure 2-21, which provides a simplification of Meskendahl's (2010) framework adopted here to define the relationship between practices and effectiveness, it is noted that a good portfolio structure led by the effective application of practices can lead to success for both the portfolio and the business (Meskendahl, 2010; Petro & Gardiner, 2015). A successful portfolio is led by the average success of its projects, their synergetic management in realizing the overall benefits from the holistic management of the portfolio, the strategic fit, and the portfolio balance. All of these factors not only refer to the success of the portfolio, but they also imply that the portfolio management in such a case is effective (Patanakul, 2015). Patanakul (2015, p. 1093) has defined the PPM effectiveness in this context as:

the organizational capability to 1) form a project portfolio such that the portfolio aligns with the organization's strategic direction, is adaptive to the internal and external changes, and contains projects with high perceived value or benefit, and 2) manage the portfolio to promote project visibility, transparency in decision making, and predictability of project delivery, in order to achieve project success, short and long-term value or benefits, and integrity, cohesion, and morale of the project community.

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Figure 2-21: Portfolio management framework—Project portfolio success and effectiveness.

Many scholars studied and generated project and portfolio dimensions for measuring portfolio effectiveness and success (Shenhar, 2001; Martinsuo & Lehtonen, 2007; Meskendahl, 2010; Jonas, Kock, & Gemünden, 2012; Voss, 2012; Patanakul, 2015). Shenhar (2001) explored the portfolio's future preparedness as its means to maintain its sustainability, along with the sustainability and performance of the organization. The projects themselves, which reside in the portfolio, take into account future preparedness in their measurements of success to support that of the portfolio. Serrador and Turner (2015) divided project success into two main streams: a stream that measures projects’ short-term gains and their benefits as supplied to the organization, and a stream that carries on the measurement of long-term benefits for the project, portfolio, and organization. Cooper et al. (2002) looked at the portfolio balance in relation to resources availability. Market share and commercial performance have been looked at by Shenhar et al. (2001). Average project success in terms of short-term budgetary compliance, quality, scope, and schedule has been looked at by many scholars, such as Levine (2005) and Serrador and Turner (2015). Customer and stakeholder satisfaction as relevant to portfolio success and effectiveness were covered by scholars such as Lechler and Dvir (2010) and Martinsuo and Lehtonen (2007). The portfolio use of synergies between projects adds to its effectiveness and is an area studied by scholars such as Meskendahl (2010). The portfolio's strategic fit with the organization has an effect on the portfolio success and effectiveness as claimed by Unger et al. (2012). Designing the portfolio in such a way that the projects within the portfolio balance items of risk (Killen et al., 2012), value (Cooper et al., 2002), and short- versus long-term benefits (Archer & Ghasemzadeh, 1999) enhances their chances of becoming more effective and successful.

Project portfolio success and effectiveness has been assessed so far by various scholars using measures that are similar to the abovementioned suggested measures and attributes. To date, scholars have used these tools to compare PPM effectiveness and test it against various organizational situations or events for the purpose of establishing relationships (Martinsuo & Lehtonen, 2007; Unger et al., 2012; Voss, 2012; Beringer et al., 2013; Kissi, Dainty, & Tuuli, 2013; Voss & Kock, 2013; Petro & Gardiner, 2015; Rank, Unger, & Gemunden, 2015). A summary of a few of these relationships under discussion is presented in Table 2-15 for information and for reference. In light of the methodologies used by scholars whose work is presented in Table 2-15 and throughout this research, and in reference to the survey instrument(s) that they have used, this research attempts to test the relationship between PPM effectiveness and organizational ambidexterity in a similar fashion. Therefore, factors and attributes of success and effectiveness mentioned so far are summarized in Table 2-16 in preparation to be taken forward to measure their relationship with organizational ambidexterity. The establishment of this relationship concludes with the answers to the research questions this research has presented so far.

Established relationship(s) Supporting literature
Behavior of internal stakeholders and their impact on success Beringer et al. (2013)
The impact of customer integration into PPM and its impact on success Voss (2012)
The study of senior management involvement on project termination quality and its effect on strategic fit Unger et al. (2012)
The relationship between transformational leadership and portfolio performance Kissi et al. (2013)
The influence of a single project success and performance on the efficiency of the portfolio Martinsuo & Lehtonen (2007)
The influence of the organization design on portfolio effectiveness and business success Petro & Gardiner (2015)
A study of the relationship between management quality and future preparedness Jonas et al. (2012); Rank et al. (2015)
Relationship between value as produced for or from the customer on portfolio success Voss & Kock (2013)

Table 2-15: A summary of established relationships that involve PPM effectiveness.

Attributes of PPM effectiveness and success Supporting literature
Future preparedness Petro & Gardiner (2015); Shenhar (2001)
Portfolio balance Cooper et al. (2002); Petro & Gardiner (2015)
Market share and commercial performance Shenhar et al. (2001)
Average project success Petro & Gardiner (2015); Serrador & Turner (2015)
Customer and stakeholder satisfaction Lechler & Dvir (2010); Martinsuo & Lehtonen (2007)
The use of synergies between projects Jonas et al. (2012); Meskendahl (2010)
Strategic fit with the organization Petro & Gardiner (2015); Unger et al. (2012)
Portfolio balances items of risk Killen et al. (2012)
Portfolio balances items of value Cooper et al. (2002)
Portfolio balances short- versus long-term benefits Archer & Ghasemzadeh (1999); Petro & Gardiner (2015)

Table 2-16: PPM effectiveness and success attributes.

Project portfolio management is an organization's and a PBO's dynamic capability (Davies & Brady, 2016). This is a capability that can work toward building ambidexterity in the organization as proposed in this study. This section comes after establishing the foundational results produced by the review of the literature in general, and the systematic review of the literature on ambidexterity specifically to build a relation with project portfolio management functions and its practices. Portfolio management is strategic in nature and targets the highest levels in the organization. In this section, those functions and practices of portfolio management were found to tally with what is needed to build an ambidextrous organization. The research proposes the use of portfolio management practices as an umbrella to host mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity. Such an umbrella could also work toward emphasizing the importance and the benefits of learning, communication, structural design, and selection as mechanisms in building an effective organization. This study also takes PPM practices, along with results of the literature review into the field, to prove the importance of this relationship and its effect on the overall performance and sustainability of the organization.

2.8 Summary

After introducing organizational ambidexterity and explaining it in sufficient detail, the focus of this chapter shifted to provide a systematic review of ambidexterity followed by a review on PBO and portfolio management, the structure of PBOs and their dynamic capacities, along with a review on PPM standards, practices, and their effect on the managing organization. The overall intention behind carrying out these reviews was to lay the path for this study to establish relationships between portfolio practices and organizational ambidexterity. Ambidexterity has so far been identified as a great dynamic capability to have in organizations for its direct relevance to performance, sustainability, and innovation. However, literature lacked both the comprehensive definition for this capability and the “mechanisms required … to implement and operate an ambidextrous strategy” (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008, p. 8). This study has therefore triggered the need to generate a comprehensive definition for organizational ambidexterity within the context of the project organization and the PBO to be used in this chapter as a point of departure for in this study.

Turner et al. (2013) responded to O'Reilly and Tushman's (2008) notion of mechanisms of ambidexterity by unleashing the capacity of intellectual capital (IC) resources and the benefits they bring in achieving ambidexterity. This study, however, treads a different path—instead, it generated a more detailed analysis for ambidexterity by way of a systematic review of the literature. Combining this analysis with the theory of paradox presented in this chapter, the study provides an understanding of how ambidexterity generates and resolves tensions at the various levels of the organization. This chapter has also introduced a review and a comparative analysis between mechanisms of ambidexterity and PPM practices with the intention to use PPM as an umbrella for the latest definition and the proposed mechanisms of ambidexterity. The intention here is to carry out a field investigation to test the said comparative analysis in real-world situations, and to provide further reliability for the initial research results presented in this chapter.

Chapter 3 Conceptual Framework

3.1 Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to present and explain the study's conceptual framework, which will facilitate the reader's comprehension of the subject at hand and enable the reader to build a logical sequence of the concepts or constructs explained or produced by this study. The purpose of this framework is to ease the way into the methodology chapter along with the upcoming discussions and conclusions. The conceptual framework aims to facilitate the reader's comprehension for the reasons these methods were selected in the first place, along with how they were applied in the field that generated the envisioned results. It is also imperative to understand that this framework hosts the research questions and the research problem, whether implicitly or explicitly (Maxwell, 2012). This makes the conceptual framework a point of reference to discover the reason behind a finding or a conclusion or the overarching theory of the research (Borgatti, 2016). This chapter takes the reader through the journey of building the study conceptual framework. It starts by defining what a conceptual framework is and what it consists of; it then uses a known method for building conceptual frameworks borrowed from Jabareen (2009) to build this study's framework.

This conceptual framework is constructed specifically for this study and is not drawn from other literature or other studies. This particularly adds to the soundness and relevancy, along with the reliability of the framework (Jabareen, 2009; Maxwell, 2012). The constituent components of a reliable conceptual framework could be borrowed from other reliable sources (e.g., Maxwell, 2012), which builds on the reliability of the research and the framework at hand. However, this does not imply that building conceptual frameworks out of pieces taken from reliable sources instantly improves their reliability. The researcher shall take utmost care to ascertain that the entire structure of the framework is cohesive.

This conceptual framework is a dynamic piece of work (Jabareen, 2009). This means that the development of this framework was iterative in nature and can change during the course of the study. In the case of this research, it took the author more than two years of building and rebuilding the various components of this framework until it all came together with its final shape and constituent parts, as presented in Figure 3-2 and Figure 3-4.

3.2 Features of a conceptual framework

A conceptual framework is a collection of concepts laid out in an orderly manner with the intention to help identify and direct the research subject (Borgatti, 2016). Miles and Huberman (1994, p. 18) defined a conceptual framework as a product of graphics or text to “explain, either graphically or in a narrative format, the main things to be studied—the key factors, concepts, or variables—and the presumed relationships among them.” The conceptual framework holds the tentative theory that the author intends to investigate; it does so by laying out a model of conceptions or concepts to gather information on what is out in the field that requires investigation (Maxwell, 2012).

A concept consists of components, which form part of the concept and define its existence (Deleuze & Guattari, 1991). Deleuze and Guattari (1991, p. 19) added that these “components, or what defines the consistency of the concept; its endo-consistency; are distinct, heterogeneous and, yet, not separable.” A concept therefore, and for matters of reliability, may consist of several components (Forza, 2002). It may as well consist of an irregular “contour” of components (Jabareen, 2009). In this research, the following concepts formed part of the framework: levels of the organization, dimensions of ambidexterity, generated paradox, organizational capabilities, and mechanisms to resolve paradox.

The conceptual framework holds references to ontology, epistemology, and methodology (Jabareen, 2009). Each one of those theoretical stances is held by each of the concepts or constructs, which together form the conceptual framework. An ontological stance or assumption refers to the way knowledge is being laid, or to the facts “out there,” which require collection, or the existence of reality (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). Levels of the organization, discussed as part of the conceptual framework, hold an ontological stance for the nature of their existence (i.e., they exist in reality and hence hold an ontological assumption). The epistemological stance refers to “how things really work” and “how they really are” (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p. 108). In the framework, the paradox, or tension, which is generated among and between dimensions holds an epistemology on its own. The methodological assumption refers to the means and processes used to activate the conceptual framework. In this case, the part of the conceptual framework referring to mechanisms holds a methodological assumption, and the framework may not be complete without it.

3.3 Steps of building the conceptual framework

This study draws upon earlier work by Jabareen (2009) to build the conceptual framework. Here, Jabareen (2009) proposes the use of the multidisciplinary literature as the process of theorization and to arrive at the study concepts. The grounded theory comes into play to help discover a theory from the systematic acquisition of data from the multidisciplinary literature (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss, 1987). It then applies induction techniques to generate the needed theory (Martin & Turner, 1986). The grounded theory method is part of the qualitative stream of research approaches (Jabareen, 2009). It carries process-wise induction in its methods (Orlikowski, 1993), and it builds a “context-based, process-oriented description and explanation of the phenomenon, rather than an objective, static description expressed strictly in terms of causality” (Anderson, Hallberg, & Timpka, 2003, p. 50).

This study has so far built a smooth transition to the use of grounded theory after the systematic review of the literature and the extensive collection of literature and text carried out in the previous chapter. Jabareen (2009, p. 53) identified that “texts selected for conceptual framework analysis should effectively represent the relevant social, cultural, political and environmental phenomenon or social behavior,” which case is applicable to this study's selection of text and literature. A grounded theory application for building the framework therefore comes as a natural progression in this study at this stage of research.

Jabareen's (2009) grounded theory procedure for building and analyzing conceptual frameworks is presented in Figure 3-1. The initial phase of this method calls for mapping the selected data sources. In this phase, a whole spectrum of literature is reviewed to establish validity (Morse & Mitcham, 2002). Jabareen (2009) recommended carrying out high-level interviews to enhance the validity of the research and the framework. The second phase calls for extensive reading and categorization of the selected material, which was carried out in this research using the systematic review of literature and the accompanying taxonomical analysis. The third phase involves naming concepts as concluded from the extensive reading and categorizing exercise, and the fourth phase includes deconstructing these concepts into their attributes. The fourth phase also involves assigning to each concept ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions for ease of integration into a holistic model in the fifth phase. The study concepts, their attributes, and their theoretical stances are summarized in Table 3-1.

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Figure 3-1: Process of building conceptual frameworks.

The sixth phase involves synthesizing/building and resynthesizing/rebuilding the conceptual framework while accounting for the theoretical stance of each of these concepts. The seventh and the eighth phases involve presenting this framework to others such as scholars or practitioners, receiving comments, and reconstructing the conceptual framework accordingly.

3.4 The study conceptual framework

3.4.1 Background of the framework

The framework presented in Figure 3-4 was constructed in a simple, straightforward, process-like manner, which resembles a process-like horizontal framework proposed by Simsek (2009). However, prior to discussing the proposed conceptual framework, it is important to understand the environment in which this framework will operate, the probable inputs to the organization, and its envisaged outputs. This will be done through immersing the conceptual framework in an overall high-level and holistic model or framework that includes the environment and inputs to the organization—see Figure 3-2. The proposed holistic model allows the reader to use a bird's-eye view to understand the constituents of the proposed conceptual framework, how it works, and how it is linked to the outside world.

The holistic model presented in Figure 3-2 is initially influenced by the organization's surrounding environment. Although this influence appears to be taking effect at the very start, in fact, it associates the organization and the conceptual framework throughout their entire lives. Among the characteristics of a surrounding business environment are its dynamism (Dess & Beard, 1984) and its complexity (Miller & Friesen, 1983; Dess & Beard, 1984). A dynamic environment makes the organization susceptible to continuous market changes (Teece, 2007), while complexity refers to the types of relationships within and the type of technology used (Eisenhardt & Bourgeois, 1988). The surrounding environment has an influence on the strategic orientation of the organization. The latest could contribute with varying intensities through its strategic elements (Venkatraman, 1989; Meskendahl, 2010)—that is, it could be more or less aggressive toward future market directions, take on a more analytic approach toward exogenous factors to help in decision making, or reconsider the organization's approach and its stance toward risk management.

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Table 3-1: Constituents of the study's conceptual framework.

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Figure 3-2: An overview on the conceptual framework embedded in a holistic framework.

The organization receives those external factors after converting them into new proposed strategic orientations to process them through their ambidextrous capabilities as laid out in this research. The ambidextrous capabilities of the organization represent the study's conceptual framework, the details of which are presented in Figure 3-4. The conceptual framework of the study starts with the interactions among the various levels of the organization (see Figure 3-3 and Figure 3-4). Those external factors affect the organization at its different levels depending on their type. Each level within the organization, along with the relevant dimensions of ambidexterity, starts by generating paradoxes for later resolution—refer to the comprehensive definition of ambidexterity generated through the systematic review of the literature. The generated paradoxes are to be resolved through the organizational dynamics and project capabilities along with the mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity—also refer to the comprehensive definition of ambidexterity generated through the systematic review of the literature. Those mechanisms, in turn, lead to the formation of the portfolio structure, which leads to the anticipated results per Meskendahl's (2010) model, presented in Figure 2-19 of Chapter 2.

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Figure 3-3: A holistic overview of the conceptual framework.

3.4.2 Conceptual framework

The conceptual analysis undertaken here and laid down along the lines of Jabareen's (2009) grounded theory has generated five components that were included in the conceptual framework. Each of those components can be looked at as a concept for their inclusion of various subcomponents (Jabareen, 2009). The conceptual framework presented in Figure 3-4 gathers all its components in a process-like manner and resembles the ambidextrous capabilities of the organization. In that, and in reference to the holistic model presented in Figure 3-3, those ambidextrous capabilities (the conceptual model) are subject to external influences from the dynamic environment from one end; it deciphers those and processes them within its internal “ambidextrous” processes to produce the best portfolio structure, which, in turn, produces the anticipated results (Meskendahl, 2010).

A definition for each of those concepts or components of the conceptual framework and their subcomponents, along with their proposed theoretical stance (i.e., ontological, epistemological, or methodological), is as follows:

Organizational levels: Organizational levels represent the organization's hierarchal distribution and its stance on a project-based operation. The organizational levels concept is a product of the systematic review of the literature presented in Chapter 2 of this research, where more than 700 articles with subjects on performance and ambidexterity were reviewed and analyzed. The review showed that ambidexterity can occur at various levels of the organization: the strategic level, the operations level, the projects level, and the individual level. For ambidexterity to occur in an organization, it has been posited that it should take effect in all its levels. In this light, this research is premised on the assumption that ambidexterity cannot fully occur in an organization when its strategic management, for instance, is not ambidextrous—that is, it takes on one type of strategy formulation, such as deliberate or emergent, without considering other types (Mintzberg, 1994; Chandrasekaran et al., 2012), or when individuals do not exhibit behavior that is conducive to ambidexterity (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004)—that is, they do not exhibit a balance between hard elements, such as discipline and commitment, and soft elements, such as stretch and trust (Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1994). Those organizational levels hold what is theoretically called an ontological stance, as they represent the reality of the situation in an organization. This reality shall be accounted for when taking ambidextrous capabilities into account (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).

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Figure 3-4: Conceptual framework.

Dimensions of ambidexterity: Dimensions of ambidexterity are found in an organization at each of its levels where each dimension has the capability of creating a paradox. The resolution of these paradoxes represents the dynamic and ambidextrous capabilities of the organization. It transpired from the research carried out so far, and as generated from the systematic review of the literature presented in Chapter 2, that there are four dimensions of ambidexterity. These are: 1) the knowledge dimension—this dimension differentiates between exploiting “old knowledge” and exploring “new possibilities” (March, 1991); 2) the behavior dimension—this dimension differentiates between social “hard elements,” such as discipline, and “soft elements,” such as trust (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004); 3) the technological dimension, which covers aspects of technological innovation in projects (Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009; Voss & Voss, 2013; Kortmann et al., 2014); and 4) the process dimension, which can look at the tension created between radical improvements and process control (Vits & Gelders, 2002; Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009; Pellegrinelli et al., 2015). The organization's strategic orientation, which is influenced by the external environment, would determine to what extent these dimensions have an influence or would be present. For instance, in a highly dynamic environment, a start-up company that does not have a problem with its cash resources may want to be more exploratory with its knowledge and try new things, infuse new technologies in its projects, loosen the control a bit, and depend on monetary/extrinsic motivations for employees rather than building a long-lasting trustworthy relation when the company is after some quick, short-term gains from investments (Dong-Gil et al., 2005). Similar to the concept of levels, the dimensions concept holds an ontological stance in this theory.

Generated paradox(es): The generated paradoxes envision results that have sustainable gains and long-term organizational success and performance. A successful paradox resembles a centrifugal force when, as one force tries to outwardly throw an object away from its curved path, the centrifugal force comes into play to pull this object back and balance the outward force to bring a consistent curvature movement to the object. The consistent movement of this object resembles sustainability generated in organizations when paradoxes are resolved. Smith and Lewis (2011, p. 382) define a paradox with the set of “contradictory yet interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time.” This research postulates that resolving paradoxes generated within each dimension at each level of the organization would result in better performance results and sustainability. Exploration and exploitation are the two contradictory and extreme poles presented at each of those dimensions that could generate the said paradox. The generated paradoxes refer to how things are happening in the organization and how they really work; hence, this component holds an epistemological stance in this theory and the conceptual framework (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).

Organizational capabilities: Organizational capabilities are those capabilities that allow the organization to process existing knowledge and learn new ones to enable it to grow (Chandler, 1990). These capabilities include those belonging to projects—termed project capabilities. These refer to project and operational management capabilities needed to run different tasks in the organization. The dynamic capabilities refer to those capabilities found at the strategic level of the organization, which allow it to achieve its long-term goals while satisfying the shorter-term ones through project capabilities (Davies & Brady, 2016). Those capabilities (the project and the dynamic ones) have been identified as “reciprocal, recursive and mutually reinforcing” by Davies and Brady (2016) due to their influence on both short- and long-term strategies. Project portfolio management practices have been added as a capability under this component of the conceptual framework due to their role in high-level planning and prioritization of investment, which occur at a strategic level (Morris & Jamieson, 2005; Morgan et al., 2007; Jonas, 2010; Martinsuo, 2013; Davies & Brady, 2016). Organizational capabilities have a role in resolving paradoxes generated in those dimensions within organizational levels when put through the appropriate mechanisms. Due to their methodical role in this framework, these capabilities have been afforded a methodological stance in this theory (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).

Mechanisms to resolve paradoxes: Those mechanisms represent the organization's means of converting its dynamic and project capabilities into means to achieve ambidexterity. Those mechanisms are a product of the systematic review of the literature carried out in this study. They represent strategies of resolving paradoxes generated within dimensions in organizational levels. On further investigation of the literature on project management and PBO direction, it has been found that these may find host in the practices of portfolio management and so attention was drawn to this concept through the second and third research questions. Those mechanisms of resolving the paradox were generated through the systematic review of the literature and they have components of their own: the structural/organizational design, learning mechanisms, selection/allocation mechanisms, and communication mechanisms. Similar to the organizational capabilities concept, those mechanisms have a methodological role in executing the project and the dynamic capabilities of the organization; therefore, this component of the conceptual framework was afforded a methodological stance in this theory (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).

The five components of the conceptual framework identified above and presented in Figure 3-4 collectively constitute the theory behind this research. These components have interwoven relationships, although they may be shown in a sequence-like manner. The first two components generated by the systematic review of the literature (levels and dimensions) are the framework's ontological basis and they sit at the beginning of an ambidexterity capability process. The epistemological foundation of this theory is represented by the paradox generated by each of those identified dimensions within each of the levels identified so far. In other words, the epistemological foundation of the conceptual framework is based on a generated and yet an unresolved paradox of exploration and exploitation found at each dimension. A methodological component of the conceptual framework comes into play to resolve the epistemological paradox using organizational capabilities through mechanisms of achieving ambidexterity as generated in the systematic review of the literature.

3.4.3 Research problem and questions and their relevance to the conceptual framework

The conceptual framework contains references to the research problem and the research questions, whether implicitly or explicitly (Maxwell, 2012). The problem presented in this research is the ad hoc approach to ambidexterity by organizations, an approach that embodies no structure or procedure. The research problem mainly addresses PBOs due to the rigid application of project management into the operation, whereby rigidity claims to reduce the organization flexibility and its ability to achieve ambidexterity (Hodgson & Cicmil, 2007; Lenfle & Loch, 2010; Candi et al., 2013). The conceptual framework, in this case, acts as the heart of the ambidextrous organization, which stirs and generates its ambidextrous capabilities—refer to Figure 3-3.

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Figure 3-5: Conceptual framework, research problem, and research questions.

The research questions presented in Chapter 1 can be found implicitly interwoven with the conceptual framework components—see Figure 3-5. Building the conceptual framework while explicitly showing the hypothetical location of each of those questions is not straightforward, and an explicit demarcation for each of those questions and the research problem is not exactly clear due to their interrelation with one another and with all phases and levels of an ambidexterity capability process. An indication of where each of the research questions draws on the model components for effect is presented in Figure 3-5.

The research questions discussed in Chapter 1 are repeated here for ease of reference, and an explanation of the relationship between each of those questions and the conceptual framework follows:

RQ 1: What is organizational ambidexterity and how can it be defined within the context of project-based organizations (PBOs)?

RQ 2: What is the range of mechanisms needed to support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

RQ 3: How can project portfolio management (PPM) as a process support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

The first research question addresses the heart, or the core, of what the conceptual framework is trying to represent. It holds an ontological assumption and tries to find an answer through epistemology. In this case, the first research question addresses the first three components that are relevant to the ontology and epistemology of the framework and the study—namely, the levels, the dimensions, and the paradoxes. The second research question addresses the methodology needed to resolve the epistemological position created through paradoxes; hence, it is presented in Figure 3-5, covering the last component—namely, the mechanisms of ambidexterity. The third research question investigates the type of relationship between portfolio management practices and ambidexterity. It does so, as is explained later in Chapter 4, with a combination between a qualitative study and a quantitative study (mixed-method study). This question, therefore, covers two methodological contexts: one that is represented by organizational capabilities, and the other represented by mechanisms.

The three questions presented in Figure 3-5 can be viewed as highly interwoven and they hold the conceptual framework together. A positive answer to these questions plays a significant role in proving the correctness and reliability of this framework, as well as the correctness and reliability of the proposed ambidexterity process in organizations and PBOs. Moreover, the point of intersection of the questions provides continuity in the theory and the conceptual framework, and that shall enhance the reliability of the study area and its outcomes.

3.5 Summary

This chapter has so far presented the conceptual framework that encapsulates the theory of this research. In developing the conceptual framework, a grounded methodology proposed by Jabareen (2009) was used. This grounded theory calls for identifying the various components or concepts of the conceptual framework, and determining their theoretical stance—ontological, epistemological, and methodological—in order to form and construct the framework in a reliable manner.

The conceptual framework presented in this chapter resembles the ambidextrous capabilities of the organization and the process that the organization needs to implement to achieve ambidexterity. This capability (or the conceptual framework) sits at the core of the organization and it takes the first input from an oriented strategy or the variations as received from the external dynamic environment. It then converts them into a suitable portfolio structure, which generates performance and sustainability for the organization. The conceptual framework of this study consisted of five components: the levels of the organization, the dimensions of ambidexterity, the generated paradox, the organizational capabilities, and the mechanisms of ambidexterity. The conceptual framework started with an ontological foundation by identifying the reality of levels and dimensions; it then moved to an epistemological stance, which is represented by how paradox gets generated within dimensions and levels of the organization; and it then shifted its focus through a methodological assumption that resolves this paradox by using organizational capabilities and the proposed mechanisms.

The presented conceptual framework holds reference to the research problem and the research questions. The research questions were designed in an interwoven manner that holds the components of the framework together. A positive answer to the research questions, along with an optimistic resolution for the research problem at hand, adds to the reliability of this framework and the outcomes of this study.

Chapter 4 Research Methodology

4.1 Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to explain the rationale behind the research method selected. It starts by linking the research questions to suggested steps of theory building and testing (Wallace, 1971; Handfield & Melnyk, 1998; Stuart et al., 2002); it then provides a detailed approach to the selected methodologies and explains the ontological and epistemological stances this study assumes. The chapter begins with a scientific explanation of the method used for theory building adapted from Handfield and Melnyk (1998) and Stuart et al. (2002) to help determine what position this study holds in the overall advancement of similar research. The chapter then details the methodologies selected for this research supported by the reasoning for their choice. An ethical perspective, as explained later in this chapter, is applied to the selected methodology and supports the moral conduct this research intends to uphold.

It is imperative to establish herein the differences between creating theory and viewing theory as science. A theory, when untested, remains an idea or a notion created by some researcher or scholarly body. Such a theory can easily be discredited by researchers or practitioners for its lack of proof and rigor. Science is a product of tested theories, and it concerns itself with tested models and well-observed phenomena (Handfield & Melnyk, 1998). Overall, this chapter articulates the methodologies employed to convert theories into scientific knowledge.

Reynolds (1971) identified scientific knowledge as a method or a tool that facilitates: 1) organizing and categorizing (a typology), 2) predicting future events, 3) explaining past events, 4) understanding the causes of events, and 5) controlling events. This study adds to the scientific knowledge for the following reasons:

its objectives promote organizing and categorizing the antecedents of ambidexterity and linking those to PPM practices;

those objectives provide a way to predict future events;

it explains what has happened in earlier research;

it sets a methodology for understanding ambidexterity through the lens of PPM; and

it provides means for potential control of events in the future.

4.2 Theory-building process

This section provides an explanation on a generally accepted process of theory building created by Wallace (1971) and adopted by Handfield and Melnyk (1998). Wallace's (1971) process of theory building consists of five steps and is based on three logical pillars that cover observation, induction, and deduction. As observed in Figure 4-1, which represents Wallace's process of theory building, the first step for theory building is observation (i.e., observing the status quo, which induces the researcher to think of and create a theory). Observation is converted into empirical generalization via the use of measurements, sample summarization, and parameters, while empirical generalization is “an isolated proposition summarizing observed uniformities of relationships between two or more variables” (Merton, 1957, p. 95). By forming concepts and propositions out of empirical generalizations, theories can be inducted. The logical deduction of theories converts them into hypotheses, which can be tested for their conformity with newly created knowledge. Hypotheses, in turn, can regenerate observations via the use of interpretation, instrumentation, scaling, and sampling.

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Figure 4-1: The scientific theory-building process (source: Handfield & Melnyk, 1998).

The above-mentioned brief on Wallace's (1971) theory-building process does not have to follow a timely or process-like pattern. Those steps shown in Figure 4-1 do not have to be followed in an orderly manner. Scholars will have to carry out sufficient research on their studied (or to be studied) research subjects to determine what has been accomplished so far for them to determine which step their research would best fit into (Meredith, 1993, 1998; Schmenner & Swink, 1998; Wacker, 1998, 2008). It is implied here that each step of Wallace's (1971) theory-building process would entail a different approach to research and method of testing. This chapter carries out this analysis and walks the reader through the means that led to selecting the methodologies that this research has employed.

4.2.1 Observations and empirical generalization

Observation is the beginning of any theory-building exercise, as it involves the initial awareness that a certain phenomenon exists and hence warrants investigation (Wacker, 2004, 2008; Corley & Gioia, 2011). When “things” that might be relevant to a certain phenomenon are observed, Handfield and Melnyk (1998) advise the use of discovery and description techniques to either expand on the knowledge underpinning them or to draw a portrait that describes the relevant phenomenon that generated them in the first place. Description in this case would lead to either the production of taxonomies—which deals with sorting data into categories, or typologies—which bring to the surface the most important aspects those observed phenomena contain (Colquitt & Zapata, 2007). Handfield and Melnyk (1998), in this case, recommend the use of an in-depth case study as the basis of the relevant research structure with interviews and observations used as data-collection techniques.

Taking the organizational ambidexterity research as an example, the overall concept and terminology of organizational ambidexterity all started with Duncan's (1976) observations of dual structures in organizations. March (1991) carried these observations forward to study the phenomena attached to ambidexterity; he then observed the effect of allocating resources and organizational learning that occurs to help achieve a flexible, yet responsive structure. In his research, March (1991, p. 85) concluded with an observation of his own—that “learning, analysis, imitation, regeneration, and technological change are major components of any effort to improve organizational performance and strengthen competitive advantage.” The argument that March (1991) tried to conclude from this observation was that environmental changes could influence the trade-off exercise of interdepartmental resources allocation.

Empirical generalization takes observatory data one step further and preps the data for conversion into theory. While empirical generalization is taken to represent the summary of “observed uniformities” (Merton, 1957, p. 95), theory building requires a more formalized type of relationship that goes beyond a mere summary toward relationship building. Empirical generalizations start off with discovering and describing observations—this could lead to creating taxonomies or typologies, after which a pattern from these observations can be used for mapping the important factors emerging from these patterns.

For example, Teece's (2007) observations on “enterprises with strong dynamic capabilities” were empirically generalized to create taxonomies that were used by other scholars, such as O'Reilly and Tushman (2008), to create theories. Teece (2007) concluded with three departmental taxonomies: 1) sensing, which refers to the organizational capability of sensing threats or opportunities; 2) seizing, which refers to the organizational capability represented by timely decision making in order to seize an opportunity; and 3) reconfiguring, which refers to the organizational capability to reallocate resources to create a new structure in a timely manner in order to make the best of any identified threat or opportunity. A question that could be posed at this point of research on Teece's (2007) concluded taxonomies is: “Why?” The answer to this question could lead to building theories.

Similarly, on empirical generalizations, in their study on exploitation and exploration tensions in organizations, Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009) selected five case studies based on an empirical generalization. Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009) adopted observations by Hargadon and Bechky (2006) and Hargadon and Fanelli (2002) on new product design (NPD) consultants being innovative to generalize on the possibility for them to be ambidextrous. In their generalization, Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009, p. 698) claimed that NPD consultants are, in fact, “innovation-intensive settings, demanding that [these firms should] excel at both exploitation and exploration.” So, a similar question to the one imposed by Teece's (2007) generalization of taxonomies is “Why?” Why do NPD consultants excel in innovation and have the tendency to become ambidextrous? The answers to this question and the preceding one can lead to building a theoretical perspective for the study.

4.2.2 Building theories and hypotheses

Proposing links and conceptualizing relationships between variables and items of empirical generalizations can lead to creating theories (Meredith, 1993; Corley & Gioia, 2011). In this case, empirical generalizations would act as the point of departure (Wallace, 1971). Theories in this case would answer both how and why questions (Meredith, 1998; Schmenner & Swink, 1998). The “how” part of the theory is addressed by the relationship that the theory tries to establish, and the “why” part is addressed by the reasons these relationships were proposed in the first place (Wacker, 1998). In establishing the theory and answering these questions, a reference may be made to observable and nonobservable constructs (Meredith, 1993; Schmenner & Swink, 1998). In some instances, nonobservable constructs that are explicit in empirical generalizations may be relegated “into an implicit status in the theory” (Handfield & Melnyk, 1998, p. 328) to help prove the theory or rebuild it.

For example, in their seminal research on dynamic capabilities of organizations, O'Reilly and Tushman (2008) took on the taxonomies created by Teece (2007) to come up with theories they identified as propositions. O'Reilly and Tushman (2008) mapped out five propositions as a bid to generalize a best fit for creating an environment conducive to ambidexterity. In their first proposition, they attempted to establish a relationship between strategic intent and ambidexterity. The second proposition links the organization's vision with ambidexterity. The third one links the leadership team's consensus on strategy and extensive communication with ambidexterity. The fourth tries to establish a general link between the organizational architecture represented by the business model and ambidexterity. The fifth proposition links the senior leadership's ability to resolve conflict with ambidexterity. O'Reilly and Tushman's (2008) propositions remain untested; hence, they cannot be generalized or turned into scientific knowledge.

Up to this point, an explanation of how to create theories has been given; what remains is testing the theory. An initial test for theories starts off by conducting an internal comparison to make sure that the theory is internally consistent (Handfield & Melnyk, 1998). In this instance, part of the theory is compared with other parts of the research or the theory to confirm its internal consistency (Schmenner & Swink, 1998; Wacker, 1998). Likewise, an external consistency methodology can be applied to ascertain that the theory does not include bold theoretical jumps in the academic literature with insufficient justifications (Meredith, 1993, 1998; Schmenner & Swink, 1998; Wacker, 1998, 2008). However, the true test for theory remains in deducting and testing hypotheses (Wallace, 1971; Ketchen & Hult, 2007). In reference to some of the example theories (or propositions) laid out above, if a need arises to test them, a careful selection must be applied to those to convert them and put them into a mathematically or empirically testable format (Will, Bertrand, & Fransoo, 2002; Colquitt & Zapata-Phelan, 2007). Handfied and Melnyk (1998, p. 331) advised researchers to “involve an explicit translation of concepts into measures.” In this case, constructs—which cannot be observed directly—are created using a collection of observable measures, such as variables for the purpose of creating/deducting the hypothesis from theory (Colquitt & Zapata-Phelan, 2007).

For example, He and Wong (2004) theorized and then were able to establish (prove) a relationship between ambidexterity and performance. Their study laid out three hypotheses that addressed their theory. In their first hypothesis, He and Wong (2004, p. 484) claimed that “there is a positive interaction effect between explorative and exploitative innovation strategies on firm performance.” They also claimed that “the relative imbalance between explorative and exploitative innovation strategies is negatively related to firm performance.” In their last hypothesis, they claimed that “ambidextrous firms exhibit smaller intragroup variation in performance, relative to the mean values of performance, than firms that specialize in explorative innovation strategies” (He & Wong, 2004, p. 484). All these hypotheses were deduced from the theory of organizational ambidexterity and performance. They then tested the hypotheses via a quantitative method using a survey distributed to the CEOs of 1,872 firms in Singapore and 950 manufacturing firms in Penang. Two (nonobservable) constructs were developed—exploitative innovation strategy and explorative innovation strategy—via collating observable variables and establishing a proper internal consistency among them. Using these constructs and the testing methodologies, He and Wong (2004) were able to prove their theory.

4.2.3 Logical deduction versus induction

The left side of Wallace's (1971) model shown in Figure 4-1 represents theory induction. Theory, in this case, is induced from observations that take place upon stumbling on new knowledge (Barret et al., 2011). The right side of the model represents theory deduction. Theory, in this case, is deduced from established models, which could have been established through induction (Chen & Paulraj, 2004; Corley & Gioia, 2011). Each of these logics (induction and deduction) requires a certain approach and methodology for testing to carry out the research (Corley & Gioia, 2011). It has been generally accepted that deductive logic is linked to a post-positivist stance, which generally implies a quantitative approach in testing theory (Wacker, 1998; Ritchie, Lewis, Nicholis, & Ormston, 2013; Bryman, 1995; Sekaran, 2000). Similarly, it has been accepted that induction follows from a qualitative approach (Meredith, 1993, 1998; Schmenner & Swink, 1998; Wacker, 1998). Induction is usually used when insufficient knowledge is available to build a theory, which is when subjectivism through a qualitative approach could become useful (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007).

Taking the above discussion on research type and research type selection, Table 4-1 summarizes this discussion and provides examples on the types of research questions that could trigger any of the research steps (or vice versa), along with an example of a research structure and methodology per each proposed research step and research question. The following section shows how this study has linked each of its research questions to those steps of research shown in Table 4-1 and Figure 4-1 to conclude with an appropriate research methodology.

Research step Purpose Research question Research structure (methodology)
Observation Discovery: Uncover areas for research and theory development What is going on?
Is it interesting enough to research?
In-depth case study (unfocused) Longitudinal case study
Observation Description: Explore territory What is there?
What are the key issues?
What is happening?
In-depth case study (unfocused) Longitudinal case study
Empirical generalization Mapping: Identify and describe critical variables What are the key variables?
What are the key themes, patterns, or categories?
Focused case studies
In-depth field studies
Multisite case studies
Best-in-class cases
Theories Relationship building: Identify linkages among variables, causal understanding What are the patterns that link the variables?
Can an order in the relationships be identified?
Why do these relationships exist?
Focused case studies
In-depth field studies
Multisite case studies
Best-in-class cases
Hypotheses testing Theory validation: Test the developed theories, predict future outcomes Are the theories robust?
Are predictive capabilities validated?
Are there unexpected behaviors?
Experiment
Quasi-experiments
Large-scale sample of population
Refutation case study
Logical deduction Theory extension/refinement: Expand the map of the theory, better structure the theories in light of observed results How widely applicable/generalizable are the developed theories?
Where do the theories apply?
What are the constraints?
Quasi-experiment Large-scale sample of population Contextual case studies

Table 4-1: Theory building (source: Handfield & Melnyk, 1998; Stuart et al., 2002).

4.3 Research methodology

4.3.1 Methods of research

Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2007) defined research methodology as the “theory of how the research should be undertaken.” There are two means of carrying out a research study; one is quantitative, which relies much on deduction (Ritchie et al., 2013), and the other one is qualitative, which is based on theory induction in most cases (Wacker, 1998; Ritchie et al., 2013). Quantitative methods for conducting research use mostly objective means for data collection and analysis (Wacker, 1998, 2004, 2008). An example of this approach includes data collection by way of distributing questionnaires and conducting descriptive and inferential statistics on the collected data. Qualitative methods, on the other hand, calls for subjectivism in laying out the basis of theory. This method uses instruments such as interviews and case study analysis (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2003; Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007; Ritchie et al., 2013).

Moreover, this research applies multimethodological approaches (MMA) by way of triangulating qualitative and quantitative research results to address complex areas of this study (Flynn, Sakakibara, Schroeder, Bates, & Flynn, 1990; Jack & Raturi, 2006; Choi, Cheng, & Zhao, 2016). The rationale behind going with this direction is to enhance the reliability of the study outcomes and to arrive at convergence in the study conclusions.

The research approach proposed by Handfield and Melnyk (1998) and Stuart et al. (2002) and the map presented in Figure 4-1 were used to conclude what methods need to be applied to answer the research questions. The research questions suggested at the initial chapters are repeated here for ease of reference:

RQ 1: What is organizational ambidexterity and how can it be defined within the context of project-based organizations (PBOs)?

RQ 2: What is the range of mechanisms needed to support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

RQ 3: How can project portfolio management (PPM) as a process support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

The first research question is linked to the core subject of this study. It explains organizational ambidexterity within the context of project-based organizations. This question is of an explanatory nature and requires an understanding of organizations’ interactions with their surroundings. It also requires building up a definitive and a comprehensive definition for ambidexterity. This definition is used throughout this research as the foundation for creating the knowledge that this research intends to achieve. Therefore, it was found to be most appropriate to study and analyze the literature on ambidexterity to understand the different approaches to it, and against this background, a systematic literature review was conducted. The intention of the review was to build a theoretical foundation for this research, build a conceptual framework, and facilitate answers to the remaining research questions.

The second research question goes a level beyond the first research question and builds on it by investigating the mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity. Although the answer to the first question generated an initial definition and identification for those mechanisms, the second question does so in much more depth using data collected from the field. This question was addressed by conducting interviews with various firms and drawing conclusions on those mechanisms from analyzing the collected data. In reference to Figure 4-1 and Table 4-1, this question falls between empirical generalizations and theory building, in which case variables are inducted from the explanatory study, along with the comprehensive definition of ambidexterity as generated from the output of the first research question.

The third research question investigates the relationship between portfolio management practices and ambidexterity. The answer to this question is provided in a twofold manner. First, it uses the mechanisms of ambidexterity as a vehicle to answer the question; it uses part of the qualitative/interview data analysis for that. In this part, along with the assistance of the analyzed data collected during the interview process attached to the second research question, the third research question assesses the relationship between portfolio management practices and the mechanisms of ambidexterity. Ambidexterity may be viewed and understood differently in different organizations, so this could be the case with the application of PPM practices (Blichfeldt & Eskerod, 2008; Raisch et al., 2009). Next, its second part takes the generated relationship between portfolio practices and ambidexterity into a quantitative analysis in order to add more generalizability to the research outcomes. This part carries more specificity compared to the first part of the answer and to the rest of the research questions. It therefore passes the point of empirical generalizations and starts with deducting the research theory—see Figure 4-2. The quantitative part was carried out with the use of a survey questionnaire distributed over a relatively representative and large sample (Will et al., 2002).

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Figure 4-2: Development of the research methodology.

Table 4-2 depicts the methodologies used to answer each of the research questions and summarizes all of the above.

Moving from research methodology to the methods proposed for carrying out the investigations, the coming sections specify relevant and specific qualitative and quantitative research approaches used to answer the research questions. More details on these methods are provided, and the specifications of the research instrument are also explained.

Research question Selected approach Rationale behind selected approach
RQ 1 Systematic review of the relevant literature This question requires an explanatory analysis and a building of theory in order to set up the foundation of the research.
RQ 2 Qualitative study This question requires an in-depth analysis of cases to determine organizational approach to ambidexterity.
RQ 3 Qualitative study
Quantitative study
The first part requires an in-depth analysis and understanding of the link between portfolio management and ambidexterity.
The second part requires enhancing reliability of the first part, increase its generalizability, and answer the question with more specificity.

Table 4-2: Approach to research questions.

4.3.2 Qualitative approach—Multicase study

A multicase study method is used to answer the second research question and part of the third research question as discussed in the previous section. This type of research approach allows a detailed investigation into the various types, patterns, and contexts of complex organizational and industrial systems (Sekaran, 2000; Bryman & Bell, 2003; Yin, 2003). Case study research allows for a detailed analysis and understanding within each case (Eisenhardt, 1989, 1991; Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007; Yin, 2003), which is necessary in this research and at this stage of analysis to provide the ability to investigate probable types or relationships (McCutcheon & Meredith, 1993, 1998; Stuart et al., 2002; Voss, Tsikriktsis, & Frohlich, 2002; Barratt et al., 2011; Ketokivi & Choi, 2014). Twelve firms were selected for the qualitative study to form part of the multicase study analysis, which is the minimum indicative number, as indicated in Sandberg (2000), required to achieve saturation. All of the selected 12 firms operate in the Middle East, and this makes the study more regional rather than focused in a single country. One top management team (TMT) staff member per each of the 12 firms was interviewed (discussed later in Chapter 5).

The selection of a multiple case study design was favored over a single case study design, as it provided the ability to produce more compelling results, along with the ability to pursue more than one pattern in the study (Eisenhardt, 1989; Handfield & Melnyk, 1998; Yin, 2003; Barratt et al., 2011; Ketokivi & Choi, 2014). The case study firms were selected taking into account various levels of ambidexterity, with success and failure cases presented as much as possible to create a polarized selection (Pettigrew, 1988). This selection criterion may in essence be controversial, since the research outcomes were yet to be produced during the selection process, which makes determining the degree of ambidexterity for each case study firm prior to the interview process unachievable. Therefore, in combination with this selection, an initial interview was conducted with each firm's representative to understand what the firm does and whether it fits into this study.

This research approach intends to break down those case study organizations into their constituent organizational structures, scope, contexts, and any other characteristics that may be governed by the organization or the industry (Yin, 2003; Ketokivi & Choi, 2014). Along with that, the project portfolio management practiced by these organizations was investigated. It is envisaged that each matching couple of constituents or relationship with a practice or an approach across two or more cases would form a type, a theme, or a relationship—a case of cross-case analysis (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2003; Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). The produced theme(s) was used to determine the appropriate contextual factors of ambidexterity or help validate a construct.

This research follows Eisenhardt's (1989) road map of explanatory case study research and analysis in building and confirming theory from case study analysis, supported by the work of Barratt et al. (2011). The suggested road map starts with case selection, then data collection by way of conducting interviews, review of publicly available documents or information, analysis, and finally the conclusion (Eisenhardt, 1989). The interviews were structured following a carefully designed semi-structured questionnaire—see Appendix A. During the data collection and interview process, all publicly available documents that reveal details on project management procedures, operations protocols, and organization charts for the case study organizations were inspected. Next, an interview with the founder, the managing director, or the CEO of each of the case study firms was conducted. It has been assumed that an interview conducted with this level of seniority can provide better information on those investigated organizations, as this selected level should carry enough influence and knowledge of the organization and can drive the behavioral context for its employees. One interview per selected organization was conducted.

This research was carried out in knowledge intensive firms (KIFs) where large amounts of knowledge are manipulated on a daily basis and technical functions constitute the core elements of these firms (Robertson & Swan, 2003; Oehmichen, Heyden, Georgakakis, & Volberda, 2016). It also sought firms with few similarities in their operation, but not necessarily between their final deliverables/products or functions. These similarities helped in setting comparisons between cases and facilitated identifying replications with enough heterogeneity for the needed generalizability. All selected firms are based in the Middle East. Some may be headquartered in the United States or Europe; however, it is safely assumed that they follow local rules and regulations and are affected by the local external environment of the Middle East. Table 5-1 in Chapter 5 provides an overview of those selected firms. Also, Chapter 5 provides more details on the qualitative data collection and analysis.

4.3.3 Quantitative approach

4.3.3.1 The field survey

This approach resonates with a post-positivist logic and represents quantitative means for collecting and analyzing data. Researchers use the survey approach to carry out one of the following: an exploratory survey research, which mostly occurs at the early stages of researching a phenomenon to get an initial conceptualization of theory; a confirmatory survey research, which follows from established theories, frameworks or propositions, and hypotheses; or a descriptive survey research, which aims at describing or generalizing a certain phenomenon into a particular population (Pinsonneault & Kraemer, 1993; Filippini, 1997; Malhotra & Grover, 1998; Forza, 2002). It is therefore the intention of this research to carry out a confirmatory type of survey research while assuming that the answers to the second research question and part of the third question as discussed previously shall provide some clarity on the theory and constructs in hand. In such a case, Forza (2002, p. 155) suggested carrying out a confirmatory survey approach, which aims at “testing the adequacy of concepts developed in relation to the phenomenon of hypothesized linkages among the concepts, and of the validity boundary of the models.”

A quantitative approach with a confirmatory type of survey should start with a theoretical framework that could be used as a guideline to establish units of analysis, build a questionnaire, and collect and analyze data (Forza, 2002). Defining a unit of analysis in the quantitative approach is critical and marks the very start of any such study. It should go hand in hand with defining the level of reference (Dansereau & Markham, 1997), lest a case of “ecological fallacy” should emerge out of the study (Babbie, 1990). The level of reference, in this case, was the firm or the organization. The unit of analysis sat at the operations level (Flynn et al., 1990). Choosing individuals as units of analysis, such as measuring their satisfaction or the like, may not match with the selected level of reference, thus resulting in error or misconception during analysis (Babbie, 1990).

Defining the units of analysis leads to the production of the study constructs and variables. Hanfield and Melynk (1998, p. 321) view constructs as “approximated units, which by their very nature cannot be observed directly,” while they view variables as units that can be observed and empirically operationalized, which can then be used to define or measure constructs. It is, however, important to note that reducing constructs to easily measured variables may lead to misrepresentation of the relevant constructs; this is where the role of reliability measures comes into play, with the use of reliability tests, or the renowned Cronbach's alpha (Forza, 2002).

Analyzing collected data quantitatively can be carried out in several ways. To start with, Forza (2002) suggests carrying out a preliminary descriptive analysis; this analysis provides the frequencies that could lead to general statistical and empirical understanding of the basic elements of the research. Preliminary analysis could include testing frequencies, central tendencies, means, measures of dispersion, and measures of shape. Inferential statistical analysis, on the other hand, would normally follow from a successful completion of preliminary descriptive analysis. Inferential analysis moves the research analysis from an empirical level to a theoretical domain and is a step toward generalizations (Forza, 2002). Inferential statistics takes into account the sample size, the statistical power, and the significance level the researcher wishes to reflect in the case. Table 4-3 provides examples of some of the inferential statistical tests considered in this study.

Test When used Function
Pearson correlation With interval and ratio data Test hypothesis that infers significant positive (negative) relationships between two variables
Analysis of variance (ANOVA) With interval and ratio data To see whether there are any significant mean differences among more than two groups. To see where the difference lies
Factor analysis When the researcher wishes to reduce the number of variables to manage or to find out the underlying factors To analyze interrelationships among a large number of variables and to explain these variables in terms of their common underlying dimensions (factors)
Multiple regression With a single metric dependent variable presumed to be related to one or more metric To predict the changes in the dependent variable in response to changes in the several independent variables
Multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA) Useful when the researcher designs an experimental situation (manipulation of several nonmetric treatment variables) to test hypotheses concerning the variance in group response on two or more metric-dependent variables To simultaneously explore the relationship between several categorical independent variables (usually referred to as treatments) and two or more dependent metric variables

Table 4-3: Research parametric tests and multivariate analysis methods (source: Forza, 2002).

Determining the sample size for quantitative studies is a complex matter. Size is critical to research outcomes due to its effect on the level of significance, the statistical power, and the size of the research (Forza, 2002). This research therefore uses previous study conclusions and known methodologies used in the field of social sciences to determine what makes an appropriate sample size for this research (Verma & Goodale, 1995; Forza, 2002).

The level of significance is directly related to what is statistically called Type I error. Type I error represents the probability that research results will reject a hypothesis even though it is true. The level of significance assumed in social sciences could be taken as either “0.001” or “0.05,” depending on how nuanced what the researcher tries to prove is. In this research, and for the sake of determining sample size, the level of significance was taken as “0.05.” The statistical power, on the other hand, is inversely related to the probability of making what is statistically called Type II error. Type II error represents the probability of approving (i.e., not rejecting) a hypothesis while its alternative hypothesis is true. Hence, a high value of a statistical power for a research reduces the probability of making a Type II error. The social sciences use the value of “0.8” to represent statistical power that can produce realistic research results (Verma & Goodale, 1995; Forza, 2002). The size effect of the research represents the difference in the means for two samples or the correlation values for two variables. A medium-size effect is assumed to produce acceptable results for this type of research.

A balance between the three above-mentioned factors is important, as the researcher would not want to commit a Type I error on the account of a Type II error, or vice versa, while accounting for a wrong size effect. Researching a relatively large sample without taking the above effects into consideration commits a large pool of resources and tremendous effort just to measure a few trivial varying effects that can be removed by slightly adjusting the significance level (Forza, 2002). At the same time, researching a fairly small sample may not produce enough statistical power, which would prevent the research from being sufficiently reliable (Verma & Goodale, 1995; Forza, 2002). Table 4-4 acts as an initial guidance for selecting the research sample size. Applying this table to the study at hand, taking into account a fairly medium-size effect with both acceptable values of significance and statistical power of 0.001 and 0.8, respectively, produces an initial sample size of 62. This quantitative research, however, collected responses from 160 participants, which exceeds the minimum required sample size indicated here.

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Table 4-4: Effect size and statistical power and sample size (source: Forza, 2002).

4.3.3.2 The quantitative method

The quantitative research started with a model, as explained in Chapter 5. This model gathers elements from project portfolio management and organizational ambidexterity. The quantitative research model was built on Gibson and Birkinshaw's (2004) conceptualization of organizational ambidexterity as a mediator to organizational performance. In this, PPM effectiveness and its effective application in organizations was operationalized to represent PPM practices to influence organizational ambidexterity and build on it. These relationships are depicted in Figure 5-3 of Chapter 5. A survey questionnaire was created to study the above model and was distributed to various organizations, explained later in Chapter 5. The constituents/constructs of the questionnaire can be found in Appendix D, while the questionnaire is presented in Appendix E.

The population of this research covered mainly those of the project-based organizations (PBOs). Data for the quantitative survey were collected from 160 survey participants. Those responses were collected from several sources, such as organizations that operate in project-based and dynamic environments, the official Project Management Institute (PMI) website (PMI.org), master's degree students, and professional websites such as LinkedIn. All survey participants were approached through an introductory letter or an email introducing the research and specifying the type of audience needed to fill out the survey. A filter was also added to the survey to filter out data that did not comply with the specified requirements.

Moreover, three hypotheses were created in the quantitative part as protrusions from the third research question. These hypotheses are presented in Chapter 5, Section 5.3.4.2. Constructs and variables were operationalized and set to test these hypotheses as explained in further detail in Chapter 5. Control measures were set through industry and size variables.

4.3.4 Sample selection

The previous sections provided means for selecting the sample sizes for the qualitative and the quantitative streams. The qualitative study followed Sandberg's (2000) recommendations and selected 12 firms to conduct interviews with, and the quantitative study collected 160 responses, as will be discussed in Chapter 5 (Verma & Goodale, 1995; Forza, 2002). This section concerns setting the selection criteria to be used to add firms to the pool of qualitative and quantitative study surveys. Taken from the theme of this research, the organizations for the case study firms were selected as project-based in nature. An investigation was carried out on the selected organizations prior to approaching them to ensure that the set of criteria was fulfilled. A qualification statement was added at the start of the survey or made clear during interview sessions to filter out those organizations that do not meet these particular criteria.

The research endeavored to select organizations with various levels of ambidexterity and performance using a polarized form of case study selection that could allow a correlation and regression to take effect (Pettigrew, 1988; Field, 2009). The environment within which those selected organizations operate was selected to be both complex and dynamic in order to trigger the need for ambidexterity (Miller & Friesen, 1983; Dess & Beard, 1984; Teece, 2007). Such an environment can be found in the following industries: engineering, IT, banking, pharmaceutical/medical, and knowledge intensive firms (KIFs) (Robertson & Swan, 2003; Oehmichen et al., 2016). It was also preferable for those organizations to have a decent number of employees to allow a hierarchy to be observed (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). However, organizations of various sizes were added to the selection criteria in order to test the sensitivity of those relationships under investigation with the size of each of the tested organizations. Table 4-5 provides a brief summary of the study selection criteria.

Category Selection criteria Reference/requirements
Sector Private or public Mercer (1991); Boyne (2002); Van der Wal et al. (2008)
Performance/ambidexterity Polar type Pettigrew (1988)
Processes Project or portfolio management PMI; Meskendahl (2010)
Environment Complex and/or dynamic Mercer (1991); Boyne (2002); Van der Wal et al. (2008); Simsek (2009)
Industry and size Engineering, IT, medical, KIF, others of all sizes Author; Robertson & Swan (2003); Oehmichen et al. (2016)

Table 4-5: Sample selection criteria.

4.4 Theoretical perspective

4.4.1 Purpose

This section describes the ontological stance and the epistemological context that the research has adopted in order to come up with the conclusions of this study (Ritchie et al. 2013). It then discusses the adopted theoretical perspective(s) as described through the relevant organization theories listed in Hatch and Cunliffe (2013)—also see Walker, Chicksand, Radnor, and Watson (2005).

4.4.2 Theoretical stance

An ontological stance describes the research position in relevance to social reality and lays out a comprehension of what is “out there” in the world that the research is trying to find (Ritchie et al., 2013). The research epistemological context deals with methods of know-how, means of how such information shall be comprehended, and how the outside world could be constructed (Ritchie et al., 2013). Research ontology concerns itself with the relationship that exists between the social reality and the conception of this reality in the human mind (Marsh & Furlong, 2002). Two general ontological positions can be found in constructing research. The first of these is idealism, which assumes that reality is linked to the human mind and their conception of it—in other words, humans’ understanding of reality is an ideal description and construction of this reality, and without this conception, reality does not exist (Gerring, 2001). Realism, on the other hand, assumes that the external reality of the world exists independently of the human conception of it (Blaikie, 2007)—in other words, humans’ understanding of the outside world has no contribution in building reality and it can only be observed without having the ability to alter it (Danermark, Ekström, Jakobsenand, & Karlsson, 2001). In this research, it is assumed that the industrial context within which the organizations operate gives rise to events that social actors have no control over. These events are not linked to how employees or any such social actors comprehend them. In other words, social actors do not build this reality; they merely observe what is going on and strive to put it to best use. This research asserts that PPM consists of a set of processes that have been set in place over the years and were a product of trial and error during their application within various organizational and industrial contexts (Martinsuo, 2013). Similarly, organizational ambidexterity can be viewed as a state that may have its own specifications that need to be applied to convert an organization into an ambidextrous one (March, 1991). While this research tries to apply PPM to achieve this state for the organization, portfolio management processes and practices can therefore be viewed from an idealistic stance, as ideally social actors can alter these processes to their benefit. However, the combination of ambidexterity as a state, along with those established portfolio management processes and practices, places social actors in a viewer's position that allows them to observe what is best for ambidexterity out of these practices. A cautious realism—rather than an idealistic stance—as described by Blaikie (2007) and Ritchie et al. (2013), has been taken as the ontological stance for this research. Such a stance approaches the above reality rather cautiously by assuming that such reality can be measured approximately rather than accurately (Danermark et al., 2001). This research adopts this stance due to a probable connection with idealism in defining portfolio management practices (Ritchie et al., 2013).

Epistemology concerns itself with how the above conceptions of reality can be measured or comprehended (Ritchie et al., 2013). An inductive approach concerns itself with inducting theory from observations or generalizations (Gerring, 2001), which is the approach used to answer the second research question with the aid of multisite case study analysis. The inductive approach represented by the multicase analysis gauges the social actors’ comprehension of their surroundings and tries to build a common theme or a pattern from the output of this analysis (Gerring, 2001). The inductive approach votes positivism, which, as described by Ritchie et al. (2013), suggests that “all knowledge about the word [is] originate[d] in our experiences and is derived through [our] senses.” This is the knowledge that the case study analysis seeks to collect. A deductive approach is another epistemological logic that concerns itself with a top-down approach (Golafshani, 2003). It starts with the knowledge or experience in mind and ends up by testing the theory that is the product of observing this knowledge or experience. Post-positivism is the approach that accompanies deduction and is the logic assumed in partly answering the third research question. Application of a positivist logic on its own has been viewed as fluid and subject to the experiences of the social actors (Ritchie et al., 2013). A post-positivism approach comes into play to close the loop on this research and provide an objective measure to some of the conclusions this research is trying to reach.

In light of the above explanation of the various research approaches and their link to the purpose of this research, it can be observed that this research takes on a realistic ontological stance. Such a stance assumes that the organization and the overall industry give rise to events that are experienced by the social actors of the organization and its network. The research takes a cautiously realistic stance as a declaration of an approximated measure of events and leaves some room for idealism upon defining the process side of management (Danermark et al., 2001). This research therefore applies two consecutive types of logic in obtaining the knowledge needed for the study. The research starts with a positivist inductive logic, which assumes a qualitative research approach and uses a multicase study analysis. It then shifts to post-positivism with the aid of deduction and with the use of a quantitative multi-site survey data collection and analysis.

4.4.3 Theoretical perspective

This research aims to build an understanding of how ambidexterity can be achieved in project-based organizations (PBOs). Based on this, the research uses Hatch and Cunliffe's (2013) definition of and approach to organizational theoretical perspectives to support and reveal these relationships. All such perspectives are applied in the disciplines of project management and PPM.

Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) discussed three organizational theoretical perspectives in their study—the modern, the symbolic, and the postmodern perspectives. Each perspective represents its own means for viewing and testing reality, and each has its own approach to theory building. After careful consideration of all these perspectives and their relation to the research at hand, it was decided to use a perspective that represents a careful merger between the modern and the postmodern perspectives. An explanation of each of the perspectives is presented in the rest of this section in a way that leads to the conclusion of this merger.

The modern perspective views organizations as objects and promotes objectivism in testing and analyzing them (Whetten, 1989). A modern perspective assumes that the environment in which the organization is embedded gives rise to events that cannot be controlled by social actors. Social actors (i.e., employees of the organization or its stakeholders) have no control over these events; hence, their best action is to try to get the most out of these events by exploiting them for the betterment of the organization. This denotes a contingency approach to understanding and describing the act of organizing—the contingency approach is a subset to the modernist perspective (Woodward, 1965; Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967). The modernist perspective focuses on explaining events and the causes and consequences that these events could bring about in the organization. This perspective agrees with a quantitative approach to testing theory; it views correlations between elements and the inspection of causal relationships as prerequisites for adopting this perspective. This perspective agrees with an objective ontology and makes no allowance for subjectivity or feelings that could interfere in the analysis or the explanation of events. It could also adopt positivist and post-positivist epistemological assumptions in discovering theory.

The postmodern perspective combines the explanatory means of objectivism with subjectivity. The epistemological assumption behind the postmodern perspective is that of postmodernism. A postmodernist approach takes on the modernist bias toward objectivity and infuses within it the need for subjectivity (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013). This approach views reality as something that cannot be measured with a pure objective stance, since some understanding of what cognitive reasoning social actors have can affect the construction of theory (Parker, 1992; Boje, 1995). Postmodernists invite the use of language and discourse into the understanding of organizational theory. This approach renders reality as “constantly shifting” and knowledge as “provisional” (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013).

The symbolic perspective promotes subjectivity in understanding and in analysis (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013). It gets its name from symbols, which constitute emblems that depict what the internal workings of the organization and the social actors’ minds could be. It supports cultural understandings along with the cultural and social relevance to organizational matters. In contrast to the modernist perspective, the symbolic perspective views social actors as part of the organization. These actors would have an effect on the way systems and structures are being constructed. This perspective agrees with a subjective ontology and has no allowance for objectivity. It emphasizes, for instance, that “culture would be unobservable if not for our capacity to experience [it] and communicate [it]” (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013, p. 11).

Based on the presented definitions for each of the perspectives, the author has decided to adopt a unique theoretical perspective to define the underpinning theory. This perspective represents a careful merger of the modern perspective and the postmodern organizational perspective proposed by Hatch and Cunliffe (2013). This merger suggests the application of a mixed-method research design in defining and proving theory (Modell, 2005; Denzin, 2012). A qualitative method that adopts the subjective traits of the postmodern perspective is used to develop the theory through the use of multicase study design and analysis, and a quantitative method that takes on the objective traits of the modern perspective is considered to test some of the specificities generated by this theory as discussed previously.

A comparison between the above two selected perspectives—the modern perspective and the postmodern perspective is presented and described in Table 4-6. This comparison takes into account the ontological and epistemological contexts of these perspectives and explains how organizations are viewed under each of those perspectives. Table 4-6 is sourced from Hatch & Cunliffe (2013, p. 15).

Modern perspective Postmodern perspective
Ontology Ontology
Objectivism—belief in an external reality whose existence is independent of knowledge of it; the world exists as an independent object waiting to be discovered. Postmodernism—belief that nothing exists separate from renderings of it in speech, writing, or other forms of expression; the world is made to appear in language, discourse, and artwork without referents because there is nothing to which to refer.
Epistemology Epistemology
Positivism—belief that the truth is discovered through valid conceptualization and reliable measurement, which allows the testing of knowledge against the objective word; knowledge accumulates, allowing humans to progress and evolve. Postmodernism—belief that because there is no independent reality, there can be no truth about it; truth is an empty concept; there are no facts, only renderings and interpretations; therefore, every claim to knowledge is only a power play.
Organizations Organizations
Objectively real entities operating in a real world; when well designed and managed, they are systems of decision and action driven by norms of rationality, efficiency, and effectiveness directed toward stated objectives. Sites for enacting power relations, giving rise to oppression, irrationality, and falsehoods, but also humor and playful irony; as they are texts or dramas, we can rewrite organizations so as to emancipate ourselves from human folly and degradation.

Table 4-6: The modern and the postmodern perspectives (source: Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013, p. 15).

4.5 Ethical considerations

Ethical issues in conducting research refer to “the moral principles, norms, or standards of behaviors that guide moral choices about [the researcher's] relationship with others” (Saunders et al., 2007). Taking this definition of ethical matters in research as the point of departure to set up the moral conduct of this research encourages the researcher to take necessary preventive measures that can go about avoiding any moral misconduct that could take place unintentionally during data gathering. In carrying out such measures, Kervin (1992) suggests carrying out an assessment of the information prior to its collection and the effect that it can have on the research subjects if leaked, an assessment of how harmful the findings of this research could be to others (such as stakeholders or shareholders) who are related directly or indirectly to the tested organizations, and an assessment of the methodology employed to conduct the research. Therefore, and as a preventive measure, the anonymity of all research subjects and the researched organizations was kept to the researcher only and will not be published or be made publicly available (Grinyer, 2009; Tilley & Woodthopre, 2011). Moreover, verbatim quotations from interviews are minimized, and to the extent possible, not explicitly included in this study, as Van Den Hoonaard (2003, p. 149) tells us that “the onus is on the researcher to acknowledge that the likelihood of tearing the veil of anonymity is a real possibility. To that end, the researcher must incorporate all known devices to maintain anonymity in the research and publication.”

Chapter 5 Field Investigations

5.1 Introduction

This chapter primarily focuses on addressing the second and the third research questions, and it is also used to prove the continuity of the research results emerging from the findings of the first research question. This chapter takes the theory produced earlier to test it and enhance it in the field so that it is transformed into real and applicable scientific knowledge. This theory is translated into three research questions, starting with an inquiry seeking a more comprehensive definition of ambidexterity, moving on to an inquiry to investigate the mechanisms that can help see ambidexterity through in organizations, and finally an examination of the compatibility of these mechanisms with PPM practices to see if those practices can act as a vehicle that can carry those mechanisms through. This chapter starts with a qualitative study and site investigation as explained earlier in the methodology chapter. The qualitative study was conducted on 12 firms commissioned to test the mechanisms of ambidexterity, extending the findings from the systematic review of the literature. The qualitative study also covered the assessment of portfolio management practices to test their relationship with the mechanisms of ambidexterity. After this, and in order to add further generalizability to the research outcomes, the quantitative study was commissioned, introducing a larger pool of professionals. The quantitative study was not just commissioned to confirm or generalize the results produced by the qualitative results, or used as a way to triangulate the data or the study outcomes. The quantitative data collected were used to expand the pool of research to test various other types of relationships that could not be tested otherwise, such as testing the mediation effect of ambidexterity and seeing the effect of the organization's size or its industry and the research outcomes.

5.2 Qualitative research

5.2.1 Purpose

The purpose of this section is to provide more clarity by conducting a qualitative field investigation on the mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity in organizations, and to test the possible relationship between those mechanisms and PPM practices. This research responds to the second research question and part of the third research question by providing a comparative case study analysis for 12 case study firms. The research tests these firms’ means of operation in their day-to-day business activities; it examines the challenges that these firms face in their operations and the challenges imposed by the external environment. It then scrutinizes their means of resolving these challenges to allow them to achieve better performance results and ambidexterity.

5.2.2 Methods

This research entails a “comparative case study analysis” alongside a “within-case study analysis,” following the recommendations of Eisenhardt (1989) and Yin (2008). These cases have been treated as multiple experiments and have been used to verify the initial findings on mechanisms of ambidexterity as laid out in the systematic literature review and presented in the conceptual framework of this research. The initial results from the systematic literature review have been used in this field investigation in two forms; first, they have provided a direction to the design of the field investigation questionnaire, and second, they helped in determining the initial categories or codes used in the qualitative analysis for the collected data (Eisenhardt, 2008).

Results of this investigation can be considered more focused and more generalizable compared to the use of a single-case study, as findings are now deeply grounded in empirical evidence drawn from multiple cases (Yin, 1994; Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007). In applying the prescribed methods of comparative case study analysis, the research endeavored to select theoretically and operationally relevant cases/firms. The research endeavored to target ambidextrous organizations, although theoretically this may not be possible until those selected firms have been scrutinized and investigated. This has resulted in the selection of a few organizations that may not seem as ambidextrous as their peers, which led to the creation of a polarized type of selection per the recommendations laid out in the methodology chapter of this research (Pettigrew, 1988).

5.2.3 Research context

This research was carried out in knowledge intensive firms (KIFs) where large amounts of knowledge are manipulated on a daily basis and technical functions constitute the core elements of these firms (Robertson & Swan, 2003; Oehmichen et al., 2016). The study was carried out in this context for several reasons. First, KIFs have generally proven to be well suited to the study of challenges posed by external environments or internal settings coupled with innovative tactics set against these challenges (e.g., see Alvesson, 1995; Robertson & Swan, 2003). KIFs are, by nature, innovation intensive (Robertson & Swan, 2003). When these firms are placed in a dynamic environment with other similar firms, competition between them creates a catalyst that leads to the generation of more ideas and actions of exploration and exploitation—hence, ambidexterity becomes a necessity for success (Hargadon & Fanelli, 2002). KIFs such as consultancies and the like develop projects and business models through learning and through trials, as will be seen from the analysis of the qualitative data (Danneels, 2002; Edmondson, 2008; Aubry & Lièvre, 2010). Communication is an important facet that is needed to lubricate internal and external relationships for those firms (Lubatkin et al., 2006). Allocating the right people and selecting the right skills and knowledge sets carry similar weight in allowing these firms to perform (He & Wong, 2004; Cao, Kavadias, & Gaimon, 2009; Kortmann et al., 2014), and having the right organizational structure with the correct placement of the various roles and responsibilities is as important (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012; Jansen et al., 2012). With all these settings, along with the outcome of the systematic review of the literature in mind, it is safely assumed that these organizations should identify future opportunities to leverage their current competencies, build new ones, and use certain methods to achieve ambidexterity.

Second, these firms were selected and theoretically sampled to fit the research focus and the intended means for carrying out case study analysis (Eisenhardt, 1989). Those selected firms are, to the best of the researcher's knowledge, models of ambidexterity, although some may not be, as explained previously. This disparity in selection creates a polarized approach to allocating cases. This method of selection could help in cross-case comparison and idea generation, as explained in the methodology chapter (see also Pettigrew, 1988; Eisenhardt, 1989). The semi-structured questionnaire used in qualitative data collection was designed to help understand the extent of ambidexterity that each interviewed organization possesses. As noted by Sheremata (2000), ambidexterity is important to the success and the development of organizations. Tushman and O'Reilly (1996) postulated that ambidexterity allows for profitability and growth. While it was not possible to test profitability due to confidentiality issues, or get a true measure of growth and development, the discussion with the interviewees implied the extent of attention that each of those organizations gave to these attributes.

Last, this research has sought firms with few similarities in their operation, but not necessarily between their final deliverables/products or functions. These similarities helped in setting comparisons between cases and facilitated identifying replications with enough heterogeneity for the needed generalizability. All selected firms are based in the Middle East. Some may be headquartered in the United States or Europe; however, it is safely assumed that they follow local rules and regulations and are affected by the local external environment of the Middle East. Table 5-1 provides an overview of those selected firms.

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Table 5-1: Overview of case firms.

5.2.4 Data collection

The data collection exercise for the qualitative part of this research extended for a period of three months, started in November 2016, and closed out in January 2017. Several sources were used for collecting data; however, the focus was mostly on face-to-face or telephone interviews with the selected informants. Some of the archival data, publicly available processes, or models and organizational structures were examined, but were not deemed suitable for use in the research (Forster, 1994).

A total of 12 semi-structured interviews were conducted with the top management team (TMT) of the case study firms. Those informants were selected from the top levels of the organization to guarantee their involvement in the assumed mechanisms of ambidexterity applied in those firms. Titles such as chief executive officer (CEO), managing director (MD), and business development manager (BDM) were interviewed. To further ensure that the informants were at the right level in the organization, or whether the selected organization was the best fit for the purpose of this research, an initial discussion took place with each of the informants, their superiors or reportees, or any of the firms’ other employees (Currall, Hammer, Baggeit, & Doniger, 2015). The initial discussion performed a filtration process and acted as a pilot for each of the case studies. Each of those interviews lasted for about 75–120 minutes. Data analysis was carried out during the course of the interviews and a point of saturation was sensed midway through conducting those interviews. The number of interviews and their titles are presented in Table 5-1. The interviews were transcribed and then summarized. The questionnaire and the summary of each interview are available in Appendix A and Appendix B, respectively—this summary was checked and agreed to by the informants.

The questions designed for this study and presented in Appendix A were inspired by several similar studies that covered areas on portfolio management and/or ambidexterity. The questionnaire in Appendix A consists of 10 core questions; each question is itemized and described in Table 5-2. Table 5-2 describes how each of those questions is used in collecting and analyzing the data. Table 5-2 also provides the reference to the literature or the research that those questions or items were either taken from or inspired by.

The interview protocol was designed with mechanisms of ambidexterity in mind and their relevance to PPM practices (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). The interview and the discussions with each informant did not contain the word ambidexterity to remove any probable or obvious guidance to anticipated results. The interviewees were asked general questions on how things are carried out in their organizations, the challenges and means to resolve those challenges, and their organization's key differentiating elements used to achieve long-term growth and sustainability. The interviews started with general questions about the company and its history per the recommendations of Spardley (1979), and interviewees were left to ponder freely about those answers. The interviews systematically evolved to achieve the purpose of the interview with the guidance of the semi-structured questionnaire.

5.2.5 Data analysis

Raw data were collected and then converted into specific mechanisms, which can be used to achieve organizational ambidexterity as discussed in the rest of this chapter. To start with, the semi-structured questionnaire initiated questions testing the degree of ambidexterity for each of the case study organizations to understand which of them carry true mechanisms for ambidexterity and which do not. The questions also investigated and analyzed the challenges each of those case study organizations faces during day-to-day operations to identify and align them with dimensions of ambidexterity as generated in the systematic review of the literature—this initial stage of analysis was deemed necessary to ascertain that the outcome of the study is cohesive and its aims are aligned with the outcomes of the field survey. The assessment of mechanisms needed to resolve these challenges per case followed through the rest of the qualitative analysis, which was the focus of this field survey.

This chapter uses a four-stage process to convert the raw data into the said mechanisms. This four-stage process is adopted by Andriopoulos and Lewis (2009) in their qualitative study on organizational ambidexterity, and it drew from recommendations by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Miles and Huberman (1994). This process calls for a systematic analysis for the raw data along with iterative comparisons to help generate agreements between the generated categories. The existing literature and the systematic literature review, along with the conceptual framework, aided in identifying and developing cohesive constructs.

Question No. Question/item description References
Q1 Size of the organization and whether the organization is in a growing or a shrinking mode—this question tries to understand the extent of ambidexterity for each case study organization. O'Reilly & Tushman (2008); Birkinshaw et al. (2016)
Q2 The operation type of the organization—this question looks at the complexity of the organization and sees whether this has an effect on its ambidexterity. Gupta et al. (2006); Andriopoulos & Lewis (2009)
Q3 A description of how respondents perceive the market—this question measures the relevance between the organization's own ambidexterity and compares it with the dynamicity of the market and environment. Teece et al. (1997, 2016)
Q4 This core question extracts and understands the means and mechanisms each organization addresses its challenges with. O'Reilly & Tushman (2008)
Q5 This question measures the differentiating elements organizations apply to fine-tune their means and mechanisms to overcome challenges. O'Reilly & Tushman (2008); Birkinshaw et al. 2016
Q6 This question addresses PPM practices in organizations—the question aims to see the relevance between organizational ambidexterity and its applied practices. PMI (2008); APM (2012); Patanakul (2015)
Q7 This question looks at the types of the projects in the organization, whether those are of the exploratory or the exploitative type, and then tries to understand the relevance of the type with the environment. Pellegrinelli et al. (2015); Davies & Brady (2016)
Q8 This question also tackles PPM practices with more emphasis on the outcomes of Question 7. Levine (2005); PMI (2008); APM (2012)
Q9 This is an exploitative type of a question, since it asks about the specific challenges faced in the delivery of projects. Similar to Questions 4 and 5, this question tries to extract the different types of challenges combined with probable means or mechanisms for their resolution. Andriopoulos & Lewis (2009); Chandrasekaran et al. (2012); Eriksson (2013)
Q10 Similar to Questions 4, 5, and 9, this question digs into more challenges and tries to find the means of resolving those challenges, but this time on the individual level. Gibson & Birkinshaw (2004)

Table 5-2: Describing the core content of the qualitative questionnaire.

Stage 1. Identify patterns and broad categories in each of the case studies. This stage started by examining each of the interview scripts and retyping each of those into a brief version as presented in Appendix B. In each of those patterns, high-level categories for resolutions (mechanisms of ambidexterity) were identified and linked to the challenges faced by each of the interviewed organizations, along with their business/operating model. Those challenges, along with each business/operating model, were analyzed to see if they align with paradoxical situations faced by each of those organizations. It was not the intention of the qualitative field survey to dig deep into paradoxical situations of what this study has identified as dimensions of ambidexterity; rather, the intention was to answer the research question regarding mechanisms of ambidexterity and their relation to PPM practices. Identifying those paradoxical situations and dimensions in each case study was necessary in order to infuse cohesiveness and reliability into the outcome of the study. It was important to ascertain that those challenges, along with the business and operating models, were a product of a paradox—because if they were not, then it could be argued that the mechanisms generated by this field survey and analysis do not belong to the theory under study.

Using the NVivo software coding, nodes identified as business/operating model and challenges were subcategorized into 24 subcodes. Those parent nodes received no fewer than 50 references combined, while the nodes created for mechanisms to act as resolutions to those challenges received no less than 53 references. During the analysis of the challenges and business/operating model references, contradictory situations and/or statements were looked at, and conditions that could create a paradox were scrutinized to satisfy the cohesiveness and the reliability of this study. To further enhance the reliability of the codes and subcodes generated for challenges, business/operating model, and mechanisms and to ensure their relevance to paradoxical situations, a second round of interviews carrying more specific questions was conducted, targeting a few of the interesting cases with doubts about their degree of ambidexterity. (Another way to increase the reliability of this study, which could be considered in future similar studies, is the appointment of other coders to analyze the results of the interviews in parallel with one another. Results could then be compared, and an inter-coder coefficient could be used to measure the degree of agreement between the different coders’ results [Cohen, 1960].)

Stage 2. Link relevant concepts within each case. The second stage looked for links between the first-order concepts—those are the initial categories generated to group ideas and relevant texts within each of the transcripts in the raw data (see Figure 5-1 and Figure 5-2). The first-order concepts were grouped to form second-order themes, which were then aggregated to form the parent node or code in the NVivo software platform. It is important to note that this inductive process and analysis was carried out in a way that allowed those concepts to be generated by the raw data rather than being purely guided by the study theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). A simple guide to the themes of the studies (but not to the first-order concepts) was added toward the end of the process to enable seeing through alignment between the conceptual framework and the outcome of the study. This final step constituted a confirmatory step to verify the initial outcome of the systematic review of the literature, and yet it yielded an important outcome due to its contribution to the study and generated a comprehensive definition of ambidexterity.

Stage 3. Conducting cross-case analysis. Using case study analysis and cross-case comparison analysis techniques recommended by Eisenhardt (1989), similarities between first-order concepts and second-order themes were identified to help gather all references under the relevant codes.

Stage 4. Building/confirming the theoretical framework. This final stage provided confirmation to the conceptual framework presented in Chapter 3. To agree on a parsimonious set of constructs as identified by the raw data, the most robust findings were used for this purpose, as presented in Figure 5-1 and Figure 5-2.

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Figure 5-1: Cross-case analysis for dimensions of ambidexterity.

5.2.6 Findings

5.2.6.1 General findings

The analysis started by gauging the degree of ambidexterity in each of the interviewed case organizations, after which the text of each of the interviews was scrutinized to identify situations of paradox requiring resolution. Once identified, these situations of paradox were broadly categorized into two groups; one was identified as the business/operating model depicting the case study firms’ efforts to deliver projects and grow, and the other was identified as the challenges and obstacles to growth and/or sustainability.

Those challenges, in some cases, could act as opportunities, as can be seen in the analysis carried out in the rest of this chapter. The forces between the business/operating model and challenges are in constant tension. These forces resemble exploration and exploitation tensional forces in ambidextrous organizations. The business/operating model category resembles exploitation in its attempt to use internal knowledge or capabilities to deliver projects and company vision (March, 1991; Vahlne & Jonsson, 2017), while challenges call for exploring the external environment and sensing the future to prevent obstacles and to facilitate delivery and growth (March, 1991; Teece, 2007).

These forces require resolution to see ambidexterity through in all organizational levels, as indicated in the generated levels of ambidexterity identified in the systematic literature review. The following subsection details the constituents of those broad categories and links them back to dimensions of ambidexterity generated by the earlier literature review. The cross-case analysis carried out in this study is presented in Table C1 of Appendix C. Also refer to Figure 5-1, which depicts the analysis carried out in Table C1 of Appendix C in a graphical format.

The analysis started by identifying or regenerating dimensions of ambidexterity, as depicted in Figure 5-1. After that, this chapter uses the same method of analysis to identify/regenerate mechanisms of ambidexterity as used to generate dimensions. The research has chosen to identify tensional forces and regenerate dimensions of ambidexterity from the case study firms prior to the identification of mechanisms to show continuity of the results, and to further emphasize the cohesiveness of the study's aims and objectives. The generated mechanisms’ cross-case analysis can be found in Table C2 of Appendix C. Toward the end of the qualitative analysis, the study takes on PPM practices and links these back to the outcome of ambidexterity analysis using a comparative analysis between the two.

5.2.6.2 Dimensions of ambidexterity

5.2.6.2.1 The knowledge dimension

Operating/business model. The first-order concepts for the interviewed knowledge intensive firms (KIFs) suggest three main subcategories: growing knowledge through offered services, understanding changing client requirements, and working with changing market requirements. Each of the first-order concepts tallies with and builds on the results of the systematic review and analysis of the literature—see Table 2-4 of Chapter 2. The qualitative analysis suggests that these concepts are primarily exploitative—it can be argued that some exploratory functions can be found in this broad category as well. The “offered services” concept refers to exploiting the knowledge within each firm and defining what each firm does. “Understanding/working with changing client requirements” defines a tension and calls for alignment with client needs and with the internal capabilities and knowledge of each of the delivery organizations. “Understanding/working with changing market requirements” refers to understanding the laws and regulations of the country to allow for better exploitation of internal capabilities.

Challenges. Challenges have been associated with exploration. Those challenges work alongside the first-order concepts identified in the business/operating model and they create tension that requires resolution. Working on tensions in the knowledge dimension generates ambidexterity. However, working on any of the identified sides (operating model or challenges) without paying attention to the other may not create an environment that is conducive to ambidexterity (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008).

Most informants have agreed that market competitiveness constitutes one of the challenges that requires careful attention and can work against any of the business/operating models identified initially—in particular, the offered services. In this case, Matthews et al. (2015) offer codification of existing knowledge and codification of expertise to generate new ideas that can enhance competitiveness. Honing an understanding of the market and its requirements is an important asset needed to build ambidexterity and counter the effect of any similar challenges (Voss & Voss, 2013; Wei et al., 2014). Also, paying attention to client portfolios and extracting all sorts of knowledge from them enhances competitiveness and arms KIFs with prior knowledge of the market and its requirements compared to others who compete in the same market or area (Im & Rai, 2008; Bednarek et al., 2016).

It is to be noted that through the cross-case analysis presented in Table C1 of Appendix C, a reference to the level of organization in which ambidexterity occurs has been identified as a proposition. Discussion of levels and their relation to dimensions and mechanisms is not covered here, because it has been covered in previous chapters. However, these levels have been made apparent through the identified tables to infuse reliability and cohesiveness to the study inputs and outputs.

5.2.6.2.2 The behavior dimension

Operating/business model. The first-order concepts under this dimension refer to projects and business resourcing requirements. This concept also comes with a hidden requirement that addresses the behavior associated with these resources along with their attitude and their caliber. Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004), for instance, voted for intrinsically motivated employees—those who are willing to stretch themselves and work outside of their comfort zone, those who are disciplined and willing to support their colleagues for the sake of the group, and those who are trustworthy. Another set of the first-order concepts refer to working on common goals. This set refers to the loyalty of the employees to the organization, and their stretch and discipline, as referred to in Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004). The informant of Firm 12 refers to his employees and explains how they worked on their own time to resolve issues that arose from the 2009 financial crisis. He added:

My staff came up with brilliant ideas, such as part-time work and the like. By them being so loyal to me and to the company and working out of their comfort zone, we managed to survive.

Challenges. Challenges are the actual process of finding and testing the caliber and attitude of these resources, and then assigning them to the right activity that goes along with their personality and/or character (Kaplan, 2008; Walsh, 2008; Chandrasekaran et al., 2012; Auh & Menguc, 2005). Employees who were involved in the early days of establishing or founding the organization may exhibit different behavior or attitudes compared to new joiners (Beckman, 2006). A team that is formed and that constitutes such a mix, or a mix of employees with different tenures or levels or grades, can be problematic. Team collaboration and the harmony of such a mixed team are very important. The informant of Firm 11 refers to this challenge in his interview and comments that there is too much politics in his organization with much tension among employees.

Another challenge referred to by the Firm 1 informant is when individuals are selective of the type of work they want to do—see Table C1 of Appendix C for more details. Ambidextrous individuals have the ability to resolve such situations and avoid any unnecessary tension that is not conducive to ambidexterity. Those individuals have the ability to operate in two different modes of action and then operate in the best mode that produces overall benefits to the group (Aubry & Lièvre, 2010).

5.2.6.2.3 The technological dimension

Operating/business model. The first-order concepts under this dimension refer to identification of gaps in knowledge, technology, and the market combined, for the sake of growth and sustainability. Firm 12’s informant, for instance, presented a new technological breakthrough in energy savings, and the firm claims that it was the “first to see it [and hence] invented and invested in a Blue Ocean technology.” The informant of Firm 7 identified a new technological breakthrough in aluminum and its production and sensed “a huge demand” for aluminum, by which Firm 7 started its application in mass production, infusing efficiency in the operation and creating a fully ambidextrous organization at the operational level, as the informant claims (Kortman et al., 2014). Internal capabilities of a firm refer to the direction it pursues gaps in technology; this could be through inventing new models for operation, such as public private partnership (PPP) or design build operate (DBO) (refer to the interview conducted with Firm 8 in Appendix B or Table C1 of Appendix C), seeking innovation (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009), or investing capabilities in R&D and technology (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012).

Challenges. It is always good to identify gaps in technology, or build on R&D initiatives and capabilities, and so on; however, when it comes to real project implementation, problems of various types arise and hinder the production or the process. Firm 12 claims that identifying a new gap in technology and in energy savings was good and conducive for investment, but no business model was established previously that could be referred to. Firm 5 looks at followers of their business and/or competitors who work in the same niche or market, and investigates how they can differentiate themselves from those. External technology outsourcing could be one of the solutions, but that needs to be treated with care in relation to intellectual property (IP) and similar issues (Rothaermel & Alexandre, 2009).

5.2.6.2.4 The processual dimension

Operating/business model. The first-order concepts under this dimension refer to the processes needed to grow, sustain, and perform—that is, the tendency to expand, keep the ball rolling, keep it rolling in the right direction, make sure staff are busy, and sustain project delivery (see Table C1 of Appendix C). Firm 12, for instance, endeavored to expand, but found it was “spreading itself too thin” due to the lack of proper planning and strategic thinking behind the expansion. Firm 7 runs a massive operation and wants to ensure that it is not caught at a halt situation at any point in time, as this would be costly to the operation. Firm 5 has issues with DSO (days sales outstanding, which is an indicator for cash flow versus revenues—see Stewart, 1995), and seeks better design of its portfolio(s) to achieve a better handle on the operational level. Firm 4 has issues with keeping staff busy to work on projects and started investing in innovation cycles to generate good ideas for investments during idle times.

Challenges. Operating a business toward growth, performance, and sustainability is not easy and is always faced with issues. For instance, Firm 12 failed to perform simultaneous strategic processes, and lacked strategic flexibility (Kortmann et al., 2014). The CEO found himself caught in many instances “overlooking” other directions of the business during his expansion efforts. In feeding the operation with new work and to “keep the ball rolling,” the challenge of market exploration can be looked at through the eyes of the clients and the various business contacts, as identified by Firm 7’s informant—see Bednarek et al. (2016). Sensing such opportunities during market exploratory activities requires a set of processes and a sound routine structure to bring about success (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008). Adopting a process of innovation to resolve issues and challenges of market expansion, filling idle time, and resolving issues on projects could be a challenge, but the organization can reap the fruits of success if invested correctly (Zahra & Das, 1993).

5.2.6.3 Mechanisms of ambidexterity

The cross-case analysis carried out on dimensions of ambidexterity contributes to the reliability of the systematic review of the literature results. It is, however, important to note that the systematic review and the field investigation results complement each other. An analysis conducted on the mechanisms of ambidexterity using a similar approach to the dimensions analysis follows in this section—see Table C2 of Appendix C for the cross-case analysis that was carried out on mechanisms of ambidexterity; also see Figure 5-2 for the graphical representation of the conducted analysis. The coming analysis proves that mechanisms and dimensions are tied and are also linked to one another at the various organizational levels. In the remainder of this section, more details on the analysis of mechanisms are provided, followed by an analysis of their relation to portfolio management practices as extracted from the cross-case study analysis.

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Figure 5-2: Cross-case analysis for mechanisms of ambidexterity.

5.2.6.3.1 Structural design of the organization

The first-order concepts here refer to flexibility, alliancing, and roles and responsibilities. Flexibility of resources and the ability to work on various tasks and wear different hats in the organization has proven to be one of the important constituents of ambidexterity. Human resources need to be willing to do so and need to be willing to go the extra mile for the betterment of the organization (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). The flexibility of resources can help resolve many of the previously presented challenges and ease the tensional forces within the organization to inject ambidexterity. Jansen et al. (2012) emphasized the importance of resource dependence across the various organizational subunits and compared this to their munificence. Flexibility can counter the effect of munificence and the lack of resourcing. Firm 10’s informant demonstrated his flexibility in performing a dual role in both a business development exploratory type of a role and “media coordination.”

We see this as an exploitative role. Firm 12’s informant adds that his:

employees wore salesman hats [during the financial crisis] . . . and they were all determined to bring in more work to increase their time booking.

This suggests no structural separation between exploration and exploitation (Chandrasekaran et al., 2012); rather, a temporal separation was apparent in this case (Kaplan & Henderson, 2005; Lavie et al., 2010). Flexibility can streamline work between centralization and decentralization (Jansen et al., 2005), and it can facilitate striking a balance between exploitation and exploration (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009) and/or the use of organic or mechanistic structures in the organization (Turner et al., 2015).

Another means of achieving ambidexterity through the structural design of the organization is bringing in alliances and partnerships that can facilitate the resolution of some of the difficult challenges, as indicated by Firm 12’s informant (Koza & Lwein, 1998; Rothaermi & Deeds, 2004; Lavie & Rosenkopf, 2006; Wassmer et al., 2016). In that vein, Firm 12’s informant stated:

some of the acquisitions of my company added a corporate touch and structure to our operation and that provided us the exposure and allowed us to expand even further.

Roles and responsibilities within the organization carry an important say in the process of ambidexterity, not only that which is relevant to flexibility as indicated earlier, but also through constant “restructuring,” as indicated in several case studies. Most of the informants indicated that restructuring of roles and responsibilities took place on several occasions to enhance unproductive situations, while they claimed that, as a set of structures was focused internally, another would come in to externalize the strategic focus of the organization (Bradach, 1997).

5.2.6.3.2 Learning mechanisms

The first-order concepts here refer to learning about future directions, understanding the competition, understanding own capabilities, and learning about own projects.

Learning mechanisms facilitate ambidexterity and help build a complementary understanding between one's own business model and other business models. Learning about one's company's own offerings and understanding the operating model helps gauge the possibility of infusing creative variations or solutions and benchmarking them with future market directions (Mathews et al., 2015). Firm 10’s informant, for instance, “learn[ed] the hard way.” He learned how to build on and enhance his own business model, and benchmarked this against other business models. It was not until then that the business could see better performance results. Firm 12’s informant voted for “untraditional” thinking, which requires true commitment and understanding of the current operation and the market. Creativity in these situations is essential, as referred to by the Firm 12 informant:

We are creative; we always create new things, new processes, new frameworks, and new services.

Understanding one's own business capabilities affords better chances of spreading those capabilities to other team members who handle exploratory and/or exploitative functions. Moving things around, constantly changing roles and responsibilities, and continual improvement in capabilities gives everyone a chance to learn new things about the organization, and makes the operation more cohesive (Kortmann et al., 2014). Firm 10, for instance, moved some operations and resources around to achieve operational efficiency; by doing so, it managed to disperse all its knowledgeable resources across the various company functions and operations. Firm 12 never stopped creating and re-creating services, functions, and models with the contribution of its own staff. Firms 6 and 9 never ceased trying out new business models. Constant changing and the continual improvement of capabilities improve the absorptive capacity of the organization, along with its ambidexterity (Jansen et al., 2006; Broersma, Van Gils, & De Grip, 2016).

The emergent execution of projects calls for learning and exploring during projects’ implementation and delivery (Edmondson, 2008). The emergent delivery of projects is both costly and risky. This cost can be considered an investment toward building new capabilities (Edmondson, 2008; Aubry & Lièvre, 2010). The potential risk of this option shall be addressed very carefully, lest it affect the reputation of the firm (Voss & Voss, 2013). Firm 3’s informant, for instance, confirmed that the emergent delivery of one of the firm's largest projects cost more than it should have, but the capabilities the firm built out of this project were priceless and were the reason behind the firm's “superiority” in delivery and the market:

In 2003, we started our first operation/project, and we lost lots of money during implementation, and we learned a lot from it; we learned things, which we are currently implementing in new projects, which learnings were part or the reason behind our reliability and performance superiority nowadays.

Firm 10 was able to learn and build new capabilities that allowed it to challenge clients on real drivers behind its own projects or proposed methodologies of implementation. This added a strategic spin to Firm 10’s service offerings that elevated the firm to a referee's position in clients’ eyes:

We sometimes go back to the client and advise them on what needs to be done or a feasibility of something.

5.2.6.3.3 Selection mechanisms

The first-order concepts in this category refer to clients selection, resources selection, and projects selection.

Bednarek et al. (2016) refer to the careful selection of a client portfolio; the selection of this portfolio can be beneficial in terms of the strategic distribution of work and through building networks, contacts, and the extra work and knowledge that can be obtained through this portfolio. Firm 10’s informant commented on this:

Clients in the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) are willing to pay the premium of our services; hence, we locate those clients and work with them.

Bednarek et al. (2016) emphasized the knowledge that can be captured from delivering projects for different clients. This knowledge can be diffused within the organization and this can create new knowledge, new contacts, and new clients. This also enhances the company resume and its reputation if the delivery is right and extraordinary. Thus, according to Firm 10’s informant:

Once we succeeded in delivering the project, our name was added to the vendors’ list of that client and we started receiving more inquires, basically because they liked us.

Firm 7’s informant talks about the information and the contacts the organization gets through the diversity of its client portfolio:

We have operations that run in more than 30 locations or so; each of these operations has its own networks, connections, and projects. Out of all these connections, we receive various types of information.

Resources selection is one of the important factors not only for achieving ambidexterity, but also for the design of an effective organization (Cameron, 1983; McKenna, 2006). Almost all the interviewed firms agreed with hiring the best and retaining the best. Thus, according to Firm 1’s informant:

We try to hire top-notch people and we try to invest in our people as well.

Firm 4’s informant commented on staff retention:

Everyone liked the work environment, no one left/resigned—probably very few only, and everyone was loyal to the company.

Selection becomes even more critical when it involves the selection of a leadership team, as emphasized by Firm 12’s informant:

The selection of the management was another mistake, which I made; I did not select an old existing leadership team to run my business.

Incentivizing the team to work and to accomplish their assignments on either exploratory or exploitative tasks is as important (Cao, Kavadias, & Gaimon, 2009; Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). This could come through flexibility of the team to work on various tasks associated with a relevant rewarding system, as Firm 5’s informant stated:

We follow a transparent system of targets and sales, in that I mean that all salespeople, and see what others have achieved as their target and then start competing with each other.

Thus, Firm 5’s informant added that team development, appreciation, and rotation to different roles in the organization added to the team's value and enhanced the sense of belonging:

I am the business development director for the company. I used to be a programmer, then a project manager, and finally got promoted to this position. The company notices talented people and they deal with them with care and grow their talents, which puts them into good positions at the end of the day.

Project selection and the selection and allocation of project teams in a way that facilitates ambidexterity is an important performance improvement factor (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009; Eriksson, 2013). The selection of the right types of projects and setting the right balance between the different types, with due consideration to the right balance between exploratory and exploitative goals, can bring in sustainability and help the organization achieve its long-term goals (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015). Firm 8’s informant agrees that:

We sometimes need to chase other types of projects to keep the ball rolling.

Firm 5’s informant adds:

Our business is divided mainly into two streams, we have the projects operation and we have the retail business; for now, our focus is more on projects, not the retail, since the retail business requires lots of infrastructure and preparation and other types of marketing campaigns, which we don't have at the moment. We wish we could be doing better in retail, since it has better DSO and collection system compared to those of projects.

5.2.6.3.4 Communication mechanisms

The first-order concepts in this category refer to the bond between the leader and the team, internal communication, external communication, and external relationships and networks.

The behavior of the top management team (TMT), their connection with the employees, and their close communication with them is an important facet of an ambidextrous organization (Lubatkin et al., 2005; Chandrasekaran et al., 2012). Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) emphasized the positive and motivating type of a relationship between the top management and the employees and its effect on employees’ encouragement and motivation to act “ambidextrously.” The relationship between the top management team (TMT) and the other management teams of the organization, and its effect on ambidexterity was evident through most of the interviews. Thus, according to the CEO of Firm 12:

Instead of reducing staff like what others did, I gathered all my employees and requested them to contribute ideas to resolve the challenges generated by this crisis.

Interestingly, this perspective is corroborated by Firm 2’s informant, who suggests that:

The bond between this team and the leader was very strong. [The bond] between peers was not as strong, and this may have led to the demise of the company later on.

Ambidexterity can also be seen through internal and external communications, among the team members and between employees and external contacts of the organization, such as subcontractors, authorities, and other projects’ stakeholders (Eriksson, 2013). The social network among the team members (Turner et al., 2015), the team(s) interdependence that emerges through units’ boundaries in a multi-unit context (Jansen et al., 2012), and the flow of information among the team(s) and the management and between the team members themselves (Jansen et al., 2005; Mom et al., 2007) all constitute the building blocks for organizational ambidexterity. On internal communication, Firm 4’s informant agrees with the above as follows:

When we have less work, the employees take it on themselves to brainstorm several ideas to put them into work.

Again, interestingly, this view is also advanced by Firm 12’s informant on the external communication part:

I had to meet lots of people and I had to allocate that consultant whom I wanted to transfer the knowledge from.

Firm 2’s informant agrees, by suggesting that:

This has led to building another type of a relationship, which facilitated approval in the work place and enhanced trust between the authorities and our organization.

There is no real difference between the external communication and external relationships concepts mentioned above apart from the “network” component, the effect of which is associated with the types of those relationships. Network and networking with the external environment leads to the creation of ties (Powel et al., 1996). Those ties could be beneficial to the organization in some form or another (Parkhe, 1991). The diversity of those ties creates an even better environment that is conducive to ambidexterity (Simsek, 2009). Firm 5’s informant agrees with this:

The only way we can do so is through building good networks and relationships among consultants and keeping ourselves up to date in regard to changes in the market and the technology.

Firm 7’s informant adds:

We have operations that run in more than 30 locations or so; each of these operations has its own networks, connections, and projects.

Firm 8’s informant sees the importance of networks and networking and the diversity of ties through projects’ awards as follows:

We work on trust and word of mouth most of the time—project Alpha was awarded to us upon the good relation between our manager and the owner, for example, supported by our known reputation in the market and our credibility. Relationship is important, of course, as well as the networks, which we built and are building through our contracts, contacts, contractors, and consultants.

5.2.6.4 Portfolio management and its relation to ambidexterity

Project portfolio management has been defined previously in this research as the management of the organization's project portfolios in a way that increases the strategic efficiency of the organization and improves the overall benefits realized from the collective management of those projects (Levine, 2005). Portfolio management acts as the link between operations management and project management (Brook & Pagnanelli, 2014). This link facilitates the relationship between operations and project management, and both need to have a collective understanding of each other's functions in order to run a smooth operation (Meskendahl, 2010).

Project portfolio management (PPM) is seen to complement the dynamic capabilities of the organization; hence, it can be seen as being flexible (Davies & Brady, 2016) compared to project management (Hodgson & Cicmil, 2007; Candi et al., 2013). Project portfolio management (PPM) with its flexibility, along with its oversight over the project portfolios, has a unique position in infusing ambidexterity into the management of the organization and its operations, as claimed in this research.

Borrowing from the PPM tools and processes of various project management methodologies and standards, such as the PMI, APM, and the CIOB, the tools and techniques that are used by various organizations to implement PPM practices can be compared with the mechanisms of ambidexterity discussed and demonstrated for use in this chapter. It has been cautiously assumed that conducting a comparative analysis between mechanisms of ambidexterity as detailed and analyzed in this chapter, and the PPM practices, can sufficiently demonstrate the adequacy of using PPM practices as a vehicle to achieve ambidexterity. Table 5-3 provides a comparative analysis between the first- and the second-order concepts of mechanisms of ambidexterity, along with a selection PPM practices.

The purpose of presenting this comparative analysis is to verify the possible links between portfolio management practices, as represented by tools and techniques, and mechanisms of ambidexterity, as discussed and validated earlier in this chapter. It has been assumed that organizations that are intending to improve their PPM practices for the sake of achieving ambidexterity—performance and sustainability—would consider all PPM practices, not only those presented in Table 5-3. Table 5-3 presents a comparison with PMI's PPM practices only.

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Table 5-3: Comparison between mechanisms of ambidexterity and PMI PPM practices.

First, the structural mechanisms used for achieving ambidexterity have been divided in this qualitative analysis into three first-order concepts/components: flexibility, complimentary alliances, and roles and responsibilities. The PPM tools represented in Table 5-3 direct the entire PPM practice that can be applied throughout the organization. The portfolio structural analysis refers to the assignment of roles and responsibilities of the portfolio; this goes with the needed structural, size, and complexity analysis of the organization and the size of the projects at hand. These resemble the structural mechanisms of achieving ambidexterity. Resources are looked at here and analyzed, along with the rest of the portfolio components, in order to build a comprehensive structuring plan that allows for their feasibility of use and ease of application. Moreover, these tools and techniques define the structure of the portfolio and link this to the structure of the organization; this structure then defines the needed roles and responsibilities to run the organization and its portfolios. These tools may generate the need to separate exploratory activities from those that are exploitative to form a temporal separation, a domain separation, or a structural separation. Prioritization of projects can be introduced to support the organizational structure; this can be accompanied with scenario analysis and categorization. A clear demarcation between organic and mechanistic structures can also be identified here.

Second, learning mechanisms used for achieving ambidexterity have been divided in this qualitative analysis into four first-order concepts/components: learn about future directions, understand what others do, understand own capabilities, and learn about own projects. Elicitation techniques here refer to planning, setting up metrics, understanding the direction of the business, measuring the performance, and restrategizing when and as needed (PMI, 2008). These are all accompanied by the review meetings, steering committee meetings, and performance review meetings required to set the target and move toward the strategized direction. Capability and capacity analysis refers to the analysis of resources, their (i.e., resources’) schedules, funding requirements, and any other relevant resources or capabilities needed to deliver the portfolio (PMI, 2008). This is where the PPM manager learns the different requirements for the portfolio through brainstorming, facilitation, surveys, learning from, and collaborating with others, such as in work groups and with internal or external experts, alliances, the client, and/or stakeholders. It is assumed that the PPM manager has absolute control over all the resources within the organization; however, this may not be the case, particularly in less mature organizations (Nobeoka & Cusumano, 1995; Prencipe & Tell, 2001; Engwall & Jerbrant, 2003; Perks, 2007). PPM perceived control, or the lack of it, may therefore have an effect on the efforts expended in building and achieving ambidexterity.

Third, selection mechanisms used for achieving ambidexterity have been divided in this qualitative analysis into three first-order concepts/components: clients selection, resources selection, and projects selection. Portfolio management tools and techniques selected under this component for comparison with mechanisms refer to capacity and capability analysis, projects prioritization analysis, and portfolio component categorization, as discussed earlier. Although most of these tools and techniques have been referred to under other mechanisms, they still can work under these mechanisms. It is to be noted that it was never the intention here to set a clear-cut demarcation between components, mechanisms, and/or tools and techniques. The qualitative and quantitative analyses, in this case, tap into the capability and capacity assessment specifically for resources with the intention to improve their schedules for the betterment of the entire portfolio and the organization.

Finally, communication mechanisms used for achieving ambidexterity have been divided in this qualitative analysis into four first-order concepts/components: bond between the leader and the team, internal communications, external communications, and external relationships and networks. The PPM tools and techniques compare with many components under this category. Stakeholder analysis, for instance, defines those stakeholders that need to be satisfied or appeased, the methods of communication and analysis with stakeholders and others, and the elicitation techniques, as discussed above. The use of various communication and information transfer techniques can help generate ambidexterity when exposed to those appropriate techniques, as mentioned above.

Compared with PMI and its Standard for Portfolio Management (PMI, 2008), the APMBOK (APM, 2012) divides the knowledge behind managing the portfolio into seven areas of management: Integrative Management (IM), Scope Management (SM), Schedule Management (ScM), Financial and Cost Management (FCM), Risk Management (RM), Quality Management (QM), and Resource Management (ResM). Each of these Knowledge Areas can be compared and mapped against the mechanisms of ambidexterity (structural, learning, selection, and communication) represented by their first-order concepts, as presented in Table 5-4. PPM practices within each of the management areas, as presented in Table 5-4, are applied as part of the portfolio management where the operation requires. Table 5-4 presents a comparison with APM PPM practices only.

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Table 5-4: Comparison between mechanisms of ambidexterity and APM PPM areas.

The above discussion represented a high-level comparative analysis between portfolio management practices and mechanisms of ambidexterity. The intention of this high-level analysis was to provide evidence that PPM can act as a vehicle to facilitate achieving ambidexterity in organizations. As expected, the above list and comparison is not comprehensive; more analysis is required to understand how those mechanisms can work with the accompanying PPM practices to achieve ambidexterity. For now, it is recommended to look at practices and mechanisms as complementary factors needed to build ambidexterity. Although there are a number of similarities between PPM practices and mechanisms of ambidexterity, care shall be taken to address the gaps between both in order to arrive at a more comprehensive list that can be generalized for use across organizations as a possible separate practice.

5.2.7 Summary of the qualitative study

This section of Chapter 5 primarily focused on addressing the second research question; the aim of this question was to investigate the means and mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity in organizations. This question also promoted PPM through its presentation in the third research question. The qualitative investigations employed the comprehensive definition of ambidexterity, as generated by way of the systematic review of the literature carried out in Chapter 2, to achieve its results. The qualitative site investigations were carried out through 12 interviews, which were conducted with 12 informants from 12 different case study firms (Sandberg, 2000). The interviewed firms were selected to represent various degrees of ambidexterity in their operations (see Pettigrew, 1988, for recommendations on a polarized form of case study selection). The qualitative analysis was carried out using a cross-case analysis along with a within-case study analysis (Eisenhardt, 1989). The aim of the analysis was to investigate those mechanisms of ambidexterity. Nevertheless, the analysis was carried out simultaneously on both dimensions and mechanisms of ambidexterity, as defined in the literature review, in order to increase the reliability of the study outcomes and to further infuse trust into the generated comprehensive definition of ambidexterity, thus deeming the study outcome cohesive and reliable. The analysis that was carried out on dimensions of ambidexterity confirmed the outcomes of the systematic review of the literature and provided further details on these constructs (see first- and second-order concepts for dimensions and mechanisms in the relevant analysis, Figure 5-1, Figure 5-2, and Table C1 and Table C2 of Appendix C). Resuming with the analysis, the study continued with the analysis of mechanisms of ambidexterity and tested their relationship with PPM practices.

5.3 Quantitative research

5.3.1 Purpose

The purpose of this section is to add more reliability to the overall research outcomes and link the qualitative study results, which were carried out on 12 case study firms, by triangulating the findings of the qualitative study to empirical quantitative data. Establishing such a relationship would not only provide reliability to the research outcomes by way of triangulation (Creswell & Clark, 2007; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2010), but it also allows the research to generalize its outcomes to a larger audience (Forza, 2002). The qualitative study analysis generated a thematic view geared toward understanding the mechanisms of ambidexterity for organizations by which their application should move the organization toward an ambidextrous status. After this, the qualitative research investigated the relatedness between those established mechanisms and PPM practices. This section takes this relationship forward to further justify the relationship between those practices, represented by the effectiveness of their application and the effectiveness of PPM, and organizational ambidexterity as means for achieving overall business performance and efficiency. This section represents ambidexterity as a mediator for success and performance, as presented in Figure 5-3.

5.3.2 Quantitative research model

The quantitative research model gathers elements from project portfolio management and organizational ambidexterity, as covered in the literature review chapter, and the subsequent qualitative analysis carried out in the previous section. The quantitative research model was built on Gibson and Birkinshaw's (2004) conceptualization of organizational ambidexterity as a mediator to organizational performance. As presented in the previous section, PPM practices exhibited a major influence on building ambidexterity in organizations, and, therefore, this was presented as such in the model. In this section, PPM effectiveness and its effective application in organizations was operationalized to represent PPM practices to influence organizational ambidexterity and build on it. These relationships are depicted in Figure 5-3.

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Figure 5-3: Research model.

The body of this section covers an argument that supports the research model through an emphasis on constructs operationalization. The model's constituents are broken down into their elements/variables with an explanation of how and why operationalization was taken as such. A survey questionnaire was created to study the above model and was distributed to various organizations, as explained in the subsequent sections.

The constituents/constructs of the questionnaire can be found in Appendix D, and the questionnaire is presented in Appendix E. A total of 160 responses were collected.

5.3.3 Sampling and data collection

The population of this research covered mainly those of project-based organizations (PBOs). There is a possibility that some of the quantitative survey questionnaire responses came from non-PBO-type organizations. Those have been filtered out in accordance to the initial filtration process performed using a few of the control questions embedded in the questionnaire.

This part of the study forms the post-positivist component of the modernistic approach. The modernist perspective views organizations as objects and promotes objectivism in testing and analyzing them (Whetten, 1989). A modern perspective assumes that the environment in which the organization is embedded gives rise to events that cannot be controlled by social actors. This conceptualization of theory denotes a contingency approach to understanding and describing the act of organizing (Woodward, 1965; Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967). This perspective concurs with a quantitative approach to testing theory, in that it views correlations between elements and the inspection of causal relationships as prerequisites for adopting this perspective. It also agrees with an objective ontology and makes no allowance for subjectivity.

Data for the quantitative survey were collected from 160 survey participants. Those responses were collected from several sources, such as organizations that operate in project-based and dynamic environments, the official Project Management Institute (PMI) website (PMI.org), master's degree students, and professional websites, such as LinkedIn. All survey participants were approached through an introductory letter or an email introducing the research and specifying the type of audience needed to fill out the survey. A filter was also added to the survey to filter out data that do not comply with the specified requirements.

The quantitative study and survey followed ethical procedures, and it was not possible to know the identity of any of the respondents from any of the groups. A disclaimer was also added at the beginning of the survey confirming the confidentiality of the responses and the privacy of all respondents and their organizations.

It is to be noted at this stage of the study that the estimated number of surveyed organizations exceeded the minimum required sample size recommended by Forza (2002), as calculated in Section 4.3.3 of Chapter 4. Hence, it was safely assumed that this study can progress to the data analysis stage.

5.3.4 Constructs, operationalization, and hypotheses

5.3.4.1 Constructs and operationalization

The major constructs presented in the research model of Figure 5-3 are broken down into their constituents, as explained below, and as shown in Figure 5-4.

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Figure 5-4: Research model constituents and variables.

Project portfolio management effectiveness refers to the effective application of PPM practices in a way that helps the organization achieve its objectives (Patanakul, 2015). Here, PPM effectiveness is taken to represent the effective use of practices that lead to the effectiveness of the portfolio practices application and its management. The definition of PPM effectiveness is borrowed from Patanakul (2015, p. 1,093) for use in this study, as follows:

The organizational capability to 1) form a project portfolio such that the portfolio aligns with the organization's strategic direction, is adaptive to the internal and external changes, and contains projects with high perceived value or benefit, and 2) manage the portfolio to promote project visibility, transparency in decision making, and predictability of project delivery, in order to achieve project success, short- and long-term value or benefits, and integrity, cohesion, and morale of the project community.

Note that in this definition, the strategy of the organization forms the heart of its portfolio management. Also, it shows that the strategic fit of projects with the overall direction of the organization sets the path toward achieving the desired business outcomes. Strategic fit, in this case, “is accomplished when individual projects, and thus the portfolio, are aligned to a company's business strategy” (Unger et al., 2012, p. 677). It is not an easy task to achieve a strategic fit in organizations and it generates complexity across its various levels, particularly at the executive level. For instance, establishing this effectiveness and the strategic fit is the goal of top executives and the management; nevertheless, resources allocation through traditional project management that occurs at the lower levels of the organization may impose difficulties in achieving this goal (Cooper & Edgett, 2003). For example, the successful design of a strategic fit that does not take into account future preparedness and the use of available resources could lead to the failure of the portfolio. Second, designing for strategic fit shall take into account the overall success of the entire organization and its business units, along with the projects and portfolios in hand (Roussel, Saad, & Erickson, 1991; Herfert & Arbige, 2008). For example, aligning project management with the business success and its strategy is an essential component to achieve a strategic fit for organizations (Artto & Wikström, 2005; Srivannaboon & Milosevic, 2006).

Future preparedness reflects the preparedness of the portfolio and the organization to utilize its infrastructure for its future needs (Shenhar et al., 2001; Levine, 2005). It is the ability of the organization to analyze the current situation and evaluate long-term needs through establishing opportunities by way of delivering projects. Examples could be through building internal capabilities in order to prepare oneself to bid for future projects seen as an outcome of an imminent global or market need or requirement. This is similar to what Firm 7’s informant from the qualitative part of this study referred to in the firm's market expeditions:

We knew that aluminum is going to be the next new thing and that there will be a huge demand for aluminum.

An alternative is to create a new market and prepare for it, which is similar to what Firm 12’s informant has established:

I have identified a serious gap in energy efficiency in the market.

Balancing the portfolio means the ability to identify the right mix of projects that can bring the least amount of risk to the portfolio (or the organization)—refer to Firm 5’s informant trying to add in a various mix of opportunities between his retail business and project management business to reduce the risk of cash flow:

We wish we could be doing better in retail, since it has better DSO and collection system compared to those of projects.

This approach gets the maximum value behind delivering the mix of projects within the portfolio, considering the size and the type of each of those projects in comparison to the availability of resources and the capacity of the organization, its strategic direction, and its short-term and long-term plans (Archer & Ghasemzadeh, 1999; Cooper et al., 2002; Killen et al., 2008).

The synergy created between projects can assist in identifying opportunities for collaboration among those projects. Not only does synergy prepare the organization for the future, but managing projects collaboratively adds value to those projects—value that cannot be achieved when those projects are delivered individually (Meskendahl, 2010).

Exploratory and exploitative activities and organizational ambidexterity have been covered in significant detail to this point. The previous section covering a qualitative study and analysis provided a confirmation of the definition of organizational ambidexterity, which was generated via the systemic literature review conducted earlier. This definition was used to test the scale used in the quantitative study survey questionnaire to ascertain that the results of this study are cohesive:

Ambidexterity is the ability of the organization to employ structural, learning, selection, and communication techniques to resolve paradoxical challenges within intellectual, behavioral, technological, and processual dimensions in the various levels of the organization—these levels (strategic, projects, operations, and individual) can be separate or interwoven—to overcome situations of external dynamicity and competitive environments, considering internal limiting factors such as size, resources availability, and absorptive capacity of the organization.

This research has assumed that the overall performance and success of the organization involves the success and performance of the business itself, along with the average success of its projects (Petro & Gardiner, 2015). Business performance dictates that a company secure an appropriate share of the market in comparison to competition, the fulfillment of sales objectives, its revenue growth, and profitability (Shenhar et al., 2001). Average project success reflects the achievement of overall project success criteria, such as budget, schedule, and quality, and that goes along with obtaining customer satisfaction for the average pool of projects that the business is handling (Levine, 2005; Martinsuo & Lehtonen, 2007; Lechler & Dvir, 2010).

5.3.4.2 Hypotheses

Based on the build-up of constructs, the quantitative research model, and the suggested operationalization presented in the previous section, the following hypotheses were proposed to support the quantitative research model; these are aligned with the overall aims and objectives of this research:

Hypothesis H1. The higher the level of ambidexterity in an organization or business unit, the higher the level of performance.

Hypothesis H2. The more that an organization or its business units exhibit an effective application of its project portfolio management practices (measured through its PPM effectiveness), the higher the level of ambidexterity.

Hypothesis H3. Ambidexterity mediates the relationship between PPM practices and the organization's performance.

5.3.5 Measures and operationalization

As far as both the dependent and the independent variables are concerned, this study used well-validated scales—refer to Appendix D. The ambidexterity scale in particular was adopted from Lubatkin et al. (2006) and was compared to the results produced by this study so far to ascertain that this scale has captured most of the identified dimensions. Although not all dimensions were captured in the scale, it has been assumed that this validated and well-tested scale (and also the one most relevant to this study) would sufficiently satisfy the research purpose. Another study could be commissioned to reoperationalize a better scale for ambidexterity using the definitions and outcomes of this research.

The dependent variable used to measure business performance was borrowed from Meskendahl (2010) and Petro and Gardiner (2015). This scale used four measures operationalized to measure various aspects of success of the business and the organization, such as measuring the perception of respondents as to the level of success of their organization compared to its competitors in aspects relevant to overall success, market share, revenue growth, and profitability. The average projects success of the organization was added to this construct, as measured by Jonas et al. (2012) and tested by Petro and Gardiner (2015). This scale used four measures that targeted the traditional project success criteria—the schedule, the budget, the quality, and customer satisfaction.

The independent variable PPM effectiveness suggested to measure the effective application of PPM practices used several variables to get it operationalized. These variables were borrowed from Patanakul (2015) in general, and from Jonas et al. (2012) and Petro and Gardiner (2015), in particular. This main independent variable consisted of future preparedness (Meskendahl, 2010; Petro & Gardiner, 2015), which used three measures to assess it; strategic fit (Jonas et al. 2012; Petro & Gardiner, 2015), which used three measures to evaluate it; project portfolio balance (Jonas et al., 2012; Petro & Gardiner, 2015), which used five measures to understand it; and the synergies/collaboration between business units (Jonas et al., 2012), which used three measures to operationalize it.

Concerning the dependent variable, organizational ambidexterity, there were several scales available and various means used to operationalize it in the academic research. For instance, He and Wong (2004) designed a measure based on product design and innovation. Benner and Tushman (2003) conceptualized this construct using measures of technological innovation and product design. Chandrasekaran et al. (2012) designed a scale that targets R&D and high-tech businesses. Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) conceptualized a measure that has hands-on behavioral and contextual aspects of the organization and its ambidexterity. Kortmann et al. (2014) were more interested in manufacturing. Many other scholars designed different scales to measure ambidexterity in one way or another and in a way that fits within their research requirements—see Jonas et al. (2005); Lubatkin et al. (2006); Mom et al. (2007); Cao, Gedajlovic, and Zhang (2009); Rothaermel and Alexandre (2009); Voss and Voss (2013); Kortmann et al. (2014); Wei et al. (2014); and Agostini, Nosella, and Filippini (2016).

In light of the above, this research adopted a combined scale for ambidexterity, which was operationalized by Lubatkin et al. (2006) and tested by Agostini et al. (2016). Lubatkin et al. (2006) adapted He and Wong's (2004) scale of measuring organizational ambidexterity and enhanced it with the use of a panel of researchers. The final measure of Lubatkin et al. (2006) consisted of 12 measures divided between exploration and exploitation. These measures were the closest among many others to the definition of ambidexterity generated by this study, and it has been assumed that it would better serve the intention behind this research.

Control variables were added to the study questionnaire to help understand the various relationships that could occur in the various study contexts. The size of the organization was selected as one of the control variables, since this may have a direct effect on the organization's innovativeness and its ambidexterity (Fritsch & Lukas, 2001; Lavie et al., 2010). The industry was selected as another variable, because it may have an effect on the type of relationship that may influence the internal processes in the organization (Junni, Sarala, Taras, & Tarba, 2013).

All items referring to the constructs and variables in this research were measured using a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Prior to deciding on the five-point Likert scale, an investigation on the best number of points for this scale—either 5 or 7 points—was carried out (Nunnally, 1978; Sauro, 2010). The short answer was that 7-point scales are a little better than 5-point scales—but not by much (Sauro, 2010). Hence, a 5-point Likert scale was used to simplify the analysis, and to further simplify the data-gathering process, because it was well perceived that lowering the number of points in the scale could encourage more respondents to contribute in the quantitative research.

5.3.6 Descriptive analysis

The quantitative survey was responded to by 160 participants, most of whom came from more than 12 different industries. The sizes of the respondents’ organizations varied, as can be seen from the following tables. The respondents who contributed to the survey came mostly from senior to top management levels of their organizations, denoting an understanding of their operations as well as an understanding of the operations of their competitors and counterparts in the market. It is assumed that the contribution of such levels of seniority among the respondents would reduce inaccuracies and errors in the collected data.

The following tables provide a high-level descriptive analysis for the collected data. More details and descriptive analysis for the entire set of collected data can be found in Appendix F.

Table 5-5 presents the industries of the respondents who have contributed to the questionnaire. This table shows that the Construction, Engineering, Consultancy, and Manufacturing industries contributed most to the data, with a nearly 60% share. It is perceived that most of these organizations share a similar essence that mostly revolves around engineering.

Industry Count Percentage
Construction 41 25.6%
Engineering 26 16.2%
Consultancy 15 9.4%
Manufacturing 16 10.0%
Management consulting 9 5.6%
IT 9 5.6%
Medical 9 5.6%
Education 7 4.4%
Banking 6 3.8%
Logistics 5 3.1%
Graphic Information Systems (GIS) 2 1.3%
Others (government, telecom, oil, etc) 15 9.4%
TOTAL 160 100%

Table 5-5: Industry frequency.

Size of the organization Count Percentage
Below 20 employees 12 7.6%
21–75 employees 38 23.6%
75–150 employees 23 14.4%
150–300 employees 20 12.5%
Above 300 employees 67 41.9%
TOTAL 160 100.0%

Table 5-6: Frequencies of organizations’ size.

Table 5-6 presents the sizes of the organizations that contributed to the survey. It shows that more than 30% of the contribution came from small to medium-sized enterprises, while slightly more than 25% came from medium- to large-sized organizations, and more than 40% came from large corporations. These data can be seen as sufficiently distributed among these three categories. This distribution would allow the research to draw sufficient conclusions on the various sizes and their effect on ambidexterity and the research model. This is seen later in the regression analysis section of this chapter.

Table 5-7 provides information on the levels of the respondents who answered the survey placed against the size of their corresponding organization. This shows that more than 65% of the respondents (107 respondents) came from senior to top management levels of their organizations, and this refers to the level of accuracy of the collected data.

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Table 5-7: Cross-reference between employees’ level in the organizations and the organizations’ size.

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Table 5-8: Cross-reference between the industry and organization size.

Table 5-8 provides information on the industries’ contribution to the survey placed against the relevant sizes of the contributing organizations. The table confirms a uniform distribution of the collected data across various organizational sizes and industries in some way or another, with the exception of the construction industry in one particular case only. Table 5-8 adds confidence to the research, showing that the data are not fully skewed toward a particular industry or size.

5.3.7 Confirmatory factor analysis

A factor analysis was carried out on the selected variables to establish the constructs that make up the research model; those constructs are the PPM effectiveness, which represents the effective application of those project portfolio practices in the organization (Meskendahl, 2010; Jonas et al., 2012; Patanakul, 2015; Petro & Gardiner, 2015); ambidexterity, which is represented by the summation of exploratory and exploitative activities (Lubatkin et al., 2006; Agostini et al., 2016); and the business performance and average projects success (Meskendahl, 2010; Jonas et al., 2012; Petro & Gardiner, 2015).

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Table 5-9: Factor analysis for PPM effectiveness.

A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) test was conducted using the factor reduction function in the IBM SPSS Statistics quantitative data analysis software. A Varimax rotation was used for this purpose with a minimum of 25 iterations to test the loading of the factors per each of the constructs.

In summary, the four variables used to describe PPM effectiveness (future preparedness, strategic fit, portfolio balance, and synergies) loaded successfully on four different factors, as shown in Table 5-9. A few items had to be dropped due to their lack of representation and loading in the selected factors, also shown in Table 5-9.

The two variables used to describe ambidexterity (exploration and exploitation) loaded successfully with their 12 items on two different factors, as expected and as shown in Table 5-10. A few items of the factors relevant to ambidexterity had to be dropped due to their lack of representation and loading in the selected factors, as shown in Table 5-10. The two variables used to describe business performance and success also loaded successfully on two different factors, as expected and as shown in Table 5-11. All items for this construct loaded successfully without the need to drop any of its items.

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Table 5-10: Factor analysis for ambidexterity.

The factor business performance and success is subdivided into one component that tackles the performance of the business itself and another component that deals with the average success of projects. This study tests the relationship of ambidexterity with both and then tests mediation with the business performance separately due to its greater involvement with ambidexterity.

All factors were then tested for reliability and internal consistency using all the items that loaded successfully into their relevant factors using Cronbach's alpha (Nunnally, 1987). The test shows that all the factors were reliable, and almost all of the items constituted high internal consistency of 0.7 and above. The details of this test are shown in Table 5-12.

Although the items of the business performance and success loaded successfully on two separate factors, this global factor—which is the combination of the two constituent factors, business performance and average projects success—exhibited low reliability that is less than 0.7. The two components of this global factor were looked at separately with more emphasis on the business performance factor, particularly during regression and mediation testing, due to its higher relevance to the research aims and objectives.

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Table 5-11: Factor analysis for business performance and success.

The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure of sampling adequacy was carried out to ascertain the appropriateness of using CFA and to further confirm the reliability of those measures selected for field investigations (Kaiser, 1970). KMO represents the ratio between variables’ squared correlation and their squared partial correlation. A KMO value that is closer to 0 represents a diversion between those variables, and hence, CFA may not be appropriate for testing. Good KMO results are those with a value that is higher than 0.7 (Hutcheson & Sofroniou, 1999). KMO was measured using SPSS and presented in Table 5-12, along with the reliability results.

5.3.8 Correlation analysis

A correlation analysis for the factors that constituted the research model was carried out using the bivariate Pearson correlation test—see Table 5-13. In order to choose this particular approach for conducting the correlation test and analysis, a check for data normality had to be carried out, which was conducted using two methods. First, normality was checked visually by inspecting the graphs and figures generated through the descriptive analysis, as presented in Appendix F. A normal bell curve was detected for almost all the variables, which was slightly skewed to the right-hand side—this skew indicated most of the participants’ optimism in responding to the field questionnaire. Second, the Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistical nonparametric test was carried out to confirm the visual findings for normality. A two-tailed correlation test was therefore performed to capture all possibilities of correlation.

The correlation analysis shows that all the study factors and variables are positively and significantly correlated, and this can provide sufficient proof for the first two quantitative research hypotheses. The model, for instance, supported H1 with the moderately strong and highly significant correlation of r = + 0.501 at sig = 0.01, which reflects the relationship between ambidexterity and business performance, and the moderately strong and highly significant correlation of r = + 0.593 at sig = 0.01, which reflects the relationship between ambidexterity and the average project's success. Ambidexterity was found highly correlated with the combined/clustered global factor business performance and average projects success at r = + 0.641 and sig = 0.01 as well. Moreover, taking exploration and exploitation factors separately, those two factors were found to be correlated with the factors of business performance and projects’ success, both separately and clustered.

Factor Number of items Items reduced to Cronbach alpha KMO
Business performance 4 NA 0.829 0.750
Average projects’ success 4 NA 0.779 0.747
Future preparedness 3 NA 0.754 0.677
Strategic fit 3 NA 0.757 0.693
Portfolio balance 5 3 0.715 0.712
Use of synergies 3 NA 0.757 0.657
Exploration 6 5 0.885 0.864
Exploitation 6 3 0.850 0.852
Global factor: Business performance and success 2 NA 0.620* 0.500*
Global factor: PPM effectiveness 4 NA 0.791 0.860
Global factor: Ambidexterity 2 NA 0.861 0.912

*Due to lack of reliability combined with a low KMO measure, constituent items were looked at separately in the further analysis.

Table 5-12: Reliability test and KMO results for all factors.

PPM effectiveness was found to be strongly and highly correlated with ambidexterity at r = + 1 0.778 with sig = 0.01, providing sufficient proof for H2. Similarly, the model showed that PPM effectiveness is highly and strongly correlated with business performance at r = + 0.539, average projects’ success at r = + 0.687, and the cluster of business performance and average projects’ success at r = + 0.710.

Since more and more factors were significantly and highly correlated in the correlation model, a check for collinearity was necessary prior to moving on to regression analysis. Generally, if two items or more had a correlation value that exceeded 0.8, collinearity between those items could exist (Field, 2009). Collinearity refers to the close dependence, and the exhibition of “non independence,” of the predictor variables (Dormann et al., 2013). This may occur, for example, upon measuring two very similar variables—for instance, one could be the “age” of a respondent and another could be his or her “year of birth.” Collinearity, in this case, can inflate regression values, providing wrong analysis results (Dormann et al., 2013).

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Table 5-13: Correlation analysis.

The correlation model shows that exploration, exploitation, and ambidexterity are highly correlated. This, however, has been assumed not to be of concern, since all are constituents of the same construct or global factor—“ambidexterity.” The same applies for the other constructs—“PPM effectiveness” and “performance and success.” However, a closer look was necessary at the relationship between the two constructs—“PPM effectiveness” and “ambidexterity”—since their correlation was close enough to 0.8.

Collinearity between those factors was checked using the Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) measure. VIF indicates whether a variable or a predictor has a strong linear relationship with the other variables(s) or predictor(s) (Field, 2009). Myers (1990) suggests that a value of VIF that exceeded 10.0 may be problematic, while the guide for IBM SPSS Statistics software version 22 suggests that any value exceeding 2.0 shall be of concern. Based on this, several scenarios for the two constructs (the global factors, ambidexterity, and PPM effectiveness) and their constituent variables were performed and VIF was always measured at a value that is less than 10.0, which indicates that collinearity or multicollinearity was not an issue (Dormann et al., 2013).

5.3.9 Regression analysis and test for mediation

The previous section presented a correlation analysis among all the model variables. This section takes the analysis one step further and tests the quantitative research hypotheses using the Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression method. OLS regression tends to be used to predict the behavior of relationships and how they could act in future events (Field, 2009). Regression was carried out in categories of size in order to predict how each organizational size would perform, particularly when it comes to measuring the mediation effect of ambidexterity (H3).

In summary, the regression results supported H1 and H2 for all organizational sizes. However, H3, which tests the mediation effect of ambidexterity, was only supported in small or medium enterprises (20 to 75 employees in size), while the effect of this mediation dwindled and disappeared as the organization grew bigger in size, in which case, more emphasis on portfolio management was noticeable.

Based on the above brief summary of regression results, the following analysis focuses only on testing the three hypotheses using regression for small and medium-size enterprises only. The regression models that present the regression analysis for each organizational size are presented in Appendix G in a similar format to Table 5-14 for reference.

Hypothesis H1 predicts that ambidexterity (i.e., the cluster formed by adding exploration and exploitation) will be positively related to performance. As presented in Table 5-14, the coefficient b (i.e., the slope of the regressed line) for ambidexterity in Model 1 was positive and highly significant (β = 0.525 at sig < 0.001), therefore supporting H1. Hypothesis H2 predicts that PPM effectiveness would be positively related to ambidexterity, as presented in Model 2, as supported by the highly significant positive β coefficient (β = 0.674 at sig < 0.001).

Hypothesis H3 predicts that ambidexterity shall mediate the relationship between PPM effectiveness and performance. In order to analyze for mediation, three steps are followed (Kenny & La Voie, 1985; Baron & Kenny, 1986; Mackinnon & Dwyer, 1993; Kenny, Kashy, & Bolger, 1998). Initially, it is important to establish that the independent variable (i.e., PPM effectiveness) influences the mediator (i.e., case ambidexterity). This was established and supported in Model 2, where β = 0.674 at sig < 0.001. Second, it is essential to demonstrate that the independent variable (PPM effectiveness) influences the dependent variable (performance). This was established in Model 3 at β = 0.480 and sig < 0.05, as shown in Table 5-14. In the last step, one must demonstrate that the mediator (ambidexterity) influences the dependent variable (performance) with the independent variable (PPM effectiveness) controlled. If in this last step, the effect of PPM effectiveness on performance was no longer significant when the mediator “ambidexterity” is in the model, full mediation can be indicated depending on how significant the model was.

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Table 5-14: Results of regression analysis for small and medium enterprises only.

In light of the above, and as shown in Model 4 (Table 5-14), a multiple regression analysis was performed using the two variables as independent variables—PPM effectiveness and ambidexterity. The β coefficient for ambidexterity was found to be positive and significant at β = 0.445 and sig < 0.05. Furthermore, and while using ambidexterity in the same multiple regression model, the coefficient β for PPM effectiveness lost its significance to ambidexterity, and this indicates that mediation of ambidexterity was taking effect in small and medium-size enterprises.

The VIF for all variables in the four models was measured and found to be less than 2.0, which indicates that collinearity or multicollinearity did not exist in these models, and hence the models’ results can be accepted (Myers, 1990; Field, 2009).

Based on the above results of regression and multiple regression analysis, it can be concluded that the three hypotheses presented at the beginning of the quantitative study can be accepted, and most importantly, it was found that ambidexterity acted as a mediator for performance with the use of PPM effectiveness as an independent variable in small and medium-size enterprises only. This conclusion provides sufficient proof that PPM practices as represented by their effectiveness can enhance ambidexterity, which can mediate for business units’ performance. This conclusion agrees with the aims and objectives of this study when applied to small and medium-size enterprises; it indicates that as organizations grow, ambidexterity ceases to mediate the relation between portfolio management and performance. In fact, ambidexterity becomes one of the factors affecting performance, but at lesser significance compared to PPM—see Appendix G for more details on significance, and in particular, Models 1 and 3 for each organizational size. Larger organizations have the capacity for creating various units for exploration and exploitation with their resources’ munificence (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009; Jansen et al., 2012). They shall increase their focus on getting their processes and practices right.

A similar analysis for regression and multiple regression was carried out to test average projects success as the dependent variable, but mediation for ambidexterity was not detected. However, positive and significant relationships were established among all the variables, as also indicated in the correlation model presented in Table 5-13.

5.3.10 Post hoc analysis—The effect of size and industry

To gain more insight into the quantitative analysis, a post hoc analysis was carried out with the organization size and its industry in mind. The intention of this analysis was to measure the effect of size and industry on the extent of ambidexterity of organizations to see if clustering is an option.

To start, the collected data for the variables “exploration” and “exploitation,” along with the calculated data for the construct “ambidexterity,” were grouped under two major categories—one for size and another for industry. Each of these categories consisted of groups or subcategories beneath them. For example, the size category had five sizes beneath it, as originally defined in the scale presented in Appendix D. The same applied to the industry groups (see Table 5-15). The intention behind this arrangement was to see if clustering of groups can be created, with each cluster carrying a particular ambidexterity score. To achieve this, means were calculated for ambidexterity, exploration, and exploitation under each of the groups/clusters (Loftus & Masson, 1994).

An initial view of the outcome of the analysis on ambidexterity scores is presented in Table 5-15, which shows that there are few differences between those groups or clusters. For instance, the data show that small and medium-size enterprises acted more ambidextrously compared with their larger-size counterparts. Moreover, industries belonging to the service sector generated slightly higher, albeit barely noticeable, values of ambidexterity. The differences in the average of ambidexterity scores per each of the defined group(s) were not large enough to prove that a significant statistical difference existed. The standard deviation also proves that the ranges of ambidexterity scores between those defined groups could intersect, and hence, a boundary between each of the groups may not really exist.

An independent t-test was conducted to see if clustering ambidexterity based on size or industry was an option. The independent t-test detects if there was significance in the differences between groups’ means (Field, 2009). The results of the independent t-test have proven that almost all scores within each of the groups of size and industry carried very little to almost no significance at all. The lack of establishing significance has failed to disprove the homogeneity of the assumed clusters. Hence, it can be safely concluded that clustering of ambidexterity based on size and industry was not an option and that there is really little effect when it comes to comparing ambidexterity scores on the basis of size and industry.

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Table 5-15: Means for ambidexterity against size and industry.

The finding of the lack of clustering confirms that ambidexterity is independent of any static exogenous factors, such as size and industry. This confirms that, in order to achieve ambidexterity, careful consideration should be given to discovering and resolving paradoxes in the various dimensions of ambidexterity, as defined in this study, along with the other factors and mechanisms that can help do that. The ability to achieve this can help enhance the ambidexterity score for organizations, and this has nothing to do with the organization size or its industry.

5.3.11 Summary of the quantitative study

The quantitative study confirms the qualitative study results presented earlier in this chapter. These results provided more generalizability for the overall research outcomes and enhanced the validity of the research findings.

The quantitative study was commissioned to establish a connection between project portfolio management (PPM) practices and ambidexterity, and to further test the effect of both on performance. Although this relationship has already been established using the qualitative field analysis by way of the 12 interviews previously conducted, the quantitative analysis provided objectivity to the qualitative results through the use of a questionnaire distributed to a much larger pool of professionals. In the quantitative study, PPM practices were represented and operationalized by the effective conduction of PPM. PPM effectiveness was therefore operationalized as a stand-alone construct measured against a combination of tested and known scales (Meskendahl, 2010; Jonas et al., 2012; Patanakul, 2015; Petro & Gardiner, 2015). The final scale used to measure PPM effectiveness was checked against the outcome of the qualitative study to confirm alignment with its findings. Ambidexterity was also operationalized as a construct measured using a collection of established scales (Lubatkin et al., 2006; Agostini et al., 2016). The final scale used to measure ambidexterity was also checked against the results of the qualitative analysis to confirm alignment with its findings. Performance was measured following a verification process similar to the one used for the other study constructs.

The quantitative research was conducted in a project management industry where mainly project-based organizations (PBOs) were involved. A total of 160 responses were collected throughout this study; most came from the engineering industry—that is, more than 60%, while other industries, such as education, banking, logistics, and management consulting, contributed in sufficient numbers as well.

The results of the quantitative analysis have proven that a relationship between PPM practices—as depicted and operationalized by PPM effectiveness—existed and that was positive and significant. Also, the analysis results have shown that PPM effectiveness was correlated positively and significantly with performance. Most importantly, ambidexterity was found to mediate the relationship between PPM effectiveness and performance in small and medium-size enterprises. That is, this research has proved that project portfolio management can achieve performance through ambidexterity in small and medium-size enterprises only. This was established via several multiple and singular regression analyses to prove that ambidexterity carried more significance in enhancing performance compared to PPM effectiveness, while PPM effectiveness remained salient with its relationship with ambidexterity. This final conclusion agrees directly and indirectly with a proliferation of research on small and medium-size enterprises (Covin & Covin, 1990; Covin, Green, & Slevin, 2006; Lubatkin et al., 2006; Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009; Turner et al., 2009; Gong, Zhou, & Chang, 2013; Patel, Messersmith, & Lepak, 2013; Voss & Voss, 2013; Broersma et al., 2016).

A post hoc analysis was carried out in an attempt to create clusters of organizational sizes and/or industries, or a combination of both, with the possibility of each cluster exhibiting a certain degree of ambidexterity. However, and upon conducting an independent t-test to confirm the possibility of data clustering, no real statistical difference was detected between those assumed clusters. The lack of clustering and the confirmation of homogeneity in variances agree indirectly with the initial research findings. This entails that the achievement of ambidexterity requires the realization of certain paradoxes in certain dimensions through the application of certain mechanisms, and that has nothing to do with size or industry.

5.3.12 Triangulation

Triangulation methods have been used throughout the field investigations of this research to enhance the validity of the relevant findings (Denzin, 1978; Bryman, 1992; Curral et al., 2015). A combination of the triangulation's “within” method and the “in-between” method were used in this study to corroborate the qualitative study results against those of the quantitative study. The earlier method refers to confirming the internal validity of the measures used in the research, while the latter deals with their external validity (Jick, 1979; Modell, 2005). The purpose behind triangulating the research findings was to arrive at a convergence of the study conclusions.

The outcomes of this study were triangulated with the use of the qualitative case study analysis, combined with the prior literature review and the systematic analysis of the literature. This was followed by the broad use of a survey questionnaire that targeted professionals in certain industries and certain organizational types (i.e., PBOs). The main contribution of the case study analysis was to confirm the initial findings of the systematic review of the literature, which generated a comprehensive definition for ambidexterity—this involved confirmation of the dimensions and mechanisms of ambidexterity, which entailed a “within” method of triangulation to achieve internal validity of those measures. The case study analysis then targeted one of the objectives of this research, which is the establishment of a relationship between mechanisms of ambidexterity and PPM practices.

A quantitative analysis applied through a survey instrument followed to corroborate the findings of the case study outcomes in regard to the established relationship between ambidexterity and project portfolio management. To start, the construct PPM effectiveness was validated and operationalized to measure the effective application of PPM practices, as discussed in the quantitative study section (Modell, 2005). After this, internal validity was established by linking ambidexterity with portfolio management; this was followed by externally validating the constructs by linking them with performance (see Modell, 2005, for the requirements of internal, external, and construct validity in triangulation).

In conclusion, it can be seen that triangulation was generally applied throughout this study, as implied by its methods of application in the study's various parts. This adds confirmation to the measures used in this study, it adds further confidence to the generated comprehensive definition of ambidexterity, and it adds more reliability to the overall research findings.

5.4 Overall chapter summary

This chapter has presented the qualitative and quantitative field investigations carried out in its various parts to prove the theory behind this research. The chapter started with presenting the approach taken to conduct the qualitative site investigation, which was conducted by interviewing 12 case study firms, most of which were believed to be ambidextrous, while a few exhibited the opposite of ambidexterity, selected to create a polarized form of case study selection (Pettigrew, 1988). The qualitative study and analysis were operationalized to first converge into the comprehensive definition of ambidexterity, which was generated during the systematic review of the literature, and this has been successfully proven. It was important to produce this proof at the start in order to show the continuity of the findings of this research. Second, the qualitative study investigated the mechanisms that can be applied in organizations to assist them in achieving ambidexterity; those were successfully generated and they also converged with the outcome of the systematic review of the literature. Third, the qualitative study investigated the means and processes of portfolio management practices and their relationship with the mechanisms of ambidexterity, not only to prove that there was a direct link between both, but also to show how both processes/practices and mechanisms can complement each other. This was carried out by mapping both PPM practices and the mechanisms of ambidexterity and filling out the gaps between them.

A quantitative field investigation followed the qualitative study to increase the reliability of the results, enhance their generalizability, and test the mediation effect of ambidexterity with portfolio management. The quantitative field study investigation collected 160 responses using a survey questionnaire designed to identify the constructs that were most relevant to portfolio management practices, ambidexterity, and performance. The data from the 160 responses were analyzed and the findings of the initial qualitative study were corroborated. Second and most importantly, ambidexterity was tested for mediation—that is, to see if it mediates the relationship between portfolio management and performance. The results of mediation were positive for small and medium-size enterprises only. Larger organizations required rather more emphasis on PPM practices to enhance performance without disregarding the importance that ambidexterity plays.

Chapter 6 Discussion

6.1 Introduction

This study investigates the factors that can improve performance in PBOs and follow their growth and sustainability in dynamic environments. It starts by examining the internal functions of those organizations—exploration and exploitation—that form what has been identified in this study and in previous research as organizational ambidexterity. Organizational ambidexterity has been defined previously as the ability of the organization to explore the market and the surrounding environment while having the ability to exploit its own knowledge base, resources, processes, and technologies. This study also examines the relationship between this organizational capability and performance. The study then recognizes PPM practices as a vehicle that can host ambidexterity within the organization, and recommends their use to achieve ambidexterity in PBOs.

This research was commissioned to resolve a problem faced by PBOs that operate in highly dynamic environments. These organizations use project management practices to run their operations. These practices are known to being sufficiently inflexible to run an ambidextrous operation (Hodgson & Cicmil, 2007; Lenfle & Loch, 2010; Candi et al., 2013). This inflexibility can impede the organization's desire to grow and perform, and this can lead to difficulties in achieving ambidexterity in PBOs. These organizations, therefore, try to embed this desirable ambidextrous status by applying various techniques, which may not be structured to start with and could be infused with an ad hoc application of various approaches. The application of unstructured approaches to ambidexterity may not lead to the desired and consistent outcome those organizations would like to see. It is, therefore, the ad hoc approach that organizations use to achieve an ambidextrous state, particularly in the case of PBOs, or the imbalance between exploitation and exploration, which may lead to the lack of real performance exhibited by these organizations.

This study aims to address and resolve this research problem. First, it generates a detailed structure and approach to organizational ambidexterity, by which it generates a comprehensive definition for this capability. This definition is formulated to be suitably general and sufficiently detailed to realize its applicability in various environmental and organizational contexts. Portfolio management practices are investigated to assess their compatibility with this generated definition as a proposed approach to ambidexterity.

This study, therefore, and in the realm of the different practices and/or the claimed dynamic capabilities and performance of organizations along with business sustainability concerns, proposes the use of PPM as a standard practice to establish new mechanisms for ambidexterity in PBOs. In order to establish this objective, organizational ambidexterity is analyzed in this study in sufficient detail by way of a systematic literature review to understand all its requirements, definitions, and applications.

In summary, this study examines organizational ambidexterity through the lens of PPM practices. It seeks to establish a relationship between ambidexterity and PBOs that operate in dynamic environments, and in the process, seeks to evaluate the nature of relationships within the context of organizational events when dealing with internal and external factors within the project-based environment.

6.2 Transforming a research problem into questions and objectives

In order to answer the research problem, the study was structured to produce three research questions that follow the logical sequence of the earlier presented research map (shown in Table 1-1 of Chapter 1) in the introduction of the study.

The first research question starts with an inquiry to redefine and restructure ambidexterity. This question was addressed through an extensive and a systematic review of the literature. This review was followed by a qualitative field investigation and analysis to refine its outcomes and provide reliability to the generated answer.

RQ1: What is organizational ambidexterity and how can it be defined within the context of project-based organizations (PBOs)?

The answer to the first research question generated a comprehensive definition for the organizational dynamic capability ambidexterity. This detailed and comprehensive definition facilitated the application of ambidexterity to various organizational contexts and types and facilitated understanding ambidexterity in various environmental applications, such as the project-based environment and PBOs, which is the focal point of this research.

The second research question builds on the recommendations produced by the first research question. As a continuation from the first research question, the second research question investigates the mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity, as defined in the first question. This question was initially answered by conducting a systematic literature review followed by qualitative field verifications.

RQ2: What is the range of mechanisms needed to support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

The answer to the second research question generated mechanisms that can fill the gap of ambidexterity and that can be applied throughout organizations in general and to PBOs in particular. Those mechanisms were initially produced at a high level based on the literature review, then they were detailed enough to understand how ambidexterity can be approached. This lower layer, which represents a detailed approach to mechanisms, was generated and confirmed with a qualitative study research that took place in the field.

The third research question investigates PPM practices to see if they can be used as a vehicle that can carry ambidexterity within the organization. This question carries on from the conclusions and recommendations on the mechanisms of ambidexterity of the second research question and links them with PPM practices. This question is addressed by means of conducting a qualitative study, combined with a review of PPM practices literature and standards, and triangulated by conducting a quantitative study.

RQ3: How can project portfolio management (PPM) as a process support ambidexterity in project-based organizations (PBOs)?

Three hypotheses were advanced to support addressing this research question. These hypotheses start with a check on the relationship between 1) ambidexterity and performance, then 2) PPM and performance, and finally, 3) they set the stage to test the mediation effect of ambidexterity with performance:

Hypothesis H1: The higher the level of ambidexterity in an organization or business unit, the higher the level of performance.

The field study confirmed this first hypothesis through the application of a quantitative field study. An increased level of ambidexterity in organizations has certainly proved its relationship with performance. The outcome of this hypothesis corroborates with the outcomes of many scholars who studied ambidexterity in a similar context (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; He & Wong, 2004; Venkatraman et al., 2007; Agostini et al., 2016). In addition to this relationship and to the previous related research, this study added one more relation to its initial outcome, and that is the positive relation between ambidexterity and the performance and success of projects within PBOs, which is a logical progression of this hypothesis.

Hypothesis H2: The more that an organization or its business units exhibits an effective application of its project portfolio management practices (measured through its PPM effectiveness), the higher the level of ambidexterity.

This hypothesis was proven to be true and corroborates with the outcome of many other similar research studies (Petro & Gardiner, 2015; Serrador & Turner, 2015). The reason for its inclusion in this research was to support the answer to the third research question and the third hypothesis through a mediation analysis achieved via regression analysis—see Section 5.3.9 of Chapter 5 for more details.

Hypothesis H3: Ambidexterity mediates the relationship between PPM practices and the organization's performance.

This hypothesis hosts the main objective of the research; its intention was to see how PPM practices could help organizations achieve ambidexterity and what the overall effect on performance was if that was true. Initially, a relationship between ambidexterity and PPM practices was established through a comparative analysis carried out during the qualitative field study. This relationship was then advanced to be tested in the field through regression to see the direct effect of this combination on performance. A mediation effect of ambidexterity was found. This means that the study gave more importance to ambidexterity to achieve better performance and that ambidexterity shall be achieved through the application of PPM practices. However, this relationship was only found to be true in small and medium-size enterprises, while other organizational types and sizes had processes, as represented in PPM practices, at the forefront for seeing performance through.

6.3 Overview of the research outcomes

The aim of this research is to build an understanding of how ambidexterity can be achieved in project-based organizations (PBOs); in doing so, it generated a comprehensive definition for ambidexterity to act as a foundation for this research. The intention behind the construction of this foundation was to facilitate understanding of this capability and prepare it for its application to some specific forms of organizing, one of which was the focus of this study, PBOs. The study then investigated the means and mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity in organizations. This aim promoted the application of PPM practices being viewed to facilitate dynamic capabilities within organizations (Davies & Brady, 2016). The comprehensive definition was generated through a systematic review of the literature. This was then followed by a combination of qualitative and quantitative field studies to generate a proper approach to see this capability through in organizations and in PBOs.

The qualitative investigations employed the comprehensive definition of ambidexterity to achieve its results. The qualitative site investigations were carried out through 12 interviews, which were conducted with 12 informants from 12 case study firms. The interviewed firms were selected to represent various degrees of ambidexterity in their operations. The qualitative analysis was carried out using a cross-case analysis, along with a within-case study analysis to investigate mechanisms of ambidexterity. Nevertheless, the analysis was carried out simultaneously on both dimensions and mechanisms of ambidexterity as defined in the systematic review of the literature in order to increase the reliability of the study outcomes, and to further infuse trust in the generated comprehensive definition of ambidexterity, thus confirming the study outcome as cohesive and reliable. The analysis that was carried out on dimensions of ambidexterity confirmed the outcomes of the systematic review of the literature and provided further details on these constructs. Resuming the analysis, the study continued with investigating the mechanisms of ambidexterity and tested their relationship with PPM practices.

The quantitative study carried out in this research confirmed the qualitative study results. These results provided more generalizability for the overall research outcomes and enhanced the validity of the research findings. The quantitative study was commissioned to establish a connection between PPM practices and ambidexterity, and to further test the effect of both on performance. Although this relationship has already been established using the qualitative field analysis by way of the 12 interviews conducted earlier in this research, the quantitative analysis provided objectivity to the qualitative results through the use of a questionnaire distributed to a much larger pool of professionals.

The quantitative research was conducted in a project management industry where mainly PBOs were involved. A total of 160 responses were collected throughout this study; most responses came from the engineering industry. The results of the quantitative analysis proved that a positive and significant relationship existed between PPM practices, as represented by PPM effectiveness. Also, the analysis results have shown that PPM effectiveness was correlated positively and significantly with performance. Most importantly, ambidexterity was found to mediate the relationship between PPM effectiveness and performance in small and medium-size enterprises. That is, this research has proved that PPM can achieve performance through ambidexterity in small and medium-size enterprises only. This was established though carrying out several multiple and singular regression analyses to prove that ambidexterity carried more significance in enhancing performance compared to PPM effectiveness, while PPM effectiveness remained salient with its relationship with ambidexterity.

A post hoc analysis was carried out in attempt to create clusters of organizational sizes and/or industries, or a combination of both, with the possibility of each cluster exhibiting a certain degree of ambidexterity. However, no real statistical difference was detected between those assumed clusters. The lack of clustering and the confirmation of homogeneity in variances indirectly support the initial research findings. This means that the achievement of ambidexterity requires the realization of certain paradoxes in certain dimensions through the application of certain mechanisms, and that has nothing to do with size or industry.

The following sections discuss the research outcomes and show how the research outcomes contributed in restructuring and redefining ambidexterity, and how this new structure facilitates its application to PBOs. Those sections then discuss how this new structure and approach to ambidexterity contributes to a paradigm shift in this particular area of knowledge and how that has contributed with a theoretical framework that can be built upon in future studies.

6.4 Limitations and future studies

Leveraging the review and analysis of the literature, combined with the cross-case analysis carried out in the qualitative study and the inferential statistical analysis undertaken during the quantitative study, enabled the development and establishment of a theoretical framework that explicates the exploitation/exploration tensions, along with the situations of paradox, which could occur within and outside the boundaries of PBOs. The establishment of this framework led to generating the substance of a shift in paradigm in this area of knowledge.

More specifically, this study identifies what new actions should be taken to spin the wheel of ambidexterity in PBOs, posed as mechanisms and dimensions of ambidexterity integrated within the levels of the organization, illustrated within the boundaries of the above-mentioned theoretical/conceptual framework (see Figure 3-4 of Chapter 3).

Given the goal of developing a framework that might spur further empirical research, this study lends itself to opportunities for testing and extending its established framework. Drawing on and learning from the firms assessed in this study, this study investigated 12 ambidextrous firms during the qualitative analysis, along with 160 organizations, which operated in more than 12 industries during the quantitative analysis. This study investigated particular sizes as well and made general contributions on small and medium-size enterprises. However, whether these lessons can be applied elsewhere raises important questions. Therefore, it is recommended to extend this work to cover more areas and more industries. It is also recommended that future scholars increase the focus on particular industries and conduct particular research on small and medium-size enterprises in this context, as well as research on other organizational types or sizes.

Ambidexterity in the public and the private sectors was only mentioned briefly in this research, and the only contributing factor of those was the size of organizations that operated in those two sectors. Further studies on ambidexterity are therefore recommended to cover more aspects of the private and the public sectors. Likewise, the relationship between the organization's size, industry, and the management approach toward the application of certain mechanisms and dimensions demands further assessment.

Project portfolio management (PPM) practices were assessed and a comparative analysis was carried out between them. From this, the study established mechanisms of ambidexterity; however, it did not impose a direct change to any of the established and known standards. The author proposes to generalize the application and increase the understanding of this area of knowledge and the retention effect of ambidexterity on performance as achieved through those practices. It is therefore recommended that future works delve in greater detail into establishing those practices that can be used and impose changes or recommend particular applications in certain areas.

Another direction for future research lies in the application of another research lens. In that case, the study critically examines organizational ambidexterity through the lens of PPM practices. It establishes a relationship between ambidexterity and PBOs that operate in dynamic environments through the use of PPM practices. It is therefore recommended that future studies look through other research lenses to pick the best routes for ambidexterity and test which of those routes could impose better results for achieving this organizational capability.

It is to be noted here that ambidexterity is an organizational characteristic, a state, or a capability that can be achieved along different routes. Some studies talked about achieving it via the application of innovation tactics, being incremental in some cases or radical in others (Jansen et al., 2005). Others linked the application of programs to exploratory traits and projects to the exploitative ones (Pellegrinelli et al., 2015). Mom et al. (2007) established a link between the type and direction of knowledge flow in the various organizational layers and the ability of the organization to become ambidextrous. Lubatkin et al. (2006) linked ambidexterity to the traits and behaviors of the management team. Lavie et al. (2010) talked about the various organizational structures and their means to achieve ambidexterity; in their research, they suggested the following routes to ambidexterity: contextual, organizational, temporal, and domain separation. Turner et al. (2013) used the intellectual capital of the organization to propose micro-mechanisms for achieving ambidexterity. This study comes with a new proposition to find better practices and solutions that can help see ambidexterity through in organizations, and it proposes to link ambidexterity with portfolio management. Therefore, and for the sake of completeness, a future study and an upcoming research question can be proposed to cover the best means or routes for achieving ambidexterity. The outcome of this study, and the answers to the previously mentioned questions, can be used as the point of departure for scholars who are interested in investigating organizational ambidexterity in a similar manner in the future.

6.5 Contribution to knowledge

This research has sought to explain and restructure organizational ambidexterity by investigating actions taken by real organizations in resolving paradoxical situations. In so doing, a better understanding of organizational attributes in the field of ambidexterity—identified here as dimensions of ambidexterity and their mechanisms—was generated. The outcome of this research lends itself to various recommendations that are considered very valuable for managers, practitioners, and scholars.

For practitioners, this research provides new means and measures that can be used to assess gaps in organizations, with a particular focus on PBOs. This study facilitates the identification of those gaps by linking them to the dimensions and mechanisms of ambidexterity as defined and generated during the analysis of the problem defined in this document. The study proves that upon bridging those gaps, ambidexterity can facilitate better development for organizations. Moreover, this new conceptual development in the area of ambidexterity, combined with its alignment with PPM practices, helps practitioners and managers comprehend the importance and the real influence of this dynamic capability on PBOs, particularly when placed in complex and dynamic environments.

For scholars, this research provides a new theoretical development in the field of ambidexterity. It also generates the substance of a new paradigm shift in this area of knowledge, as implied earlier by Raisch and Birkinshaw (2008). This new shift in paradigm and the development of a new theoretical framework for ambidexterity can be used as a foundation for scholars to build on in future studies. Moreover, the generated definitions and the new structuring for ambidexterity with the relevant dimensions and mechanisms can be taken to develop new scales for the measurement of ambidexterity. Ambidexterity can be measured in various contexts, and the overall new structure for ambidexterity can be used to support and grow other areas of knowledge.

Finally, this study offers a new perspective on projects and PPM within the project-based environment. This new perspective solidifies the relationship between operations and projects and PPM in PBOs, an area increasingly featured in recent research (Svejvig & Andersen, 2015).

Chapter 7 Conclusions and Recommendations

7.1 Introduction

In today's dynamic and projectified world, flexibility and ambidexterity may pose the ultimate advantage for organizations. The leading firms in this environment embody paradoxes within the organizations, along with the accompanying exploitation/exploration tensions that are interwoven with the contradictory forces within and outside the organizations. The identification of a detailed, comprehensive, and yet more structured definition and approach to ambidexterity that can be applied to manage paradoxes within the organization can help demonstrate a managerial creativity in this context. Slaatte (1968, p. 4) ascribed significant importance to the resolving of paradoxes within the organization, depicting a paradox as “an idea involving two opposing thoughts or propositions which, however contradictory, are equally necessary to convey a more imposing, illuminating, life related or provocative insight into truth than either fact can muster in its own right.”

In light of the mix of the complexity and dynamicity of the outside world and the internal inconsistencies of organizations, this research was commissioned to study and align organizational dynamic capabilities represented in ambidexterity to resolve matters and challenges imposed by the external world on project-based organizations (PBOs). These organizations could be infused with rigidity and inflexibility from the application of project management functions (Hodgson & Cicmil, 2007; Lenfle & Loch, 2010; Candi et al., 2013), and hence may benefit from the introduction of dynamic capabilities through the introduction of PPM practices. In addition, this research has studied a wide range of organizational sizes and also investigated a wide range of industries to facilitate understanding ambidexterity in various contexts. The research establishes that small and medium-size enterprises were more receptive to ambidexterity compared to the other types/sizes of organizations. This was also the case with the private sector when compared to the public sector. However, the types of industries exhibited no particular relation with ambidexterity. In other words, organizations in a certain industry would not exhibit more or less ambidexterity because they belong to that industry.

7.2 Restructuring organizational ambidexterity

7.2.1 Redefining ambidexterity

A proliferation of research on organizational ambidexterity started picking up in the early 1990s, initiated by March (1991) following from Duncan's (1976) work on the innovative organization. Back then, the definitions of ambidexterity were abstract. Although more research was generated after March (1990) following his lead on organizational ambidexterity, this study detected a lack of an in-depth structure and a comprehensive understanding of this organizational capability. Therefore, in order to research the mechanisms needed to achieve ambidexterity, along with their relationship with PPM, or any other management process, this study had to find a strong foundation for ambidexterity. This foundation was established by extensively researching this capability in the literature and in the field. This research has so far been able to build and prove a theory that facilitated moving organizational ambidexterity beyond a point of abstraction.

It has long been known that ambidexterity can be achieved with the simultaneous application of exploratory and exploitative activities or functions within the organization (March, 1990). Exploration is generally attached to external functions that are external to the organization and mostly related to the dynamic environment, which ambidexterity seeks to overcome (Teece et al., 2010). Exploitation, on the other hand, is generally attached to internal functions related to the operations and projects delivery (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008). Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) viewed those two functions as internalized within the individual, and hence, promoted what they have identified as contextual ambidexterity. Ambidexterity is mostly linked to the organization's ability to simultaneously and flexibly alter the allocation of its resources (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009); hence, the size of the organization and its resources’ munificence is advantageous (Lubatkin et al., 2006). Having the ability to select the type of projects in the organization to be either exploratory or exploitative can set other means of seeing ambidexterity through in organizations (Eriksson, 2013).

Ambidexterity can also be achieved through balancing between the strategic effectiveness of the organization and the operational efficiency of either the operation itself or its projects (Kortmann et al., 2014). Or, it can be achieved through getting the flow of information and communications right, either through their balance or their direction (Mom et al., 2007). Setting the behavioral aspects of the management team can help in achieving an ambidextrous status as well (Lubatkin et al., 2006). Or, ambidextrous status can be achieved by selecting the team members in accordance to their behavioral aspects (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004). More research covered other aspects of ambidexterity, as examined from different points of views or other fronts.

A common theme in the organizational ambidexterity literature is the ability to overcome the tension or the paradox created in the organization (Smith & Lewis, 2011). This tension produces a paradoxical situation, which requires a resolution in order to maintain continuity in the operation (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009; Smith & Lewis, 2011), which should generate growth and sustainability (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008). The tension within the ambidextrous organization can be explained by the exploratory and the exploitative functions—one function focuses externally and another one focuses internally, with each function trying to pull resources in different directions to fulfill certain requirements. If tension cannot be resolved and/or one function requirement overcomes the other, ambidexterity is ruined (Birkinshaw et al., 2016)—this is similar to a shorter-term success, as depicted by an acceptance strategy discussed in Smith and Lewis (2011).

This study takes the above definitions and approaches to ambidexterity into consideration. It also collects and compiles definitions from almost all the research published on ambidexterity so far, sets up a theory, and produces a comprehensive and well-proven definition for organizational ambidexterity. Among the important factors that are generally missing with ambidexterity (and confirmed by this study) is the need to have, or create, or induce tension or paradox in the organization. The new definition of ambidexterity has identified various dimensions within which this tension should be applied in order to nurture ambidexterity in the organization. These are the knowledge dimension, the behavior dimension, the technological dimension, and the process dimension. This definition also identifies how these paradoxical situations that are created within each of those dimensions exist in the various levels of organizations. The definition of ambidexterity generated in this study can therefore be seen as sufficiently detailed and can also be generalized to assess its applicability in various organizational and environmental contexts:

Ambidexterity is the ability of the organization to employ structural, learning, selection, and communication techniques to resolve paradoxical challenges within intellectual, behavioral, technological, and processual dimensions in the various levels of the organization—these levels (strategic, projects, operations, and individual) can be separate or interwoven—to overcome situations of external dynamicity and competitive environments, considering internal limiting factors such as size, resources availability, and absorptive capacity of the organization.

In order to test this comprehensive definition in the field, situations of paradox and tensional forces were looked for in the identified and selected case studies. Tension was identified as forcibly induced in some instances, creating not only situations of paradox, but also incentives for an organization to be more innovative and more ambidextrous to overcome identified “challenges.” During the field analysis, those identified dimensions of ambidexterity were investigated to find what induced or non induced tensional forces reside within each of them. A basic model was applied, looking at where the organization wanted to be (operating model), and what was holding it back from achieving its goals (challenges). To overcome those challenges, ambidexterity at all levels of the organization and throughout the defined dimensions was identified as necessary.

7.2.2 Restructuring ambidexterity

This study addresses the gaps in the organization ambidexterity research domain (Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008; Birkinshaw et al., 2016; Vahlne & Jonsson, 2017). The study moves our understanding of organizational ambidexterity from the high level of abstraction that ambidexterity has been dealt with toward a more developed framework, which has the ability to address ambidexterity in a systematic and organized manner. This contention over research gaps agrees with Raisch and Birkinshaw (2008, p. 376), who claimed that this field is yet to “benefit from a comprehensive framework that integrates the various insights [of ambidexterity].” Therefore, this study re-creates ambidexterity and integrates it with the various levels of the organization, and considers it as part of its structure. The level of abstraction that ambidexterity has been dealt with previously prevented this capability from reaching its targets (Birkinshaw et al., 2016; Vahlne & Jonsson, 2017). Presenting ambidexterity in this depth, along with the enhanced level of details and the proposed integration with the levels of the organization, allows ambidexterity to be looked at differently, with a different structure in mind. This new structure shall generate a better understanding of this capability and facilitate its integration with the rest of the organizational functions and types.

In earlier research, ambidexterity was looked at as a holistic measure of the organization's ability to explore and exploit (March, 1990; Simsek, 2009), or align and adapt (Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004). This study introduces four different levels in which this dual organizational capability—so-called ambidexterity—can be applied: the strategic level, the projects level, the operations level, and the individual level. Further, this study proves that each of those levels contains four dimensions of ambidexterity, as discussed previously: the knowledge dimension, the technological dimension, the processual dimension, and the behavioral dimension. Therefore, in order to achieve ambidexterity in the organization under this new and more defined structure, this study has established the requirement to cross-check all such levels and dimensions, totaling 16 areas, to which ambidexterity needs to be applied, so that the organization can move up to an ambidextrous status—see Table 7-1, which proposes an example of how organizations can be assessed against their ambidexterity capability.

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Table 7-1: Proposed high-level scorecard system for ambidexterity.

A scorecard system (Kaplan & Norton, 1996a), or a model that is similar to the excellence model (EFQM) in organizations (Wongrassamee, Gardiner, & Simmons, 2003), can be used as a framework to host the above proposed assessment framework in which to measure the degree of ambidexterity for organizations and improve on it. A system of scorecards measures the maturity and success of organizations (Kaplan & Norton, 1996b; Wongrassamee et al., 2003); in this case, it can be customized to include the new structure for measuring the extent of ambidexterity for organizations.

7.2.3 Mechanisms of ambidexterity

This study starts by restructuring ambidexterity and molding it into a new framework against which this capability can be measured. It also generates a detailed and a comprehensive definition for ambidexterity to help scholars and practitioners understand what is happening and what needs to be done in various dynamic and complex situations. Next, the study investigates the mechanisms that are needed in organizations to ensure that this framework integrated with the rest of the activities of the organization when the comprehensive definition is applied.

The study identifies four mechanisms of ambidexterity that need to be applied within the various levels of the organization, along with the four dimensions of ambidexterity. The researcher posits that applying those mechanisms can elevate the entire organization to an ambidextrous status. The systematic review of the literature identifies four mechanisms of ambidexterity. The field studies add other submechanisms to those four mechanisms, as identified in the qualitative analysis. More submechanisms can be identified or added in future similar studies. The mechanisms and submechanisms of ambidexterity are as follows:

1. Structural mechanisms

a. Flexibility

b. Complementary alliances

c. Roles and responsibility

2. Learning mechanisms

a. Learn about new direction

b. Understand what others do

c. Understand and harness own capabilities

d. Learn about own projects

3. Selection mechanisms

a. Selection of pool of clients

b. Selection of resources

c. Selection of projects

4. Communication mechanisms

a. The bond between the leader and the team

b. Internal communications

c. External communications

d. External relationships and networks

The study shows how these mechanisms can be integrated with the various activities of the organization to overcome challenges of various types—each of those challenges could be attached to one or many different dimension(s) of ambidexterity. Those challenges have been identified in the qualitative part of this study as occurrences that could create either a tension or a paradox when they work against the status quo of the organization, its operation, and its goals (hence, the need for ambidexterity).

Mechanisms of ambidexterity can be used as a tool to fill the ambidexterity gap in the organization; this gap identifies the shortcomings of the organization against what needs to be done in order for it to become ambidextrous.

It is worth noting that many scholars have identified several mechanisms that can be used to bridge the ambidexterity gap in organizations (O'Reilly & Tushman, 2008; Turner et al., 2013, 2015). Those mechanisms were consulted in order to finalize the mechanisms identified here. However, what brings uniqueness to the mechanisms presented in this study compared to others is their detailed applicability, their wide coverage, their focus on dimensions and levels, and their direct attachment to the overall framework presented in this study.

7.3 Project-based environments

7.3.1 Project-based organizations (PBOs)

This study presents the PBO as one of the modern and prevailing types of organizations (Hobday, 2000; Geraldi et al., 2011). Hobday (2000, p. 874) defined PBOs as those organizations where projects are “the primary business mechanism[s] for coordinating and integrating.” This definition, along with the proliferation of research on PBOs (Eriksson, 2013; Petro & Gardiner, 2015; Prado & Sapsed, 2016), corroborates the projectified nature of today's world, where all functions and operations are and can be run through projects (Jansen et al., 2016). This study, as it redefines and restructures ambidexterity, prepares PBOs to accept the proposed ambidexterity framework through their PPM functions and practices to benefit from the advantages of becoming ambidextrous.

PBOs constitute project, program, and PPM functions. All those functions can be placed perfectly into a matrix to see the PBO operations through. In their definition of PBOs, Thiry and Deguire (2007) integrated the three functions into a single structure. Thiry and Deguire's (2007) definition represents PPM with an important role in setting up the corporate strategy. Program management intersects with the strategy offered by PPM to propose and deliver the right projects (Gareis, 2007), while project management ensures efficient delivery for the projects at hand (Serrador & Turner, 2015).

7.3.2 Project portfolio management practices

PBOs, as they consist of projects and/or programs (Prado & Sapsed, 2016), or being run through projects and/or programs implementation (Gardiner & Stewart, 2000), require specific management functions, procedures, and processes to be in place to run their operations (Thiry & Deguire, 2007). This is apart from them following a certain project management standard or function (Gardiner, 2005; APM, 2012; PMI, 2013a) or any sort of a program management standard when programs are in place (Gareis, 2007; PMI, 2013b). Many scholars and practitioners have identified PPM practices as one of the more suitable management functions and processes that can be integrated with PBOs’ managerial functions to manage their operations (Levine, 2005).

This study explores the various PPM standards and the practices applied in PBOs to test their relevance to managing their operations and later to compare similarities with the mechanisms of ambidexterity identified here. Some of the standards that this study refers to are The Standard for Portfolio Management (PMI, 2013c), the Chartered Institute of Buildings (CIOB, 2014), and the Association of Project Management (APM, 2012), along with many other books (Gardiner, 2000; Levine, 2005), handbooks (Gareis, 2007; OGC, 2008), and academic articles (Cooper et al., 1997; Archer & Ghasemzadeh, 1999; Blichfeldt & Eskerod, 2008). The research as grounded in those standards, books, handbooks, and academic articles always represented PPM with two dominant themes—one with a strategic and dynamic direction, and one that represents a holistic managerial approach to see better results for the operation.

7.3.3 Project portfolio management practices and ambidexterity

This study investigates and establishes a link between PPM practices and organizational ambidexterity. First, the study carries out a comparative analysis by way of qualitative field investigations between known PPM standards and practices (AMP, 2012; PMI, 2013c; CIOB, 2014) and the mechanisms of ambidexterity as identified in this study. Second, the study identifies and establishes a link between the effective use of PPM practices and organizational ambidexterity through the quantitative analysis carried out in this study. This two-way confirmatory analysis represents triangulated proof and a solid outcome that supports the link between PPM practices and organizational ambidexterity for the PBO type of organizations.

7.4 Effect of ambidexterity on organizations

7.4.1 General effect

This study investigates the effect of ambidexterity on the performance of organizations, particularly those operating in project-based environments and identified as PBOs. Through this investigation, this study has established a direct link between ambidexterity and the performance of PBOs; it has also established a link between the processes and practices that PBOs exhibit to run their day-to-day operations (mainly the PPM practices) and ambidexterity. The study has also investigated the mediation effect that ambidexterity can have on performance, taking into consideration the effect of those organizational processes or practices on ambidexterity. The mediation effect, which organizational ambidexterity has proven to exhibit on performance (represented with ambidexterity as a mediator sitting in between PPM practices and performance in the quantitative research model presented earlier), emphasizes the importance this organizational capability has, and further supports the proliferation of research on ambidexterity and the development of this capability in practice.

This study had the performance of organizations as its focal point due to the importance it brings to growth and sustainability, along with its relationship with short- and long-term project success and overall business performance; however, this does not ignore projects performance. Projects performance was also tested against ambidexterity, and similar types of relationships were established—that is, a link between ambidexterity and projects performance, along with a link between PPM practices and projects performance. Nevertheless, a mediation effect of ambidexterity was not detected in this case; in fact, PPM practices were found to be more important in the case of projects and projects delivery compared to ambidexterity. This could be attributed to the nature of and the means used to measure the targeted performance (i.e., projects performance was mostly measured against short-term performance) (Jonas et al., 2012; Petro & Gardiner, 2015; Turner & Serrador, 2015), while in measuring the performance of the organization, a combination of short- and long-term indicators was used (Meskendahl, 2010). In addition, the anticipated growth of the organization (Jonas et al., 2012), its current market share (Meskendahl, 2010), and future market endeavors (Jonas et al., 2012), along with the sustainability of the business (Meskendahl, 2010; Petro & Gardiner, 2015), were measured. All this comprises what ambidextrous organizations can do (Lubatkin et al., 2006; Agostini et al., 2016; Tamayo-Torres et al., 2017).

7.4.2 Small to medium enterprises

This study examines the established relationships mentioned in the previous section against a selection of control factors. Among those control factors that exhibited a prominent effect when used to control the study outcomes was the effect of the size of the organization on the importance of ambidexterity, and its ability to act as a mediator to performance and success. Upon testing for the effect of size, the study found that organizational ambidexterity exhibited more impact on small to medium-sized enterprises compared to their larger counterparts. This finding corroborates that the role of ambidexterity in terms of its relation between PPM practices and performance is actually dependent on the size of the firm.

Small and medium-size enterprises face competitive pressures to pursue exploitation and exploration with a lack of resources that their larger counterparts have (Lubatkin et al., 2006). Small and medium-size enterprises’ lack of resourcing, or the non slackness of their resources, combined with the lack of administrative and hierarchical systems that may help larger firms in managing their conflicting processes (or paradoxes), affect the ambidexterity of the organization (Lubatkin et al., 2006; Voss & Voss, 2012). For instance, “larger firms can manage these processes by creating structurally separate business units, some focusing entirely on exploitation and others entirely on exploration” (Lubatkin et al., 2006, p. 647).

Moreover, and according to Cao, Gedajlovic, and Zhang (2009, p. 781), “managers in resource constrained contexts may benefit from a focus on managing trade-offs between exploration and exploitation demands, but for firms that have access to sufficient resources, the simultaneous pursuit of exploration and exploitation is both possible and desirable.”

In light of the above, the study highlights small and medium-size enterprises and their insufficient capacity or capability to separate exploratory activities from exploitative activities as conveniently as large organizations can do. Larger-sized organizations can easily go for a temporal separation, a structural separation, or a domain separation (Lavie et al., 2010) in dealing with those activities. The number of resources available to carry out those exploitative day-to-day operations, along with the exploratory functions of the organization, is limited in small and medium-size enterprises; hence, this renders ambidexterity a necessity (Lubatkin et al., 2006; Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009; Voss & Voss, 2012).

Larger organizations have sufficient resources to enable them to carry out the needed activities to satisfy the strategic direction of the organization and its ambidexterity easier than is the case for small and medium-size enterprises (Cao, Gedajlovic, & Zhang, 2009). The difficulty in larger-sized organizations, though, is achieving operational efficiency (Porter, 1996; Kortmann et al., 2014) and cost control (Porter, 1996). These issues are handled by installing better processes and practices in those larger firms (Kortmann et al., 2014).

7.4.3 Public versus private organizations

A discussion on the public and private sectors was carried out at the onset of this research. While many differences were recognized between those two sectors (Mercer, 1991; Boyne, 2002; Van der Wal et al., 2008; Jung, 2014), the study only picks up on the size of those governmental organizations. The field investigations tagged those public organizations with the larger type of organizations with numbers of resources in excess of 300. On the contrary, the private sector organizations can be of any size. Based on this initial outcome of the study and the field investigations—which is true in most of the cases—the study concludes that the public sector puts more emphasis on its own processes, while private sector small and medium-size enterprises have a need to achieve ambidexterity to enhance this performance.

7.4.4 Generalizability of the results

The study investigated more than 12 industries, and each of those investigated industries consisted of various organizational types and sizes. One of the intentions of the analysis carried out after the quantitative study analysis was to identify particular industries, particular organizational sizes, or a combination of both, which can be parceled out or identified with their extent (degree) of ambidexterity—that is, to create clusters of ambidexterity within industries and sizes, so one can identify which of those could be more or less ambidextrous than other clusters. The study unexpectedly returned a negative answer on the above quest. That is, the study proves that the extent of ambidexterity was not attached to an industry or size; rather, it was the will of the employees in following the needed mechanisms or processes that could transform an organization to become ambidextrous. The inability to cluster ambidexterity and distribute those clusters into industries and sizes confirms that ambidexterity is independent of static exogenous factors. Rather, such clusters could be created through directing careful consideration toward discovering and resolving paradoxes in the various dimensions of ambidexterity identified here.

7.5 Summary and recommendations

This study took on the resolution of a problem and answering three research questions relevant to investigating the relationship between PBOs and ambidexterity through the application of certain practices or processes in organizations. In order to arrive at this resolution, the study started by investigating ambidexterity first through a desk-based literature review and analysis and then through qualitative and quantitative field studies. This led to redefining ambidexterity and adding a more comprehensive description to it. In turn, this description informed the building of a new structure for ambidexterity and building new means for its interaction with the organization. This analysis facilitated understanding what dimensions ambidexterity may comprise, and what mechanisms can be used to touch on those dimensions.

Having redefined and restructured ambidexterity made it easier to investigate this capability in PBOs and link PBOs’ specific practices to the dimensions and mechanisms of ambidexterity as defined earlier in this study. This new structure of ambidexterity also made it easier to investigate and further understand the effect of ambidexterity on business performance in general and project success in particular. In doing so, it was possible to understand the effect of size on ambidexterity and its relation with the organization and the processes within the organization. Further, the study has proved that no relationship existed between exogenous factors (such as size or industry) and the extent of ambidexterity that organizations could have or score; rather, the internal processes are what mattered in achieving a certain ambidexterity score.

This study allows organizational ambidexterity to take the shape of a research paradigm, and it builds a theoretical framework that can be used in future applications. A paradigm or a theoretical framework requires the identification of units of interest, and this was achieved through restructuring ambidexterity (Kuhn, 1962). Moreover, based on the work of Dubin (1978) and Fry and Smith (1987), theories also require congruence between these units, an identification of boundaries within which a theory can be applied, and the ability to measure their contingency effects. This research has contributed so far with variables and elements that support the development of a new paradigm along with a solid theoretical framework.

Moreover, this research has contributed to enhancing and adding to the knowledge of organizations’ dynamic capabilities to put them into proper use in PBOs. This knowledge has so far proven to be of a significant use for:

1. Scholars, by arming them with the latest conceptual development on the subject of ambidexterity, and by further uncovering a new possible shift in paradigm in this area of knowledge, which allows them to further this study;

2. Managers, by teaching them the needed tricks to unleash organizations’ dynamic capabilities;

3. Practitioners, by allowing them to apply new means and measures to assess performance gaps in organizations and PBOs; and

4. Training providers, by allowing them to structure and develop new curricula that take into account this new development in organizational knowledge.

Finally, and given the goal of developing a framework that might spur further empirical research, it is recommended to test and extend this framework, taking into account the different organizational sizes and/or industries. It is also recommended that future scholars increase their focus on particular industries and conduct particular research on small and medium-size enterprises in this context. It is also recommended to research other organizational types or sizes, and include more relevant aspects of the public and private sectors when applied in similar future research.

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Permissions

Figure 2.1 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017). AOM. Lavie, D., Stettner, U., & Tushman, M. (2010). Exploration and exploitation within and across organizations. The Academy of Management Annals, 4(1), 109–155. Academy of Management, P.O. Box 3020, Briarcliff Manor, NY, 10510-8020.
Figure 2.2 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017) AOM. Lavie, D., Stettner, U., & Tushman, M. (2010). Exploration and exploitation within and across organizations. The Academy of Management Annals, 4(1), 109–155. Academy of Management, P.O. Box 3020, Briarcliff Manor, NY, 10510-8020.
Figure 2.3 Reproduced with permission. Copyright (2017) WILEY. Simsek, Z. (2009). Understanding organizational ambidexterity: Towards a multilevel. Journal of Management Studies, 46(4), 597–624. John Wiley and Sons Inc.
Figure 2.4 Reproduced with permission. Copyright (2017) WILEY. Simsek, Z. (2009). Understanding organizational ambidexterity: Towards a multilevel. Journal of Management Studies, 46(4), 597–624. John Wiley and Sons Inc.
Figure 2.5 Adapted with permission. Copyright (2017) INFORMS. Andriopoulos, C., & Lewis, M. (2009). Exploitation-exploration tensions and organizational ambidexterity: Managing paradoxes of innovation. Organization Science, 20(4), 696–717. The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, 5521 Research Park Drive, Suite 200, Catonsville, Maryland 21228, USA.
Figure 2.14 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017) AOM. Smith, W. K., & Lewis, M. W. (2011). Toward a theory of paradox: A dynamic equilibrium model of organizing. Academy of Management Review, 36(2), 381–403. Academy of Management, P.O. Box 3020, Briarcliff Manor, NY, 10510-8020.
Figure 2.15 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017) AOM. Smith, W. K., & Lewis, M. W. (2011). Toward a theory of paradox: A dynamic equilibrium model of organizing. Academy of Management Review, 36(2), 381–403. Academy of Management, P.O. Box 3020, Briarcliff Manor, NY, 10510-8020.
Figure 2.16 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017) Elsevier. Thiry, M., & Deguire, M. (2007). Recent developments in project-based organisations. International Journal of Project Management, 25, 649–658.
Figure 2.17 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017) Elsevier. Thiry, M., & Deguire, M. (2007). Recent developments in project-based organisations. International Journal of Project Management, 25, 649–658.
Figure 2.18 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017) Elsevier. Davies, A., & Brady, T. (2016). Explicating the dynamics of project capabilities. International Journal of Project Management, 34(2), 314–327.
Figure 2.19 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017) Elsevier. Meskendahl, S. (2010). The influence of business strategy on project portfolio management and its success—A conceptual framework. International Journal of Project Management, 28, 807–817.
Figure 4.1 Reprinted with permission. Copyright (2017) Elsevier. Handfield, R. B., & Melnyk, S. A. (1998). The scientific theory-building process: A primer using the case of TQM. Journal of Operations Management, 16, 321–339.

Appendix A – Qualitative Study Semi-Structured Questionnaire

1. How many years has your company been in operation? Growing? Shrinking or sustaining?

2. What do you do in the business and what is your role in doing that?

3. How do you describe the market or the environment in which you are operating?

4. How do you deal with the challenges coming from this external environment?

5. What do you think you do differently as an organization to sustain yourself or grow?

6. How do you define/select the types of projects (or work) that you deliver in your organization (whether this was for internal or for external purposes)?

7. To what extent (and how) might project types be affected by the external environment or the market?

8. Is there a certain procedure by which your organization selects project or clients? Is there a certain strategy that they follow?

9. What sort of challenges, if any, do you face in delivering those projects? How do you overcome these challenges?

10. What sort of challenges, if any, do you face with team members? What do you do to satisfy these challenges?

Appendix B – Case Study Interviews: Summary Per Informant

This appendix includes the summary of each of the interview transcripts. Twelve interviews were conducted to represent 12 case study firms. The names of those firms or any other indications to those firms were removed for confidentiality purposes.

Firm Firm 1 Revenue USD $25 million
No. of employees 200 Year est. ~1960
Type of services Engineering consultant
Country of operation UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and KSA
Informant/interviewee Director of operations

We have been operating in this region for about 50 or 60 years; we are a branch of an international company. I would say that we are neither growing nor shrinking; we have hopes and plans for growth, but the current market conditions are playing against us. So, we may be sustaining at this current market situation, which I identify as growth in such a declining environment.

We are an engineering consultant; we are specialized in wet infrastructure works. We work with governments and developers and the like and we produce designs for infrastructures needed for their projects. I am the regional director of projects and the director of operations, in that I monitor the performance of all ongoing projects, I design proposals from a commercial perspective, and I contribute to the inputs of the methodology sections and proposed implementation plans to ascertain that all of our future projects are implementable.

I see the market in which we operate as stressful and competitive. There are only a few projects that are available in the market and many consultants roaming around to get them. Fierce competition on price. Our price has to be tight to make sure we win these projects and the proposals we bid for.

There is no easy way to overcome those challenges. We need to understand the projects we are proposing to implement well in advance; we need to talk to our clients beforehand and before an RFP is issued; we need to understand the real drivers from the clients behind issuing those RFPs, work with them hand in hand so they favor us in case our price was not right, or was higher than the competition (this may not always be the case, but we had few cases like those where we ended up with an award while our price was high). Once we have built this understanding from the client side, we also need to form a good understanding of the market and the competition as well. We need to know who is competing against us and who is not. We shall try to understand why some names have been invited specifically by the client and why some were not invited in the first place. We shall understand how these competitors perceive the market and are they just cheap consultants or ones with a good reputation for delivery. We shall also understand the intentions of the others and if they were planning to buy the proposals/projects or not (i.e., price it very cheaply and at a loss from their side to guarantee win/award).

We work very closely with our clients; we keep ourselves up to date with what is around us, from new technologies and the like; we keep records of previous wins and losses, and we learn from those. We try to hire top-notch people and we try to invest in our people as well. Recently, we have produced a chart that distributes each one's capabilities and importance in the organization; we intend to use this chart to improve on our people skills and capabilities. We monitor the market and we understand what is important, and we build our company CV accordingly.

We are known as a water infrastructure design consultant, so this is how we go by choosing our projects. We mainly look into governmental projects and/or developers and we plan ahead and work with them ahead of time to understand what they do and if there is any chance for us to embed ourselves early on prior to any project inception. We do not go for small things; we go for big projects or strategic projects that can add value to our name and brand.

We are specialized in wet infrastructure projects, so we do what we do; we cannot change what we do that easily, but in some cases, we may join other consultants in bidding and in implementation for some of the projects at hand to bring in diversity to what we offer and to increase our pool of clients.

We follow money, we follow reputation, we follow size, and we follow safety and the like; for instance, in terms of safety, we do not offer our services to clients who operate in problematic countries or areas, or areas with hazardous waste, which no one can enter, for instance. So, all in all, we have a certain procedure and a formalized process by which we select projects.

We have various challenges. For instance, scope creep—how to abide within the scope while the client keeps on changing is one of our biggest challenges. Getting resources on time is another big challenge; lack of resources could be a problem as well. In fact, this could be one of the other biggest challenges we face as an organization. We try to grow, but we are limited with the resources that we have, and it is not always easy to get good-caliber, skilled, and professional resources in a timely manner. We sometimes end up with the chicken and egg situation or the catch-22: Which one do we bring in first? Resources or projects? Obviously, you cannot get both simultaneously as something has to come before the other!

In order to resolve these issues: For scope creep, we try to work very closely with our clients and communicate at the onset of the project what we are doing and what we are not; of course, this is not as easy as it seems, but consistently working toward this direction would eventually lead to success. As for resources, this is the usual problem that we have; we have to have a good HR system, and everyone should be interviewing all the time, building relationships, and the like. And during execution, we shall aim to build proper plans for resourcing. “Resource planning” is the famous phrase that we always hear in our organization.

Some of our team members are selective of the type of projects they want to work on. This creates a problem with our resource-planning initiatives. Sometimes we have to threaten our employees to carry out their duties in the best interests of the company, but that does not create harmony in dealership and we may end up with a noncohesive team. The only solution in this case is mentoring, team building, and so on. I would not promise or say this works all the time; hence, I think the selection of those people for hire to start with is important, so you do not end up with such situations in the future.

Firm Firm 2 Revenue USD $50 million
No. of employees 1,000 then shrunk Year est. ~1960
Type of services Engineering consultant
Country of operation Egypt, UAE, Qatar, and KSA
Informant/interviewee General manager

We have been in operation for 50 or 60 years; we started as a small one-man-show design firm founded by Professor AA, and we were able to grow ourselves into a 1,000-employee company at peak. We shrunk back to a few hundred and are now closing out the business. We believe this is relevant to a glitch in the process of hand over between the father (the leader) and the son (i.e., the owner of the company).

We are an engineering consultant; we are specialized in providing environmental services; we diversified our environmental disciplines afterward into providing wet utility services engineering and consultancy. After that, we sensed the need for road infrastructure engineering in the KSA and that led us into expanding into the KSA in this discipline.

The market is booming and competitive; a lot of competition is on price. When we used to operate in Egypt alone, we were dominant; when others wanted to come in and penetrate the market of Egypt, they had to lower their prices quite significantly in order to win bids. We used to do the same when we wanted to penetrate markets of other countries in the region. Using this strategy, we were able to expand into no less than 17 offices distributed in the Middle East. By doing so, we were able to expand into places such as Dubai, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the like.

Our main strategy for market penetration, as I said before, was lowering our prices in order to compete, then controlling the cost afterwards. We had people who were specialized in controlling costs and who cared enough about the company and they dealt with the company assets as if they were their own, and the owner trusted them for that.

Also, the company was backed up by freelance professors offering their services without any extra overhead (this provided flexibility and competitiveness into our operation). For those professors, it was like a win-win situation. The owner had strong relationships built across the board in the education sector, which led to receiving the services of the best professors in town. This has allowed our brand to shine. The owner was a powerful and a charismatic character and had the ability to build relationships with the powerful and influential people as well with the intellectuals; this was one of our main differentiators.

The relationships built between the owner, the company, and the various authorities were one of our main differentiators, as mentioned earlier. The owner used to be a part-time professor in one of the powerful and well-known universities in Egypt and he was promoted to the vice president of that university and he stayed in this position for some time. Most of the people who worked with our clients have been either taught or mentored by him. This has led to building another type of a relationship, which facilitated approval in the workplace and enhanced trust between the authorities and our organization. We struggled in places such as Qatar due to the lack of these types of relationships.

The owner also used to build personal and very close relationships with all the employees; these relationships worked on enhancing the loyalty of the employees and increased their sense of security, and that has reduced employee turnover quite significantly—in other words, no one used to leave us unless there was an emergency that pushed them to do so.

Moreover, this charismatic leader of ours managed to build a loyal and a strong team among the company. The bond between this team and the leader was very strong. The bond between peers was not as strong, and this may have led to the demise of the company later on.

The structure of our organization was centralized around the leader with only a few people, about five or six, who had a direct power of attorney from the owner.

We have a strategy for selecting projects; we started in a discipline, then sensed change in the market or the region and started diversifying in our offerings. We, for example, sensed and seized the opportunity of USAID-funded projects in Egypt—this was a big jump for us. These projects helped in boosting the company revenue.

We faced few issues in delivery, since we had professors working as freelancers backed up with knowledge and strong relationships with clients. Our quality was high at all times and I can define our designs as flawless.

The delivery team was sort of distant from the leadership team. However, the leadership team tried to cascade down to the delivery team the trustworthy relationships and tried to get their loyalty with the least amount of costs.

Firm Firm 3 Revenue Unidentified
No. of employees Mostly subs Year est. 2003
Type of services Logistics—large projects
Country of operation Jordan
Informant/interviewee Treasury manager

We have been in operation since 2003. We have many offices in this region: Jordan is the financial services office, Kuwait is one of the sites, and the U.S. office is the relationship office. We have other sites and offices in other locations mostly in areas affected by war—hence, our sites are located mostly in the Middle East. We experienced growth, we did shrink at times, and we sustained our size at other times. Our contracts/projects are five-year contracts/projects—once projects are done/completed, we shrink; once we win another one, we grow. We try to bid successfully but results are never certain, so there is always a risk of losing bids, and job security is always at stake. We have thousands of employees, but those employees are contracted in accordance to a fixed type or a limited type of contract, and they work on the various sites that we have (this provides flexibility when shrinking and growing).

We are a logistics company; we work with the U.S. government on funded projects; the scope of these projects is of delivery type, which means we deliver food, goods, motorcycles, you name it. Some of our known projects include delivering food to the American and the Iraqi troops camping in certain areas, such as Kuwait. In delivering projects, we follow the exact specifications provided in the initial bid, which specifies how we deliver these types of goods or food. For instance, the specifications are quite particular for the American army compared to the Iraqi army. For instance, the Americans shall receive their food at a much higher quality compared to their Iraqi counterparts, with much more variety as well. As an example, Iraqis are specified to receive the basic type of food, such as rice and the like, while Americans could receive a turkey at Christmas, (Snickers bars!), and all types of normal food they get while in the States. My role in this is the treasury manager, so I am responsible for facilitating payments, banks’ dealership, and strategic relationships with the main stakeholders, vendors, and the like.

The market is booming and very competitive, and lots of other similar companies compete with us. Compared to those other companies, we work in a niche type of service and we work with mostly a single client, which is the U.S. government. We cannot operate in small project environments, which provide low profitability.

In projects implementation, we rely on our superiority in our delivery methodology, and we rely on our reliability in delivery and our competitiveness. In 2003, we started our first operation/project and we lost lots of money during implementation, and we learned a lot from it; we learned things, which we are currently implementing in new projects. What we learned was part of the reason behind our reliability and performance superiority today, and this is why the U.S. government likes to work with us compared to other competitors.

We managed to build very good relationships across the board; we have a specially appointed relationship employee whose designation is a Pasha (i.e., highly renowned and could be a retired but still powerful governmental official), and his job function is to facilitate things for us through his contacts and network.

Our differentiators are summarized with our technical superiority, knowledge of what needs to happen, topped with our credibility, and reliability in delivery. We implement everything in our contracts, regardless of what happens. This has increased the U.S. government's level of confidence in us. We sometimes used to receive impossible requirements in our contracts; these issues would be escalated by our site managers, brainstormed, and resolved (at cost, most of the time) and claimed later from the U.S. government—so, we never delay delivery or implementation of a resolution while waiting on a certain resolution of contractual issues between us and the U.S government. We also show our abilities to finance those projects and we depend on our bank facilities in doing so.

An example of the above: We have faced impossible contract requirements in one of the Muslim countries, which is the delivery of pork (i.e., we could not deliver pork to a project or a site due to a country regulation); this issue was escalated to the management and brainstormed, as mentioned earlier, and resolved and claimed later.

Another issue is vendors’ monopolization of the market. In such cases, we just have to obey and do what is needed at our own cost and own risk.

Competition is another challenge, which we try to overcome with our differentiators mentioned previously—that is, reliability, technical and performance superiority, financial capability, and the like.

Firm Firm 4 Revenue US $9.0 million
No. of employees From 15 to 40 Year est. 2005
Type of services Management consultant
Country of operation UAE
Informant/interviewee Business development manager

Our company was established in 2005; it started with 15 employees only, and in 2010 we managed to expand to 40 employees. We managed to do this with contracts/projects, which we used to win with the government, especially with the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). The MOI acquired part of our company with a share of 51% and this has led to our exponential growth. The reason they have acquired us is due to the type and size of contracts that we had with them, mostly the outsourcing type. MOI has an internal law, which stipulates that if a company won contracts worth more than 10 million AED (nearly US $3.0 million), then the Ministry has either to establish their own office to replace this service or acquire 51% of the company shares to stay in control, and this is why the acquisition took place.

We are management consultants; we compete with the “Big 5” and with the likes of PWC and Accenture. We offer mystery shopper services, customer feedback, and satisfaction surveys, and recently we started offering outsourcing services. Our outsourcing services have been supported by the Ministry and provide the company with a constant stream of revenue and cash as well.

I am the business development director for the company. I used to be a programmer, then a project manager, and finally got promoted to this position. The company notices talented people and they deal with them with care and grow their talents, which puts them into good positions at the end of the day.

The market is very competitive—there are lots of companies that offer their services with a cheap price. We are not sure of their quality, though. The acquisition of MOI to 51% of our shares provided more reliability to our services and we managed to overcome those cheap consultants. The brand of the MOI and their strength provided comfort to our other clients and infused in them trust in regard to our services. The MOI used to market our services and sometimes forces other governmental organizations to use us rather than use the services of others.

The owner of our company is very well connected and a relationship-oriented type of a person. He is a strong leader and a well-known character in the society. Moreover, he is an innovative person and encourages others to innovate and incentivizes them for doing so. Everyone liked the work environment, no one left/resigned—probably very few only, and everyone was loyal to the company.

When we have less work, the employees take it on themselves to brainstorm several ideas to put them to work. One of the ideas that succeeded was a bank mystery shopper; this was an idea that was implemented across banks in the Middle East with the aim to decide the best bank based on our own matrix for customer satisfaction. We wanted to place ourselves as leaders in this field. We took the results of the mystery shopper and invited all involved bank CEOs to an event in Burj Al Arab in the UAE to disclose the results. This whole exercise cost us around 300,000 AED (slightly less than US $90,000) and we funded this ourselves and considered it as an investment in our brand. It worked out at the end and everyone attended the event and it was a success. I managed this event from A to Z.

We select the right people who fit into the culture of our organization. They all have to be friendly so we make sure that our clients are happy in dealing with them at all times. We try to retain our employees as much as we can with the way we deal with them and in the way that we grow and develop them.

We have three streams in our business offerings: outsourcing, mystery shoppers, and customer satisfaction. We also implement internal projects of our own; we direct those projects toward marketing and investment in our branding and so on.

We have a strategy; we work mostly on governmental contracts, and now with the relationships we inherited since the MOI acquisition, we have more authority and tendency to win more projects of the same type.

We have a system of portfolio management as well. We see this system as more for organizing; we don't see it as enhancing our performance.

We have two main challenges. The first of these is payment—negative cash flow affects our investments; we cannot innovate, and hence, we need to find a solution for this issue. The other problem is scope creep initiated by our clients. In order to resolve the second problem, we usually take the hit and allocate staff because we need to make sure that the client is happy. The first one was resolved via the inclusion of outsourcing services in the outstreaming of services.

Team members are loyal; they like working with the company. We won best employee awards before. Everyone stays and this is one of the secrets of success for our organization.

Firm Firm 5 Revenue Unidentified
No. of employees Unidentified Year est. 2000
Type of services Paint and insulation manufacturer
Country of operation UAE, Qatar, and KSA
Informant/interviewee Managing director

We have been in operation for 17 years in the Middle East, but we are a German company and have been around for a long time. In terms of business and growth, we were not really doing well until we changed management and restructured in 2014; it was only after that when we started sensing some of the good changes.

We are paint and insulation manufacturers. Our business is divided mainly into two streams—we have the projects operation and we have the retail business. For now, our focus is more on projects, not the retail, since the retail business requires lots of infrastructure and preparation and other types of marketing campaigns, which we don't have at the moment. We wish we could be doing better in retail since it has better DSO and collection systems compared to those of projects. For now, we have our products distributed in a few shops and no whole shop accepts to take on our products exclusively due to weakness in our media coverage, along with the infrastructure needed for that. This requires some time and work and investment from our side until we reach this point.

Management changed in 2014. Along with that, we changed/replaced lots of people; we started hiring people who are passionate and like to work with our company and the product. We try as much as possible to select and hire the right people and the best of those, but it is not always easy. We started focusing more on sales, unlike before, where our focus was mainly on interior decoration and showing off our paint capabilities inside of our offices only. We follow a transparent system of targets and sales; by that, I mean that all salespeople can see what others have achieved as their target and then start competing with one another. We have installed an incentive system for salespeople as well.

All the products that we produce are similar to those produced or manufactured by other competitors; we try to innovate and come up with new things, though, as others do. So, the only way that we can differentiate ourselves is through the service that we provide.

We have lots of focus on projects and less focus on retail. This is causing major cash flow issues for us since collection from projects tends to be problematic compared to retail.

We are affected by the external environment; we sometimes need to change the type of products to fit in the requirements of the UAE. We are a German company and we cannot use the products that we produce in Germany, as they do not fit for use in this country.

We look around for opportunities through Middle East Business Intelligence Magazine (MEED) or other marketing databases, we understand the developers and we select them, and we try to imbed ourselves early with the consultant of the job to get ourselves listed in the approved vendors’ list. The only way we can do so is through building good networks and relationships among consultants and keeping ourselves up to date in regard to changes in the market and the technology. By doing so, we try to create or find “door openers” to facilitate our work.

We face challenges in collections—payment terms are terrible, and sometimes it goes for more than 180 days even after we deliver the service or the product or the project. We started hiring debt collectors to collect all of our long dues from clients.

We have issues in regard to obtaining certifications and approvals from local authorities; we manufacture/produce products and these have to be approved by certain authorities prior to being put into use. We have a specialized team who looks into this matter.

We think that the solution, which is not implemented here but in other countries where I come from and works just fine, is establishing what is called an “industry organization.” These organizations, once established, can talk to authorities and help facilitate things for us.

Firm Firm 6 Revenue US $600.0 million
No. of employees 300 Year est. 2006
Type of services Humanitarian projects
Country of operation Egypt, UAE, and KSA
Informant/interviewee Local manager

We have been in operation since 2006 or so. We are a need-driven NGO and a nonprofit organization and we serve the community with the following five pillars: 1) food waste pillar, 2) feeding pillar, 3) developing pillar, 4) organizing charity, and 5) investments. We started as small as any other company, and we worked hard through the various regulations—to start with Egypt—until we have expanded into 22 other countries. We do not really have offices in all these countries—you can say that some of them carry agreements or work on certain arrangements—but nonetheless, our work has made an effect that has reached out to many others.

We are a nongovernment and a not-for-profit organization, but we have revenues that reach US$600 million. This revenue is needed in such a not-for-profit arrangement to support the various types of work we do, along with projects and services, and also to pay for employees’ salaries. As a matter of fact, employees’ salaries come directly from the board so as to allow us to select/hire the best of employees.

I will give you an example from the first pillar. We were the first in Egypt to identify the big wastage in food that was going out of hotels and big restaurants. We have initiated a project with the aim of collecting this wastage to distribute it to the needy and the poor. This was not an easy project and required lots of lobbying and the like to get it to succeed. At the beginning of the project, we thought it was successful, but that was so until the media started attacking us for reasons relevant to dignity of the people who receive this waste as food for their families. We continued fighting—it was not easy; at the end of the day, it worked out, and other countries started hearing about our work and wanted to adopt our model. We produced a model for the food waste and other models for the other pillars as well.

I am handling the office of Dubai, and I am trying to work my way through negotiating partnerships with the various authorities, sponsorships, and memberships. It is not as easy as you think, but the purpose that we carry and our credibility have opened many doors for us, and now we heard that Dubai municipality has started its own pilot project mimicking our success after hearing about us.

The challenges we face are generated mainly from authorities and the media and the like—also legislation, laws, and so on. Our only way through this is partnership with known names (like municipalities or certain governments), so we get better results, and so on. In Italy, for example, we worked very closely with the government and we managed to influence their legislating of a law that prevents food wastage.

Although you can find other organizations that provide similar services to us, we pride ourselves on the unique models that we created, which allow interlinking all those pillars. Those pillars for us now became interdependent and their results feed into the other pillars, which contributes to our KPIs. We have also built credibility. It is not easy to get donations if you are not a credible source, for example. We have also managed to add one more pillar to contribute to our revenues when cash is down. This pillar allows for investments to take place. Revenues and profits that come out of those investments contribute to the sustainability of the other pillars. For instance, we own farms, which help generate revenues to help out our other pillars. We have built a factory, which produces disposable plates to cut down on the cost of purchasing from external vendors.

We have an innovative team; we innovate with new ideas and see what solutions follow through from those ideas. For instance, we influenced the reduction of plate sizes in hotels by a few centimeters to produce a 30% reduction in food wastage. We have lots of similar ideas.

Our food waste model of which we were the pioneers to work on in Egypt received an excellence award in 2015, which of course goes toward supporting our credibility. After Egypt, it looks like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is going to be the next in place that may reap the fruits of success in implementation. In Dubai, we have not yet found our way in through food wastage, as culturally it is still considered as a matter of dignity.

We are a need-driven organization, and we have pillars that define our (strategy) in selecting what type of work we do. We started with a few pillars, and we ended up with whatever we have now. The investment pillar was added to secure the necessary funds for this organization.

Challenges are mainly those that arise from legislation of the country and media. The solution to those is lobbying, relationship building, and establishing partnerships. Another type of problem that we face as an organization is the process of selecting beneficiaries; these are long processes and it is not easy to get a credible source that tells you what to do and how to do it (e.g., a process that tells you who is really in need and what needs to be done to get them to safety).

Firm Firm 7 Revenue US $650.0 million
No. of employees Grew to 1,500 Year est. 1988
Type of services Recycling and manufacturing (the trading part only)
Country of operation KSA
Informant/interviewee Operations manager

We have been in operation since 1988, started as a small scrap yard only, and have now grown into a multibillion-Riyals organization, which handles a big supply chain, manufacturing, shipping, and trading. The trading business on its own generates more than SAR 2.5–3.0 billion in revenue per year and grew to 1,500 to 1,600 employees recently. We have many functions/companies in our group and they are all interlinked somehow and they cover shipping, trading, manufacturing, and the like.

For instance, we knew that aluminum is going to be the next new thing and that there will be a huge demand for aluminum, and as you know, digging mines is not really feasible for us or for anybody; it is easier to get/collect scrap material and recycle it into new palettes. We did that and we have the biggest share in the market for selling palettes of aluminum. Now we export our products to many countries, such as Qatar, China, the United States, Korea, and so on.

For us, the market is defined by the big projects going on in the KSA. We collect the waste material from these projects and we recycle it. When big projects are no more, or the capital expenditure slows down in the country, which is a case that we are currently facing, we face a big issue in our operations and we have to act fast to find other locations or ways to collect waste. Our scrap collection business is divided into three main streams: 1) customer walk-ins with waste they need to get rid of; 2) service contracts where we work very closely and embed our people with big manufacturers, such as Sabec, and we collect waste as they go; and finally, 3) projects—these could be dismantling old projects, which we do for a fee (not always profitable for us, but we consider it as marketing and a door opener for other projects and opportunities), or we work with big contractors to collect their waste/scrap.

We need to always balance among those three streams and understand what is going on. Our work involves millions of Riyals and any single market misinterpretation or mistake could cost us losses, which could account for as high as 20–30 million Riyals per mistake.

Another issue we face is the volatility in the steel index in the exchange market; we buy and sell in accordance with this index; we may buy at a high rate, but then are forced to sell at a much lower rate because we cannot keep material in our yards and we always need cash to run our operations, so we are forced to lose money in some cases just to prevent the operation from stopping or from reaching a halt situation due to lack of space.

Also, sometimes, and due to the regulations in the country, we are forced to sell locally and not export certain products at lower rates.

As indicated previously, challenges come from our interpretation of the market and our reaction to it. We consider ourselves a very flexible organization; our organizational structure can change instantly where, for example, I am running the operation today, tomorrow my colleagues and I may wear a business development hat and chase up service contracts because capital expenditure has reduced quite significantly in this country and we are unable to collect scrap from projects. Our machinery is worth no less than 600 million Riyals. We need to keep feeding these machines and we cannot be held at any point with a halt situation.

We are not a structure-based organization; we are function-based and we wear different hats when and as needed. We also follow internationally known standards, the ISRI (Institute for Scrap Recycling Industry) standards, to refine our processes and operations.

We have operations that run in more than 30 locations or so; each of these operations has its own networks, connections, and projects. Out of all these connections, we receive various types of information; all such information is filled/entered in our SAP system (i.e., a data collection and marketing system), and we have visibility for this system. We organize all such information, analyze it, and determine the next best direction for our portfolio and operation. We take this analysis to the executive board meetings and we decide what the next step in business should be.

Challenges that we face arise mainly from balancing out the portfolio of projects and service contracts we have. Projects for us are just marketing and networking tools. Once, we were awarded a project to dismantle a desalination plant; we did it at a loss, but we secured more contracts out of the network that we have generated out of this project.

Most of our employees are of the nonprofessional but skilled type with the exception of the board and operation. There is a big gap between me as operations manager and the next layer. This gap causes issues of handover sometimes.

Firm Firm 8 Revenue ~ US $100 million
No. of employees Grew to 56 1 subs Year est. 2000
Type of services Specialized DBO contractors
Country of operation UAE, Libya, and other parts of the region
Informant/interviewee Projects director

We are a part of a larger company/group that carries out design-build-operate (DBO) contracts. We are specialized in building and operating hospitals and medical facilities. We talk to our clients about the benefits of using design build operate (DBO) and sometimes public private partnership (PPP) contracts, which removes the headache of the client when dealing with various contractors. In the UAE, we started in the early 2000s; we were in the range of 15–20 employees and used to work on one small project. We had issues in our operation, and all these issues I would assume were attributed to the personality of the previous manager. Once restructuring took place in 2006, we managed to grow our operation to 56 employees, and we are currently running four large projects.

We are a DBO contractor specialized in building and operating hospitals. We have a large supply chain; for example, we outsource the design, the civil construction, and so we overview the entire process. We take full liability for the work that we deliver, since it is all ours. Upon hiring contractors or designers, we ensure that they have the proper registration with authorities in the relevant country or emirate that we intend to work in, so that their work does not get hampered and they can process permits quickly. Sometimes we work using the same concept on PPPs or what we call DBOF, and F stands for financing. By that, we engage with banks and what we call ECFs (external credit facilities).

When we work with clients, we sell them our model, we take from them the headache of dealing with many contractors and their subs, and we even take the operation part of the client (i.e., the operation of the facility once it is handed over) and commit to deliver the needed KPIs for them, and we share any losses in case of any deficiency in the promised KPIs. Due to our specialization in this field, we work on trust and word of mouth most of the time—project Alpha was awarded to us upon the good relations between our manager and the owner, for example, supported by our known reputation in the market and our credibility. Relationship is important, of course, as well as the network that we built and are building through our contracts, contacts, contractors, and consultants.

I am the project director for one of the large projects in Abu Dhabi; it is a hospital owned by Alpha. We were awarded this project after the client faced issues in dealing with various contractors and the quality of construction was poor prior to our involvement. As a matter of fact, this project was awarded to us upon our successful work on a similar project in Al Ain (i.e., through word of mouth).

In my role as a project director, I have several functions that report to me, such as engineering, site management, procurement, logistics, structured finance department, and so on. Some of these functions could report to any other project as well, since we operate as a matrix organization. My project, similar to any other project, reports to the project supervisory board (PSB), which constitutes of the CEO, CFO, CTO, head of procurement, head of finance, regional director, and regional manager.

The market is very competitive. We did not gain easy entry at the beginning, and we had to lower our prices. As a matter of fact, we had to reassess our overhead structure and depart from using the overhead structure imposed on us by our headquarters.

We had to invent and use local multipliers, which enabled us to compete with the local market. We also have a big supply chain, so we can control all the procurement and direct it in our favor. We also sell our model, which is cleverly designed to serve the purpose of what we build—it is the model that sells us. No other competitor can offer the same—others tried but failed; they even tried to poach people from us but failed to do so as well. In Jordan, we could not succeed in securing any work due to low margins, which we could not compete with, and the model was not so interesting to the Jordanians due to other preset agendas that we have no control of. Also, a differentiating element in our operation is that we acquired, and we have acquired, many other companies that have a similar nature to our business. This has led to our growth and contributed to our strength. Moreover, our people do not leave us; the company tries its best to retain them; they are fighters (the employees) and they are determined to win projects and deliver.

We are specialized; however, we sometimes need to chase some other types of projects to keep the ball rolling. In that way, we diversify in our own field, and we sometimes work on turnkey projects where we supply medical packages. We also work and help third world countries to get loans and we build master plans where we identify critical locations for regional hospitals or medical centers, and we engage ourselves with the clients to build them.

Our previous manager was not charismatic; he did not even have the right personality, and we lost a lot because of him. We did not have access to the simplest things, such as a list of competitors or a network within competitors to use for simple market intelligence. I used to fight with him all the time. He had a provocative personality, and that does not go so well with our clients in this region. The new manager now is more open; he has built many relationships everywhere and he can get access anywhere he wants. We had to restructure, and by that, we replaced all of our unproductive employees, including this manager—and this is how I was introduced to this region. The new manager is easygoing, has lots of relations, and spends time and energy with clients. I don't know how he gets this energy, but I guess this is one of the requirements needed to drive a successful organization behind you.

Firm Firm 9 Revenue US $150.0 million
No. of employees 400 shrunk to 200 Year est. 1981
Type of services Contractor
Country of operation Jordan
Informant/interviewee Head of projects control

We have been in operation for 26 years; at times we were growing, but now the market is so tough that it has forced us to shrink. We are specialized first-class (class “A”) civil contractors. Competition is high, particularly coming through from lower-level contractors. Our specialized staff count reached up to 400—now we shrunk to 200. Our labor count used to be in the range of 6,000, but has now dropped to 3,500 due to market shrinkage and high competition.

The market here is risky and sometimes we feel that the competition is not fair. In terms of risk, we don't feel that there is anything or any regulation that protects investors like us. Laws and regulations are so strict; however, when a problem occurs, there is no clear regulation of how the problem or issue shall be resolved. Many operations, known companies, and the like closed their operations or declared bankruptcy due to this issue. The dealership with the owner/client is not straightforward. Consultants on the job, although they want to help, have no hand or authority that they can exercise. Clients are everything and their requirements shall be fulfilled. It is sometimes that the client could benefit from the end product of the project that we deliver while we are not paid in full yet. We do not go to arbitration, although we can and we have the full right to, but we want to maintain a good relationship at the end of the day and a good name in the market to win new projects. We are also concerned that going to arbitration could affect our reputation and qualifications in the coming projects, especially if it was coming through from the same client or even other clients.

In terms of fairness, we feel that contractors’ classification is not strictly followed up here; this leads to several other contractors being on the same bidding list, where people like us who are classified as class “A” worked very hard to be on this list. We lose competitiveness like this. We are classified as a class “A” contractor and we have certain overhead structure, which may not be the case for other, lesser classified contractor organizations. Those contractors could be a one-man show or the like; we are not like this. This leads to the inflation of our prices in comparison to others and eventually leads us to lose on bids.

In terms of risk, we prepare a detailed risk assessment and risk evaluation, we understand what is risky and what is not, and we price it in the bid. This would increase our price, though, and decrease our competitiveness. In order to do this, we opt to be selective on the projects that we go after. When we go after highly specialized projects with certain qualifications and technical requirements, we bid high, but with carefulness; at least we guarantee that most of the competition will be reduced by technical disqualification; hence, our chances of winning could be higher when compared to using the same procedure for normal projects.

We care about our reputation, our brand, and our technical delivery. We are a class “A” contractor, and there are many things that we do and others cannot do; for example, we were the pioneers in introducing BIM (building information modeling) to the market in Jordan. No one has done this before. There are many projects, which we have recently delivered that we are proud of, such as the cement factory, the Qatranah project, and Aquaba water. When we bid for those projects, our technical marks were very high and in most of them we received full marks against our technical proposal; this led to better chances for us—and eventually winning the bid despite our price.

We try to locate/find projects with high qualifications and technical requirements. By doing this, we can define/propose a higher price and rely on our technical superiority and secure a seat at the negotiation table. However, it has not been so easy recently. We look for these projects, but with the market condition nowadays, we are struggling, so we are forced sometimes to do things that we don't like or we don't see as fitting with our strategy or our brand and reputation, such as building finishes and so on.

In terms of projects selection, we have a business development manager and a business development team. Their duty is to identify projects, explore the market, and raise recommendations to the board. The board in their turn would take a decision on these things, and they would select projects either based on their alignment with the strategy or based on other attributes.

Firm Firm 10 Revenue US $0.5–1.0 million
No. of employees 20 grew to 70 Year est. 2007
Type of services Web developers
Country of operation Jordan, KSA, Qatar, and UAE
Informant/interviewee Partner and the business development manager

We are an online marketing company; we also do web development, website integration, and SEM (search engine marketing), which mostly depends on what is called SEO (search engine optimization). We also work in social media; we work with companies to carry out market campaigns for them on these various platforms. We have been in operation for nine years. We started small in Dubai; we closed the operation in Dubai after the financial crisis. We moved the “kitchen”1 to Jordan, and we serve countries like Kuwait, Qatar, the KSA—mainly the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC). We have now a total of 60–70 staff distributed among those countries, along with Jordan.

In addition to that, we have a certain model or a procedure that we work on and that enables us to operate. The online marketing business has some certain requirements in the market, which we had to learn the hard way. We read books and we sat for exams in order to advance in whatever we are trying to do, and we have become partners in Google now, which is a very unique thing and very good for our name.

I have two roles in this organization. Apart from being a partner, I do business development management in those GCC countries and try to bring work; at the same time, I am the media booking coordinator. In that role, I maintain relationships and contacts with companies like Google, LinkedIn, and the like.

The market we are in is competitive; we have to be aware of the competition, their pricing, and their cost per click—as you know, our cost is calculated per click, which is known in this market as CPC (cost per click). So, we sell our services to clients, and our cost is calculated by how much we can buy the click from companies like Google (along with our other internal costs), and we make profit with the difference between both (i.e., what we sell and what we spend). We were affected by the financial crisis of 2008/2009—this led us to withdraw and move back to Jordan—sort of what we have called crisis management. The market in Jordan is very competitive and clients haggle a lot with us, causing the devaluation of our services; hence, we decided to move out but keep the kitchen in Jordan for cost efficiency and competitiveness.

We moved locations, we changed commercial models, and we selected better countries to sell our services to, such as the GCC. Clients in the GCC are willing to pay a premium for our services; hence, we locate those clients and work with them.

We have also added a new service model into our operation, which is franchising. We have agents in those GCC countries who are willing to do the sales for the client; they take our name and they sell our services and do the needed campaigns. In turn, we provide them with back office support and training.

We have various types of clients; we deal with big names and known brands. Our work comes from three different streams: through relationships, word of mouth, or through normal inquiries/bidding. We do not go after just any client or project; we are selective—we study the client and we study the market, and we sometimes go back to the client and advise them on what needs to be done or a feasibility of something and whatnot. We work very closely with our clients; we are proud of that; we have account managers and coordinators embedded in all the organizations that we work for. Subsequently, we add client names to our portfolio, and that basically gives us more credibility for future sales.

One of the projects that we won with a company known as LG was in pure competition and through offering a low price to the client—a price that was lower than the competition. We were very competitive and the price and schedule were both tight. Once we succeeded in delivering the project, our name was added to the vendors’ list of that client and we started receiving more inquiries, basically because they liked us.

We have many challenges in delivery and in the market as well. We have to compete on “keywords” and that affects the cost per click, as discussed earlier. We try to resolve this issue by enhancing the customization of the web design to be more searchable and relevant. If we fail to do so, we have to then depend on increasing our bidding on the cost per click and reduce our profitability and that would be the only solution to be successful and be awarded jobs. Cash flow is another problem that we have. Clients may not be willing to pay on time, and that causes an issue of cash availability. We try to overcome that by designing a good and a suitable payment schedule. Resources are very critical; they are very hard to find in our type of business, and we have to look for talented and motivated people. These things that we sell are not taught in universities; we therefore opt to hire juniors and fresh grads and train them.

Fresh grads come and go, but we have a core team who would not leave us. We depend on this team; they have been with us forever and now they are all shareholders. Our relationship with them is of a friendly type, and this is what allows us to perform.

Firm Firm 11 Revenue Unidentified
No. of employees 600 Year est. 2014
Type of services Project management consultant
Country of operation Qatar
Informant/interviewee Technical manager

We have been established for two years now as a governmental need organization started for the need to separate the project management department from AB organization—AB is a known governmental organization. We are now a project management consultant that offers its services to AB. I would say we have been growing ever since due to the projects and the backlog that we used to receive from AB, which we separated from to start with. This helped in our growth, along with the financial support, which we used to receive from them as well. Also, certain country legislations were created to support our existence and dictated a certain share for us from the market.

We are a project management organization—we have one client only, which is AB, which we departed from. Recently, we have been trying to diversify too many clients, due to reduced funding and support from that one client of ours. We have added other functions into our organization, such as design, construction management, and so on. We used to employ many subconsultants, however, and recently, in order to enhance cost efficiency, we decided to mutually and amicably terminate/end all their contracts and grow ourselves organically. I am one of the technical managers and I am responsible for a few of the project close-outs. In fact, I used to work for one of the consultants whose contract was ended and I joined this firm shortly after that. I also used to be involved in bidding, which I would call the most demanding job in this company, due to the many requirements needed to be done for this type of work.

The market is tight; we started sensing that less and less work is coming from AB, so we had to act accordingly lest we shrink. We therefore started diversifying and we created the new services that we currently offer. We have also started diversifying our regional presence, and we have started bidding on a few other bids in Egypt and other countries.

There is too much politics inside this organization; there is much tension among employees. You are always faced with email fights and the like, and this causes major issues in project delivery. Each one of us wants to protect his or her own career and we all do so by investing in internal relationships building. Although we work as a consultant, we carry a governmental mentality in dealership among ourselves, and we are a highly bureaucratic organization, which leads to things moving slowly. Once funds were cut on us we started struggling, and if it is not up to the internal relationship I built with my bosses I think I may not have been still employed by this company.

Firm Firm 12 Revenue US $12 million
No. of employees 57 to 17 to 35 Year est. 1991
Type of services Energy consultant
Country of operation UAE, Jordan, and KSA
Informant/interviewee CEO

I established the company in 1991 after I identified a gap in the market of energy savings and energy efficiency. I started the company in Jordan, and now I have managed to expand it into several other countries. Now I have several branches and I run my operations out of Dubai. We started small; we boomed to about 57 employees, then we shrunk back into 17, due to the financial crisis that hit us in 2009, but managed recently to grow back to 35. I have new ideas and high hopes and we shall be able to grow back even more than what we used to be before.

As I said, I identified a serious gap in energy efficiency in the market of Jordan in 1991, followed after that in the rest of the Middle East. I was the first to see it. I would call what I invented and invested in a Blue Ocean technology. What we do is, we help users save energy, mainly on electricity now, by adding energy-efficient retrofits. I founded this company and I am the CEO. I started out of a basement back in the day, along with a friend of mine. We managed to sell our services to big names, such as Marriott, which gave us credibility to start with. Prior to the Marriot, it was really tough, and even tougher to penetrate the Marriot projects themselves since we never had any track record. We had to build the track record out of our own cost by working free of charge for a certain period of time. The idea behind this was creating what we have identified as “performance contracts”; in this, we invest from our own resources and fix retrofits to clients’ assets to then collect our fees from the savings in those clients’ energy bill. We have many other services all related to energy and energy savings, which I started identifying and adding to the list of our services.

When we started, we were on our own; we were the first to have created such a concept. Now there are many others who do the same, so this leaves us with no option apart from working in an untraditional way to win contracts and sell our services. What I mean by untraditional is basically being innovative and being able to sense the future.

We faced many challenges, mainly coming from the external environment; each challenge left us stronger than the one before. The latest of those was the financial crisis, which hit us in 2009, but we came out of it stronger than ever.

When we started in 1991, we had no experience of how things needed to be run, and we were the first locals in Jordan to carry out such an innovative and new business idea. This was one of the first challenges. In order to resolve this challenge, I started looking at similar companies outside of the Middle East to see how they go about running their operation. I used some of the contacts through the Canadian embassy, and they then facilitated a site visit for me to more than 45 similar business sites in Canada. I then received a grant from the Canadian government paid to one of their local consultants in exchange to transfer knowledge of such a type of business process and technology into my company. This happened in 1993, and the transfer was successful. This was not easy, though; I had to meet lots of people, and I had to allocate that consultant I wanted to transfer the knowledge from and I had to convince all parties of this agreement and the grant.

Another challenge was funding. I wanted to sell more services, so I had to find and get partners into my business and they invested after I convinced them of my business ideas. After I brought more partners into my company, I was then able to provide collateral to banks and the like to push my business forward. I also managed to get exclusive international partners to increase our reliability and credibility with our clients.

I started expanding into many other countries, such as Egypt and Lebanon, and found myself spreading out too thinly, and I had to take a hit and close out those offices in those countries where I expanded to. One of the issues I identified was unplanned expansion. The selection of the management was another mistake that I made; I did not select an old existing leadership team to run my business in Lebanon and Egypt. Those I selected were not as loyal as my own team and hence there was no point to continue the investment.

I faced more issues in funding, so we had to sell shares to others and expand the pool of investors. Shares were bought and sold, but I still handle the management. Some of the acquisitions of my company added a corporate touch and structure into our operation, and that provided us the exposure and allowed us to expand even further.

The financial crisis, which hit us in 2009, was one of the biggest challenges. Instead of reducing staff like others did, I gathered all my employees and requested them to contribute ideas to resolve the challenges generated by this crisis. My staff came up with brilliant ideas, such as part-time work and the like. By them being so loyal to me and to the company and working out of their comfort zone, we managed to survive. We lost some of them but that was not involuntary. Also, by the employees selecting to work on a reduced-hours scale due to reduced amount of work and accepting lower salaries paid on fluctuating time bookings, everyone wore a salesman hat, and by that they were all determined to bring in more work, so that they can increase their time booking and increase their pay. Really, the employees carried the business; not even the investors cared about it. We also came up with other cost reduction ideas, such as moving into a cheaper office space and so on.

In addition to the above, all my work was unique, and I had an edge in doing everything; as I mentioned before, using untraditional ways and understanding market trends was key.

We are creative; we always create new ways, new processes, new frameworks, and new services. All with using our core strength, which is energy savings. We have created performance contracts where we collected our fees from clients’ energy savings monitored through their monthly bills. We provide those clients with the needed investment to get retrofits installed into their assets and facilities. This gave them more confidence in our business, since they would not invest anything prior to seeing the system working. We then created what we called EVA—energy value analysis—type of contracts, where we interfere early in the design phase. Recently, I have been thinking of introducing a new strategy into my services structure. I am thinking of converting my company into a utility provider where I can save energy for entire communities and collect fees from those savings.

In addition to the points mentioned above, I noticed that when I was expanding in one direction, I overlooked other directions or services, and that was risky for me. For example, when I started the EVA type of contracts, it was so good for short-term gains, but for that, it seems that I overlooked the original idea I came up with, which is the performance contracts—identified with its longer-term gains. I had to go back to that and design something different to catch up.

Appendix C – Cross-Case Analysis

This section is to be read in conjunction with Section 5.2.6.2 Dimensions of ambidexterity and 5.2.6.3 Mechanisms of ambidexterity. This appendix consists of the following tables:

Table C1. Tension within organizations and dimensions of ambidexterity
Table C2. Mechanisms of ambidexterity

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Table C1: Tension within organizations and dimensions of ambidexterity.

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Table C2: Mechanisms of ambidexterity.

Appendix D – Quantitative Study Constructs

Business success (Meskendahl 2010; Petro & Gardiner 2015)

1. How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the overall business success?

2. How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the market share?

3. How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the revenue growth?

4. How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding profitability?

Average projects success (Jonas et al. 2012; Petro & Gardiner 2015)

1. On average, our projects achieve a high schedule adherence.

2. On average, our projects achieve a high budget adherence.

3. On average, our projects achieve a high quality adherence.

4. On average, our projects are completed with a high degree of customer satisfaction.

Future preparedness (Meskendahl 2010; Petro & Gardiner 2015)

1. We sufficiently develop new technologies and/or competencies in our projects.

2. With our projects, we are a step ahead of our competition with new products, technologies, or services.

3. The projects enable us to shape the future of our industry.

Strategic fit (Jonas et al. 2012; Petro & Gardiner 2015)

1. The project portfolio is consistently aligned with the future of the company.

2. The corporate strategy is being implemented ideally through our project portfolio.

3. Resource allocation to projects reflects our strategic objectives.

Project portfolio balance (Jonas et al. 2012; Petro & Gardiner 2015)

1. There is a good balance in our project portfolio between new and old areas of application.

2. There is a good balance in our project portfolio between new and existing technologies.

3. There is a good balance in our project portfolio of project risks.

4. There is a good balance in our project portfolio of projects in different implementation phases (early/late phases).

5. There is a good balance in our project portfolio to generate a constant cash flow.

Exploration (Agostini et al., 2016; Lubatkin et al., 2006) Your organization is one that:

1. Looks for novel technological ideas by thinking outside the box.

2. Bases its success on its ability to explore new technologies.

3. Creates products or services that are innovative to the firm.

4. Looks for creative ways to satisfy its customers’ needs.

5. Aggressively ventures into new market segments.

6. Actively targets new customer groups.

Exploitation (Agostini et al., 2016; Lubatkin et al., 2006) Your organization is one that:

1. Commits to improve quality.

2. Commits to lower cost.

3. Continuously improves the reliability of its products and services.

4. Increases the levels of automation in its operations.

5. Constantly surveys existing customers’ satisfaction.

6. Fine-tunes what it offers to keep its current customers satisfied.

Use of synergies/collaboration between business units (Jonas et al., 2012)

1. We are able to leverage synergies between projects in our portfolio.

2. We consistently make use of technical synergies (e.g., shared usage of modules, platforms, technologies, etc.) between our projects.

3. We consistently make use of market synergies (e.g., shared distribution channels, infrastructure, etc.) between our projects.

Appendix E – Quantitative Study Questionnaire

Organizational Ambidexterity: Performance, Growth, and Sustainability

 

This questionnaire gives you the opportunity to express your views on a wide range of issues related to the organizational performance. There is no right or wrong answer.

This survey involves filling in an online survey that will take approximately 5–7 minutes. Your responses will be confidential, and we do not collect identifying information, such as your name, email address, or IP address.

 

1. Age group:

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2. Gender

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3. How many employees does your local operation currently have?

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4. What is your level in your organization?

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5. Which industry does your organization operate in?

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6. How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the overall business success?

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7. How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the market share?

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8. How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the revenue growth?

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9. How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding profitability?

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10. Please answer on the following questions:

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11. Your organization is one that:

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Some more questions on synergies and collaboration between projects:

12. We are able to leverage synergies between projects in our portfolio.

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13. We consistently make use of technical synergies (e.g., shared usage of modules, platforms, technologies, etc.) between our projects.

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14. We consistently make use of market synergies (e.g., shared distribution channels, infrastructure, etc.) between our projects.

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Appendix F – Descriptive Analysis

Descriptive Analysis, Demonstration, and Diagrams for All the Data

Question 1: Age group

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Below 30 Below 30 19.4%
31–40 31–40 53.1%
41–50 41–50 17.5%
51–60 51–60 8.1%
Above 60 Above 60 1.9%
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 2: Gender

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Male 80.0% 128
Female 20.0% 32
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 3: How many employees does your local operation currently have?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Below 20 employees 10.6% 17
20–75 employees 23.8% 38
75–150 employees 14.4% 23
150–300 employees 12.5% 20
Above 300 employees 38.8% 62
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 4: What is your level in your organization?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Entry level 2.5% 4
Midlevel 30.6% 49
Senior level 45.6% 73
Top management 21.3% 34
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 5: Which industry does your organization operate in?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Engineering 28.8% 46
Banking 3.8% 6
Construction 25.6% 41
Insurance 0.0% 0
Pharmaceutical 1.3% 2
Manufacturing 11.9% 19
Management consulting 11.3% 18
Consultant 16.3% 26
Finance 1.9% 3
Other 36.9% 59
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 6: How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the overall business success?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Very low 1.3% 2
Low 1.3% 2
Medium/unsure 16.9% 27
Moderately high 59.4% 95
Very high 21.3% 34
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 7: How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the market share?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Very low 1.3% 2
Low 9.4% 15
Medium/unsure 30.6% 49
Moderately high 39.4% 63
Very high 19.4% 31
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 8: How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding the revenue growth?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Very low 0.6% 1
Low 6.3% 10
Medium/unsure 33.3% 53
Moderately high 47.8% 76
Very high 11.9% 19
Answered question 159
Skipped question 1
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Question 9: How do you evaluate the success of your organization/entity compared to your competitors regarding profitability?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Very low 1.3% 2
Low 6.9% 11
Medium/unsure 36.3% 58
Moderately high 46.9% 75
Very high 8.8% 14
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 10a: How do you rate the following on your organization's project management?

Answer Options Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Rating Average Count
On average, our projects achieve a high schedule adherence. 3 13 44 81 19 3.63 160
On average, our projects achieve a high budget adherence. 1 16 42 83 18 3.63 160
On average, our projects achieve a high quality adherence. 0 6 30 92 31 3.93 159
On average, our projects are completed with a high degree of customer satisfaction. 0 2 39 74 45 4.01 160
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 10b: How do you rate the following on your organization's future preparedness?

Answer Options Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Rating Average Count
We sufficiently develop new technologies and/or competencies in our projects. 2 11 37 84 25 3.75 159
With our projects, we are a step ahead of our competition with new products, technologies, or services. 6 12 49 65 28 3.61 160
The projects enable us to shape the future of our industry. 3 17 31 83 26 3.70 160
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 10c: How do you rate the following on the strategic fit of your projects with the overall strategy?

Answer Options Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Rating Average Count
The project portfolio is consistently aligned with the future of the company. 2 4 34 96 24 3.85 160
The corporate strategy is being implemented ideally through our project portfolio. 2 10 48 87 13 3.62 160
Resource allocation to projects reflects our strategic objectives. 3 16 39 87 15 3.59 160
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 10d: How do you rate the following on your project portfolio balance?

Answer Options Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree Rating Average Count
There is a good balance in our project portfolio between new and old areas of application. 1 10 53 82 13 3.60 159
There is a good balance in our project portfolio between new and existing technologies. 1 16 34 96 10 3.62 157
There is a good balance in our project portfolio of project risks. 0 12 57 75 15 3.58 159
There is a good balance in our project portfolio of projects in different implementation phases (early/late phases). 1 10 51 84 13 3.62 159
There is a good balance in our project portfolio to generate a constant cash flow. 2 16 37 89 15 3.62 159
Answered question 159
Skipped question 1
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Question 11: Your organization is one that:

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Question 12: We are able to leverage synergies between projects in our portfolio:

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly disagree 0.6% 1
Disagree 6.9% 11
Neutral/unsure 27.7% 44
Agree 56.6% 90
Strongly agree 8.2% 13
Answered question 159
Skipped question 1
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Question 13: We consistently make use of technical synergies (e.g., shared usage of modules, platforms, technologies, etc.) between our projects:

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly disagree 1.9% 3
Disagree 9.4% 15
Neutral/unsure 15.6% 25
Agree 60.6% 97
Strongly agree 12.5% 20
Answered question 160
Skipped question 0
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Question 14: We consistently make use of market synergies (e.g., shared distribution channels, infrastructure, etc.) between our projects:

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Strongly disagree 1.9% 3
Disagree 6.9% 11
Neutral/unsure 24.5% 39
Agree 56.0% 89
Strongly agree 10.7% 17
Answered question 159
Skipped question 1
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Appendix G – Regression Analysis

This section is to be read in conjunction with Section 5.3.9 Regression analysis and test for mediation. This appendix consists of the following tables:

Table G1. Results of regression analysis for organizations with 0–20 employees
Table G2. Results of regression analysis for organizations with 20–75 employees
Table G3. Results of regression analysis for organizations with 75–150 employees
Table G4. Results of regression analysis for organizations with 150–300 employees
Table G5. Results of regression analysis for organizations with 300 and more employees

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Table G1: Results of regression analysis for organizations with 0–20 employees.

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Table G2: Results of regression analysis for organizations with 20–75 employees.

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Table G3: Results of regression analysis for organizations with 75–150 employees.

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Table G4: Results of regression analysis for organizations with 150–300 employees.

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Table G5: Results of regression analysis for organizations with 300 and more employees.

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