Project Management Institute

A case study of change recipients' beliefs on the adoption of project management

Enterprise Consulting, Inc.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to measure organizational change recipients’ beliefs about the adoption of project management practices and to understand why the change recipients reported those stated beliefs. The theoretical basis for this research study was the diffusion of innovation. This study investigated the persuasion stage of the innovation-decision process, which allows an individual to exhibit a belief about adopting the innovation. It was aimed at examining five change beliefs of members of an organization: discrepancy, appropriateness, efficacy, principal support, and valence. The research approach consisted of a single case study utilizing an explanatory sequential mixed methods design. The quantitative phase of the mixed method approach used the Organizational Change Recipients’ Beliefs Scale to describe the organizational change recipients’ beliefs, and the qualitative phase used semi-structured interviewing to determine why the change recipients held those beliefs. The findings of this study provided insights on the readiness level for adopting an organizational change. These include: (a) a deeper understanding of organizational adoption of standards and methods; (b) insight into change recipients’ beliefs about change; and (c) a greater awareness of planning and executing the implementation of change in an organization.

Keywords: organizational change management; change readiness; diffusion of innovation; mixed methods; explanatory sequential design

Introduction

In spite of substantial research supporting the benefits and value of project management practices, it has been difficult to achieve effective implementation of these practices (Martinsuo, Hensman, Artto, Kujala, & Jaafari, 2006). The cultural change required within an organization to implement project management has been identified as a major barrier to successful implementation (Bredillet, Yatim, & Ruiz, 2010; Kwak & Anbari, 2009). The complex nature of adopting a new management approach presents numerous risks resulting from organizational resistance, communication breakdown, and insufficient time devoted to training (Benedict, 2010; Martinsuo et al., 2006). Supplemental research has provided additional evidence that the implementation has been slow or may not have occurred at all due to the organization’s culture (Christensen, Marx, & Stevenson, 2006; Kwak & Anbari, 2009). However, the underlying reasons for the failure of these change initiatives have not been fully explained (Christensen et al., 2006; Kwak & Anbari, 2009).

Statement of the Problem

Despite the importance of gaining the participation of organizational change recipients in the implementation of changes, management of proposed change initiatives has concentrated more on tangible aspects such as the scope and cost of the change and the time required to implement (Weaver, 2007). Although these factors are important, organizational leaders often have not considered the intangible aspects such as the beliefs of change recipients, which can also facilitate or hinder the implementation of organizational change (Vishwanath, 2009).

To effectively plan and implement an organizational transformation such as the implementation of project management practices, organizational leaders “need to be able to assess crucial precursors to behavioral reactions” (Armenakis, Bernerth, Pitts, & Walker, 2007a, p. 483). Limited empirical information has been available on the beliefs of important organizational change recipients in this context (Bouckenooghe, 2010; Vishwanath, 2009). The challenge for organizational leaders has been to understand change recipients’ beliefs about the proposed change and consequently to plan strategies for addressing psychological obstacles that may impede the change process (Armenakis et al., 2007a).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to measure the beliefs of organizational change recipients regarding the adoption of project management practices as an organizational change initiative and to understand why the change recipients reported those beliefs. Armenakis et al. (2007a) contend that five change recipient beliefs—discrepancy, appropriateness, efficacy, principal support, and valence—can determine the degree of acceptance among organizational change recipients. According to Armenakis, et al. (2007a), understanding these beliefs is relevant to the “adoption and institutionalization of organizational change” (p. 482). They noted the need for research to provide organizational leaders with information that can be used in planning and executing successful organizational change initiatives (Armenakis et al., 2007a).

Organizational Change Management

Most of the research in organizational change has focused on how organizations prepare for, implement, and react to organizational change (Oreg, Vakola, & Armenakis, 2011). Numerous studies have been conducted with the aim of identifying the characteristics and conditions that precede successful organizational change (Oreg & Berson, 2009). Most of these works have adopted a macro perspective, focusing on factors such as the organization’s structure, environment, and strategy (Oreg & Berson, 2009). Scholars have recently begun to emphasize attitude-related human behaviors as a primary obstacle (Szabla, 2007) and interest in the psychological processes involved in employees’ experiences of organizational change has grown (Van Dam, Oreg, & Schyns, 2008). It is now recognized that while organizational change may fail for many reasons, few are as important as change recipients’ reactions to the change (Coch & French, 1948; Van Dam et al., 2008). Despite the research suggesting that human behavior may be the main cause of organizational change failure, organizational researchers and practitioners know little about the multifaceted attitude-related aspect of change (Szabla, 2007).

The innovation-decision process This figure illustrates the five stages of the innovation-decision process Adapted from Rogers, 2003, p 170

Figure 1. The innovation-decision process. This figure illustrates the five stages of the innovation-decision process. Adapted from Rogers, 2003, p. 170.

Organizational Readiness for Change

Organizational change management research provides evidence that most change initiatives are unsuccessful, and lack of readiness for change has been identified as a possible cause for this failure (Porras & Robertson, 1991). Given this finding, change management experts have advocated a greater emphasis on planning for change to effectively manage the change process, as well as improving the adoption and sustainability of the change initiative (Lawler & Worley, 2006). Drawing on Lewin's three-stage model of change (1976), change management experts have proposed various strategies to create readiness by unfreezing existing mindsets (Weiner, 2009; Armenakis, Harris, Cole, Fillmer, & Self, 2007b). These strategies included highlighting the inconsistency between current and desired performance levels, creating a vision of a future state, and fostering confidence that this future state can be achieved (Weiner 2009).

Unlike organizational resistance to change, organizational readiness for change has not been subject to extensive empirical study (Weiner, 2009; Armenakis et al., 2007b). Armenakis and Bedeian (1999) suggest that change recipients’ beliefs determine their readiness for change on the emotional-cognitive level and are critical precursors of their future behavior in supporting or resisting a particular change. The present study was premised on the idea that both determining the change beliefs of recipients before change is implemented and investigating the reasons for those beliefs would aid in planning, managing, and leading the change process, as well as improving the sustainability of the change initiative.

Theoretical Proposition

The theoretical basis for this research study is the diffusion of innovation theory. Introduced by Everett Rogers in 1962, the diffusion of innovation is defined as "the process by which an innovation is communicated through channels over time among the members of a social system" (p. 11). The diffusion of innovation has become a complex psycho-sociological theory that describes the stages of adoption, explains the method, and predicts the successful implementation of a new invention (Rogers, 2003). The diffusion of innovation has made significant contributions to the understanding and promotion of behavioral change (Haider & Kreps, 2004). Rogers (2003) defined an innovation as an idea, practice, or process that seems new to the individual. In the present study, the innovation was the adoption of project management practices within an organization.

Innovation-Decision Process

This study investigated the persuasion stage of the innovation-decision process described in the diffusion of innovation theory. The persuasion stage allows an individual to exhibit a belief about the innovation (Rogers, 2003). The innovation-decision process (Figure 1) refers to the intellectual process by which individuals: (1) become knowledgeable about an innovation (knowledge stage), (2) form an attitude based on their beliefs about the innovation (persuasion stage), (3) reach a decision to adopt or reject the innovation (decision stage), (4) implement the new innovation (implementation stage), and (5) confirm the decision (confirmation stage).

Previous diffusion research has shown that most individuals do not evaluate an innovation on the basis of scientific studies, but rather on the basis of the subjective evaluation conveyed to them by other individuals like themselves who have already adopted or rejected the innovation (Rogers, 2003). Rogers (2003) indicates that it was “the social power of peers talking to peers” about the innovation that led to adoption of a new idea (p. 68). When the innovation decision is made by an organization, rather than by individuals, the “decision process becomes more complicated” (Rogers, 2003, p. 22). Because of interpersonal communication among organizational change recipients, their beliefs, like those of individual adopters, may also be shaped by the beliefs of others (Rogers, 2003; Armenakis, Harris, & Mossholder, 1993). During the innovation-decision process, organizational change recipients develop beliefs about the innovation as a result of a series of interactions with their colleagues (Bouckenooghe, 2010; Rogers, 2003).

Change Beliefs

Armenakis and Bedeian (1999) proposed a set of five change beliefs that they argued were essential to encourage change readiness, adoption, and institutionalization. Armenakis et al. (2007a) defined a belief as “an opinion or a conviction about the truth of something that may not be readily obvious or subject to systematic verification” (p. 483). Armenakis and Bedeian (1999) conducted a content analysis of a variety of publications in the organizational science literature by both researchers and practitioners that dealt with planning, implementing, and assessing change initiatives. This analysis identified five categories of beliefs as salient in explaining the reactions of the change recipients: (1) discrepancy, (2) appropriateness, (3) efficacy, (4) principal support, and (5) valence (Armenakis & Bedeian, 1999). These five beliefs are defined as follows:

  • Discrepancy is the belief that there is a need to change from the current state to a future state. This belief is grounded in external contextual factors such as the social, economic, political, and competitive environments.
  • Appropriateness is the belief that a specific organizational change is necessary to reach the desired future state.
  • Efficacy refers to change recipients’ belief in their collective capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action needed to implement of the proposed change.
  • Principal support is the belief that there is support from key individuals who can influence others to accept change. Since changing an organization ultimately comes down to changing the practices, attitudes, and behaviors of the people who compose it, opinion leaders are an essential component of the change management process.
  • Valence refers to the attractiveness of the organizational change to recipients based on the benefits they anticipate it will produce for the organization, their fellow employees, or for them personally.

The decision to adopt an innovation requires adjustments in individual beliefs (Armenakis et al., 2007a). Armenakis et al. (2007a) stated that in “any organizational transformation, change recipients formulate precursors (e.g. cognitions, emotions, and intentions), which become part of their decision processes that result in resistance or supportive behaviors” (p. 482). According to Rogers (2003), it is at the persuasion stage that a general perception of the innovation is developed.

Based on Rogers’s (2003) recommendation to conduct a point of adoption study, this study examined the beliefs of members of an organization regarding the adoption of project management. Data was collected from change recipients before the implementation stage and then reported back to them, allowing the change recipients to participate in and to establish ownership for the change as well as to capitalize on their expertise (Armenakis et al., 2007b).

During the persuasion stage, as shown in Figure 2, an individual’s mental activity is based on favorable or unfavorable beliefs about the innovation (Bouckenooghe, 2010; Rogers, 2003; Vishwanath, 2009). Because these beliefs predict resistance to or support of change, successful organizational change requires a focus on individuals and understanding of their beliefs in regard to change (Armenakis et al., 2007b; Bouckenooghe, 2010; Rogers, 2003; Vishwanath, 2009).

The influence of change beliefs This figure illustrates where the change beliefs influence the persuasion stage within the innovation-decision process

Figure 2. The influence of change beliefs. This figure illustrates where the change beliefs influence the persuasion stage within the innovation-decision process.

Means

The findings of the research study conducted by the Project Management Institute on the value of project management support were the driving influence for the research design. "We need to make sure that we understand what we know about project management (not just what we think we know), and what we need to learn” (Thomas & Mullaly, 2008, p. 130). The purpose of this proposed research study was to examine the beliefs of members of an organization regarding the adoption of project management by the organization. These beliefs were examined quantitatively and qualitatively for the purpose of assessing both what participants believed about the organizational change and why they held those beliefs. The research questions for this study are as follows:

  • Research Question #1: What are organizational change recipients’ beliefs regarding the adoption of project management as an organizational change?
  • Research Question #2: Why do the participants hold the beliefs they do about the adoption of project management as an organizational change?

To answer Research Question #1, current beliefs about the proposed change were assessed using the Organizational Change Recipients’ Beliefs Scale (OCRBS). The scale measures the five change beliefs: discrepancy, appropriateness, efficacy, principal support, and valence. Quantitative analysis resulted in frequency distributions with histograms, measures of central tendency (mean, median, and mode) and dispersion (range and standard deviation). Results were analyzed for the overall organization and for each subgroup. In both cases, results were categorized for each of the five change beliefs as identified in the OCRBS.

Research Question #2 was answered using semi-structured interviews. The data analysis method that is most suitable for use when exploring qualitative interview data is meaning condensation and meaning categorization (Klenle, 2008). The data gathered from the interviews were condensed, categorized, and interpreted to provide an understanding of the meaning of the reasons the participants gave for the beliefs they reported regarding organizational change.

Nature of the Study

The philosophical assumptions guiding the research approach, design, and procedures for this study were built on a pragmatic worldview (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) preferred the term “worldview” to describe these assumptions as a set of beliefs, values, and methods about knowledge that informs the researcher. A pragmatic worldview relies on “many ideas including employing what works, using diverse approaches, and valuing both objective and subjective knowledge” (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011, p. 43).

A pragmatic worldview utilizes a pluralistic approach that values both objective and subjective knowledge (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011) that focuses on the consequence of the problem, the research questions being asked, and on the multiple methods used. Within this context, the approach for this study was a single case study with an explanatory sequential mixed methods design and an embedded unit of analysis on the basis that the case represents a situation where “meaningful characteristics of real-life events” need to be understood (Yin, 2009, p. 4).

In designing the study, the researchers considered whether to study a single case or multiple cases. Both single and multiple case designs have advantages and disadvantages. An advantage of a multiple case design is that the findings are often considered more compelling, and the overall study is regarded as more robust (Yin, 2009). In contrast, Creswell (1998) warned that “the study of more than one case dilutes the overall analysis; the more cases an individual studies, the greater the lack of depth in any single case" (p. 63).

After careful consideration, the researchers chose to conduct a single case study for two reasons. The first reason was the researcher’s belief that contrasting external factors such as social, economic, political, and competitive environments would result in different needs for an organization to change. The researchers assumed that no two organizations would be considering adopting project management for the same reason or have the same external business environment. The second reason was based on Yin’s (2009) cautionary statement that to undertake a multiple case study would require extensive resources and time beyond the means of an independent research investigator. Yin (2009) argues that a single case study, if conducted with a defined set of protocols and procedures, will yield a wealth of data and can aid in understanding the phenomenon under investigation.

The single case design was also strengthened by the mixed methods approach. The mixed methods approach “forces the research methods to share the same research questions, to collect complementary data, and to conduct counterpart analyses” (Yin, 2009, p. 63). Mixed methods studies can permit researchers to address more complicated research questions and collect a richer, stronger array of evidence than can be accomplished by any single method alone. To take advantage of these capabilities, the researchers used an explanatory sequential approach implemented in two distinct phases. Because of the limited sample size of this single case study, the qualitative phase utilized embedded units of analysis, which provided extensive contextual analysis and greater insight into the case.

The study employed an embedded design. The embedded design consisted of subunits of analyses, which added “significant opportunities for extensive analysis, enhancing the insights into the single case” (Yin, 2009, p. 52). In this study, executive management, change agents, project managers/project leaders, and project management practitioners of a selected organization were the embedded unit of analysis. A growing body of scholars has called for more research that uses a multisource data collection method because it provides insight into how the sense-making and perception may differ across stakeholder groups (Poole & Van de Ven, 2004). A multisource data collection method also contributes to the external validity of a study’s findings (Bouckenooghe, 2010; Yin, 2009).

An explanatory sequential mixed methods design consists of a quantitative phase and a qualitative phase (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). In this study, the quantitative data collection and analysis occurred before the qualitative data collection and analysis. Semi-structured interview questions were developed based on the results of the quantitative analysis (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). The quantitative phase emphasized the collection of data relevant to measurement of the five categories of change recipient beliefs, while the qualitative phase emphasized deeper interpretation of these data (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). In interpreting the data, an “interactive strategy of merging” (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011, p. 66) was used to bring the quantitative data and qualitative data together through combined analysis.

Site Selection

This research was a case study of a single organization at one location. The organization was selected as the case site because of their knowledge regarding project management practices. To preserve anonymity, the organization is identified here by the pseudonym ABC. Founded in 1995, ABC, a biomarketing firm that has experience managing billion-dollar accounts within the highly regulated pharmaceutical and biotech environments. Increasing regulations within the healthcare industry are requiring medical education providers to streamline operations by cutting costs through reduction of timelines and other operational expenses in producing medical education stemming from recent healthcare reform. Externally, increasingly crowded markets have resulted in fierce price competition and increasing regulatory pressures have placed new restrictions on pharmaceutical companies in their promotion of products to patients and physicians (“Pharmaceutical Industry Faces,” 2009).

Sampling

The quantitative portion of this study was a stratified purposive sampling of 50 personnel from the selected organization. These individuals were categorized into four subgroups: executive management, change agents, project managers/project leaders, and project practitioners. From the quantitative respondents, the researchers randomly selected 20 participants to participate in the qualitative phase, which consisted of one-on-one semi-structured interviews. The number of interviews was based on Auerbach and Silverstein’s (2003) experience that 20 research participants gave them enough information for initial theorizing.

Research Instrument

The Organizational Change Recipients’ Beliefs Scale (OCRBS) developed by Armenakis et al. (2007a) was the chosen survey instrument for the quantitative portion of this study. According to Armenakis et al. (2007a), the instrument determines the degree of acceptance of a given organizational change among the change recipients, identifies deficiencies in specific change beliefs, and provides a basis for planning and executing organizational change initiatives. The OCRBS is a psychometrically sound self-report questionnaire consisting of 24 items that assess the five change beliefs of the organizational change recipients regarding a proposed organizational change: discrepancy, appropriateness, efficacy, principal support, and valence.

Results

The study was implemented in two distinct phases. In the first phase, quantitative data were collected using the OCRBS to assess the five change beliefs. The quantitative portion of the study used a stratified purposive sampling of 50 of the 74 employees from a selected organization. The stratification of the quantitative sample represented four subgroups consisting of executive management, change agents, project managers, and project practitioners. The qualitative phase of this study included 19 participants randomly selected from the four subgroups who participated in the quantitative phase.

Phase 1 – Quantitative

The quantitative data for this study were collected at the individual level to form a single measure for the organization as a whole and for each of the subgroups. Due to the limited sample size of the four subgroups, inferential analyses were not used for this study. Descriptive statistics were used to answer Research Question #1. The reliability of the overall questionnaire and of each of the sub-scales was also assessed and Cronbach’s alpha values reported.

Organizational Change Recipients’ Beliefs Scale (OCRBS)

The OCRBS questionnaire consists of 24 items on a seven-point Likert scale. The response format for the OCRBS is a seven-cell format with the anchors strongly disagree and strongly agree (Armenakis et al., 2007a). The 24 items of the OCRBS were summarized into five composite scales: discrepancy, appropriateness, efficacy, principal support, and valence. Reliability was evaluated for each of the five scales and found to be adequate, exceeding the recommended minimum level of 0.70. The scale reliabilities are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1: Summary internal consistency reliability estimates

Scale Cronbach's alpha N of items
Discrepancy 0.91 4
Appropriateness 0.83 5
Efficacy 0.84 5
Principal support 0.83 6
Valence 0.80 4

In preparation for the qualitative phase, the quantitative results were examined, and the following observations were made regarding the analysis (see Table 2). This analysis guided the researchers in the development of primary and secondary interview questions.

Table 2: Observations from the descriptive analysis

Change Belief Highest Mean Score by Sub Group Lowest Mean Score by Sub Group
Discrepancy 6.28 (EM) 4.95 (PP)
Appropriateness 6.33 (CA) 5.27 (PM), 5.26 (PP)
Efficacy 6.57 (CA) 5.53 (PP)
Principal support 6.07 (EM) 5.17 (PP)
Valence 5.71 (CA), 5.71 (PM) 4.24 (PP)

The executive management (EM) scored higher means in discrepancy and principal support than did the other subgroups. The change agents (CA) scored the highest means in appropriateness, efficacy, and valence. Interestingly, project managers (PM) had the highest mean only in valence. In contrast, project participants (PP) had the lowest mean scores for all five change beliefs. In addition, the project managers had a similarly low mean score in appropriateness. Understanding these differences across subgroups required the use of a qualitative approach, which took the form of semi-structured interviews.

Phase 2 – Qualitative

The sample for the qualitative phase was drawn from the 50 respondents who completed the OCRBS in the quantitative phase of the study. The researchers used maximal variation sampling to select individuals who held different perspectives on the central phenomenon (Yin, 2009). The criterion for maximizing differences was membership in the four subgroups (executive management, change agents, project managers, and project participants). The researchers randomly selected a total of 20 participants using a random number table. Due to a scheduling conflict, 19 individuals were available at the time the qualitative interviews were conducted. The final stratification of the qualitative sample for each of the four subgroups is shown in Table 3.

Table 3: A comparison of the number of participants who completed the OCRBS survey and the semi-structured interviews based on the sub groups.

Number of participants
Unit of analysis Completed the OCRBS Available to be interviewed Interviews completed
Executive management (EM) 9 7 3
Change agents (CA) 6 4 3
Project managers (PM) 6 6 4
Project participants (PP) 29 23 9
Total 50 40 19
Researcher as the instrument of analysis

When analyzing qualitative data, particularly when using open coding, the researcher is considered the primary instrument of analysis (Patton, 2002). The researcher performs the function of the instrument, identifying issues and concepts, and measuring their relative value. According to Patton (2002), the benefit of the researcher as an instrument of analysis is that the researcher has the flexibility to modify his or her approach as needed and can detect latent content inherent in the subjects. The drawback is that the researcher often lacks the precision and objectivity that a survey might afford. As the instrument of analysis, the researcher must recognize personal biases and attempt to mitigate them in order to improve the reliability and validity of the study findings.

The researchers used bracketing and reflexivity to improve rigor and reduce bias in analyzing the qualitative data. Klenke (2008) defined bracketing as the ability of researcher to suspend their own preconceptions, prejudices, and beliefs so that they do not interfere with or influence the participants’ experience. Jootun, McGee, and Marland (2009) argued that because it is impossible for the researcher to be totally detached and unbiased when conducting qualitative research, the relationship between the researcher and participants and the researcher’s influence on participants should be made transparent. To offset this bias, a reflexive process was included to increase the rigor of the interview process and enhance the trustworthiness of the data. Jootun et al. (2009) point out that, “reflecting on the process of one’s research and trying to understand how one’s own values and views may influence findings adds credibility to the research and should be part of any method of qualitative inquiry” (p. 42). As the researchers interviewed the various sub groups from the organization, they were mindful of how their values and views might influence the findings. During the interview process, the researchers consciously remained aware of being an observer rather than a participant. Being reflective and reflexive about the researchers’ own observations, experiences, thoughts, and feelings was managed by maintaining an analytical perspective.

Semi-structured interviews

Qualitative data collection was conducted through one-on-one semi-structured interviews to explore the factors found to be noteworthy in the quantitative phase. The primary interview questions were directed toward initiating a dialogue about the participants’ beliefs so that the researchers could probe the participants with secondary interview questions and follow-up questions to discover deeper meaning. The follow-up questions emerged through a constructive process built from the interview dialogue. This approach guided the researchers to probe deeper for further explanations to help in understanding. Other interview questions evolved during the interview, allowing both the researcher and the participant the flexibility to probe for details or discuss related issues.

The primary interview question for discrepancy asked whether there was an internal need to change. Secondary interview questions asked whether there were external factors requiring the organization to change.

For the belief appropriateness, the primary interview question asked whether project management was the right solution for the organization. The secondary question asked whether project management was the right solution in a highly-regulated business environment. Because the descriptive statistics indicated that the project managers scored low on this belief, the researchers used probing questions to obtain their comments regarding this belief.

For the belief efficacy, the primary interview question was whether the organization was capable of implementing project management. The secondary interview question was whether there were any barriers, which could be perceived as risks to the implementation.

For the belief principal support, the primary interview question was whether there was adequate individual and organizational commitment to adopting project management. The secondary interview question asked about the organizational culture with respect to implementing project management.

For the belief valence, the primary interview question had two parts, distinguishing between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Qualitative coding procedures

The coding procedures consisted of open and axial coding. Open coding allowed the data to be the guide rather than searching for specific indicators or topics within qualitative data (Thomas & James, 2006). Axial coding is used when the researcher seeks to gain insight with respect to a specific thematic category or topic (Thomas & James, 2006). The open coding procedure examined the interview transcripts for concepts, ideas, or issues relevant to the five change beliefs in the comments provided by the participants. Words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs were marked with codes to identify them for further analysis. A code is a labeled section of data that a researcher has identified as significant to some facts that data represent. The code names were selected based on the context taken from the language of the participant.

After the open coding process, axial coding procedure was used to analyze the codes for similarities. Axial coding is the process of grouping codes into categories based on common characteristics (Thomas & James, 2006). The development of these categories enabled the researchers to reduce data to a more manageable form, allowing patterns and themes to emerge.

The initial pass through the 19 transcripts resulted in 1,242 codes. Bazeley (2007) defined these codes as free codes, which means the codes have no relationships or connections with each other. A code was a specific section of the interview, such as a word, phrase, sentence, or sentences that was considered relevant to one of the five change beliefs. In the 19 transcripts, the number of codes per transcript ranged from 45 to 109. The average number of codes per transcript was 65. See Table 4 for the categories based on the five change beliefs with the corresponding number of codes for each category.

Table 4:The total number of codes based on the five change beliefs

Discrepancy 199
Appropriateness 113
Efficacy 311
Principal support 265
Valence 135
Miscellaneous a 219
Total number of codes 1,242
Note. a Miscellaneous codes were assigned to comments that emerged from probing and follow-up questions and were not aligned with the five change beliefs.

During the axial coding process, the researchers sorted the codes into categories. Categories are groups of codes that are related through a common concept, idea, or issue (QSR International, 2011). The second review of the data resulted in the creation of 28 categories from the 1,242 codes identified in the open coding process. The 28 categories were sub-categorized based on the five change beliefs to create the themes.

The final stage of qualitative analysis was to review the categories using thematic analysis, which involves searching through data to identify any recurrent patterns. Themes were created by bringing together the categories from the individual interviews to form a comprehensive picture of the collective experience. The data were examined, tested, categorized, and recombined, and the frequency of the emergent themes was tabulated (Yin, 2009).

Integrating the Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analysis

The organization’s mean score (M = 5.30) for discrepancy (the belief that there is a need for the organization to change its operations) indicated that participants believe there is a need for the selected organization to change. Based on 117 comments, there were three predominant themes for discrepancy: 1) inconsistent project management practices resulting in increased risks due to non-compliance issues, 2) the need to reduce operational costs, and 3) the need for shorter time-to-market schedules as three critical factors favoring change in the organization’s operations. One executive manager reflected all three of these themes:

We are so regulated on the front end that it is causing our timelines to be compromised, which opens ourselves to greater risk. Not only regulatory risk, but also risk of not completing a project successfully. That could have a huge implication for us if we get a violation that’s reportable to the FDA. It could mean our contract becomes null and void, and we could lose millions of dollars in revenue.

The comments of the interviewees show that participants believe there is a need for change (discrepancy) because the selected organization is required to continuously create new sources of competitive advantage to meet increasing regulations within the healthcare industry, changing market demands, and technological innovations. Internally, it has encountered issues such as the declining efficiency of internal business processes. The organization’s mean score (M = 5.56) for appropriateness (the belief that the adoption of project management would address the cause(s) of the discrepancy, thus reducing or eliminating it) indicated participants believed that project management would be the right choice to eliminate or reduce the difference. One executive manager believed that project management would be able to integrate the organization’s response to the needs of the various stakeholders of their project:

Why we need to adopt project management is because there are so many moving parts to what we do and so many different clients, different needs. A lot of times we don't just work with one client. We've got a client, and we've got various stakeholders around that client, and we have to pull that whole thing together as seamlessly as possible.

Based on 67 comments, there was one predominant theme for appropriateness: participants in all four groups expressed the view that project management must be adaptable to meet the needs of the client, the specific project, and its technical requirements. Several of the executive management members stated that having a set of predefined project management processes might hinder their company’s ability to respond to ambiguities inherent to the pharmaceutical industry. One of them observed:

Developing a project management process that allows them to go from step A to step B to step C seems right, but I always worry when things need to jump from step A to step D, which can paralyze people to be able to think on their own.

One of the change agents raised concerns with rigid project management processes and emphasized the need for the organization to rely on providing creative solutions to their clients rather than following a set of processes:

I think it’s actually one of the key hurdles in adopting project management because it feels “processy,” but we’re supposed to be creative. I think that’s going to be the largest hurdle to overcome.

One of the project managers openly expressed resistance to the implementation of project management because they felt the new practices would not meet the needs of clients. “If it’s not a process that is official, I will not do it.”

Overall, with respect to appropriateness, participants believed that the implementation of project management practices would have to include a high degree of adaptability to improve effectiveness in a very fluid business environment, while still maintaining effective control over the execution and delivery of projects.

The organization’s mean score (M = 5.78) for efficacy (the belief concerning the organization’s capability to implement project management) indicated that participants believed the organization was capable of implementing the organizational change. While the mean scores for the five beliefs indicated the likelihood of a decision in favor of adopting project management, it was the number of comments on efficacy (35.0%) at the interview stage that revealed this factor to be of greatest concern for the organizational members.

Based on 235 comments, the one predominant theme was the lack of capacity to implement the organizational change because day-to-day operations required too much of participants’ time. One executive manager acknowledged that capacity was a concern and stated, “I do think we’re capable, but my concern is around capacity more than capability.” These comments indicated that the organization’s total capacity for running operations while implementing change activities was insufficient and that this insufficiency should be considered a barrier to the implementation of project management.

Of the 235 comments regarding efficacy, 113 (49.1%) indicated that overcoming resistance to the proposed implementation of project management would depend on having capable resources and subject matter expertise about project management practices assigned to the change management process. A project manager, who has day-to-day operational responsibilities, put it succinctly: “If it is rolled out by somebody who doesn't know what they are talking about, or doesn't understand the impact, and doesn't know what it feels like, that is going to make it worse.”

The participants believed that the current workload resulted in a lack of capacity to implement project management. The sentiment was that the organization was already operating at full capacity in the day-to-day management of existing projects; there was no remaining capacity to plan and launch an organizational change. A common statement made by participants from all levels of the organization during this portion of the interviews was, “I don’t have time to change.”

Principal support is the belief that opinion leaders can influence other organizational members regarding the adoption of project management by the organization. The organization’s mean score (M = 5.40) for principal support indicated that individuals believed opinion leadership was adequate. Of the 192 comments made regarding principal support, there were two contrasting themes, which provided a glimpse of the competing perspective on implementing project management. First, many of the project managers and practitioners stated that they wanted assurances from executive management that they would assist in the implementation rather than only making the decision to adopt project management. One project manager stated, “My concern is this is the management fad of the month. Because I feel that we roll out a lot of things, and then it just kind of fizzles.”

The second theme was concern for training in implementing project management for the organization. Since changing an organization ultimately comes down to changing the practices, attitudes, and behaviors of the people who compose it, the change agents are an essential component of the change management process. One executive manager, who realized that learning and development would be necessary, stated that a significant amount of training would be necessary before they could apply project management practices: “Trying to get people who are totally overwhelmed to teach them on project management. Well, that’s not going to fly because we really—we don’t have time to train.”

One of the change agents expressed concern about the lack of capability of the internal training department. This person felt it would be advantageous to bring in outside resources to optimize the necessary training to successfully implement project management: “If you’re going to do it, let’s do it right. So I think there’s more of an investment in bringing outside people in to help with the training.” One of the project management practitioners indicated the same concern in a more direct manner, stating that the internal training department would not have the capability to train others on project management because they lack experience in working directly with clients:

Great idea in theory, but we're in the trenches. It is not going to work in real life, and so that is why it needs to be rolled out by somebody who does the work… and it needs to be an option and not a must. And, if it is rolled out by somebody who doesn't know what they are talking about or doesn't understand the impact and doesn't know what it feels like, that is going to make it worse.

Overall, with respect to efficacy, participants believed that the organizational leaders needed to be personally committed to the change, acting in ways congruent with the new behaviors they are expecting of others, and holding others accountable for similar consistency in desired behaviors. In other words, they must exhibit a form of behavioral integrity, which is an alignment of words and actions to support the proposed organizational change. Such actions help to validate that the desired change is a reality, to establish the alignment of others with the change, and to serve to motivate others to learn the nature of the new performance expectations and ways of working.

Valence is the belief that the adoption of project management will benefit the organization, fellow employees, or the respondents personally. The organization’s mean score (M = 5.40) for valence indicated that, while participants perceived that the change would be beneficial, they had some reservations concerning the motivation to change. Based on 72 comments, the one dominant theme for this belief was the respondents’ concern with limiting the number of hours spent at work. One of the project management practitioners expressed doubts about the motivation to adopt project management and stated: “I think it would take a lot to motivate me to do it because I don’t see the value in my current position. I don’t see how it would make our jobs easier.” Another project manager openly stated, “As long as I don't have to do extra work, I'm fine.” That sentiment was clearly articulated at all levels of the organization: respondents believed that they were already operating at full capacity due to the day-to-day management of their existing projects. To gain acceptance, the organizational leaders will have to examine the factors that intrinsically motivate their employees. Organizational leaders must recognize that acceptance is about personal benefit, and if they cannot convey some level of individual outcome, gaining acceptance may be a challenge.

Overall, with respect to valence, comments indicated that the employees were reluctant to commit to the organizational change because they experienced it as intrusive and disruptive of the routines they rely upon to complete important work activities.

Summary of Findings

In sum, the data support the following findings with respect to research questions 1 (RQ1) and 2 (RQ2):

  • Discrepancy: Participants believed there was a need for the selected organization to change (rQ1) because it is required to continuously create new sources of competitive advantage to mitigate the competitors’ advantages, because of changing market demands, and because of technological innovations (RQ2). They identified several critical factors supporting change: (1) inconsistent project management practices resulting in increased risks due to non-compliance issues; (2) the need to reduce operational costs; and (3) the need for shorter time-to-market schedules.
  • Appropriateness: Participants believed that project management would be the right choice to eliminate or reduce the discrepancy (RQ1). While believing this specific change was appropriate, participants also thought that the implementation of project management practices would have to include a high degree of adaptability to improve effectiveness in a very fluid business environment, while still maintaining effective control over the execution and delivery of projects (RQ2).
  • Efficacy: Participants believed the organization was capable of implementing the organizational change, although the level of support suggested that efficacy was likely to be the factor of greatest concern to members of the organization (RQ1). Participants were primarily concerned that their current workload was such that they did not have the capacity to implement project management (RQ2). Relatedly, they believed that overcoming resistance to the proposed implementation of project management would depend on having capable resources and subject matter expertise about project management practices assigned to the change management process.
  • Principal support: Individuals believed that opinion leadership was adequate to support the move to project management (RQ1). They nevertheless had some concerns about the role that leaders would play in the change: many wanted assurances from executive management that they would assist in the implementation rather than only making the decision to adopt project management (RQ2). Another concern was whether appropriate training would be available to successfully implement project management (RQ2). Participants believed that the organizational leaders needed to be personally committed to the change, acting in ways congruent with the new behaviors they are expecting of others, and holding others accountable for similar consistency in desired behaviors (RQ2).
  • Valence: On the whole, individuals believed that project management would benefit the organization (RQ1). Nevertheless, they were reluctant to commit to the organizational change because they saw it as potentially intrusive and disruptive of the routines they rely upon to complete important work activities (RQ2).

Implications for Practice

Although this is a single case study, it highlights issues that other organizations may find worth considering. One of the key insights of the study is that articulated by the executive manager who believed that the organization was capable of change, but was more concerned with its capacity to change. The distinction this manager makes echoes Lewin’s distinction between capability to change, which he takes to mean having the necessary knowledge and expertise in leading and managing change, and capacity to change, which refers to the ability of an organization to change not just once, but to constantly adapt to and anticipate changes in its environment (Lewin, 1976). In contrast to the traditional view of change as a series of isolated events, capacity to change implies a focus on multiple, often iterative and overlapping, organizational change initiatives. Organizational change readiness studies have typically focused on the organizational members’ beliefs, attitudes, and intentions that reflect and recognize the need for a particular change at a specific point in time (Armenakis et al., 1993). Yet, given the constant state of flux in the current business environment, it might be more useful to focus on promoting continuous change readiness—change capacity—rather than on implementing and managing a specific change effort.

Developing organizational change capacity reflects a dynamic process of continuous learning and adjustment to cope with the ambiguity and uncertainty that the business environment operates in, and the ability to implement those changes in that context.

Organizational capacity can also be defined as the organization’s total workload capacity, given the need to continue to run operations while implementing change activities. Most organizations are running at over-capacity, in that daily operations consume the organization’s capacity. Organizational leaders require or desire individuals to change their work activities and business processes on top of constrained workloads without removing any responsibilities. Executive management highly influences organizational capacity at the personal level. How management attends to organizational capacity issues in turn dictates the organization’s cultural norms about capacity. Leaders do not always stop to think about whether or not their people can do what is needed; they just assume they can and will. Organizational capacity is a significant risk factor to the implementation of a proposed change when leading a substantial organizational change initiative is unlike any other managerial task the organization has undertaken.

Limitations

The single case study approach is a limitation of the study. Drawing causal conclusions from case studies is difficult because the findings cannot be generalized (Yin, 2009). This case study concerned the change beliefs of individuals in one organization and the findings of this study cannot be applied to similar organizations. A second limitation was the sample size of the study. Because of the limited sample size of the quantitative phase, descriptive statistics were used to describe the quantitative data of the four subgroups and the organization rather than inferential statistics. To offset this limitation, a single case study using a mixed methods design was used which included a quantitative phase and a qualitative phase. A combination of both forms of data provided the most comprehensive analysis of the problem (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011).

The qualitative phase utilized embedded units of analysis: executive management, change agents, project managers, and project management practitioners of a selected organization. Yin (2009) argues that subunits of analysis can “add significant opportunities for extensive analysis, enhancing the insights into the single case” (p. 52). This data collection method provided tacit knowledge on how sense-making and perceptions differed across the four subgroups (Poole & Van de Ven, 2004). This approach improved the significance of the findings by increasing the richness of the data available for interpretation and thereby improving the usefulness of the findings (Bryman, 2008).

Suggestions for Future Research

The mixed-methods case study approach used here shows promise as a way for organizations to gain insight into both the level of support for a proposed change within the organization and the factors behind change recipients’ positive and negative beliefs with respect to the change. There are two suggestions for future research building on this approach. One recommendation is for future diffusion studies to utilize a point-of-adoption study but to incorporate multiple data collection and analysis at various intervals, which will provide a moving picture of behavior rather than a single snapshot. This type of research approach would allow tracing of the flow of diffusion as it spreads through a social system. A longitudinal study would provide repeated observations though each of the five innovation-decision process stages and identify trends across the life cycle of the change initiative. This approach may uncover predictors of certain behaviors at each stage, which can aid organizational leaders in the implementation stage.

The second suggestion for future research is to conduct a multiple-case study utilizing an explanatory, sequential design with an embedded unit of analysis. Multiple organizations would add statistical rigor to the study. Comparison could be made across organizations with respect to the five change beliefs within each sub group. The comparison would identify differences in change recipients’ beliefs across organizations and provide valuable information for planning strategies for resolving any deficiencies.

Conclusion

Every change initiative requires leadership. The results of the study revealed that all levels of the ABC organization must be involved to achieve a sustainable organizational change. The findings of this study provided insights on the readiness-level of the organization studied to adopt an organizational change. These include: (a) a deeper understanding of organizational adoption of standards and methods; (b) insight into change recipients’ beliefs about change; and (c) a greater awareness of planning and executing the implementation of change in an organization.

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Stephen Burgan, EdD, PMP, provides training and consulting services to clients in design, development, and implementation of estimating and project management processes within their organization. Dr. Burgan holds an EdD in organizational leadership, and MA in advanced leadership, and an MS in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University. Dr. Burgan, who has 35 years of project management experience in the construction industry, conducts seminars and workshops at local organizational chapters as well as regional and national conferences. He has worked in the capacity of ironworker, estimator, project manager, consultant, and university professor. His research interest revolves around organizational leadership with a focus on project management. His research focus is on the adoption of project management practices within organizations. Dr. Burgan is a member of the PMI-Central Indiana Chapter. In 2000, he participated in the formation and development of the Central Indiana PMI Chapter. He volunteered for three years as a subject matter contributor on A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Third Edition.

Diana Burgan, EdD, PMP, has over 30 years of extensive experience leading organizational change. Dr. Burgan holds an EdD in organizational leadership, an MA in advanced leadership studies, and an MS in management from Indiana Wesleyan University. She has experience in leading organizations in the strategic selection of projects, leading teams in successful project implementation, and training in project management methodologies. Her experience includes director of information systems, director of process improvement, system manager, business analyst, programmer, and project manager. She also has eight years of experience as an international consultant working with Fortune 500 companies developing effective business process designs with Cummins Engine, W.W. Grainger, Simon & Associates, and Brigham & Women’s Hospital. She is an international speaker on topics such as leadership, business process improvement, and project management. Dr. Burgan research interest is in organizational leadership with a focus on project management. Her research focus is on emotional intelligence and project leadership. Diana is a member of the PMI-Central Indiana Chapter and a past board member. She is actively involved in the local project management community mentoring other women in project management and holds annual workshops for women in project management. In 2012, Diana participated in the U.S. Congressional hearings on funding for future research for breast cancer. She continues to share her story with those who need encouragement.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

©2014 Project Management Institute Research and Education Conference

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