Intuition and rationality in project decision-making

thoughts on the impact on improvisational working practices

Proceedings of the PMI Research Conference 11-14 July 2004-London, UK

Abstract

Improvisation is becoming more recognized as an important way in which projects are managed within organizations, thus improvisation is defined as comprising a combination of intuition, creativity, and bricolage. Along with the heightened interest in improvisation, current literature on the subject is engaged in a long-standing debate as to whether or not effective managerial action is better served by rational analyses or creative intuitions. Hence, improvisation and intuition represent two important and related aspects of management in general and of the management of projects in particular. Few, if any, studies have examined the relationship between intuition and improvisation, and none, to my knowledge, have done so in the context of the management of projects. This article presents a model that is used to explore the links between the thinking styles (intuitive and rational) of project managers, their improvisational behaviour, and their project outcomes. The model was used as the basis for research employing a cross-sectional survey of 163 participants. Correlations and sub-group comparisons revealed a number of statistically significant effects. Firstly, there is a statistically significant relationship between intuition and improvisation. Secondly, intuition is related to experience. Managers who are more experienced rely to a greater extent on their faith in the intuitive, or their gut feelings, as to what will work on a project. Thirdly, more experienced managers reported greater use of improvisation, although the relationship was less than expected. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for the role of intuition and improvisation in the management of projects and for the ways in which both intuition and improvisation are conceptualized.

 

Introduction

Within project management (PM) literature, the focus for many years has been on tools and techniques, and a significant body of work has evolved that deals with the mechanics of the management of projects (Kloppenborg & Opfer, 2002). Over the latter part of the 1990s, and since the turn of the century, however, there has been a growing awareness that these tools and techniques are only a part of the project milieu. As a result, elements of the organizational theory literatures have been increasingly applied to areas of interest to the project community. A particular interest in project learning has been noted (Sense, 2003), and a recent special issue of International Journal of Project Management (Love, 2003) was devoted to the subject. Alongside this interest, it is apparent that the accepted project paradigm of plan, then execute has a tendency to fragment under pressure (Leybourne, 2002a, 2002b), often requiring a modification to management style and managerial decision-making. This area of the management of projects is examined in the study that underpins this paper.

The long-standing dilemma of whether effective managerial action is better served by rational analysis or creative intuition (Pondy, 1983) applies particularly in the field of PM. This is because projects, which are now accepted as a framework within which many organizations implement change (Clarke, 1999; Grundy, 1998; McElroy, 1996), involve large numbers of decisions in a situation where the activity is almost always new or novel. Because of the attendant uncertainties, project managers often need to make decisions to meet challenging temporal, fiscal, and quality-related requirements in a turbulent organizational environment. This research seeks to explore the relationships between intuition, improvisation, and project outcomes. The aim is to examine whether or not intuition has a role to play in PM, how it relates to improvisation, and how these two issues—intuition and improvisation—are linked to project outcomes. The subject of this research is significant because it may shed light on the cognitive and improvisational behavior of managers in the context of PM, and may contribute more generally to the evolving understanding of the role of implicit learning and tacit knowledge in the thoughts and actions of managers. At a more general level, the findings may also be of relevance to project managers themselves in helping them to become more aware of the ways in which they understand and interpret their own thoughts and actions.

Improvisation

Improvisation is becoming more recognized as a means by which managers implement and embed strategic change within their organizations (Chelariu, Johnson & Young, 2002), and an evolving literature is attempting to explain and contextualize this phenomenon. Improvisation has been identified as a combination of intuition, creativity, and bricolage that is driven by time-paced pressures; in a project context, it involves moving away from an agreed plan in order to accelerate the implementation of actions (e Cunha, da Cunha & Kamoche 1999; Moorman & Miner, 1998a, 1998b). Recently, the various constructs that combine to explain organizational improvisation have been extended to include elements of adaptation, compression (of timescales), and innovation (Miner, Bassoff & Moorman, 2001). In the 1960s, improvisation was seen as an organizational dysfunction, in that it led away from the traditional incremental route of plan, then implement (Quinn, 1980).

However, Weick (1979) was an early advocate of improvisational activity. The growing interest in this area has also resulted in improvisation being accepted as a skill that can assist in achieving the expectations of a corporate planning exercise. This movement has accelerated in intensity in the 1990s, given the need for faster cycle times and more innovative solutions to gain or retain competitive advantage (Crossan, 1997). These faster cycles and innovation requirements show few signs of abating.

This move towards managerially sanctioned improvisational activity appears to be changing how many organizations address both the way in which work activity is achieved and the way in which it is supervised. Many organizations are allowing employees to create time and opportunity to experiment with new, innovative, and hopefully more effective ways of executing work. This is resulting in new and more complex management challenges. Specifically, if organizations are creating the time, space, and opportunity for employees to use improvisational working practices to develop new ways of undertaking tasks, this poses challenges for the control and supervision of work. There are also implications for the training, development, and education of managers. Additionally, individual employees will be working independently within organizations, generating efficiencies and innovations. The lessons from such activity need to be captured, and employees need to be motivated, rewarded, and encouraged to share their findings and the emerging best practice with the organization with other employees. In many ways, projects are an ideal vehicle for this endeavour, as they encompass a combination of novel action and post implementation activity that is intended to review project performance and identify lessons learned for the benefit of future project planning and execution. In this sense, projects present a unique forum for learning.

From a philosophical stance, improvisation relates to how thoughts develop. Ryle (1979, p. 125) suggests that “the vast majority of things that happen [are] unprecedented, unpredictable, and never to be repeated,” adding that “the things we say and do... cannot be completely pre-arranged. To a partly novel situation the response is necessarily partly novel, else it is not a response.” His assertion is that however much an activity is planned, there will always be a novel set of circumstances to deal with, and that improvisation requires using resources that are to hand to resolve unforeseen circumstances. This is the essence of bricolage (Lehner ,2000).

From the mid-1990s onwards, much of the literature on improvisational work practices within organizations took this stance and applied it to organizational routines and processes. Some of the outcomes from these debates apply metaphors to explain the way improvisation is used, such as adopting and applying ideas from jazz performance (Barrett, 1998a, 1998b; Eisenhardt, 1997; Hatch, 1998, 1999), and from improvisational theatre (Crossan, 1997; Kanter, 2002; Yanow, 2001). Later work used grounded theory approaches to consider the temporal aspects of improvisation and pressure to achieve complex tasks to a demanding or compressed timetable (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1997; Moorman & Miner, 1998a, 1998b). This work is building the foundations to allow empirical research of a more positivist nature. For example, Akgun & Lynn's (2002) work on the links between improvised new product development and speed-to-market. Lately, consideration has also been given to the interactions between improvisation and learning (Chelariu et al., 2002; Miner et al., 2001), improvisation and entrepreneurial activity (Baker, Miner, & Eesley, 2003; Hmieleski & Corbett, 2003) and the ways in which tacit knowledge—upon which intuition may draw—is acquired (Koskinen, Pihlanto, & Vanharanta, 2003), and the role of experience in the acquisition of tacit knowledge (Cooke-Davis, 2002).

Intuition

In parallel with these developments there appears to have been an upsurge of interest in the role of intuition in management as a basis for overcoming the limits of rationality in unstable environments (Hodgkinson & Sparrow, 2002; Hogarth, 2001; Klein, 2003; Myers, 2002). In this context, intuition may be defined as “a cognitive conclusion based on decision maker's previous experiences and emotional inputs” (Burke & Miller, 1999, p. 93). Burke and Miller (1999) derived their definition in the context of a study employing in-depth, semi-structured telephone interviews with 60 managers across medium-to-large U.S. firms; each interviewee had at least ten years experience and responsibilities in the areas of project or program development, management, or implementation. Their respondents included the functional areas of executive development, technical services manager, engineering, audit, marketing, and human resources. A majority of respondents (56%) were of the view that intuition was decision-making based upon experience, and almost half (47%) reported using intuition often in the workplace. For the majority, internal factors, as opposed to external factors, prompted their use of intuition if, for example, a situation lacked predetermined guidelines, objective data appeared to be wanting, or there was an overwhelming mass of information. In situations that lacked explicit cues, routines, or procedures, experience-based intuition was relied upon. Paradoxically, too much data—information overload—caused the interviewed managers to rely on their intuition, presumably in order to cut through a swath of detailed information and see the bigger picture while avoiding analysis paralysis.

While Burke and Miller did not explicitly test the quality of the intuitive decisions arrived at by managers, they did ask them to report on their perceptions of the quality of such decisions. Two thirds of respondents reported that relying on intuition led to better decisions. The specific benefits reported were more expedient decision-making (“leads to quicker decisions”), improved quality of decision (“provides a check and balance [on rational analysis]”), and facilitation of personal development (“develops a full tool set”). Burke and Miller (1999) concluded that incorporating intuition into decision-making is valid when time is limited, explicit cues are lacking, uncertainty prevails, and when used as a balance to rational analyses.

Intuition and rationality are two fundamentally different modes of processing information (Epstein, Pacini, Denes-Raj, & Heier, 1996). While some assert that rationality and intuition are opposite ends of a bipolar continuum, thus precluding the possibility of an individual having strengths in both styles (Allinson & Hayes, 1996), a contrary and widely accepted view maintains that rationality and intuition are two potentially complementary ways of thinking. With appropriate training and development, managers can develop rationality and intuition to the extent that they are mutually reinforcing (Pondy, 1983; Taggart & Robey, 1981; Taggart & Valenzi, 1990). This finding is commensurate with the view put forward by Epstein et al. (1996) in his cognitive experiential self-theory (CEST), in which two parallel cognitive systems are posited: the rational, which is affect-free and operates at the conscious level), and the experiential, which is associated with affect and operates at an automatic, preconscious level (Handley, Newstead, & Wright, 2000). Epstein's model provides theoretical and empirical support for the view that rational and intuitive thinking styles are better conceived as separate unipolar constructs. The conscious thoughts and behaviours of managers are a function of the interaction of these two systems and the degree of dominance of either system (Epstein et al., 1996). Furthermore, Epstein and his colleagues argue that the ways in which the two systems operate may be different according to context. The rational system operates according to context-free, abstract principles and should therefore be more cross situationally consistent or general. The experiential system, on the other hand, operates in a context-specific manner since it encodes reality in concrete images, metaphors, and narratives, with behavior mediated by vibes from past events (Tullett, 1996, 391). Therefore, the generality of responses generated by this system should be more reduced.

To my knowledge, there are no previous studies that have specifically examined the role of intuition per se in the context of PM. One previous study by Tullett (1996) looked at the adaptive and innovative cognitive styles of male and female project managers and the implications for the management of change. This work was based on Kirton's (1976) adaptor-innovator theory, which posits a continuum of style ranging from adaption (preferring to work by improving consensually agreed methods, products, and practices) to innovation (preferring to work by reassessing and redefining problems, thereby proposing changes which may appear unexpected and difficult to accept). Tullett (1996) found that project managers scored significantly more innovative than that of the general population of managers. The main implication drawn from this finding was that when a relatively innovative project manager finds him or herself working with a relatively adaptive client manager, there may be conflicts and differences in opinions. In the absence of clients moderating their preferences, the project manager—the supplier in the relationship—may be forced into adopting a coping strategy. For example, they may be paying more attention to detail, de-risking decisions, and being more aware of consensually agreed rules (Tullett, 1996, 364). The term strategy is used here in the sense of a behavior that may differ from one's habitual predispositions or style, but which is employed in an informed way in order to fit the demands of a specific situation.

Intuition, Improvisation & Project Management

Some three decades ago, March (1971) urged us, in our desire to understand the way in which individuals and organizations act, not to focus entirely on rational and analytic logic. Instead, he suggested that we should increasingly consider the softer sides of the human intellect and more specifically, the importance of intuition in human action. This view caused some tension in an era where management was seen as the science of planned and pre-conceived action, based on rationality and systematic forecasting. The traditional project paradigm is one of plan-then-execute, but project practitioners are aware that in modern, turbulent business environments, often the plan may cease to be effective at precisely the time when one tries to execute it.

This is where intuition and improvisation may come into play. As noted earlier, Moorman and Miner (1998a, 1998b) identify intuition—along with creativity and bricolage—as a key element of improvisation. A mixture of serendipity, intuition, and intentional processes may combine to influence the direction of any improvisation, which may be prompted by a belief that one can do something better, or in an improved way other than by following the plan. It is, however, more usually triggered to gain temporal advantage or react to unplanned occurrences. Within projects, the tension between rationality with its planned and expected outcomes, and intuition with its attendant uncertainty, may cause problems for project managers and clients. It is also inevitable that some key decision-makers within the project arena deal with such tensions more effectively. The expert performer, as described by Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986) and Benner and Tanner (1987), is someone who appears to have little reliance upon guiding rules or maxims, but instead has an intuitive grasp of situations and relies on hypothetico-deductive logic when new or unexpected challenges arise.

Eisenhardt (1997), writing about organizational improvisation in terms of the metaphor of jazz improvisation, argued that the adaptive yet well executed performance, analogous to that witnessed in expert jazz musicians, is critical for effective decision-making. In organizations, crucial decisions are often executed by ostensibly highly skilled individuals who possess high levels of expertise. Their expertise is one facet of their capacity to intuit responses in complex decision scenarios with apparent speed and flexibility. Indeed, according to Simon (1989, p. 38), intuition and judgement are “simply analyses frozen into habit and into the capacity for rapid response through recognition.” One explanation for this view of intuition is that it is the product of explicit and implicit learning that manifests itself as tacit knowledge, and that this may be drawn upon unconsciously or with apparently low levels of cognitive effort. This intuition-as-expertise perspective is one way of understanding intuition. Epstein's (1996) CEST theory argues for the importance of emotionally significant events stored in long-term memory as part of this process. To the extent that intuition and improvisation and the tacit knowledge thus acquired are partly products of experience, we would expect them to be related to measures of experience, such as age and tenure. Furthermore, if improvisation is viewed as the application of expert knowledge by seasoned and experienced performers, one would expect it to be related to the extent to which such individuals draw upon tacit knowledge through the process of intuition.

Research Questions

There have been few, if any, empirical studies that have attempted to explore the relationship between cognition and improvisation in the context of project management. There are no previous studies (to my knowledge) that have examined intuition, improvisation, and project management. The aim of this research was to contribute to the debates about thinking styles as antecedents of improvisation and the ways in which these two phenomena relate to project outcomes. The specific research questions that I sought to answer were:

What are the relationships between intuitive (and rational) thinking styles and improvisation?

What are the relationships between these thinking styles and project outcomes?

What is the relationship between improvisation and project outcomes?

What are the relationships between thinking styles and improvisation and project outcomes?

These questions are represented in Exhibit 1.

Research Model

Exhibit 1: Research Model

This research is considered to be exploratory; therefore I did not explicitly seek to test specific hypotheses consistent with extant theory and previous research. I did expect a positive relationship between the intuitive thinking style and improvisation. I also expected any relationship between intuition and project outcomes to be mediated through improvisation. I did not anticipate a direct link from intuition to the outcome variables.

Methodology

In an attempt to answer these research questions, a cross-sectional survey design was adopted, using a postal questionnaire survey incorporating self-report measures of style, improvisation, and outcome.

Measures

Independent Variables

To assess managers' thinking styles, the short form of the Rational Experiential Inventory (REI) (Epstein et al. 1996, p. 399) was used. The REI consists of two separate scales: need for cognition (rational) and faith in intuition (experiential). And in its original form these consist of 31 items, 12 experiential and 19 rational. The latter is based on the concept of need for cognition as defined by Cacioppo and Petty (1982, p. 116), which states “the need for the individual to engage in and enjoy thinking.” Epstein et al. report the development and validation of a short, ten-item form of the REI. In this short form, there are five need for cognition (NFC) items and five faith in intuition (FII) items. Each are scored on a seven point Likert scale. A sample NFC item is “I prefer complex problems to simple ones.” Epstein et al. reported an internal consistency of 0.73; in this study the internal consistency of the scale was 0.71 (Cronbach α). A sample FII item is “I believe in trusting my hunches.” Epstein et al. reported an internal consistency of 0.72; the internal consistency in this study was 0.77 (Cronbach α).

Mediating Variable

In Exhibit 1, improvisation is hypothesised as performing a mediating role between intuition and project outcomes. The measure of improvisation used is based upon Leybourne (2002a). This measure distinguished between improvisation at the individual level (sample item: “I improvise all the time when I am managing projects”) and organizational level (“Improvisation is recognised in my organization as a valid way of achieving project-managed change”). It designed two scales in order to assess these phenomena. In the present context, when used in their original form, the internal consistency of these scales was unacceptable (Cronbach α < 0.60). In order to develop these scales further, the two original five-item improvisation sub-scales of Leybourne (2002a) were amalgamated. By successively deleting items with low item-total correlations (r < 0.20), a shorter seven-item version improvisation scale that exhibited a level of internal consistency that was acceptable (Cronbach α = 0.66) was eventually arrived at.

Project Outcome Variables

Project outcomes are based upon success in meeting a number of criteria. Traditionally these criteria have been those that are internal to the project, namely: time, cost, and scope, the latter being the extent to which the derived scheme of work meets the originally specified requirements. Lately, a move has been made toward the inclusion of the extent to which customer expectations are met, a criterion that is external to the project (Pinto & Slevin, 1988; Turner, 1999). Tukel and Rom (2001) devised two sets of measures of project outcomes in terms of the internal criteria of time, cost and scope (ten items) and the external criterion of customer satisfaction (five items). By successive deletion of items with low item-total correlations, the short forms of Tukel and Rom's scales were developed. These forms gauge internal performance (seven items) and external performance (four items). Internal performance factors include time (sample item: “To ensure meeting project milestones and deadlines, the re-working of non-conforming tasks is deferred and done during available slack time”), cost (“To meet budget targets, technical specifications of tasks are relaxed”), and scope (“To fully meet technical specifications, deadlines are relaxed”) (Cronbach α = 0.67), External performance factors include , for example, “We hold scheduled meetings with customers to inform them about project progress and deliverables” (Cronbach α = 0.64).

Control Variables

A number of demographic and environmental variables were also measured, including respondents' age, gender, length (in years) of project management experience, and the number of projects managed simultaneously.

Sample & Procedure

Questionnaires were mailed to 521 potential respondents, based on information from an official database of project managers in the country where the survey was administered. The survey was conducted in two waves. Non-respondents were again sent the questionnaires after a period of two weeks had elapsed. The number of usable responses received was 163 representing a response rate of 31.3 per cent.

Results

Descriptive Statistics

Means, standard deviations, and internal consistencies (Cronbach α) are shown in Exhibit 2. As noted above, all of the study variables exceeded the minimum value of Cronbach α suggested by Finkelstein (1992) for exploratory research. The first and second wave respondents were compared on the independent (style), mediating (improvisation), and outcome variables. With the exception of the mediating variable (t = -2.24; p < 0.03), there were no statistically significant differences between the first and second waves.

Means, standard deviations, scale reliabilities and correlationsXS

Exhibit 2: Means, standard deviations, scale reliabilities and correlations.

Correlations and Sub-Group Comparisons

The correlations between the study variables are shown in Exhibit 2. In terms of sub-group comparisons, an incidental relationship was investigated with respect to thinking style and gender. It has been claimed, sometimes on the basis of the stereotype of female intuition, that females are more intuitive than males (Allinson & Hayes, 1996). We tested this stereotype and failed to observe any significant differences either with regard to intuition (t = -0.31; p = 0.38) or rationality (t = 0.60; p = 0.28) (one-tailed test). This is consistent with the findings of Epstein et al. (1996, p. 399). It has also been suggested that rationality and intuition are the extremes of a bipolar, uni-dimensional continuum of thinking style. This view has not gone unchallenged (Hodgkinson & Sadler-Smith, 2003). Commensurate with Epstein's dual process, cognitive-experiential self theory, previous research (e.g., Handley, Newstead, & Wright, 2000) and the arguments advanced by Hodgkinson and Sadler-Smith, these data revealed a correlation between rationality and intuition that was low and non-significant (r = -0.11; p > 0.05), thus supporting the view that rationality and intuition are unlikely to be opposite poles of a single dimension. Epstein et al.(1996) reported a correlation of 0.08 between NFC and FII. In the present study, Exhibit 1 shows the correlation between NFC and FII was low and non-significant. These and previous findings add to the accumulating evidence for the validity of the REI as a measure of two separate modes of information processing and of the underlying theory. If, as some have suggested, intuition is accumulated expertise, we might expect a relationship between age or experience and faith in intuition. Although there was a statistically significant relationship between experience and intuition, the magnitude was low (r = 0.15;p < 0.05). The correlation between intuition and age was insignificant. The correlation between experience and improvisation was, as anticipated, statistically significant, but the magnitude was low (r = 0.20). Finally, the correlation between improvisation and intuition, as we expected, was statistically significant (r = 0.28; p < 0.001).

Turning now to relationships that affect project outcomes, the correlation between faith in intuition and external project outcomes (i.e., is the customer happy) was statistically significant (r = 0.28; p < 0.001). The correlation between age and external project outcomes was also significant, but less so (r = 0.22; p < 0.01). It was disappointing not to identify any significant links between internal project outcomes (i.e., time, scope, quality) and the independent or mediating variables. It appears, therefore, that in these data is an indication that managers who are intuitive thinkers may give greater emphasis to external project outcomes than do their less intuitive counterparts. Additionally, more experienced managers seem to focus more on meeting the internal or external customer's expectations. It is anticipated that for the next stage of this research, analysis of the data will be extended to encompass mediated multiple regression analyses. Perhaps at this stage more clarity will emerge in some areas of the data.

Discussion & Conclusions

These data suggest that the faith of project managers in intuition is positively related to their use of improvisation. Furthermore, their faith in intuition also appears to be related to the extent to which they treat customer satisfaction issues as important outcomes. On the other hand, rationality, or the need for cognition, was not associated with the use of improvisation. More specifically, this suggests that improvisation is associated with the extent to which managers trust their initial feelings about people, rely upon gut feel, have faith in their initial impressions, and are inclined to trust their hunches. One explanation of this is that it may well be linked to confidence—and by association, expertise—as empirical evidence from Leybourne (2002a) indicates that experienced project managers improvise more than those with less experience, a finding supported by contemporary research. The effect of age in the regression, albeit weak, is worthy of comment since there appears to be a paradox herein that age is negatively related to improvisation, even though the much stronger effect of experience upon intuition is commensurate with expectations. Perhaps there is an underlying inclination in older project managers to be seen to follow the accepted project paradigm of plan, then execute, while younger project managers are more inclined to experiment with new initiatives in order to meet project milestones. Experience may be a more appropriate variable in studies of this nature, as it is possible for a project manager to be older and inexperienced. The way in which age and experience interact in this regard is an area than would benefit from further research.

A related issue is the surreptitiousness or covertness of improvisation within projects. Talented change managers and project managers are tasked to deliver change expeditiously within organizations, while incurring the minimum of risk. Moving away from a documented plan, however, is seen as risky, and the safety net of joint planning and agreement on schemas of action is removed when a project manager decides to improvise. Rational analysis legitimizes authority and actions. Because of this, much improvised activity may happen surreptitiously below-the-surface, instead of the documented and agreed upon tasks and activities required by the formal project plan. In Agor's 1989 study of intuition, nearly half the respondents indicated that they kept the fact that they relied upon intuition a secret, while others reported a post hoc rationalization for decisions arrived at intuitively (Agor, 1989, p. 167-168). Notwithstanding these issues, it is certainly true that such managers build a personal repertoire of routines, practices, and mechanisms that are recognised by them and others as known remedies for problems that may arise during the project. Much of this repertoire is built up as a result of the capture of successful improvisational activity, some of which may be acquired through implicit learning and stored as tacit knowledge.

Beliefs and actions based upon gut feelings appear to be associated with the extent to which managers felt that they engaged with meeting customers' requirements and satisfaction needs (one of the outcome measures). While the relationship with improvisation is explicable in terms of the extent to which managers are drawing upon unconscious expertise and tacit knowledge, which they may label as a hunch or a gut feel, the relationship with customer satisfaction is less easily explained. One possible explanation is the potential role of feelings and emotions. Managers who are amenable to the influence of their own feelings and emotions in their behaviours, as manifested in their faith in intuition, may also be sensitive to the needs, wants, and feelings of customers. They may, therefore, be more prepared to expend additional effort in order to meet customer expectations than are managers who are less sensitised to intuition and who may be more coldly rational. Another influence may be the fact that this research specifically deals with the intellectual and emotional working practices of project managers, and a core consideration within the basic project management paradigm is meeting the three key deliverables of a project, namely time, cost, and scope. Of these, scope is basically the customer requirement in respect of what is to be delivered, and project managers must therefore be strongly focused on meeting those documented customer expectations.

An unexpected outcome from this study was the lack of any statistically significant relationship between improvisation and satisfactory project outcomes. Many project managers profess to improvise in the expectation that this will have a benefit in achieving the deliverables of their project. There is, however, evidence that much improvisational activity is incurred to re time and cost over-runs, or to meet customer demands for changes regarding scope to provide increased deliverable functionality. Many project managers would argue that this is endemic because unrealistic goals or objectives have been imposed upon them by senior managers or project sponsors with insufficient knowledge of the challenges of the proposed program of work. The evidence from this study identifies a link between more experienced project managers and a tendency to improvise. Perhaps this experience, informed by the tacit repertoire of routines, practices, and mechanisms built up over time, and coupled with an intuitive feel for the inherent problems within a given project, encourages improvisation to lessen the impact of unrealistic project targets and deliverables. Certainly, the tensions between quality, speed, and cost, and the delivery of outcomes that meet the demands of the internal or external customer, are ensuring that project managers are increasingly moving away from the comfort of rational and considered decisions. These decisions, backed by peer involvement and a documented plan, may be being replaced by a move towards intuitive and improvised practices, introduced to meet an organizational desire for the quick and effective execution of project managed change.

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