System Engineering and its value in Project Management

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CHAPTER 3: Theoretical Framework of the research on project dynamics in the electricity industry in Sub Saharan Africa


In this chapter, the theoretical standing of project management is discussed. The chapter expounds on the three dominant approaches in the theory of project management over time, while giving the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. The chapter evolves and explores the approach employing modeling techniques while the epistemological perspective of project management is also addressed in the chapter. A brief on interaction of project risks is also covered to shed light onto why the conventional approach to managing risks may not always suffice. Finally, the modeling approach employing system dynamics modeling is introduced, with reasons as to why it is the chosen approach in this research.
The chapter explores the area of project failures, and argues for a positioning aimed at laying the foundations for a discourse that can improve on the shortcomings of previous models. The chapter thereafter discusses the theoretical approaches to project management, and from the three dominant approaches, delves into why a leaning towards the more recent focus toward a greater emphasis on the front end phase of projects in the public sector is preferred. A section on postmodern thinking then follows and discusses an ontology of movement, emergence and becoming in which the transient nature of what is “real” comprises emergent relational interactions and patterns, and why research using this method is framed as cooperative inquiry where the researchers and the researched cooperate in interpreting the lived experience to achieve the research aims. This research borrows from this experience by working together with the stakeholders in the electricity energy sector to gain knowledge from past projects in the sector by focusing on the ‘lived’ experience of the stakeholders.
Knowledge gained from this chapter is used in the exploratory study as described in section 4.5.4, so as to aid in answering the sub-research question in section 1.5 (b) namely; “How can the interaction of project risks in the electricity sector in Kenya be studied and analyzed in a dynamic setting?”, which is later used in chapter 4 in answering the first research question “What are the project dynamics in the electricity industry in Kenya?”.

Theory of Project Management

According to Turner (2010), project management and project portfolio management are relatively young disciplines, and the research approaches and standards are still in transition. They note that advances in project management and project portfolio management research have resulted in studies with increased methodological rigor, such as those that develop and test conceptual models through sophisticated statistical analysis, and others that employ qualitative multiple case studies involving in depth interviewing, observation, and analysis. Shepherd and Atkinson (2011) report that the discipline of project management continues to evolve as the nature of projects change. They recommend the need for the research community to engage with the membership associations of project management to identify the contribution academic research might make to the body of knowledge development, and conclude that while there is no single theory of project management emerging, this should not be seen as a weakness since other major professions operate under the same development.
To improve project outcomes such as performance, satisfaction, and success, a guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK Guide) was developed by the Project Management Institute to identify general project management knowledge, processes, techniques, tools and skills (PMI, 2008). The guide contains the fundamental, baseline practices that drive business results for any organization, including those organizations in the construction industry. Morris (2004) points out that many of the factors that cause projects not to meet their schedule or cost targets are not covered by the PMBOK type model, such as client driven changed specifications, technology problems, poor design management, external price changes, environmentalist issues, community or political difficulties, and labor problems. He concludes that while much of the PMBOK material is helpful in managing projects, it is not always sufficient to manage them successfully. The newer PMBOK versions such as PMBOK (2013) 5th edition have addressed some of these concerns.
This is reinforced by Pinto and Mantel (1990) when they state that the causes for project failures are getting harder to pinpoint. Pardo and Scholl (2002) suggest grasping the complex issue of project failure by examining the interdependence of technical, social, and behavioral factors, and report that an approach to examine this context of failure has recently emerged consisting of an epistemological reflection on the project management field and its particular features. The aim is to deepen understanding of epistemological issues in project management (Bredillet, 2008; Cicmil, 2006; Koskela & Howell, 2002). The objective of this positioning is aimed at laying the foundations for a discourse that can improve on the shortcomings of previous models.
Chou and Yang (2013) note that as society develops, construction projects naturally grow in scale, involving vast numbers of professionals, long life cycles, and complex interfaces, and the types and quantities of construction related information have become large and complex, which has increased the complexity of construction operations processes. They observe that most companies determine which management techniques or tools are needed for a particular project based on personal experience or on legacies passed down by industry predecessors which is not scientific or objective, and conclude that construction projects now require highly specialized knowledge and experiential feedback that will facilitate project implementation and delivery. This view is reinforced by Morris (2004) when he states that knowledge is tacit as well as explicit, and defines tacit knowledge as personal knowledge embedded in individual experience which involves intangible factors such as personal belief, perspectives, and values, while explicit knowledge is ‘readily available’, knowledge which can be codified and structured in a way that makes the knowledge easily transmissible. He notes that much of what is really useful in project knowledge is embedded in the minds of people as personal experience and is therefore tacit, private knowledge, and is not scientifically testable. Scientific knowledge which is publicly refutable knowledge, is explicit knowledge. He concludes that much of what is valuable knowledge about project management is thus inherently not scientific, unless and until it becomes explicit and can be addressed according to scientific practice.
Sage et al (2010) report that project management is widely recognized as the core discipline of construction management knowledge, and construction management scholars, practitioners and governments have advocated many highly standardized, structured and prescriptive formal project management knowledge tools, techniques and frameworks to develop organizational value. Assumptions regarding the value of sharing standardized and structured project management knowledge, and knowledge management processes, to improve project performance can be found in various key performance indicators (Yeung et al, 2007) and critical success factors (Kulatunga et al, 2009). In contrast, critical project studies (Hodgson and Cicmil, 2007, 2008) and other interpretative studies of project management (Crawford et al, 2006; Morris et al 2006; Crawford and Pollack, 2007) have questioned the efficacy, relevance and consequences of standardizing project management knowledge and practices and instead encourage a more reflective, or transformative, view of project management knowledge production and circulation. Drawing upon interpretative and critical approaches to knowledge in management studies, a variety of more reflective, transformative, collaborative and informal tools, techniques and guidelines have been proposed to develop project management knowledge (such as Cicmil, 2006; Bellini and Canonico, 2008).
Morris (2004) states that in general, the nearer to the definition stage of the project, referred to as the ‘front end’, the broader the range of issues project managers will often deal with, and this includes issues of strategy, finance, organisation, technology, control, people and culture, commerce and contracts, community and environment, process and timing. He notes that of all the approaches that have consciously sought to bring the rigour of the scientific method to management, that of ‘systems thinking’ has probably been the widest, most influential and most suitable, and its impact on project management has been enormous, as it illustrates both the possibilities and the limitations of the scientific method. Pierre-Luc et al (2010) state that the science of project management differs from the natural and social sciences such as biology and sociology because project management is not only a scientific discipline, it is also a professional discipline, a practice. Like other scientific disciplines such as engineering, clinical psychology, the nursing sciences, education, and architecture, which are fueled by professional practice, the project management field attempts to develop a body of knowledge that is transferable to management skills, thereby advancing the practice. At the end of the day, the key is to build knowledge that is relevant for the practitioner and not just for the project management research community. In this regard and towards this end, this research study aims at contributing new knowledge that will be useful to project management practitioners in the electricity energy sector in Sub Saharan Africa through a model representative of the interacting project risks in the sector.
In the field of project management, there is an imposing volume of literature devoted to failed projects, and many studies make the particular point that project management, like other professional disciplines, is experiencing some kind of knowledge crisis. Moreover, it seems that the causes for these failures are getting harder to pinpoint. Pinto and Mantel (1990) and Pardo and Scholl (2002), suggest grasping the complex issue of project failure by examining the interdependence of technical, social, and behavioral factors. An approach to examine this context of failure has recently emerged, and it emphasizes a reflection on the project management field and its particular features. The aim is to deepen understanding of epistemological issues in project management (Bredillet, 2008; Cicmil, 2006; Koskela & Howell, 2002). The objective of this positioning is aimed at laying the foundations for a discourse that can improve on the shortcomings of previous models.
Other authors underscore the relationships between project failure and human factors, such as conflicts between actors, political issues, power relations, and communication problems (Olander Landin, 2005; Pinto, 2000). A number of studies have argued that the adoption of risk assessment and management practices are closely aligned with overall project performance (Nguyen et al 2004; Nguyen et al 2007), and a review of literature suggests that project failures seem to occur in all manner of projects such as in ambitious engineering projects (Miller and Lessard, 2001), construction projects (Dlakwa & Culpin, 1990; Mansfield, 1994), as well as the public sector (Arditi, Akan, & Gurdamar, 1985; Dlakwa & Culpin, 1990; Gauld, 2007). Research by Assaf et al (2015) and based on the overall assessment and ranking of causes of contractors’
failure revealed that lack of contractor experience in industrial projects; war and acts of war; poor project management; poor cash management and lack of capital are risks to the project that could result in the contractors’ failure. They noted that cost estimating practices are critical to the contractors’ success because submitting high bids especially in competitive projects would result in the contractor not getting any contracts, while on the other hand, submitting low bids will result in losses to the contractor.

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Title Page 
List of Tables
List of Figures
CHAPTER 1: Introduction/Background to Managing of Risks in Electricity Industry Projects
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background of the Study
1.3 Problem Statement
1.4 Research Objectives
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Motivation of the Study
1.7 Scope and Limitations of the study
1.8 Importance of the Study
1.9 Organisation of the Research
1.10 Summary of Main Findings
CHAPTER 2: Literature Review of project risks, feedback systems, system thinking and system dynamics
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Project risks in the construction industry
2.3 System Engineering and its value in Project Management
2.4 Event Oriented Thinking vs. feedback approach
2.5 Systems Thinking and its relevance in electricity infrastructure projects
2.6 Fundamentals of System Dynamics
2.7 Systems Dynamics approach in Strategic Project Management
2.8 Suitability of System Dynamics modeling for projects in the energy sector
2.9 Chapter summary and conclusion
CHAPTER 3: Theoretical Framework of the research on project dynamics in the electricity industry in Sub Saharan Africa
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Theory of Project Management
3.3 An epistemological perspective for project management
3.4 Interaction of Risks in Mega projects
3.5 Modeling Project Dynamics using System Dynamics
3.6 Choice of System Dynamics as a suitable research Method
3.7 Chapter summary
CHAPTER 4: The Research Framework, Design and Method
4.1 Introduction and outline of the chapter
4.2 Research Strategy
4.3 Research Paradigm
4.4 Research description and classification
4.5 Grounded Theory Research
4.6 The system dynamics research Method
4.7 The System Dynamics paradigm
4.8 The modeling process
4.9 Workshop for model validation
4.10 Model Credibility –Verification and validity Testing
4.11 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 5: Model Development, Modeling and Simulation
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Conceptual model of feedback structure for project risks in the Power sector in Kenya
5.3 Modeling Electricity sector Project Dynamics in Kenya
5.4 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 6: Model Verification, Validation, Analysis and Policy Design 
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Direct Structure tests
6.3 Indirect Structure tests
6.4 Behavior Pattern tests
6.5 Simulation Results after Model verification and validation
6.6 Policy Analysis and Design
6.7 Chapter Summary
CHAPTER 7: Discussion of Results
7.0 Introduction
7.1 Purpose and objective of this research
7.2 Research questions0
7.3 Contributions to Knowledge
CHAPTER 8: Conclusions and implications for research and industry
8.0 Conclusions
8.1 Managerial implications
8.2 Limitations of the study and opportunities for future research

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