Network project management : visualising collective knowledge to better understand and model a project-portfolio

  • Graham Durant-Law

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Whatever we do must be in accord with human nature. We cannot drive people; we must direct their development ... the general policy of the past has been to drive; but the era of force must give way to the era of knowledge, and the policy of the future will be to teach and lead, to the advantage of all concerned. Henry L Gantt, American Engineer and Inventor of the Gantt Chart,1919. This research contributes to the bodies of knowledge in the general management, knowledge management, project management, network analysis, and system dynamics disciplines. The primary contribution is the proof of a holistic business methodology that elicits the capacity of an organisation to engage effectively in its activities, particularly within project-program and project-portfolio environments. The methodology, which I have called Business Network Analysis™, bridges the instrumental and social action management discourses to help managers mobilise and leverage knowledge assets, and to understand their knowledge landscape. It provides any combination of quantitative, qualitative, and graphical answers across the ‘know-how, know-what, know-why, know-who, know-where, know-when, and know-how-much’ business knowledge components. In project-program and project-portfolio environments the methodology can be used at the level of artefacts, processes, individuals, teams, departments, or organisations to: • assess project-program and project-portfolio operations by mapping the formal and informal process flows of an organisation; • identify and then integrate current actual practice across core processes; • understand inter-departmental document relationships; • assess project-program and project-portfolio operations by plotting the communication path and time taken for a decision to propagate through an organisation; • identify and accelerate the flow of information and knowledge across functional, project-program, and organisational boundaries by detecting and correcting information bottlenecks, and identifying where increased knowledge flow will have the most impact; • improve decision making in project-program and project-portfolio manager networks by mapping inter- and intra-organisational dependencies; • improve decision making in project-program and project-portfolio manager networks by identifying and correcting structural holes (Burt 1995,2004) in personal networks; • improve decision making in project and project-program manager networks by plotting project dependencies; • support project and project-program manager collaboration by identifying potential partnerships and connecting people to people to ensure effective knowledge creation and sharing; • assess the state of social capital by identifying individuals and project teams playing central roles, such as key knowledge brokers; • assess the state of individual and project team social capital by identifying trust, support, and advice networks; • support collaboration by raising the awareness of the importance of informal networks, and weaving communities of practice; • simulate the effect of unknown dependencies on project rework; and • determine an optimal number of projects for a project-program or project-portfolio. Business Network Analysis™ is therefore both a management audit methodology and a project-program or project-portfolio knowledge management methodology. Hargie and Tourish (2009) stress the requirement for organisations to develop and implement auditing techniques that measure organisational climate in the same way they audit financial statements. Similarly, Edvinsson and Malone (1997) and Huff and Jenkins (2002) stress the need for the firm to map routinely strategic knowledge, but note the difficulty in identifying knowledge assets, and more importantly, in presenting visually the outcome. Business Network Analysis™ satisfies both requirements and therefore bridges the gap between theory and practice. At the same time, it is a diagnostic bottom-up methodology that gives an emancipatory voice, in keeping with Ulrich’s (1998,2003) critical systems approach, to all participants in the organisation. It also helps connect existing management disciplines in trans-disciplinary ways as opposed to multi-disciplinary ways. The final proof of the value of the Business Network Analysis™ methodology is the fact that the Australian Defence Force’s Capability Development Group is using it, and will continue to do so. Furthermore, the methodology has been adopted in other areas of Defence, and is the cornerstone of an already successful business venture called Hyper Edge Pty Ltd.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorDeborah Blackman (Supervisor) & Monica Kennedy (Supervisor)

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