Managing transformation projects : tracing lessons from the industrial to the digital revolution

Procter, CT and Kozak-Holland, MP 2020, Managing transformation projects : tracing lessons from the industrial to the digital revolution , Palgrave Pivot (Palgrave Macmillan), Switzerland.

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Abstract

Living in a period of digital revolution leading to fundamental transformation of our lives, it is possible to forget that there have been previous periods of substantial business transformation, especially during the previous industrial revolutions. Whilst we are familiar with contemporary digital disruption, for example in retail, logistics, service and many other sectors, we should not lose sight of the fact that previous generations have also experienced disruption. Disruptive projects are not those that have optimised business processes: rather they are those that have changed or eliminated these very processes. We are not talking about projects that have ‘re-arranged the deck chairs on the Titanic’ but on those that have (for example) called into question the need for the Titanic in the first place. The success of Uber cannot be attributed to the provision of an improved taxi service but to a transformed approach to transport and logistics. The Stockton and Darlington Railway started as a quicker way to move coal across land to the sea but ended as a new way of transporting people between towns, and thence to major economic and social change. The Trans Continental Railroad reduced the time to cross the USA from 4 months to 4 days. The timing of such projects is vital, but their success is not due to luck or to vision alone. Behind all successful projects lies effective project management. Interestingly, however, academic analysis of what constitutes the effective management of these projects is very difficult to find. Even harder to find is any notion of the contemporary relevance of historical disruptive projects. It is our argument that there are significant lessons to be learnt from these projects from previous generations. The agility of projects from previous industrial revolutions is directly relevant to today’s digital revolution. Project management is not a discipline that was founded in the twentieth century but a method of organisation that has evolved over thousands of years. Furthermore, the analysis of contemporary business transformation is very limited in both the academic and professional press. Despite both the stunning successes and the substantial failure rate, the investigation of contemporary major disruptive projects is largely absent. The Project Management Bodies of Knowledge are dominated by process models, and the academic journals and programmes of study are dominated by operations management. The fundamental difference between project and operations management is that a project is by definition led by a temporary organisation which might subsequently change the established organisation’s operations. Professional publications witness the digital revolution but provide little understanding. The lessons of transformational projects do not fit within this discourse. Not only do transformational projects (in the words of the Agile Manifesto) ‘respond to change rather than following a plan’, they create the change. We believe that an analysis of transformational projects from the past can uncover how this came about. Whilst we do not set out to examine contemporary digital projects, this book can shine a light on the present and help to address the gap in our knowledge about the project management of the digital revolution.

Item Type: Book
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School > Salford Business School Research Centre
Publisher: Palgrave Pivot (Palgrave Macmillan)
ISBN: 9783030330347 (print); 9783030330354 (online)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Chris Procter
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2020 15:10
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2020 15:14
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/56185

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