Operations and Systems Management

Our PhD students

Simon Nfor

  • Qualifications: TBC
  • Role Title: PhD student
  • Address: Richmond Building Portland Street Portsmouth PO1 3DE
  • Telephone: TBA
  • Email: eco00013@myport.ac.uk
  • Department: Operations and Systems Management
  • Faculty: Portsmouth Business School


Nationality: South African - Director of studies: Dr Christine Welch - Year of graduation: N/A

Systemic Project Management: Towards Improving Project Management Effectiveness with Systems Thinking

Thesis summary

Over the past several decades, substantial empirical research has been undertaken towards identifying gaps in project management practice that could be narrowed to improve project performance. A substantial number of these studies have generally focused on justifying factors that drive project success/failure, or on improving individual components of project management such as Project Governance, Project Sponsorship, Stakeholder Management, and Risk Management. These contemporary approaches have so far not provided us with the desired levels of effectiveness in project management and project performance.

Intriguingly, relatively few studies have embraced project management practice as a ‘whole’, with a fit and relationship with its environment as a primary concern; and a consideration of the interrelationship and interdependence of the various components that must function in an integrated manner to enable project management to achieve its overall purpose.  It is to this end, that the objectives of this thesis are conceived as:

  • To  gain an understanding on how Systems Thinking can be employed to improve the effectiveness of project management practice so as to improve project performance, and
  • To develop a Systemic Framework which Project Managers in particular and the project management community in general can leverage on to improve our effectiveness in managing projects and thus, improve both project and organizational performance.

To achieve these objectives, a Systemic Research Methodology based on the Qualitative Research Paradigm and Creative Holism (Critical Systems Practice Meta-Methodology) is employed, with Phenomenology adopted as the overarching tradition of inquiry. Seasoned Project Managers are purposively selected across a number of industries for data collection, while unstructured conversational interviews are used as the primary strategy for capturing lived experiences and the way project managers make sense of the phenomenon of effective project management. A Hermeneutical Analysis elucidates lived experiences and reveals meanings to the apparent inadequacies in contemporary project management practice when viewed through Stafford Beer’s Viable Systems model as a lens.

Subsequently, when the inadequacies are mapped unto an integration of the Soft Systems Methodology and Critical Systems Heuristics, a systemic framework is developed which I claim can be used to improve the effectiveness of project management practice, and thus improve project and organizational performance.