“If I conducted an Integrated PM experiment, then I’d learn more about how Integrated PM improves project performance, but I haven’t had training in designing and conducting experiments, where do I start?"
Research projects come from Workshops, and our members interests. Once a project is proposed, members are needed to repeat and validate findings. Others apply the results to new practices of Integrated PM.
Let’s say you’ve developed a well-constructed problem statement. This is the kind you have before starting any project, and this includes a research project. Our next step is to construct the research design. Design decisions depend on the purposes of the study, the nature of the problem, and the alternatives appropriate for its investigation.
Once the principle purpose has been specified, define explicit scope and direction, attention needs to be focused on a delimited target area. The nature of the problem then plays the major role in determining what approaches are suitable. Design alternatives can be organized into nine functional categories based on these differing problem characteristics:
- Case or Field
- True experimental
I’ll be committing a separate blog post explaining each of these categories of experiments in more detail later, for now consider this overview.
HISTORICAL- To reconstruct the past objectively and accurately, often in relation to the tenability of a hypothesis. “A study reconstructing practices in the teaching of Program Management in the United States during the past fifty years; testing the hypothesis that the PMI is the real author of current project management practices.”
DESCRIPTIVE- To describe systematically a situation or area of interest factually and accurately. “Population census studies, public opinion surveys, fact-finding surveys, status studies, task analysis studies, questionnaire and interview studies, observation studies, job descriptions, surveys of literature, documentary analysis, anecdotal records, critical incident reports, test score analysis, and normative data.”
DEVELOPMENTAL- To investigate patterns and sequences of growth and/or change as a function of time. “A longitudinal growth study following an initial sample of 200 PMs with from six months experience to 10 years experience in PM; a cross-sectional growth study investigating changing patterns of PMOs by sampling groups of PMO Directors with various levels experience; a trend study projecting the future growth of Integrated PM from the past trends and recent building estimates.”
CASE AND FIELD- To study intensively the background, current status, and environmental interactions of a given social unit: an individual group, institution, or community. “The case of the capacity planner with great credentials, but poor leadership skills; an intensive study of a group of teenage youngsters with PM training; an intensive study of a typical company in the Midwest in terms of its Integrated PM characteristics.”
COORRELATION- To investigate the extent to which variation in one factor correspond with variations in one or more other factors based on correlation coefficients. “To investigate relationships between task duration and one or more other state variables of interest; a factor-analytic study of several Integrated PM roles and capabilities; a study to predict success as a product manager based on intercorrelation patterns between project managers and selected marketing variables.”
CAUSAL-COMPARITIVE- To investigate possible cause-and-effect relationships by observing some existing consequence and searching back through the data for plausible causal factors. “To identify factors related to the project performance problem in particular organizations using data from project plans over the past ten years; to investigate similarities and differences between such groups as portfolio managers, program managers, capacity planners, and project managers, using data on file.”
TRUE EXPERIMENTAL- To investigate possible cause-and-effect relationships by exposing one or more experimental groups to one or more treatment conditions and comparing the results to one or more control groups not receiving the treatment (random assignment being essential). “To investigate the method effectiveness of teaching Integrated PM to elementary school students using random assignment of teaching methods and students; to investigate the effects of a lunch break on the performance on projects based on random assignment of projects and lunch breaks.”
QUASI-EXPERIMANTAL- To approximate the conditions of the true experiment in a setting which does not allow the control and/or manipulation of all relevant variables. The researcher must clearly understand what compromises exist in the internal and external validity of her design and proceed within these limitations. “Most so-called field experiments, operational research, and even the more sophisticated forms of action research with the attempt to get causal factors in real life settings where only partial control is possible.”
ACTION- To develop new skills or new approaches and to solve problems with direct application to the classroom or other applied setting. “An Integrated PM training program to help PMs develop new skills in facilitating project discussions; to experiment with new on-line approaches of teaching Integrated PM to PMs; to develop more effective consulting techniques in Integrated PM.”
Research and Development of Integrated PM methods is a powerful way of growing the practice, each of us standing on the shoulders of those before us, while preparing to carry those not yet here.