IPMA Research Award Winner

Cranfield School of Management

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IPMA Young Researcher Award Winner - 2012

By: ICPMPublished on: 22/10/2012

Dr Neil Turner, ICPM, has been awarded the IPMA Young Researcher Award 2012 for his research in “The management of ambidexterity – an intellectual capital perspective”. Project management standards emphasise how, by the application of the appropriate tools, we can plan and control projects effectively. However, poor performance is still common and we know that additional approaches are required to understand the practical reality of project managers and the complexities they face.


This work has taken an ambidexterity lens to examine responses to these complexities. Ambidexterity is the ability of an organisation (in this case the project as a temporary organisation) to be able to both use existing knowledge (‘exploitation’), and generate new knowledge (‘exploration’) in the delivery of a project. Ambidexterity is claimed to be beneficial at the organisational level, but little is known about how it is actually achieved in practice. This research investigated in detail how project managers orchestrate ambidexterity. Project management is an ideal context since it requires controlled processes (i.e. exploitation) together with problem-solving (exploration) as each project is, to some extent, unique.

The work therefore addressed a managerial problem (how to manage knowledge and learning), and a theoretical one (how to conceptualize ambidexterity-in-action).  For practitioners, its objective was greater understanding of an increasingly 'hot topic'.  For theroty, it joins an existing conversation taking place in the organisational studies and management learning literatures.  The research question was: "How is ambidexterity achieved at the level of the project?" specifically investigating the role of the project manager.  This research process began with a systematic literature review to provide the foundation for the research.  From this, a more complex theoretical conceptualisation of ambidexterity was developed, leading to a two-stage empirical investigation.

The first stage involved interviewing project managers in a large IT-services company to identify how they used their skills and knowledge (operationalized in terms of intellectual capital elements).

The second stage used 8 case studies in different business units of the company to investigate the practices by which managers in projects support the orchestrations of ambidexterity.  The findings showed multiple, complicated, forms of knowledge interaction at the individual, group and process level.  Additionally, the cases showed different configurations of ambidextrous operation, and key managerial practices that enable ambidexterity at the project level.

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