IPMA International Project Management Association
7 March 2016 / 7:50

How to bring researchers and practitioners in project management closer together?

I believe that closer cooperation between researchers and practitioners in the project management field is essential for the development of the field. The closer, the better. Each side has something of value to offer. Practitioners have loads of practical experience that researchers cannot even dream about. But researchers have plenty of tools to interpret information from the field and help guide its development. In addition, they have theoretical frameworks and models that help us understand how the world works. I believe that researchers and practitioners need each other. All that is needed is a framework that brings the two together. In this connection, IPMA has already organized several Research Conferences with this goal in mind. The last one took place in South Africa last year, and the next one is planned in Iceland later this year.

The reason for putting so much emphasis on the cooperation between practitioners and researchers comes from my own experience in the field. As I already mentioned on this blog in connection with my book about trust in project management, I learned a great deal from project managers who were willing to take part in my research that stretched over many years. In fact, my papers and the book bringing them together would be unimaginable without the practitioners’ input. Most important, it is from them that I learned about the key value of trust in successful construction projects. And I am quite sure that this is the case in many other fields, as well.

Returning to IPMA’s possible role, the framework bringing researchers and practitioners together needs careful consideration. Practitioners cannot waste their precious time responding to questionnaires and interviews. And researchers cannot get a clear idea what to investigate without much time spent close to ongoing projects. Quite a few research approaches already exist that address these difficulties, and it would be good for leading practitioners and researchers to meet on occasion to exchange views on how to proceed with a cooperative effort to develop project management as a field. International gatherings regularly organized by IPMA can bring the two groups together, and all that is needed is to facilitate their contact and ensure that it is kept alive between gatherings.

This is where trust will come into play. Once practitioners and researchers get to know each other better, a closer relationship between them needs to be maintained. This is where project management tools will be needed once again. Clear ideas of what is to achieve over viable time periods will be essential. This is where I hope that my book will be of value to the cooperative endeavor. It focuses on communication between all the parties involved. This is essential in large and complex projects. Communication needs to be planned and maintained with due care. In the case any problem appears, communication needs to be repaired and trust between parties re-established.

But let us not rush too far ahead at this time. This blog is an opportunity to learn how the proposed effort to bring researchers and practitioners closer together resonates within IPMA. First of all, how strong is the interest in this form of cooperation? Next, what organizational forms could this effort take? Last but not least, what needs to be done to make the cooperation between practitioners and researchers a continuous endeavor rather than a one-off project? Many more questions come to mind, but they can wait at this stage. It would be good to see some reactions to these ideas first. Simply put, how can we bring researchers and practitioners of project managers closer together







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Anita Ceric

Author of this post

Anita Ceric is a Professor at the Department of Construction Management and Economics at the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. She is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Wiesbaden in Germany. Anita’s research interests are in risk management and human resource management in the context of construction project management, as well as maintenance management and facilities management in the context of corporate real estate management. She serves on editorial boards of several academic journals. She is a member of the Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM); Working Commissions W55 on Building Economics and W65 on Construction Management of the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB); the International Project Management Association (IPMA); the Engineering Project Organization Society (EPOS); the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE); and the Academy of Management (AOM).