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Great expectations and hard times : the paradoxical experience of the engineer as a project manager

Hodgeson, D. and Paton, Steve and Cicmil, S. (2011) Great expectations and hard times : the paradoxical experience of the engineer as a project manager. International Journal of Project Management, 29 (4). pp. 374-382. ISSN 0263-7863

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Abstract

While tensions between technical and management functions in organisations have long been recognised, very little research examines this relationship empirically in light of the emergence of project management as an (apparently) attractive career route for engineers and other technical specialists. This paper empirically explores these tensions, identifying various contradictions between the discursive legitimation of project management and the lived experience of project managers. Drawing on a series of structured group discussions with project managers from a range of industrial sectors with an engineering background, the paper illustrates the tensions implicit in the transition from technical specialist to project manager, and provides empirical evidence of the conflict between discourses which extol the importance and value of project management as an organisational imperative and the far more mundane experiences of project management as practiced in the real world, posing fundamental questions about the status and influence of project management in contemporary organisations.