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Who am I and what am I doing here? : Becoming and being a project manager

Paton, S. and Hodgeson, D. and Cicmil, S. (2010) Who am I and what am I doing here? : Becoming and being a project manager. Journal of Management Development, 29 (2). pp. 157-166. ISSN 0262-1711

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Abstract

Purpose - This paper aims to empirically explore the nature of tensions that emerge within the process of becoming a manager in the post-bureaucratic organisation, by focusing on the emergence of project management as a key carrier of post-bureaucracy. The paper seeks to address two aspects of individual transformation into project manager; first, it aims to understand the specific factors, which drive the transformation of technical specialists into project managers and, second, to illuminate the tensions and challenges experienced in this new position. Design/methodology/approach - The empirical base for the study is a series of structured group discussions with project managers from a range of distinct industrial sectors and organisations. Findings - The paper illustrates the tensions implicit in the process of becoming a project manager. It identifies a number of conflicts that arise between the overarching philosophy of project management and the process of enacting the role of project manager around the themes of status, organisational value, power, influence and ambiguity. Research limitations/implications - The research approach is empirically rich yet exploratory, providing directions and inspiration for more extensive research in specific contexts. Originality/value - The research points to an understanding of how new managerial roles are created and embedded in organisational contexts, and the pressures, which are brought to bear on the incumbents of these new roles through this process.