Experiencing responsibility in the context of project management
This portfolio presents my research on organisational change, comprising four consecutive research projects and a synopsis which brings together the emerging themes of my enquiry. My work shows the movement of my thinking during a three year period, as I engaged in an emergent exploration of my experience (Christensen, 2003; Stacey & Griffin, 2003). When I began my enquiry, I was mainly concerned about the limits of control and predictability while offering strategic options, focusing on the discipline of strategic management as a framework to my practice. While engaging with my experience of participating in management change projects, I gradually realised that I was more concerned about the emotional responses evoked in the context of project management. As my research developed, I started to associate those emotional responses with the experience of responsibility, understanding that experience as an important theme for my practice which influences how people are able to work together. I came to articulate the notion of responsibility as an experience of feeling a compulsion to do or not to do something, an enabling constraint associated with the event or the expectation of having to respond or to give account for it, justifying one's actions or omissions. I claim that responsibility emerges in communicative interaction (Mead, 1934), as people continuously negotiate its meaning while power relating (Elias, 1970; 1998). Further, I point to how project management has developed surveillance-based management techniques, such as project planning and control tools, which functionalise responsibility through disciplinary processes (Foucault, 1975) in order to attain deliberate control. I argue that the assumption underpinning those techniques is that holding people to account for the completion of their tasks (the passive form of responsibility), will influence those people into taking active responsibility for how they are expected to perform (Bovens, 1998). Drawing on my experience of participating in management change projects, I argue that this is not always the case and I point to how more complex work dynamics may develop. I also argue that those surveillance-based management techniques rely on the positive valuation attached to behaving responsibility (responsibility as value), as well as on how being responsible is incorporated in an organisation's formal and informal rules (responsibility as norm). Retaining both the qualities of value and norm (Joas, 2000). responsibility is then incorporated in emergent organisational ideologies (Stacey. 2004), sometimes taking the form of cult value (Mead, 1923). Narrating my experience, I illustrate how experiencing responsibility in the context of project management evokes emotional responses, such as shame, guilt or pride, which are not accounted for nor referred in project management literature (Pinto, 1998; Turner, 1999; Burke, 1999; Dixon, 2000; Lock, 2003). This portfolio contributes to expand that literature, focusing on the emotional aspects of project management which are left out in its straight- forward and rational approach. Furthermore, understanding my experience of responsibility in relation to communicative interaction, power relating, emerging ideologies, cult values, disciplining processes and emotional responses has shifted my practice, enabling me to work differently.