Shalbafan, S, Leigh, E, Pollack, J & Sankaran, S 2016, 'Using simulation to study decision-making in project portfolio management' in Pries-Heje, J & Svejvig, P (eds), Project management for achieving change, Roskilde Universitetsforlag, Copehhagen, pp. 131-150.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This project reports how an emerging awareness of the complexity of project portfolio management (PPM) led t development of a role-play simulation for assessing different means of identifying and reflecting on factors influencing the quality of decision making in stressful PPm situations. Recognition of the inability to access reliable data from within organisations resulted in the development of an open and chaordic (Waldrop, 1996) simulation that replicates aspects of the decision-making processes commonly encountered in such complicated and complex conditions. The paper describes the Action LEarning process used to develop this simulation. The contribution of this project to the field of project portfolio management therefore spans both the development of a specific simulation strategy as a research methodology and analysis of issues relating to factors adversely affecting decision-making capacity in times of stress.
Shalbafan, S, Leigh, E, Pollack, J & Sankaran, S 2017, 'Decision-making in project portfolio management: using the Cynefin framework to understand the impact of complexity', Project Management Research and Practice, International Research Network on Organizing by Projects, UTS ePRESS, Boston University, United States, pp. 1-20.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The majority of project portfolio management tools are not flexible and responsive to complex and dynamic environments. This can result in business losses when management does not effectively adjust project portfolios to meet organizational and contextual needs. This paper concentrates on the impact of individual decision-making, perceptions of decision processes and the influence of uncertainty on effective decision-making in project portfolio management.
Relevance for practice and education
This research explores the impact of real-time events on managers during decision-making processes for project portfolio management, using a purpose-built simulation. The simulation development was informed by the Cynefin framework. The Cynefin framework emphasizes the importance of applying different leadership styles and decision-making approaches depending upon the complexity of the situation.
A multi-method, abductive research process was used to collect and analyse the data. Data collection involved four complete iterations of a purpose-built simulation, resulting in 66 datasets of individuals' perspectives of the project portfolio management decision-making process, under varying levels of complexity. The research data were focused on participants' perceptions of their efforts to manage key decision turning points through two 'real-time' events, simulating project cancellations and organizational change.
Participants were found to use different approaches to decision-making, depending on the complexity of the situation. The findings show that participants' roles in the simulation, participants' experience, decision makers' feeling, the maturity of team cognition, and diversity of participants are key considerations that influence the success of decision-making under uncertainty in PPM contexts.
The findings in this study build on previous research in a number of ways. They demonstrate the effectiveness of...
Shalbafan, S & Leigh, E 2017, 'Design Thinking: Project Portfolio Management and Simulation – A Creative Mix for Research', ISAGA 2017: Simulation Gaming. Applications for Sustainable Cities and Smart Infrastructures (LNCS), International Simulation and Gaming Association Conference, Springer Verlag, Delft, Netherlands, pp. 3-14.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This paper takes de Bono's explanation of 'design thinking' as the starting point for a report on a doctoral research project that began with a conventional 'why?' question, and then, instead of looking for an 'explanation', chose to look forward in time to establish an understanding of 'how to' think differently about a recurring problem. The catalyst for this work was observation of otherwise competent managers making desperately wrong decisions when good decision making was crucial to their company's future. The initial choice to 'look forward' when designing the research strategy was made well before there was a clear understanding of what was being observed. Given that trajectory, this paper explores the process by which a simulation was created and then used in conjunction with a comparatively new approach to data collection (Explanation looks backwards and design looks forward .).