Renovating Project Management: Knowledge Personalization and Sharing
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Purpose. Complex research projects, such as those regarding flight missions, are characterized by advanced technical-scientific goals, interactive teamwork, and financial or temporal constraints. Their management is based on formal project management (PM) methodologies, that offer the advantage that tasks are assigned and monitored with precision but the burden of formal duties can make interactions between researchers less effective. As the studies of Knowledge Management (KM) show, researchers need a rich exchange of knowledge and a process of mutual learning to find innovative solutions in areas of scientific forefront. In addition, new web 2.0 technologies give the opportunity to interact and exchange complex contents. Consequently, while PM methodologies remain an essential tool for researchers, there is the need to identify novel approaches that enable more effective knowledge exchanges for technical/scientific purposes. To contribute to a better understanding of these issues, this study examines if traditional PM approaches are an “automatic” solution adopted by any research team, or if researchers would spontaneously prefer more flexible ways to manage knowledge exchanges and interactions.
Design/methodology/approach. The paper investigates the “basic KM needs” that emerge from inexpert researchers working in complex projects. These researchers, being less conditioned by standard PM methodologies used in complex organizations, can have more propensity for the exploration of new ways to interact. At the same time, this analysis can point out the real perceptions of novice researchers about the necessity of a structured PM approach. In detail, the case study of a research team of Engineering post-graduate students, competing in an ESA (European Space Agency) student challenge, is presented. The way team members perceived the problems of KM and PM, and the way they decided to organize themselves to face these problems was systematically examined by means of direct observations, surveys, and interviews to team members. The main research questions are: How would a novice research team organize a complex research project, for combining formal management efficiency with effective and flexible knowledge exchanges? What approaches, methods or communication tools would they tend to adopt?
Implications for research and practice. In terms of research, the study contributes to the debate on the needs for new PM concepts and methods. In practical terms, it allows to draw useful lessons that can inspire the identification and design of new PM approaches, based on KM concepts and on the use of web 2.0 applications. In addition, it can provide elements for a definition of courses of PM and KM to novice researchers.
KeywordsKnowledge management Project management Codification KM strategy Personalization KM strategy Sharing KM strategy Post-graduate students Space research
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