An organization’s culture can be related to the success rate of projects in a number of areas, including processes, management style, time management and training.

Organizational culture has been defined as comprising the values and behaviors of a company’s employees. According to industry sources such as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) Guide, these factors can include:

  • Overall tone of the shared employee experience
  • Shared visions, mission statements and expectations
  • Motivation and reward systems
  • Views on leadership and authority relationships
  • Work ethic
  • Codes of conduct
  • Environmental factors
  • Social norms
  • Risk tolerance

Such characteristics play an important role in determining whether project objectives are achieved, the PMBOK Guide notes.

How employees view their role in a project – and their function in the company as a whole – can be considered a foundational aspect of organizational culture. In turn, a company’s structure and projects can be shaped by organizational culture. Projects that are seen as aligning with organizational culture may have smoother implementation and higher success rates compared to projects that conflict with those cultural norms.

Understanding organizational culture and its relationship with project management can help businesses determine which projects are worth pursuing. By “embedding the project management mindset in organizational culture” firms may generate long-term benefits in a competitive environment, according to a 2015 study by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) titled Pulse of the Profession: Capturing the Value of Project Management.

The study identified several keys to creating a culture that embraces project management, among them: comprehending the value that project management provides; engaging project sponsors at the executive level; and aligning projects with organizational strategy.

Organizations with such attributes are more likely to have higher levels of performance in project management, the Pulse of the Profession study found.

Incorporating Project Management in Organizational Culture

To create a culture of project management, organizations must understand the benefits it can bring, as well as the role that projects and programs play in driving change.

Previous research has examined how culture contributes to effective projects. For example, a 2008 study focused on the relationship between an organization’s cultural orientation and project success, focusing on four types of cultural orientation:

  • Clan – premium placed on participation, commitment and shared values
  • Adhocracy – initiative and innovation seen as supporting creativity and entrepreneurism
  • Hierarchical – formal structure focuses on control and efficiency
  • Market – focus on results and production in a consumer-driven environment

Project success was defined as including whether schedule and budget goals were met, and the level of satisfaction among project team members.

The study found that the Clan orientation culture, with its focus on shared values and cohesion, had the strongest association with effective and efficient projects, as well as with organizational success.

In order to foster an effective organizational culture, it may be necessary first to examine and define the current culture. At that point, a strategy can be developed for closing the gap between the existing and desired cultures, which can include changes to systems, practices and objectives.

“Organizational culture sets the tone that ultimately shapes the common experiences of employees,” the PMI noted in Pulse of the Profession. 

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