McCormick, I. (2006) ‘Same planet, different worlds: why projects continue to fail. A generalist view of project management with special reference to electronic research administration’, Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 10 (4), pp. 102-108.

This article focused on project management in an HE context. As the title suggests there was an emphasis on Electronic Research Administration (ERA). One quote in particular caught my attention and it’s something I’d like to investigate further.

While there are certainly theoretical concepts which can be deduced in project management, it has been argued that, while there is a preponderence of methodology, there is no explicit theory of project management.

The article itself focused more on how to engender success; in particular the fact that success is not strictly linked to methodology but rather the connection between the project and organisation. This was a perspective of a Head of Research Service and although there are some useful quotes in this paper it didn’t feel like I was learning a great deal from it.



Bryde, D. and Leighton, D. (2009) ‘Improving HEI Productivity and Performance through Project Management’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 37 (5), pp. 705-721.

This article reports the findings of a benchmarking survey of Project Management maturity in one Higher Education Institution (HEI). It relates the need to become more successful in the implementation of projects to the need for institutions to become more business-like – an area I will need to investigate further. I’m not sure Universities necessarily need/or are becoming more business like. They are, perhaps, becoming better at demonstrating their value and delivering that value in the face of diminishing funds.

The paper states two reasons for using project management techniques:

  1. The adoption of business management techniques
  2. The ability to manage specific types of change

A survey instrument was developed from existing models and existing literature, focusing on the process of project management as opposed to the effectiveness of projects. The survey focused on six domains :

  1. Culture
  2. Leadership
  3. Staffing
  4. Project management structure methods and system
  5. Project management office
  6. Partnerships

329 questionnaires were distributed to: staff involved in research/project activities; those holding a managerial position; and those with an appropriate job title. 110 were returned. The overall maturity of the HEI came back as 2.94 which is regarded as a low maturity when compared with other industries cited by Ibbs and Kwak (it will be worth looking up this study).

This survey could be a good place to start in investigating the types of questions I’ll need to ask. The one thing that concerns me at the time of writing is who will I be sending my survey to? Can I rely on one person to provide an overview of their organisation’s maturity in project management?

Other key quotes

“As the management of projects is considered integral to the management of contemporary organizations (Söderlund, 2004), overtly strengthening the project-related infrastructure and leadership in terms of both support for PM and in facilitating individual project delivery could be a key step for the HEI towards viable and sustained operation in new business arenas.”


Turner, D. (2005) ‘Benchmarking in universities: league tables revisited’, Oxford Review of Education, 31 (3), pp. 353-371.

One of my research aims is to assess whether or not there is a link between project management maturity and organisational performance. This article was extremely interesting as not only did it highlight a benchmarking tool I’d never heard of before, it discussed some of the issues with league tables, which might be the only data set I can actually use as an indicator of UK HEI success.

The paper highlighted two key definitions of benchmarking by Zairi (1998, p. 35 cited in Turner, 2005):

  1. An enabler for achieving and maintaining high levels of competitiveness.
  2. A measure of business performance against the best of the best through a continuous effort of constantly reviewing processes, practices and methods.

It should be noted that this paper is quite old and league table methodologies have moved on, however the issues it identified with league tables include:

  • It uses an arbitrary weighting system.
  • It doesn’t account for differences in mission i.e. assumes every institutions has the exact same institutional aims and objectives.
  • There is no distinction between inputs and outputs.

It was the tool that really caught my attention – Data Envelope Analysis (DEA). It is ‘a linear programming based technique for measuring the relative performance of organisational units where the presence of multiple inputs and outputs makes comparisons difficult’. It assesses how well an organisation uses its ‘inputs’ e.g. student/staff ratio to achieve outputs e.g. teaching quality or research quality. There is no one winner but a number of institutions that achieve 100% efficiency along the data envelope – due to their different aims and objectives. The remaining institutions are then assigned an efficiency rating based upon virtual institutions comprising of elements from the institutions along the data envelope.

One thing did strike me as slightly suspicious – and that was the analysis carried out by the author determined their host institution was on the data envelope.


Smith, B. L. and Hughey, A. W. (2006) ‘Leadership in higher education – its evolution and potential’, Industry and Higher Education, 20 (3), pp. 157-163.

This article provides a general outline of the importance of leadership, specific to colleges and universities. It doesn’t have a strong conclusion as it’s more of a snapshot of the existing landscape. Some interesting points and quotes from this article can be found below.

Leaders can be categorised as:

  1. Transactional – needs and rewards as sources of motivation
  2. Transformative – understand and recognise their followers needs and attempt to raise those needs

There are five fundamental leadership practices:

  1. Challenge the process
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Enable others to act
  4. Model the way (lead by example)
  5. Encourage the heart (recognise and celebrate efforts/accomplishments)

The paper made me think a lot about the idea of “leadership everywhere”. When we think of those who lead we’re generally drawn towards the top of the organisational pyramid. But leadership should and does appear throughout an organisation’s structure. The following quote in particular was very interesting. To me, this sounds a lot like a project manager!

“…effective leaders are often described as individuals who are able to control resources in a way that organises the organisation to effectively meet its goals” (Ginsburg, 1997, p. 27 cited in mith and Hughey 2006)

The paper also emphasised the importance leaders have to play in ensuring the environment and working conditions are conducive to the overall success of the organisation.

Other key quotes

“in order to be a leader in higher education, one must be a ‘dove’ of peace intervening among warring factions that are causing destructive turbulence in the college, a dragon driving away both internal and external forces that threaten the college, and a diplomat guiding, inspiring, and encouraging people who live and work in the college environment” (Gmelch, 2000, p. 1 cited in Smith and Hughey 2006)

“Yet whether the goal is to generate a profit or educate students, leadership constitutes one of the most critical determinants of ultimate success or failure.”

“…the bulk of the available research on leadership is marked by confusion and dominated by trendy nonsense.” (Maddux, 2002, p. 41 cited in Smith and Hughey 2006)