Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Connective Capacity of Program Management: Responding to Fragmented Project Management

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Connective Capacity of Program Management: Responding to Fragmented Project Management

Article excerpt


In the last decades program management has emerged as a new type of management between line management and project management approaches. For a long time, the dominant management paradigm in management theory and practice has been functional hierarchical line management (Turner and Keegan 1999). According the organization principles of Fayol, Urwick and Taylor the ideal organization is divided into functional specialties clearly bounded from one another. Line managers were appointed on higher hierarchical levels to integrate and coordinate these specialized domains and sectors within organizations (Moss Kanter 1983: 58-61). However, coordination and integration remains a problem in fragmented organizations (Koteen 1997).

Since the 1950s, private and public sector organizations have adopted project-based approaches to cope with fragmentation and to realize functional integration in organizations (Koteen 1997; Turner and Keegan 1999). This project management approach is trying to transcend organizational line structures and to bring more integration between specialized domains (Koteen 1997). The growth in the use of project management in the last decades is sometimes called 'projectification' (Maylor et al. 2006). Its failure in bringing more coherence and coordination in public organizations is also widely discussed (e.g. Turner and Keegan 1999; Crawford et al. 2003; Maylor et al. 2006). Projectification is discussed as a new way of fragmentation of projects operating in isolation from each other. Projectification is nowadays followed by a move towards 'programmification', in which project clusters or portfolios are being created (Koteen 1997; Maylor et al. 2006;) to ensure that individual projects are properly attuned, connected, integrated and coordinated (Koteen 1997; Crawford et al. 2003; Lycett et al. 2004; O'Toole and Meier 2004). We explicitly define program management as managerial attempts to bring closer connection between single projects and with the line organization (c.f. Maylor et al. 2006). However, empirical studies on these benefits and on the broader issue of program management in the public sector are rare (O'Toole and Meier 2004).

Our objective in this article is to provide more empirical insight in the dynamics of program management in the public sector. We especially focus on how program management activities succeed or not in realizing more connectedness between singular projects and how these projects become more connected with line management in public organizations. Our research question is therefore: how evolves program management in public sector organizations and what affects the connective capacity of program management in the public sector? We discuss and analyze a case study on the 'Policy with Citizens' program at the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment (abbreviated in Dutch as VROM: 'Volkshuisvesting, Ruimtelijke Ordening and Milieubeheer').

The structure of our article is as follows. In the next section we introduce a theoretical framework, in which we discuss program management as a response to fragmentation in organizations. We finish this section by describing the analytical focus we will be using for the case study. Subsequently we explain the research methodology. We start the empirical part with background information on the case and describe the structure and functioning of this program. Next, we present our findings of the case and conclude with a discussion in the final section.


Fragmentation and Integration in Public Organizations

Fragmentation and integration are core concepts in the field of public administration (Alter and Hage 1993; Peters 1998; 6 et al, 2002; Pollitt 2003 Bryson et al. 2006; Keast et al. 2007; Laegreid and Wise 2007; Christensen and Laegreid 2007). Scholars in public administration are familiar with the departmental structure of governmental organizations. …

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