Academic journal article Journal of Global Business and Technology

Strategic Fit of Project Management at a Brazilian State-Owned Firm: The Case of Eletronuclear

Academic journal article Journal of Global Business and Technology

Strategic Fit of Project Management at a Brazilian State-Owned Firm: The Case of Eletronuclear

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In the literature, mention is made of the significant loss of resources in the case of projects that do not contribute to the firm' s main objectives, mainly because they are not aligned with its strategy. The lack of project strategic fit thus ends up having a negative impact on its performance and competitiveness. This article shares the results of a study on project management - PM - at the Brazilian state-owned firm, Eletronuclear, created in 1997 to build and operate nuclear power plants in the country. The study' s objective was to assess the strategic fit of PM at this firm and identify factors that contributed to, or hindered, the achievement of the desired fit. The research adopted the case study method, collecting data from various sources using different means - documental investigation, structured questionnaires and interviews - in order to ensure their consistency. The results indicated a predominance of weaknesses in PM at the company, namely in terms of inconsistencies with its strategy, evidencing PM' s lack of strategic fit. They highlighted resources - specifically inappropriate allocation and quality - and the difficulty of changing to a culture of PM with a strategic vision, as the main problems. At the same time, they revealed recent initiatives, pertinent to the adoption of strategic-level project mediation processes and project portfolio planning, that if translated into concrete actions, could indeed contribute to a better strategic fit of PM at Eletronuclear. The study thus provided insights for other firms seeking to improve their project management.

INTRODUCTION

For more than four decades, organizations have been using the principles of the project management discipline - PM, to manage their projects. Despite this, little has been done in the way of recognizing this discipline as one of the core competencies needed to create a competitive differential in business strategy (Kerzner, 2005). However, there is a growing interest in the subject, sparked off by the positive results achieved by some firms that have systematically applied PM principles with the due strategic orientation. According to Milosevic & Srivannaboon (2006, p. 99), "... when organizations relate their projects to strategy, (they) are better able to achieve their organizational targets".

In many cases there are signs that projects are not coherent with firms' strategies. The lack of coherence between projects and business strategy is frequently due to the fact that the PM discipline is regarded merely as an operational tool to control project durations (Kerzner, 2005). Various authors mention a loss of resources due to project cancellations or, as most have no connection with firm strategy, the implementation of projects that do not contribute to strategic objectives (Cooper; Edgett; & Kleinschmidt, 1998; Milosevic & Srivannaboon, 2006; Pinto & Covin, 1989; Shenhar, A., 2001). The inappropriate use of resources - human and financial - and time wasted on projects end up having a negative impact on firm competitiveness.

For these reasons, we decided to investigate the issue of project management's strategic fit, seeking to identify the factors that contribute to the desired fit, or, on the contrary, hinder it. Note that by strategic fit, we mean alignment with, orientation towards and adherence to or coherence with firm strategy.

This article presents the main results of a study that was part of this investigation and focused on the case of a state-owned firm - Eletrobrás Termonuclear S.A. - Eletronuclear (henceforth referred to as Eletronuclear). With a view to contributing to the research's objectives, an analysis was performed of the strategic fit of processes pertinent to PM. The analysis, drawing in part on Macedo-Soares' s GenericIntegrative - GI strategic analysis methodology (apud Macedo-Soares & Figueiras, 2007) was divided into the following steps: 1°) characterization of the firm under study; 2°) identification and analysis of the strategic implications of the main strategic actors and macro-environmental factors, in terms of whether or not they represented real or potential opportunities and threats for the firm's strategy; 3°) characterization of PM discipline processes in terms of constituting, in the light of this strategy, real or potential strengths (strong points) or weaknesses (weak points); 4°) identification of the organizational factors necessary, except the project management discipline itself, to make this discipline feasible, and assess its strategic implications in terms of constituting real or potential strengths and weaknesses; 5°) assessment of the firm's performance using pertinent indicators; 6°) analysis of PM discipline processes' fit with the strategy of the firm researched, considering the latter' s characteristics and the strengths and weaknesses of overall organizational factors; 7°) identification of the factors that hindered and those that contributed to assuring PM' s strategic fit; 8°) the making of recommendations regarding possible improvements that could assure the strategic fit desired. …

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