Competence Dynamics and Learning Processes in Project-Based Firms: Shifting, Adapting and Leveraging
International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol 12, No. 1, pp. 41-67, 2008
Posted: 6 Oct 2009 Last revised: 9 Oct 2009
Date Written: March 1, 2008
In times of increasing use of project-based structures, the capability of managing and organising projects becomes critical for competition. Previous research has documented the problems and possibilities of cross-project learning and various mechanisms that organisations can use to stimulate and facilitate learning. Moreover, research on project competence and project capabilities has positioned these capabilities within a knowledge-based theory of the firm. This paper tries to integrate these streams of research and attempts to broaden our current conceptual frameworks of how firms develop project competence. Based on an exploratory multiple-case study of six firms, it is suggested that a more fine-grained analysis of competence dynamics is required. We identify three different learning processes that contribute to the competence dynamics operating in project-based organisations. The first one labelled "shifting" revolves around the major shifts in the project operations of the firm. It is suggested that such major shifts play an important role in laying the foundation and rejuvenating the challenges of project organising. The second learning process identified, labelled "adapting", focuses on the continuous learning that takes place within project operations of the firm, between project generation, project organising, project leadership and project teamwork. The third and final learning process - "leveraging" - emphasises the role of knowledge transfer across projects; across similar projects, across different types of projects. It is suggested that empirical research into competence dynamics in project-based organisations should consider all three types of learning processes and further develop our understanding how these processes are linked to each other.
Keywords: Project-based organisation, knowledge processes, learning, competence dynamics, project capabilities, project competence
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