Exploration, project evaluation and design theory: a rereading of the Manhattan case.

Sylvain Lenfle

There is a widespread agreement in the managerial literature that projects produces much more than what they deliver. However, most of the literature focuses first and foremost on what project delivers (new products, processes, servicesÂ…). This can be misleading, especially for highly innovative projects for which neither the goals, nor the means to reach it, are clearly defined at the beginning. Thus contemporary research argues for a model in which project management is first and foremost a way to organize the exploration process. The question becomes the definition of a framework to evaluate the project results (success or failures). We study this question by bridging project management and design literature. Indeed research on design processes propose tools that could help managers to better understand what has been delivered and learned during the exploration journey. We will rely on the Manhattan case to illustrate the fruitfulness of this approach.