Can social theory help project delivery?

Tim O'Leary / Terry Williams

This paper offers a social constructionist perspective on the management of business change projects, using a novel theoretical synthesis of the constructs of social theorists Strauss and Bourdieu to provide a general theoretical model of business change projects as a ‘social trajectory’. This conceptualization, in contrast to the cybernetic systems control theory at the heart of the dominant ‘best practice’ project management discourse, reflects the social reality of actual project practice, as demonstrated extensively in the literature. We seek to demonstrate the practical value of a social constructionist theoretical perspective in suggesting a shift in what is seen as ‘best practice’ in managing business change projects, and in providing a basis for developing and evaluating management interventions which smooth the path of the social trajectory and thereby the likelihood of achieving what is seen as a successful project outcome.