Re-situating expert project managers' praxis within multiple logics of practice

Janice Thomas, Stella George, Pamela Buckle Henning

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to consider how multiple logic systems employed by project managers lead to manifold understandings of two foundational project management constructs (“project” and “planning”) that in turn influence both the practice of project management and project outcomes. Design/methodology/approachLargely conceptual in nature, this paper focuses on the language project managers use to make sense of projects and plans, seeking to get beyond the surface recitation of discourse to the underlying logic systems that influence practice. The discussion is illustrated with stories of practice, collected through interpretive phenomenological interviews with project managers perceived by their peers to demonstrate special skill or knowledge in successfully delivering projects, and reference to project management doctrine embedded in professional standards. FindingsExpert project managers use multiple thinking styles to adapt their practice to emergent project issues. While instrumental rationality helps project managers focus on how to do things, other rationalities, particularly those labeled non-rational, help them to decide what to do and why to do it. Expert judgment and practice supported by intuitive, holistic, and relational thinking allows project managers to navigate a sophisticated journey from ambiguity to accomplishment. Research limitations/implicationsThis paper illustrates how practice research can deconstruct interpretive phenomenological interviews to get beyond identifying the “what”, or empirical evidence, of practice to explore unique individual habitus that inform each individual's practice. Understanding the actions of expert project managers navigating between prescribed project management doctrine and their own praxis opens a space for us to rethink how we research, teach, and talk about project management. Originality/valueThis paper provides insight into the value and implications of practice-based research by illustrating: how research grounded in practice identifies and raises more complex questions than professional doctrine currently reflects; and how simplifications utilizing duality as a means of theorizing (i.e. “hard” versus “soft”, rational versus non-rational, etc.) is neither useful nor reflected in expert practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-399
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Managing Projects in Business
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun. 2012


  • Doctrine
  • Expert practice
  • Intuition
  • Language
  • Logics
  • Managers
  • Practice research
  • Project management
  • Rationality
  • Skills
  • Thinking styles


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