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Unit information: Project Management and Systems Thinking in 2016/17

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Unit name Project Management and Systems Thinking
Unit code MGRCM0007
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Ms. Ballard
Open unit status Not open

Successful completion of the units: Leadership, Strategy and Organisations, Understanding Change and Uncertainty.



School/department School of Economics, Finance and Management
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

The unit builds upon the theme of change within organisations that forms a main part of the course. Projects and programmes are a key way of enacting change within organizations and so this unit outlines standard methodlogies and techniques and examines these critically, all within a systems context.

The unit focuses on critically examining projects and programmes as temporary systems for enacting change within organizations. Students will initially be introduced to key tools and techniques that can be used to plan and deliver projects. Students will also consider the distinctions between projects and programmes, the notion of temporary organizations more broadly and how projects are both related to and distinct from more general operational management. The main theories underpinning this analysis will be general production theory, systems and process theory and soft systems and stakeholder theory. Drawing on critical theory, students will then be asked to explore orthodox project discipline, thinking through situated notions of success and failure, conceptions of risk and uncertainty and power and discipline in project settings.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students should be able to:

  • Understanding the key theories, methodologies and techniques employed in temporary project and programme settings;
  • Critically analyse distinctions between projects and programmes and temporary and more-permanent organizational forms;
  • Critically examine notions of success and failure within project settings in conjunction with an appreciation of risk and uncertainty;
  • Show an appreciation of the socially constructed nature of project environments and understand the role of power, politics and discipline in shaping projects;
  • Consider the reality of project work and how this can be understood through the application of theory.

Teaching Information

A programme of interactive workshops which will introduce theoretical concepts and ideas, including short lectures, discussion of theories and practice drawing on students’ practical experiences, group work and case study exercises. Additional reading, and the active use of the Blackboard online learning environment will be used to develop further understanding of theory.

Assessment Information

Summative assignment by individual essay of 4,000 words (100%).

The assignment tests students’ ability to: critically evaluate a real project (either in their workplace or reported in the literature), considering its relative success. In doing so, they will be asked to explore the factors that led to or hindered success and examine these using theory discussed in class.

Reading and References

Maylor, H. (2010) Project Management, 4th ed. Harlow: Pearson.

Boddy, D. (2002) Managing Projects: Building and Leading the Team, Harlow: Pearson.

Hodson, D and Cicmil, S. (eds) (2006) Making Projects Critical, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Checkland, P. (1999) Systems thinking, systems practice: includes a 30-year retrospective, Chichester: John Wiley.

Andersen, E. S. (2008) Rethinking Project Management, Harlow: Pearson.

Relevant journals include:

International Journal of Project Management, Project Management Journal, Scandanavian Journal of Management.