Developing a Project Management Case Study From History: A Study Using Qualitative Methodologies—Case Study Research, Historiography, and Interdisciplinarity


Peter Morris argues that the depth of understanding of one’s history is a measure of the maturity of a discipline. By this measure, project management is an immature discipline. The consequence of this is a significant gap between theory and practice, where research has little impact and where project failures are repeated in a cycle of tragedy and farce. A dearth of research into historical projects to bring wisdom to an ever broader realm of contemporary practice is a most significant issue facing the discipline. As Geraldi and Söderlund eloquently suggest, by revisiting our past we can create the future. Historical case studies empower us to expand our knowledge base beyond prescriptive bodies of knowledge, potentially breaking cycles of project failure. Project management has a history that is as rich and varied as any other discipline. What society, culture, or nation does not have historical projects that can be examined? However, the few studies that we have examined tend to be based in the military, government, and manufacturing/engineering sectors of developed nations. This paper outlines a historical project management case study investigated by the first author (M.K.-H.). Research into this case study is in no way unique, but it is the application of a project management lens which is new. The paper provides a simple description of the methods and techniques of research used, which can be adapted by students of project management to develop their own case studies of direct relevance to their own contexts, societies, and disciplines.

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