Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present the findings of a doctoral thesis aimed at identifying how project managers orchestrate ambidexterity (the achievement of both exploitation of existing knowledge and exploration of new knowledge) at the level of the project. Design/methodology/approach – The research reported on here initially involved a systematic literature review of the theoretical and empirical work on ambidexterity. This was followed by a two‐stage empirical investigation. The first stage involved a set of interviews with project managers in a global IT‐services firm to identify the nature of ambidexterity in their work using the lens of intellectual capital. The second stage comprised eight case studies of projects to determine the practices by which project‐level ambidexterity could be achieved. Findings – The research showed that at the working level, project ambidexterity is a more complex concept than the existing high‐level theorisations would suggest. The key findings of the research reported on here were that the resources used to enable ambidexterity (human, social and project capital) were interwoven with one another and also with the processes of exploitation and exploration. Two configurations of ambidexterity (“distributed” and “point”) were identified, together with five managerial practices that underpin the attainment of project‐level ambidexterity. These were investigated using “parallel‐coding” of the data to gain greater insight. Practical implications – This identifies the “how” of ambidexterity in project environments, and offers managers a new way of conceptualising their work in terms of exploitation and exploration in their day‐to‐day activities. Originality/value – Previous empirical studies of ambidexterity have been focused mostly at the organisational level, using primarily quantitative techniques. This qualitative study has revealed the nature of ambidexterity in complex, working project environments.
International Journal of Managing Projects in Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 29, 2013
Keywords: Ambidexterity; Project management; Intellectual capital