When plans fail, the form of making it happen leads to improvisation in practice, which is not sufficiently approached yet in the project management (PM) field. The main reason for the lack of research is that improvisation is predominantly seemed in a negative perspective. Due to the relevance of improvisation in the PM field, the purpose of this paper is to investigate how and why improvisation is applied in the PM context. This research address two questions: which are the key topics and studies linked with improvisation in the PM context?: how do the origin factors and the purpose influence improvisation in PM context?Design/methodology/approachA systematic literature review was carried out through the merging of bibliometric analysis and content analysis. The systematic literature review aims to identify and synthesize the research on the theme, applying structured, transparent and replicable procedures for each phase of the process. These studies focus mainly on the identification of literature standards based on publication reviews. The sampling process follows the flow summarized in Figure 1. The searching process was based on two selected databases, the Web of Science and Scopus. The search strings applied were: (improvisation OR bricolage) AND “project management.”FindingsThe evolution of publications has shown the existence of a growing interest in the articles relating to improvisation and PM in recent years. The literature on improvisation in the PM context, allows to identify the key related constructs, origin factors and purposes. It also identifies the core relation among these constructs. The understanding of the effect of origin factors on the key related constructs was achieved. Improvisation appears not only as a strategy for adapting when dealing with urgent demands, but also as a team skill.Research limitations/implicationsAs a limitation related to the research methods adopted, their exploratory nature is acknowledged, implying some subjectivity in the content analysis of the surveyed sample. The databases, search strings and selection criteria may also have narrowed the research sample. This study shows a lack of research on knowledge management, experience and resilience that can be a drive for future research. Other interesting insights for future research are that some origin factors are more related with some related constructs than others.Practical implicationsAs practical implications, project practitioners can better understand how improvisation is related to PM. The results can bring insights to professionals such as to explore improvisation in uncertainty and complex environments, and to improve aspects like adaptation, intuition and innovation needs. Improvisation can be understood as a way to improve project results considering that it is a mechanism of management in the face of the inherent environment pressure and is related to ones who have experience and is not necessarily a consequence of lack of planning.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to the current literature in two ways. First, there is in-depth understanding of the literature on improvisation in the PM context, which allows to identify the key related constructs, origin factors and purposes. Moreover, it identifies the core relation among these constructs. Second, understanding of the effect of origin factors on the key related constructs was achieved.
International Journal of Managing Projects in Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 15, 2021
Keywords: Creativity; Resilience; Adaptability; Intuition; Improvisation; Project management; Bricolage; Project practice