Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore managerial functions and related activities of inexperienced project managers in the front-end of the innovation (FEI) process. Design/methodology/approach – In total, 15 student project managers were interviewed while they were engaged in the front-end phase of their respective eight-month projects. In total, 757 interview transcript segments on their perceptions of managerial functions were categorized based on thematic similarity of content. Findings – Four major managerial functions emerged: providing structural support, coordinating and acting as a link, empowering the team, and encouraging and providing social support. Out of these, traditional task-oriented managerial functions were emphasized. Research limitations/implications – Although limited by the small amount of participants in a university setting, the results suggest that task-oriented managerial functions are dominant even in the FEI for inexperienced project managers. More research is needed to understand the antecedents and consequences of such task-dominance, and whether it persists as more experience is accrued. On the other hand, domain knowledge seemed to play a smaller role than indicated by previous research. Practical implications – Project managers should pay attention to creating structure in the uncertain front-end phase. Swift familiarization with the capabilities and practices of each team member cannot be overemphasized, as otherwise the heterogeneity of the team might become a limitation rather than asset. On the other hand, domain experience of the manager may not be necessary in the FEI. Originality/value – The study addresses the gap in previous research on managerial functions specifically in the FEI. Task-oriented managerial functions emerged as way of novice project managers attempting to deal with the fluctuating contingencies in order to foster innovation.
International Journal of Managing Projects in Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 4, 2016