Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Just Do It!

Why is blogging important?  This is the question I’ve found myself asking on many occasion.   While driving home yesterday the question again came up and it hit me.  Blogging is not primarily for the author but for others…  When one looks at the accelerating possibilities of sharing, it becomes obvious – don’t only consume but produce and share in the spirit the technology offers.  The amount of times I’ve checked into #phdchat and consumed useful resources even on a taxi ride home, see these examples:

So what can I share?  Well, it has been a busy first quarter 2012 with my MRes dissertation submission, an advanced quantitative methods class, an interdisciplinary research class,  and knowledge exchange via submitting a paper to BAM2012, and presenting a paper at 6th Making Projects Critical Workshop (MPC6) hosted this year by the Manchester Business School.

My being very new to the university system, I have to say that I’ve found this knowledge exchange phase in the research cycle really interesting.  As @JeffreyKeefer has mentioned in his own research – the doctoral journey can be seen as as set of liminal experiences, as ‘aha’ moments, as identity construction, and sometimes as a rite of passage if you like.  Attending the MPC6 I had exactly these types of moments.


At the opening of MPC6, after listening to Dr Davide Nicolini (keynote speaker) I felt a sense of unease that my research foundations in narrative might not be as stable as I first thought.  In particular how exploring micro-practices and objects rather than what people say, can highlight some interesting perspectives.  This should not be of a great surprise though as a friend of mine is a Vygotsky and Activity Theory fan – but this was the first time I’d seen it come up elsewhere.  That said, I still believe narrative inquiry is a wonderful resource but perhaps can be strengthened by looking at other objects too.

During the workshop, I got to see the depth and breadth of the attendees and their research; to see what’s hot; and to meet people I had previously read and referenced in my own work.   Notably for me, there was a sense in which I felt experienced scholars/researchers also struggle with the significance of their research, what it might mean in the bigger picture, is it appealing to others, and is it getting support from one’s peers?  This experience is helpful to the novice researchers – me included.

I did experience a scary ‘elephant in the room’ moment when the realization surfaced that when a researcher takes some empirical data, he/she can probably explain what one sees in any multiple of theoretical frames.  So what is science here?  Is the identity frame better or worse than the cultural frame, or the political frame or another frame for describing and explaining our world?  This list can go on and on – and to be honest this insight was a rather troubling moment.  What’s the point – might be asked about here…  A friend, highlighted the process of building social capital and identity construction, in other words building up currency and exchange value in the academic market place.  Something about this is bothering, but will require more thought.

At the closing keynote, I also experienced a ‘reminder’ from Dr Damian O’Doherty whose creative ethnographic study took me back to my own MBA project.  To the fact that I’m drawn to the creative end of academic expression of research through stories…. Absolutely loved his presentation.  Now while I’m mostly content with my own research there was a sense in which I’d somehow compromised my passion for conformance to the ‘acceptable’.  On the plus side, I coined and used the term ‘damaged identity’, and I got a feeling from feedback and nods during the presentation that my research was well received.

In the end I felt totally at home amongst some wonderful people who were researching in the same ‘critical space’ around the project construct.   There were two other presentations in identity (where my research is located) so that was particularly neat.   What I didn’t make use of, and I will at future events – is to listen more carefully for criticism and future ideas.  I noticed other presenters got their notebooks out when their peers were speaking and sharing.  I was told that workshops can be better than conferences as they appear more intimate.  I agree with that.

In sum, there good reasons for you to get your research out there.  From my own experience, thanks to the MPC6 organisers, speakers, and participants – I certainly feel more confident, I have made some new friends, met some top scholars in my field, and I now feel part of something.  Research that just sits out there unread on a shelf somewhere has got to be a real shame.  Don’t be afraid.  Take risks and get your research out there.  I’m already thinking about where to take my PhD research proposal so I can contribute and participate in MPC7 in 18 months!

To tie this back to blogging – my view is that this medium can be another ‘kind of’ community and knowledge share….although the risks are different!!!  A chance to put yourself out there, to not only consume but to contribute, and to participate actively in our academic fields.

PS. The gentleman in the photo opening the conference – Dr Damian Hodgson, Senior Lecturer, Manchester Business School.

Moving on quickly then to PhD proposal

I’ve no idea whether this blog will make any sense today, but I just feel the need to write a couple of things down…

My MRes dissertation (aka pilot study), on the effects of project life on project manager identity is now complete, and in its final packaging before sending to the external examiner.  I’ve started some knowledge exchange in terms of one conference and another workshop in April.  For some reason though, I’ve found that there is a strong desire to move on to my PhD proposal, especially after making the following few realizations (in no particular order).

1. My MRes was great, and an interesting and rewarding research experience.  However, I felt near the end somewhat dissatisfied with the ‘shakey’ and bland case study methods in identity research, particularly around any tie back to ontological and epistemological foundations.  Something lacked a little here without trying to undermine it too much.  I think it is good research, just Master level research.  This I want/need to correct during my transition to new PhD.

2. Identity research from the organisational theorists’ perspectives has also left me a little unsatisfied.  In fact, I’ll agree with Mats Alvesson that there is a considerable myopathy within identity’s philosophical paradigms.  I would prefer to be more holistic in my PhD identity research so I’ve been looking for alternatives.  That’s when I stumbled across Paul Ricoeur.

3. Paul Ricoeur offers a considerable depth for me as a researcher.  From the hermeneutic cycle which I do like as a method to increasing understanding – like reflexive practice, and not claiming any certainty etc.  It also fits with my beliefs around the social construction of human reality.  Next his work on time and narrative, and most important to my research – his conception of narrative identity.

I’m now reading about his structured approach to narrative interpretation through Mimesis.  Mimesis 1, the pre-configuration of narratives events, Mimesis 2, configuration using employment, and Mimesis 3 – a hermeneutic I suppose in the reconfiguration with the addition of the researcher’s/readers own meaning.  I can sense this fits quite well with Wittgenstein’s language games.  I see to that there will be alternatives…  Now, I don’t proclaim to have a great depth of understanding yet, but there is a sense in which this all feels like a safe and exciting place to start my journey.  If anyone has any PhDs, Masters or even articles on Ricoeurian Hermeneutic analysis I’d be most grateful for a heads up on where to find these.

4. Finally, on one hand, I’ve narrowed my interest to specifically the effects of “project success and failure” and on the other hand, widened my interest to the notion of professional manager identity i.e. not necessarily certified project manager.  Ricoeur’s narrative identity looks like a new way of conceptualizing what happens to peoples plots after project success/failure, and I think it will fit well with managers who will need to tell me their stories either by interview, or through text (say a book, blog, autobiography etc)  Narrative identity looks to allow things that seemed lacking in other theories such as allowing the combining of history and fiction; the past, present and future (temporal aspects);  the implicit and explicit; the concordance and discordance; etc.  I currently though to be fair – I do not really understand yet what is on offer and what is not.

I have some reservations on Ricoeur, particularly as he had such a strong evaluative, ethical, moral, and christian side to his works which rubs me up the wrong way a bit.  I’ve always preferred existentialist philosophers better such as Nietzsche or Jen Paul Satre and the aesthetic life.  But at least, another favorite of mine – Heidegger is foundational to Ricoeur.  Nevertheless, reservations aside, I think I’m on my way – and the sense-breaking has begun again as I try to understand his writings and read others writings of him.  When I just thought I understood what identity is… it is once again taken away from me.  How exciting!!!!

Some progress at last.

You know sometimes the weeks just pass you by and you wonder just what have I achieved?  These past two months have felt like that but I studiously have kept chipping away at what seems a terribly large task – doing my MRes dissertation on route to starting the PhD full next year.

After collecting data during June and July, analyzing data August and September, October has been a month where I stopped opening NVivo so much, and began to write again.  In that time, I pulled out all my papers to read and my first iteration of the Lit. Review from April to have another go at getting a Lit. Review chapter out.  Pleasingly, a couple things occurred. 1. My actually having spent time doing research I had unconsciously become more informed about the subject, and my re-reading key articles a whole set of ideas seemed to connect in my brain!  2. This increased understanding seemed to both help me critique my earlier work in April, and speed ahead in writing a more focused second iteration.

I have been struggling with the reductionism required in writing a Findings chapter, and I still have much work to do in this area.  The fact is that I seem like many to have way too much material, and I have had that feeling of trying to report everything that I have found with appropriate evidences.  As the weeks go by, I have found that writing without word constraints followed by moving to write something else creates some sort of space where I can be a bit more ruthless.  Still more work to do here though.

The methods chapter thankfully I leveraged much from the earlier essays, and my journal of actual research choices and facts along the way.  Again, like the Lit. Review I can see more clearly what to keep and what to drop.  Even today, I went through my papers I had set aside with notes in the margins – and further refined the theory aligned to my research actions.

Last week, however, I’ll admit to a real bout of shock, perhaps trepidation as I realized that since Alvesson and Willmott’s original 2002 seminal article on Identity Regulation, that scholars have certainly written a lot more about the subject, and after careful reading I though – “shit, much of what I see in my findings has been already said”.  Thankfully, the MRes is not that kind of dissertation like the PhD will be, but given some responses to my tweet on the subject there was some really good comments, one in particular from @NSRiazat who says new knowledge comes from ‘how you weave the story’, and this comment combined with my good friend Paul that I was approaching the discussion chapter with a negative frame of mind – woke me up to the fact that yes – I can do this!

Not that it is the requirement of the MRes but I will make the claim that I’m ‘creating’ something worthwhile, in two ways: 1. I’m extending Alvesson and Willmott’s model to include some aspects found in my research not in their paper, and in some case supported by others work, and 2. that this new model is the first time I have seen these broadly discussed areas in one place.

Additionally, after revising my aims that underpin the research – I can also see both practical implications for project managers and managerial implications for organizations who may make use of identity regulation in a positive way.

So all in all, I’m chuffed – and ready to start the Discussion Chapter now.  I can see light at the end of this first tunnel in order to think more deeply about how my PhD will take my initial work further – AND – that I will in time need to step my game up to another level, the recent realization that professional academics really make it hard for PhD students to create new knowledge as they are so seasoned and bloody good at it!  But, it can be done, of course.

This will be my fastest blog ever – 15 mins from start to finish… it was all just sitting in my head to posted.

I’d love to hear from others who have had similar experiences during their research…

Doing some data collection

During the planning I offered the interviewee the chance select the time and the place so he would feel comfortable to converse.  He chose to meet in a local mall after work!  I arrived early looking for a spot to set up.  Starbucks was way too noisy, so I popped into Costa 30 minutes before our agreed start.  Unfortunately, my interviewee was late and we begun about two hours after the planned start.

I created a map that linked the critical research question, theoretical questions, and translated interview questions.  I planned an unstructured interview but this map would help guide me if I got stuck.  As I waited with a iced coffee, I went through my questions and my plan.  I noticed that my questions appeared a bit dry so I took the time to modify….

My interviewee eventually arrived.  We sat down for the introductions, and I walked him through the participant information/informed consent form which we then both signed.

I was a bit nervous from a previous experience with recording equipment problems, so this time I doubled up with a livescribe recorder/pen, and my iphone with an external mic.  I asked interviewee to attach the mic to his shirt and we got started with an icebreaker – “So how did you get into project management?….” and we were underway!

What I liked –

I hardly needed to use the questions to guide the interview.  It was just like we were having a conversation.  I was conscious that I was in the role of researcher, nevertheless, as I’m also a Project Manager like my interviewee so there was a unique rapport.  I was navigating what Gill and Johnson describe this as the ‘precarious balance between insider and outsider’ (2010, p157).  My solace was in the idea that I should maximize what ethnomethodologists call ‘unique adequacy’ and move to create the necessary “distance” during the analysis!

On a few occasions the interviewee would use a word that was in some of my planned questions so I enjoyed being able to let the interview flow around the ideas that popped up naturally.  Even more cool – was when the interview went into unexpected places and I felt my own perspectives changing.  I could sense a co-construction of knowledge.

What I didn’t like –

Well at one stage we had the costa coffee grounder going and a screaming child in the background, and I was quite worried about the sound quality.  I was struggling to take notes on things like body language or other non verbals….but the notepad was useful as an object that the interviewee and I used to get ideas across.  I was frequently trying to unpick ideas, words, or statements made during the interview, mostly neutrally, but sometimes I could sense my bias/agenda coming through – and even worse leading the interview.  Perhaps this is a delicate balance.

If there was something that frustrated me a little – was that my interviewee preferred to talk about project managers in the general sense, rather than the self – made worse by the fact that I didn’t realize this for most of the interview.

There was one scare right at the end – I realized that I had not switched on the external micro-phone….ouch!  Fortunately, the internal mic on the phone still worked fine and livescribe worked a treat :o)

By the end of the interview I knew I had some really good material. In fact the material was sufficiently insightful to potentially influence the coming interviews.   Is this a good thing?  In a small way I can see if interviews continue to shed new ideas like this – is there a kind of abductive grounded analysis in progress even if I have not even transcribed a word?

It was almost 10pm, we said goodbyes and I thanked him.  The interview took 1hr 52mins, I was tired – but on my route home I still managed to record some reflections into my phone.  Today, I loaded the transcripts from both devices and its all good.  First interview ready for transcription.  There might be a researcher in me yet!

Six more interviews booked for next week!  Let’s go!!!!


Gill, J. & Johnson, P., (2010), Research Methods for Managers 4th ed., SAGE Publications Ltd.




Making Projects Critical

In my blog today I’m going to do the slightly uncommon thing (for me at least) and share a book that I feel particularly deserves to be read widely.  The 2006 book titled ‘Making Projects Critical’ is edited by Damian Hodgson and Svetlana Cicmil, with chapter contributions from Peter Morris, Monica Lindgren & Johann Packendorff, and Janice Thomas, amongst others.  The book is in three parts starting with philosophical and conceptual arguments, and moving to studies with an empirical element, and finally to inter-organisational projects essays.


In Making Projects Critical, Hodgson and Cicmil bring together an extensive set of project management academics to look at project management through a critical lens drawing on a range of theoretical perspectives.  As a practitioner, reading the book may have the effect of knocking you off balance e.g. what you have come to know as true and you might find out its not!  Given this strong destabilizing effect, I commend the authors for including Peter Morris a mainstream project management author who in the final chapter brings the balance back to the text.  It can be easy to become convinced that the critical perspective is the right one, resulting in that we do little to actually improve practice.  Morris, unashamedly regards himself as managerial and brings balance by not losing what project management is all about. Its about being more successful.  Side note: nevertheless defining success is a tricky subject in its own right!


I’ve been practicing project management in various forms for many years, I obtained both Prince2 and PMI certifications very late and was largely forced to do so as the market place demanded it.  Over the years, like some of the authors in the book, I have become a little concerned how particularly those new to project management – naively think that by rigidly adopting project management, their projects will be automatically successful.  The number of people that I am referring to here is not only the project managers, but sponsors, and project team participants too.


From the moment I opened this book, I was captivated by the provoking stance looking into the actual reality of project i.e. are they real in the realist sense?; the privileged position of project management knowledge and the project manager; and the effects of the project management discourse, theory and practice on project outcomes and the people that participate.  This whole idea of bringing the Critical Management Studies to project management is wonderful and timely, for hopefully, a maturing field.


The PMI knowledge base called PMBOK is regarded as a collection of various tools and techniques that help the project manager be successful – its ‘kind of’ prescriptive – but I must say that the earlier versions (at least) always talked about picking the right mix of tools that make sense for your project.  When you add a Project Management Office (PMO) of the sort that solely exists as a kind of process and standards police (note there are plenty of great PMOs as learning communities of excellence) – I wonder have we gone to far?  A good friend of mine who has been around the block a few times and PMI Certified, suggested “For me – project management artifacts are often only window dressing, done at the end of the month”, and window dressing for the PMO police!  For him, at the heart of project success is about people and relationships.   Now, I’m not so sure I’d go as far as my friend – as the charter, scope statement, schedule, budget, risk profile, and management plan etc. are very good ways of helping reduce uncertainties and increase your chances of project ‘success’.  But, I’ll admit there is a balance – and again the tricky question – what is success?


As Sydow points out in one chapter, and others danced around the idea that there is an urgent need for more practitioner reflexivity – that is iterative learning, questioning, testing, and modifying theory and practice.  While the book is probably not targeted at practitioners due to an academic writing style, I would still recommend practitioners to take the plunge and take a fresh look at how one both practices, the effects of practice, and the effects of now very strong communities of practice like PMI, APM, OGC etc.  A book like this aides reflexivity.  Sometimes as practitioners we might be a bit naïve at times, and perhaps it is time to look to collaborate with academics for new ways of looking at old problems.  Let’s face it – projects still fail, and all too often quite publicly.


I would argue that the overwhelming majority of project management texts ‘out there’ are functionalist, prescriptive recipe books to help companies and project managers feel safe – so I welcome this fresh look project management.  I suggest that more practitioners and researchers question the underlying assumptions implicit in our practice and our discourse.


Making Projects Critical is provocative and a thought provoking text which I believe is a must read, and for me at least, it opens a wealth of research opportunities.

My MRes Research Design

With defending my research at a recent research colloquium, I seem to have reached some sort of saturation point i.e. I think it is time to start the actual research!  Its time to get on with it, well at least get the ethics approval negotiate access with my case study site.

Today for the first time, I’m going to share my research strategy publicly, and would love to hear from people via #phdchat on twitter, via email  or via blog comments.

So here goes people!

The working title of the research is –

“Manufacturing Identities?”:an exploration of project manager identity practices


Research Problem: Project Management’s predominantly ‘hard’ discourse is reducing its potential, and there is an emerging concern of this discourse and the project based organisation on project participant’s identities.

The aim of this research therefore is to:

  • Explore how identity practices such as Identity Regulation and Identity Work are employed within projects, project management, and by project managers.
  • To build research skills and gain research experience.
  • Add to Identity Literature, no specific project manager identity research found –  i.e. a “small gap” identified in the Literature.
  • Add to the Project Management Literature – “using new ideas and theories from Identity theories”

Initial Research questions i’m posing are in what ways do Project Management discourse, role, and projects shape their identity? (My interest in Identity Work), and in what ways are identity practices used by project managers use to get the project team to deliver? (My interest in Identity Regulation) and how are these practices received from project managers’ perspectives? (Again my interest in Identity Work)

Approach to Ontology, Epistemology and Methodology etc!

Ontology: Social Constructionist as identity work/regulation located within this tradition and I believe projects can be considered a socially constructed reality.

Epistemology: Interpretivist “…to aid us in gaining access to the conceptual world in which our subjects live so that we can, in some extended sense of the term, converse with them.”  Clifford Geertz (1973: 24), Yanow’s Masterclass SBS 2010.  In essence I want to give voice to the Project Managers and their ‘stories’

Methodology: Single Site Case Study and Partial Ethnography

I think the case study option offers many benefits to the novice researcher although the disbenefits to the novice researcher that come from multi-method or mixed method approaches has not gone unnoticed.  The benefits:

  • help in placing a research boundary
  • protocol for methodological rigours
  • guidance in theory building
  • help in what constitutes acceptable quality
  • grants the researcher some freedom to embrace the relative strengths of ethnographic genres such as partial, self, or auto ethnography.

Methods: Qualitative Multi-Method design  

Interviews supported by participant observation, and documentary analysis.  These are a natural fit in Case Study research, I can hear their story, see them in action, and read their written accounts.  This will aid the establishing of context and the compare and contrast during analysis.

Case Boundary will be a single company with in-depth studies of 3 project managers, across 3 different project typologies manufacturing, services, and IT.

Unit of Analysis: Role of Project ManagersI would have liked to do participants also, yet this is only an exploratory pilot study at the MRes stage.


Data Collection:

Step 1: Informal Meet and Greet [No recording]

Step 2: Walking the floor – “Building trust” [note taking, post]

Step 3: “Get initial case data”

Observation of Project Team Meetings (3-6)

Obtain Project Meeting Documentation

Informal 30 Min Post Meeting Conversation [note taking]

Unstructured ‘Project Manager’ Story [recorded]

Step 4: Initial Analysis & Design of Semi-structured interview

Step 5: Perform Semi-structured interview [recorded]

Data Analysis:

This is less developed but I’m thinking about doing a combined “Grounded” and “Framework” analysis i.e. try them both an see what emerges from the data on its own, and looking at an established identity lens.


  •     Identity research – sensitive by nature
  •     Informed Consent: Interviews, Observation & Document
  •     Transcript confirmation
  •     Reflexivity: private diary, outside of work time
  •     Confidentiality – Yet to be agreed with company
  •     All Data to be held on password protected, encrypted disk
  •     Researcher and participant safety


While qualitative validity can be contestable e.g. “criteriology” debates, the principle in this research is to attempt for high quality through –

  •     Purposive sample i.e. 3 contrasting projects
  •     Case Study Framework including: triangulation, chain of evidence
  •     Transcript recorded verbatim and to be approved by project manager
  •     Rigorous data management using Nvivo
  •     Extended (semi) engagement in the field (as much as a working PM will allow)
  •     Researcher diary to be maintained
  •     Grounded analysis is being considered against Framework
  •     Secondary researcher to check coding and categories
  •     Transferability to other contexts via “thick” descriptions”?
  •     Hope of research that contains “project” managerial usefulness

My research plan – High level milestones:

  • Negotiate Access May-June
  • Submit Proposal and Ethics Documentation – end of June
  • Data Collection – July, August, September1. Some analysis (6 days observation, 6 interviews, and documentation)  
  • Data Analysis – October, November, December
  • Secondary Literature Review – “Ongoing”/January
  • Write Up – January, February, March
  • Submit April/May.


The planned outcome of this research is to have explored project manager’s identity work and identity regulation in the project environment, perhaps introduce identity theory to project management practice through publishing an article in a PM Journal, and finally and most importantly to position my future PhD research.

This topic will be of interest specifically to those involved in organisational studies, and theorists from subfields such as management, project management, and identity studies, not to forget Project Management Practitioners.

So what do you think about the design – can it answer the research questions?  I’d love to hear your feedback!  Leave me a comment :o)

Learning by doing…

Do you find find the brain a wonderful thing!  As a research student one can flounder about with a flood of conflicting concepts coming in and out of your consciousness and be in this constant state of confusion!  But every now and then these concepts just seem to fit into place and you get one of those ah ha moments.  For me when these neurons connect, more often than not, it happens after learning by doing or learning by association rather than reading alone.  I love to read, and sometimes things click, but when doing something well outside your normal mode of doing – learning just seems the faster option.

Here are two recent examples, first learning by association:

1. I had heard the term ‘research strategy’ banded about quite a lot recently, but I could not really seem to grasp its importance when compared to research- design, philosophy, methodology, and methods.

The penny dropped for me during a class in Glasgow when I ‘associated’ strategy in research terms to strategy in business terms.  Strategy in business can be viewed as a deliberate hierarchical process or as an emergent bottom up process, or both in determining what to do.  The outcome by following a strategy top down development processes in business is that you end up with a capital S strategy i.e. the what, the vision, mission, and objectives.  Following a bottom up development process you end up with the small s strategies on ‘how’ to move from the ‘as is’ situation to the ‘to be’ situation.

For research Strategy (big S) could be thought of as research aims, questions and objectives to solve a problem just as a business looks at a vision, mission and objectives to solve a problem or go in a new direction i.e. defining the ‘to be’.

Equally, the research strategy (small s) could be thought of as philosophical/methodological position, and design, as to how to achieve the research aims and objectives.  Methods form part of this also as the research strategies are used to achieve the overall research Strategy!  Confused yet?

In business there is often a natural tension between the external environment and the preference to have this prescribed top-down rational Strategy; up against the internal environment and the preference for issue based emergent bottom up strategies.  Could this be a similar pressure to have a complete research strategy that guides the whole research verse the emergent research strategy that messily evolves as we learn to be researchers and solve unexpected problems as we go along?  It seems to fit for me.

More importantly perhaps, as in business it is my view is that it is not necessary to side with either camp i.e. it can be both and probably will be both.  This realization leaves me with the understanding that yes, with my supervisors support the research problem is developed, and a deliberate research Strategy can be put in place, AND, with methodological learning and unexpected events, this will be supplemented with research strategies to get closer to answering those  important research questions!

In the end – what ever the direction – it is all about the what, where, and the how.  To use a project management phrase – a research strategy might be best thought of as big S strategy and little s strategies that are being progressively elaborated until you reach your destination.

2. The second example leaning by doing comes from a practical observation method exercise at the same class. I had read voraciously about observation from both case study and ethnographic perspectives, and initially thought this would take the primary stage in my research project, in particular to see if people do as people say they do, and to make the most of being a project manager practitioner exploring practice!  Nevertheless, I’m kind of surprised to say that after the actual experience of observing, recording observations, and analyzing my observations it will likely now be relegated to take a supporting role.  But why is this?

Some pertinent points came out immediately of the exercise.

  1. How can I see what people “think” in regards to their self-identity albeit I may be able to see the signs such as material items, or behaviors? I think unlike an observation exercise say in a coffee shop where you can see processes and people interfacing with people, objects and systems – mostly project managers and participants interface in a different manner e.g. meetings, coffee runs, and email.  I think that too much might be hidden from the observers eyes in this type of research.
  2. I’m required as a working project manager that I must deliver first and my priority must be here rather than to any note taking, or observations must be relegated to my free time.  Thinking that I can take detailed notes while simultaneously working might be quite unrealistic.
  3. While observation offers the potential of a ‘deep’ account, this training exercise proved to me that even with 6 researchers we were unable to uncover a ‘full’ picture anyhow.  So how deep is deep becomes the question?
  4. This exercise also entailed my using NVivo for the first time – and I’m going to have to give it a thumbs up!  It easily enabled me to transcribe my recorded notes, and read, re-read the transcript to extract insights from the experience.  While I only touched the surface on the software’s capabilities it quickly earned a place on my research team.


So these past few weeks many things have become clearer and my mind has made some wonderful connections.  I also have to thank my new supervisor – our conversations are helping also – but perhaps even conversing is an active form that accelerates learning!!


In the next blog I might just share with you my research Strategy and strategies!


Love to hear what you think of this slippery term…

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