Programme management: An emerging opportunity for research and scholarship

Sergio Pellegrinelli, David Partington, Joana Geraldi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


The rise of the professional discipline of project management has been accompanied by a growth in the number of project management academics who seek to publish their work in highly rated management journals, especially those that require research to be positioned within an established theoretical field. A growing number of scholars have used project management as the context within which to conduct such theory-based enquiry from perspectives based in sociology, economics and psychology. Important theory-based contributions to management practice have been achieved. In this chapter we argue that programme management as a distinctive body of practical know-how provides further opportunities for researchers to apply and extend theory, thereby informing management practice in a number of ways. Programme management has developed, and continues to evolve, as a managerial approach for coordinating project-based activities and marshalling resources, and for the realisation of complex, emergent endeavours. The label programme, or program, is applied to a wide range of working arrangements, organising frameworks, processes of change and mechanisms for the creating capabilities. We review attempts to define the very nature of programme management, and the debates on whether it is an extension of project management or a distinct discipline. Our contention is that there are important conceptual differences between projects and programmes. We draw upon examples of programmes to highlight these differences, and we discuss their implications for managers and researchers. We identify six areas offering a rich domain for scholarly management research that would also yield useful insights for practitioners.
•Programmes provide an organising framework for component projects and an alternative approach for effecting change to independent projects. The co-existence of projects and programmes within organisations, and confusion, tensions or opportunities such organisational arrangements might generate could be studied through an organisational theory lens.
•Programmes’ purported capability to accommodate (processes of) emergent change, sense-making and sense-giving, learning and development in organisational change could be researched from one or more competing perspective on organisational change.
•Programme management role in strategy implementation, corporate renewal and competitive (comparative) vitality could be studied from a dynamic capability perspective.
•Programmes’ posited concurrent knowledge creation and deployment and their boundary spanning roles between ‘routine operations’ and ‘delivery oriented projects’ could be researched from the perspective of knowledge, especially tacit knowledge, development and transfer/ diffusion.
•The interaction of and direction setting by multiple funders, powerful stakeholders and delivery entities could be fruitfully studies from a distributed leadership perspective.
•The competences to perform effectively in different programme roles could be identified using a phenomenographic perspective, building on existing research. The above areas are neither intended to be comprehensive nor definitive, but a starting point for those interested in embarking on academic research in an important and rapidly developing area of management.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Project Management
Publication date2011
ISBN (Electronic)9780199563142
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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