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Table of Contents

NON-STANDARDISATION OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROCESSES: A CASE STUDY OF ERICSSON SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA - Part 7

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CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN

3.1 INTRODUCTION

In this chapter the survey environment will be elaborated upon, while limitations and de-limitations of the survey will be listed. The approach to data collection will be explained and the target population defined. The measurement scales to be used in the survey and the survey design will be explained in details. The chapter will be concluded with a list of questions to be posed to the selected sample from the available target population.

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3.2 THE RESEARCH PROCESS

According to Watkins (2006:30): “The research process provides insight into the process of ‘how’ the research will be conducted from formulating the research proposal to final submission of the dissertation. Fundamental stages in the research process common to all scientific based investigations are listed below”.

Watkins (2006:30) (citing Hussey & Hussey, 1997; Remenyi, Williams, Money and Swartz 2002) explains the research process as primarily consisting of the following phases:

  • Identification of the research topic and problem statement.
  • Formalising a research question and objectives of the investigation.
  • Reviewing the literature.
  • Establishing the research methodology.
  • Collecting and analysing the evidence that includes understanding the limitations of the research.
  • Developing conclusions and producing management guidelines or recommendations.

3.3 THE RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

Watkins (2006:36) (citing Yin 1994) states that a research design can be identified as: “... the logical sequence that connects the empirical data to a study’s initial research question and, ultimately, to its conclusion. Colloquially, a research design is an action plan for getting from here to there, where here may be defined as the initial set of questions to be answered, and there is some set of conclusions (answers) about these questions”. In support of this Watkins (2006:37) (citing Hussey & Hussey, 1997) mentions that, “... methodology refers to the overall approach to the research process, from the theoretical underpinning to the collection and analysis of data”.

This investigation will be conducted in the social world; it will be theoretical and empirical in nature and will use both quantitative and qualitative research paradigms. Some of the more salient aspects of case study research as described by Yin (1994), cited in Watkins (2006:71), are:

  • “A case study is an empirical enquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident.
  • Case study research aims not only to explore certain phenomena, but also to understand them in a particular context.
  • ‘How’ and ‘why’ questions are explanatory, and likely to be used in case study research.
  • A case study illuminates a decision or set of decisions – why they were taken, how they were implemented, and with what results.
  • The case study as a research strategy comprises an all-encompassing method – with the logic of design incorporating specific approaches to data collection and data analysis. In this sense, the case study is not either a data collection tactic or merely a design featured alone, but ‘a comprehensive research strategy’.
  • Case study research uses multiple methods for collecting data, which may be both qualitative and quantitative.
  • A case study is typically used when contextual conditions are the subject of research.”

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According to Watkins (2006) citing Hussey, J and Hussey, R. (1997:66), case studies are often described as exploratory research used in areas where there are few theories or a deficient body of knowledge. In addition, the following types of case studies can be identified:

  • Descriptive case studies: Where the object is restricted to describing current practices.
  • Illustrative case studies: Where the research attempts to illustrate new and possibly innovative practices adopted by particular companies.
  • Experimental case studies: Where the research examines the difficulties in implementing new procedures and techniques in an organisation and evaluating the benefits.
  • Explanatory case studies: Where existing theory is used to understand and explain what is happening.

The researcher chose a descriptive case study. Within the considered Project Offices in sub-Saharan Africa the current status of non-standardised processes is being investigated. The questionnaire is created in search of a better understanding of current practices, opinions and perceptions from Project Office employees. Referencing The Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology, “…descriptive research involves gathering data that describe events and then organizes, tabulates, depicts, and describes the data collection” (Glass & Hopkins, 1984). An expanded description reads as follows: “…It often uses visual aids such as graphs and charts to aid the reader in understanding the data distribution. Because the human mind cannot extract the full import of a large mass of raw data, descriptive statistics are very important in reducing the data to manageable form. When in-depth, narrative descriptions of small numbers of cases are involved, the research uses description as a tool to organize data into patterns that emerge during analysis. Those patterns aid the mind in comprehending a qualitative study and its implications”.

3.4 DATA COLLECTION DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

In describing the data collection design and methodology, several areas are expanded upon. The primary unit of analysis that will be used for data collection in this study is the multiple processes utilised within four Ericsson Project Offices in sub-Saharan Africa, also known as the object. The body of individuals in this case study is the project management department within the operational unit, while the target population identified comprises the employees of four Project Offices, including management.

The category of sampling selected is that of systematic probability sampling. Probability sampling refers to the staff within the Project Management Offices, management, Project Managers and administrative employees. This will apply to 106 Project Managers who fall within the ambit of this case study. All four Project Office Managers will form part of the sampling frame. Using systematic sampling implies that the total number of people in the Project Management Office is eligible for this research survey. An example of systematic sampling is described as follows. The Project Office respondents consist of 106 people and the selected sample size is set to be 20 people. The next step would be to divide 106 by 20, this equals 5, if rounded down. Select a random number below 106, say 12; now choose the 20th person after 12 as the first sample. If the total number of people being sampled is greater than 100, then the sample size should be 75% of the population being sampled.

Case study research is a comprehensive research strategy, which may be both phenomenological (qualitative) and positivistic (quantitative), while utilising multiple methods for collecting data also referred to as methodological triangulation. The chosen data collection methods are indicated as:

  • In-depth surveys, where the researcher has a list of audit criteria, against which project results are captured. They are seen as positivistic (quantitative).
  • Large-scale surveys that are sent out to the Project Managers, as well as the project administrative personnel across forty three countries in the form of a questionnaire. Questions posed are phenomenological (qualitative) in nature.

The variables described in this case study are positivistic and phenomenological. Phenomenological (qualitative) refers to an emotion, such as positive feedback, enthusiasm or an easy transition. Positivistic (quantitative) refers to a numerical value, such as the percentage of satisfaction and number of responses and/or complaints. Positivistic study also calls for independent and dependent variables. The key objectives, as described within the ambit of the research, are identified as being the dependant variables, while the investigative questions form the independent variable. It is possible to create an impact on the key objectives if the net effects of the implementation and adherence to standardised processes are in effect.

Critical incident technique is the data collection method utilised implying that a list of questions is used in the form of a questionnaire. Questions with a positivistic approach indicate that structured closed questions are asked, while the phenomenological approach implies that unstructured open-ended questions are posed. The questions stated within the questionnaires are rated using the Likert scale, as well as with utilisation of the focus groups in order to solicit comments on process effectiveness in terms of perception of efficiency.

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3.5 RESEARCH ASSUMPTIONS

An assumption represents a condition that is taken for granted, without which the research study would be pointless. Leedy and Ormrod (2001:62 – 63) provide the following explanation of assumptions that could not be improved upon and as such it is cited verbatim: “Assumptions are what the researcher takes for granted. But taking things for granted may cause much misunderstanding. What we may tacitly assume, others may have never considered. If we act on our assumptions, and if in the final result, such actions make a big difference in the outcome, we may face a situation we are totally unprepared to accept. In research we try to leave nothing to chance in the hope of preventing any misunderstandings. All assumptions that have a material bearing on the problem should be openly and unreservedly set forth. If others know the assumptions a researcher makes, they are better prepared to evaluate the conclusions that result from such assumptions. To discover your own assumptions, ask yourself, what am I taking for granted with respect to the problem? The answer will bring your assumptions into a clear view”.

The research assumptions pertaining to this dissertation are the following:

  • Individuals taking part in the research are aware of the subject matter and are able to provide sound and reliable feedback.
  • The data obtained from various sources will be accepted as being true.
  • Participants interviewed are able to see the benefits of the improvement project.
  • Project Office employees partake voluntarily in the research.

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