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Esther Maier

Can creativity be harnessed in large scale projects?

Large projects are challenging to keep on time and on budget. When they rely on creativity for success, they become even more difficult. This research considers methods of balancing creativity with control in large-scale projects.

What You Need to Know

Taking a just right approach to managing a large-scale project allows balance between harnessing creativity and maintaining control. Ensuring all project members understand the project needs, pairing creative tasks with control measures and allocating resources to the creative needs of the project are all important practices.

More Details

What Did the Researchers Do?

Esther Maier and Oana Branzei asked: How do project teams deliver the creative objectives of the project within a defined schedule and budget? To answer this, they followed a dramatic television series production as it unfolded in real-time.

What Did the Researchers Find?

The pair found that three practices used by project members effectively balanced creativity with control:

  1. linking controls with creative tasks through culturally relevant analogies;
  2. pairing creative tasks with specific controls as the project unfolds; and
  3. reallocating scarce resources to realize the creative aspirations of the project.

The findings suggest that a sufficient, but not excessive, level of project control allows the team just enough freedom to be creative. Excessive controls are counterproductive and weak controls can lead to late failure. Flexible controls allow uncertainty in large-scale projects to drive creativity while maintaining managerial oversight.

How Can You Use This Research?

Project managers can use this research to balance the needs of the project schedule and budget with creativity in large-scale projects they are managing.

Want to Know More?

Contact: Esther Maier

Article citation: Maier, Esther R., Branzei, Oana. (2014). On Time and On Budget: Harnessing Creativity in Large Scale Projects. International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 32, Issue 7, pp. 1123-1133.

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