Deconstructing the Quest for Value: Language Games of Organizational Investment
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Abstract of the paper For many years practitioners have attempted to define and measure what value project management brings an organization (see for example Kwak & Ibbs, 2000; Cooke-Davies, 2002; Reginato & Ibbs, 2002; Ibbs, Reginato, and Kwak, 2004), Often value has been equated with return on investment (ROI) (see for example Ibbs et al 2004). It may be possible to say that the search for value has become a quest because of this search for a single definition. The historical quest for value is largely a paradox, the more the search is focused on isolating a value for the value of project management, the easier it is for differing perspectives to make sound critical attacks on it requiring it to be once again re-quested. To date these quests have encouraged discussion and disagreement on any single definition. The recent PMI project Researching the Value of Project Management has shown both that project management is of value to organizations in many ways and, still how difficult it is for organizations to define, let alone measure, actual value resulting from investments in project management. In this paper, we address the quest for identifying organizational value from a Wittgensteinian perspective. Wittgenstein famously said “The sense of the question is the method of answering it…Tell me how you are searching, and I will tell you what you are searching for.” (quoted in McGuiness, 2002 pg 179). Through a careful examination of the discourse around investments in project management, we consider how different language games are played, and how they result in different understandings of organizational value – and different implementations of project management. We seek to: • clarify the many faces of value in the context of value itself and the context of stakeholder perception of value; • elucidate what the pursuit of any one face of value to the exclusion of any other means for the practice of project management and the key stakeholders undertaking the quest; and • explore language games involved in providing a rationale for seeking a value measure and its influence on how to seek it. By deconstructing the concept of value within an organizational context and the nature of these quests, we seek to develop a solid and rigorous understanding of the ambiguous and ephemeral nature of value in organizations. What Took Place Over a period of 3 days we spent one day working with PhD students to help develop their research concepts and then spent the remaining two days in congress with all participants hearing and responding to all of the papers presented. In addition to attending this conference, I was able to also examine a PhD candidate at the University of Southampton as an add on to this trip. Critique of Our Paper We received very good feedback on this paper both during the selection process and during the conference itself. Much of the discussion will be very useful as we revise the paper for publication. The editor of Organization (a top level journal in the OT field) took the time to tell us that in his opinion, our paper was the best of the conference and to ask us to submit it to him for review and ultimately publication. Further Activity Given the response to this paper (especially from the editor of Organization) we are going to spend the next month revising it as per the discussion at the conference and submitting it for publication. As top level journals do not publish papers or revisions of papers that have been published on the web, we will not be posting this conference paper to the web at this time.