How and When Success Becomes the Fate of Projects

Shahida Mariam, Kausar Fiaz Khawaja, Muhammad Nawaz Qaisar, and Farooq Ahmad, the authors of the research article “Knowledge-Oriented Leadership, Team Cohesion, and Project Success: A Conditional Mechanism,” reflect on their work recently published in the Project Management Journal.

V-shaped flock of geese overfly chairlift
(Photo: Abbottabad Chair Lift, Pakistan-27/6/2021 by Muhammad Nawaz Qaisar; and flock of geese/Adapted from Tim McMahon)

Success is the most desired outcome of any goal that brings happiness, even stakeholder’s survival in some projects. We can visualize in the above picture a flock of migrating birds and a couple riding a chair lift aspiring to reach their destination, despite the complexity and risks involved in their journey. The need for success and risk factors influencing their survival and happiness could be well imagined. Achieving project success is the dream of every project management unit. Unfortunately, most projects in the developing world, including Pakistan, remained unsuccessful due to inordinate escalations in scope, cost, and time resulting from several factors. Undoubtedly, the leadership and how they constitute, develop, and engage their teams may matter most for any project’s success or failure.

In a beautiful V-formation, birds such as geese and cranes fly thousands of kilometers to find a suitable habitat. Their migration operation reaches desired success due to the leadership approach, valued contribution of each bird in the formation, and strong team cohesion. It offers unique learning in the managerial and organizational context, such as creating a sense of team and community with high mutual recognition, support, trust, unity, faith, and discipline to pursue common goals. Having been inspired by this approach, the authors examined how knowledge-oriented leaders and their valuing people approach can lead to project success – given their unique complexities – and the intervening role of team cohesion in this relationship.

Authors Shahida Mariam (top left), Muhammad Nawaz Qaisar (top right), Farooq Ahmad (bottom left), and Kausar Fiaz Khawaja

Successful projects contribute to the social and economic development of a country that determines community wellbeing. Project organizations involve multi-dimensional teams, and the success of their projects mainly depends on how well teams collaborate, synergize, and get engaged in pursuing and delivering their preset goals. Knowledge-oriented leadership is also a relatively new and less research concept in project management literature.

In their recent article titled “Knowledge-oriented Leadership, Team Cohesion, and Project Success: A Conditional Mechanism,” published in the Project Management Journal, authors Shahida Mariam, Kausar Fiaz Khawaja, Muhammad Nawaz Qaisar, and Farooq Ahmad have conceptualized and empirically tested that knowledge-oriented leadership and valuing people (individual-level concepts) are linked with team cohesion (group-level concepts), which in turn influences project success (project-level concepts), given the complexities project may confront. They examined team cohesion as a mediator between the relationship of knowledge-oriented leadership and project success, the project leader’s valuing people approach as a boundary condition that strengthens this mechanism, and the project complexity as a factor with a potential to cushion the effect of team cohesion on project success.

It was highly challenging to access experienced project managers in both the public and private project-based organizations from diverse sectors of the economy in Pakistan and get their responses on variables of interest in this study. Based on the expert and experience feedback of 121 project employees, the findings suggest that knowledge-oriented leadership and valuing people should be promoted as primordial elements and strategic tools to build team cohesion for higher project performance and success. It would add real-life, energy, success, and social value to projects.

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Shahida Mariam, Kausar Fiaz Khawaja, Muhammad Nawaz Qiasar, and Farooq Ahmad

Shahida Mariam (pictured) is a doctoral student in management science at International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Earlier she had earned an MS degree in project management from Riphah International University, Islamabad. She works as librarian at Government Associate College, Rawalpindi Cantonment, Pakistan. Kausar Fiaz Khawaja is a Ph.D. in technology management. She works as assistant professor and chairman in the Department of Technology Management (Female Campus), International Islamic University, Islamabad. Muhammad Nawaz Qaisar is a Ph.D. in management science. He works as additional director (Investigation) at National Accountability Bureau, Peshawar. Farooq Ahmad is a Ph.D. in management science. He is assistant professor and Head of the Department of Commerce & Finance at the University of Okara in Pakistan. He has over 18 years of working experience in project-based public and private sector organizations in Pakistan, including project communication, social marketing, and service quality. He has served as a master trainer and guest speaker for several organizations' team and management development programs.

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