offered in this article, a project leader is in a strong position to protect and bolster a project’s reputation against
skepticism and doubts, sustain project momentum,
and achieve important organizational objectives.
Karen A. Brown, who passed away in 2016 after the
initial draft of this article was written, was a professor emerita of operations and project leadership at
Thunderbird School of Global Management in
Glendale, Arizona. Nancy Lea Hyer is an associate
professor of operations management at Vanderbilt
University’s Owen Graduate School of Management
in Nashville, Tennessee. Brown and Hyer coauthored
the book Managing Projects: A Team-Based Approach
(McGraw-Hill, 2009). Richard Ettenson is a professor
and Thelma H. Kieckhefer Research Fellow of
Global Marketing and Brand Strategy at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona
State University. Comment on this article at
http://sloanreview.mit.edu/x/58309, or contact the
authors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. S. Carey and A. Pasztor, “Report Faults Rollout of
Air-Traffic-Control Upgrade,” The Wall Street Journal,
Sept. 24, 2014.
2. Ibid.; and S. Carey, “The FAA’s $40 Billion Adventure:
Years Late, a High-Tech ‘NextGen’ Project to Unsnarl U.S.
Aviation Is Beginning to Speed Flights,” The Wall Street
Journal, Aug. 19, 2013.
3. Carey and Pasztor, “Report Faults Rollout of Air-Traffic-Control Upgrade.”
4. A. Pasztor, “Carriers Gain Leeway on Navigation
Upgrade,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 17, 2015.
5. A. Halsey III, “House Republicans Move Ahead With
Plan to Shift 38,000 FAA Workers,” The Washington
Post, Feb. 11, 2016, www.washingtonpost.com.
6. K.A. Brown, R. Ettenson, and N.L. Hyer, “Why Every
Project Needs a Brand (and How to Create One),” MIT
Sloan Management Review 52, no. 4 (summer 2011):
7. For a recent discussion of how to reduce the “
unknown unknowns” in project work, see T. Browning
and R. Ramasesh, “Reducing Unwelcome Surprises in
Project Management,” MIT Sloan Management Review
56, no. 3 (spring 2015): 53-62.
8. See www.smartpolicinginitiative.com.
9. E. Richey, “How Data Analysis Helps Police Departments
Fight Crime,” Forbes Transformational Tech, June 3, 2014;
D. Gambacorta, “Philadelphia’s Homicide Tally Shows
Dramatic Drop,” Philadelphia Daily News, April 5, 2013;
and R. Wilson, “In Major Cities, Murder Rates Drop
Precipitously,” Washington Post, Jan. 2, 2015.
10. Carey, “The FAA’s $40 Billion Adventure.”
11. Ibid.; and Carey and Pasztor, “Report Faults Rollout of
12. D. Dvir and A. Shenhar, “What Great Projects Have in
Common,” MIT Sloan Management Review 52, no. 3
(spring 2011): 19-21.
13. Carey, “The FAA’s $40 Billion Adventure.”
15. For a discussion of how successful project leaders
cope with the challenges of frequent unexpected events,
see A. Laufer, E. Hoffman, J. Russell, and W. Cameron,
“What Successful Project Managers Do,” MIT Sloan
Management Review 56, no. 3 (spring 2015): 43-51;
and Browning and Ramasesh, “Reducing Unwelcome
Surprises in Project Management.”
16. Recent research on successful business-analytics
projects underscores the importance of engaging
stakeholders “as much as possible, as opposed to
merely informing them after the fact.” See S. Viaene and
A. Van den Bunder, “The Secrets to Managing Business
Analytics Projects,” MIT Sloan Management Review 53,
no. 1 (fall 2011): 65-69. This quote is from p. 67.
17. Other research affirms the value of tapping the
perspective beyond the team. Doing so can “give
organizations a competitive advantage when dealing
with complex projects.” See J. Cummings and
C. Pletcher, “Why Project Networks Beat Project
Teams,” MIT Sloan Management Review 52, no. 3
(spring 2011): 75-80. This quote is from p. 80.
18. K.A. Brown, N.L. Hyer, and R. Ettenson, “The
Question Every Project Team Should Answer,” MIT Sloan
Management Review 55, no. 1 (fall 2013): 49-57.
19. Laufer et al. find that “when upper management
fosters an organizational climate that embraces problems
as an inherent part of a project’s progression, project
managers are able to detect and resolve problems more
successfully.” See Laufer et al., “What Successful
Project Managers Do,” p. 49.
20. A large body of research on “escalation of commitment” has explored why decision makers are reluctant to
abandon a failing course of action. For a review, see
D. Sleesman, D. Conlon, G. McNamara, and J. Miles,
“Cleaning Up the Big Muddy: A Meta-Analytic Review of
the Determinants of Escalation of Commitment,” Academy
of Management Journal 55, no. 3 (June 2012): 541-562; and
W. Meyer, “The Effect of Optimism Bias on the Decision to
Terminate Failing Projects,” Project Management Journal
45, no. 4 (August/September 2014): 7-20.
i. Brown et al., “Why Every Project Needs a Brand
(and How to Create One).”
ii. Brown et al., “The Question Every Project Team
iii. For good discussions of the critical roles of project
sponsors in project success, see T. Kloppenborg and
D. Tesch, “How Executive Sponsors Influence Project
Success,” MIT Sloan Management Review 56, no. 3
(spring 2015): 27-30; and “Executive Sponsor
Engagement: Top Driver of Project and Program
Success,” Project Management Institute and Boston
Consulting Group, October 2014, www.pmi.org.
iv. J. Binder, “Global Project Management:
Communication, Collaboration and Management
Across Borders” (Farnham, U.K.: Routledge, 2007).
Reprint 58309. For ordering information, see page 4.
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