The client-side project manager: A practitioner of Design

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Greg Stewart Usher
S. Jonathon Whitty


Our research adds to the client-side project management body of literature by demonstrating that these professionals display all the characteristics of Design Thinking Mentalities, Thinking Styles and Practices as identified by Hassi and Laakso (2011a) and that they utilize a broad range of the Design Thinking tools identified by Liedtka (2015) and Johansson-Sköldberg et al. (2013) when they deliver construction projects.
Our findings indicate that client-side project managers should view their role differently to what has been traditionally accepted. The use of Design Thinking within the project management construct highlights that practitioners need to develop skills and tools that address, not just the compliance and control elements of project management, but also information gathering and problem solving techniques. This change of perspective creates opportunities for project managers to broaden their skill set in order to be able create further value in the Construction process.
Our research uses a Grounded Theory methodology to explore the ‘lived experience’ of client-side project managers to determine if they utilize Design Thinking when managing Construction projects. This is achieved by creating a framework from the work of Hassi and Laakso (2011a), Johansson-Sköldberg et al. (2013) and Liedtka (2015) to guide semi-structured interviews with a cohort of ten client-side project managers.
Our research provides evidence of Design Thinking Mentalities, Thinking Styles, Practices and Tools being utilized by client-side project managers when delivering Construction projects. Our findings also identifies 15 project management tools used by client-side project managers when delivering Construction projects and highlight that the practice of client-side project management should not be viewed exclusively as part of the ‘Implementation’ process.
Our results support existing research on client-side project management and expand the Project Management body of literature by demonstrating how client-side project managers employ Design Thinking to handle poorly-defined projects.

Article Details

Research Article (Double blind review)