Inhibitors to the transfer of knowledge generated on projects: a case study within a construction company

Authors: R Louw, H Steyn & C van Waveren

Abstract

Several studies indicate the value of knowledge management in improving organisational performance. While the benefits of effective knowledge management are undeniable, literature suggests that, due to the temporary nature of project teams, knowledge is generally not managed efficiently by project-based organisations.

This article explores the main inhibitors to effective knowledge transfer in a South African construction company. Implementation of knowledge management systems was lacking, but corporate culture and human factors had the greatest effect on knowledge transfer, and hence on project performance. In addition to inhibitors of knowledge transfer mentioned in literature, some additional inhibitors were identified and the effect that lack of knowledge transfer investigated.

Key phrases

Project management, construction projects; corporate culture; inhibitors; knowledge management; project performance.

Reference: Louw, R., Steyn, H. & Van Waveren, C. C. 2017. Inhibitors to the Transfer of Knowledge Generated on Projects: A Case Study within a Construction Company. Journal of Contemporary Management. 14. pp 986-1010.

The GSTM joins forces with the PMI South Africa Chapter to promote the art and science of project management

The Graduate School of Technology Management has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Project Management Institute South Africa Chapter to promote the advancement of the art, science and benefit of project management as a profession. The collaboration will support the professional growth of the GSTM’s Project Management alumni and the development of the project management profession in South Africa. As a PMI registered education provider the GSTM regularly offers professional development courses in project management through Enterprises at UP. Most notably, international certification courses for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and Project Management Professional (PMP). The GSTM looks forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with PMI SA.

Twenty years of developing practical project managers – and ‘business as usual’ not an option

On Friday 31 August, a function was held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Programme in Project Management (PPM) – a continuing education course to develop practical project managers. A number of clients that regularly send their employees on the course, and several other stakeholders attended.

The course is a joint venture between the Graduate School of Technology Management (GSTM), University of Pretoria and Enterprises University of Pretoria. These two organizational units also celebrated the two decades of successfully collaborating on the course.

After welcoming drinks and starters, the Programme Manager Ms Bontle More, introduced Prof Birgit Kuschke, one of the lecturers who has been teaching this course since 1997. Prof Kuschke gave a historic overview of the programme: 20 years, 154 intakes and more than 7000 students/delegates.  She acknowledged the lecturers as seasoned practitioners with sound academic credentials. She also explained the role that the PPM played in the establishment of the Masters’ in Project Management (MPM) at the University and how the MPM, in turn, led to several PhDs and subsequently to the publication of several project management papers.  She also gave a light-hearted description of the different types of students that are to be found in every class.

The Head of the Academy of one of the leading construction and engineering companies, Group 5, Mr Jacques le Roux reflected on the ten years that a tailored version of the Programme in Project Management has been presented in-house at Group 5. He told how, towards the end of 2006, the Academy was instructed by the executive to invest a million Rand on project management training in order to achieve on-site improvements, and how the PPM was selected.  He elaborated on how what is taught on the programme, is applied in practice. He also highlighted the positive role that the Group 5 Executive plays in the successful application of what is taught and in the continuing collaboration with the University.

On each intake, the student with the highest average marks receive – in addition to the customary certificate – a ‘best student’ award.  Mr Tlholohelo Lesetla, one of the students who received this award in 2006 explained how what is taught on the course relates to his work and career.

In the concluding remarks, Prof Herman Steyn said that, “…in moving into the third decade of this programme, business as usual is no longer an option; …we have to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution as an opportunity to stay ahead of the pack, and will have to innovate at various fronts.” He however added, “…we will not change for the sake of change – if it ain’t broken, we’re not going to fix it”.  He thanked a variety of team members and other stakeholders who contributed to the success of the programme over the past two decades; including the backing of three Deans and three Heads of Department (HODs.) Prof Tinus Pretorius was HOD for 16 of the 20 years. He praised the excellent service of Schoongezicht as one of the things that “ain’t broken”.

Ms Bontle More handed a small token of appreciation to Ms Anita van Wyk of Schoongezicht. The main course, desert (including the birthday cake – courtesy of Schoongezicht) was enjoyed and later on everybody left the Schoongezicht venue with complimentary bottles of wine, hallmarked with the Enterprises corporate image and “20 years of developing practical project managers”.  

 

The University of Pretoria has been teaching project management at post-graduate level since the 1970’s

On 31 August 1997 the practical 20-day project management course, the Programme in Project Management (PPM) was launched.  Since then, this programme has been presented a total of 154 times and well over 7000 people have already benefitted from the course. This arguably makes it the best-known project management course in South Africa.

While the responsibility for the academic content of the project management course is with the Graduate School of Technology Management of the University of Pretoria, course arrangements are facilitated by the Enterprises company (the continuing education platform of the University). 

Unlike the post-graduate programmes of the University that focus on both practical and theoretical aspects, the focus of the PPM is on the development of practical project management skills in the workplace. It includes several practical assignments that are performed in the place of work (e.g. the development of project plans, risk management plans, etc.) that attendees do, each in his or her specific work environment. The programme is suitable not only for engineers, but also for individuals involved in or interested in projects in any other environment. 

The PPM however benefits much from post-graduate courses and research: The University has been offering a Master’s degree programme in Project Management (MPM) since 1999. Currently this is the only master’s programme on the African Continent that is accredited by the Global Accreditation Center (GAC) of the international Project Management Institute (PMI). To hone the project management skills of PPM attendees, a multi-disciplinary team of lecturers – each a subject matter expert in a specific project management knowledge area – ensure the development of project managers with a working knowledge of the broad range of disciplines needed for successful project management. These lecturers, teaching the PPM, are to a large extent the same ones that also teach the MPM.  Research work done by MPM students, lecturing staff and PhD candidates ensures that the lecturers keep up with the latest developments and best practices.

In December 2006 the leading construction and engineering company, Group Five Ltd, invited proposals for project management courses from several training providers and, after rigorous assessment of the proposals, selected the Graduate School of Technology Management of the University of Pretoria to assist with the furthering of the project management discipline within this group of companies.  The course selected was a tailored version of the PPM that had already been running successfully since 1997. The first Group Five course intake commenced on 9 June 2007.  Since the launch of this first intake, another 8 intakes of the PPM course were successfully completed within the first 10 years of collaboration.  A total number of 244 Group 5 delegates have been enrolled on the 9 course intakes and a relatively high pass rate was achieved, signifying that the delegates mastered the skills required to manage their projects successfully.  Mr Jacques le Roux, head of the Group Five Academy, commented on the decade of collaboration by saying: “We started this programme 10 years ago to enrich our first-line project managers to have the necessary skills sets to turn loss-making projects into to profit-making projects. Over the 10 years we did more than that. We built a professional internal project management body that is able to function across our various construction, manufacturing and concession businesses.”

The PPM is presented in two alternative modes with identical course outcomes: the one a 20-day programme, presented in 4 study blocks of 5 days each and the other presented on 8 Fridays and 8 Saturdays. There are several intakes annually.

Course schedules and contact details of staff who can assist with enquiries are elsewhere on the website.

A decade of collaboration on project management training

An example of successful industry-university collaboration

June 2017

In December 2006, one of South Africa’s leading construction and engineering companies, Group 5, invited proposals for project management training from several training providers. After rigorous assessment of the proposals received, the company selected the Graduate School of Technology Management of the University of Pretoria to assist with the furthering of the project management discipline within the group and its subsidiaries.   The course had to be a customized version of the Programme in Project Management (PPM) that had already been running successfully since 1997.

 

After several months of discussions to tailor the University’s project management course to the needs of Group 5, the first course intake commenced on 9 June 2007.   Since the launch of the first intake, 8 more intakes of the PPM course were successfully completed within the first 10 years of collaboration.  While the responsibility for the academic content of the project management course is with the Graduate School of Technology Management of the University of Pretoria, course arrangements are facilitated by the Enterprises company (the continuing education platform of the University). 

A total number of 244 Group Five delegates have been enrolled on the 9 courses and a relatively high pass rate was achieved, signifying that the delegates mastered the skills required to manage their projects successfully.

To hone the project management skills of the selected participants, a multi-disciplinary team of lecturers – each a subject matter expert in a specific project management knowledge area – ensured the development of project managers with a working knowledge of the broad range of disciplines needed for successful project management.  Over the years at least 13 lecturers contributed to the success of the programme.  In addition, the Group 5 Academy made major contributions to develop the delegate’s other abilities, such as presentation skills.  Several managers from Group Five also presented as guest lectures on the programme.

The ninth graduation ceremony held on 25 May 2017, signified a significant milestone in this collaboration on project management training.

Mr Jacques le Roux, head of the Group 5 Academy, comments on the decade of collaboration by saying:

We started this programme almost 10 years ago to enrich our first line project managers to have the necessary skills sets to turn loss making projects into profit making projects.  We did more than that over the past decade – we built a professional internal project management body that is able to function across our various construction, manufacturing and concession businesses.  We are extremely proud to have partnered 10 years ago with the University of Pretoria and have seen this programme and our relationship grow to where it is today”.   

The University commends the Group 5 Academy for their pivotal role in the success of the programme. They also praise the executive management for their active support and involvement in the programme. This included selecting the right course participants from their business units and keeping them accountable for their performance on the course; participation in course events such as the presentation of project plans by syndicates, as well as attending events such as certification ceremonies.  This executive involvement and enthusiasm for the programme have ensured that the programme enjoys the necessary priority and that sound project management practices move from the lecture room to the construction sites.

The 9 courses for Group Five forms part of 154 times that the PPM has been presented since its first launch on 31 August 1997.  

The latest project management courses

The new year started well for this popular project management course: The 151st intake of the PPM kicked off on Monday 30 January with 44 delegates.  The first module was, as always, Project Management Practices, Principles and Scheduling.  The 152nd intake is the Weekender (presented on 8 Fridays and 8 Saturdays) that is scheduled to start on Friday 10 February. 

The next 20-day (4 blocks of 5 days each over 6 months or more) is scheduled to start on Monday 8 May.

In the meantime, courses that started in 2016 and that have not yet been completed, also resumed; starting with Legal Aspects for Project Managers on 23 January and Financial Principles and Project Cost Management on 26 January – both on PPM 4 of 2016.  Weekender 2 of 2016 started on 23 January with The People-side of Project Management.

Applicants to these practical project management courses are admitted on the basis that those whose payments are in order first, are get preference. Once a course is fully booked, later applications are referred to a later intake.  

Accreditation

The PPM is presented under the auspices of the University of Pretoria that is accredited with the Higher Education Quality Council (HEQC) of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) as a higher education provider. The PPM is registered with the PMI (USA) and earn PDU's. The PPM is registered with ECSA and earns CPD points...

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Contact Information

Immaculate Ramokgadi Immaculate Ramokgadi 012 4342623 Mobile: 082 5623227 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Bontle More Bontle More 012 4342556 Mobile: 083 3024261 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Amanda Mostert Amanda Mostert 012 4342608 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Professor Herman Steyn Professor Herman Steyn This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.