Here lies our beloved project, may it rest in peace - the impact of grief after project failure : An exploratory study of negative emotions within the context of project failure and their impact on emotional recovery and subsequent learning
Abstract: Background: Firms steadily increase their entrepreneurial activities to maintain competitive advantages as today’s fast-paced business environment requires dynamic responding to increasing customer demands. Projects serve to internally coordinate and respond to external influences that require a firm to react. Meeting set objectives when managing projects is deemed as a necessity when endeavoring to stay competitive. The increased frequency of initiated projects resulting from this setting demands involved project managers to rapidly and effectively recover from project failure as subsequent project success often lies within the seeds of previous failures. Yet, failing can cause intense negative emotional reactions, oftentimes grief. Therefore, we aimed to explore the impact of grief on project managers’ recovery and learning after project failure within the scope of this research. Purpose: Our aim was to understand and reflect on project managers’ perspectives on how they recover from the negative emotional experience after project failure within organizations and what the role of grieving is within this process. We claim that organizations and project managers can utilize our findings to enhance their understanding of this complex interplay. Method: To meet our research aims, we conducted a qualitative multi-case study with an exploratory research design based on an abductive form of grounded theory. Our primary data were gathered through in-depth interviews with a semi-structured approach. Sixteen current or former project managers from a variety of industries were interviewed as they shared their experience on project failure. Finally, we used grounded analysis to make sense of and derive findings of the collected data. Conclusion: Our findings unveil the complex interrelations among project failure, grief, emotional recovery, and learning when surveying it as one intertwined process. We identified the influence of grief on project managers as two-fold: it can interfere with the recovery process and obstruct learning, yet, it can serve as a driving force for action and enhanced abilities. When utilizing beneficial aspects of project failure, organizational support plays an essential role - if mutually coordinated between organization and project managers.
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