Accomplishing organizational change : project management process maturity at U.S. community colleges




Snyder, Diane Edelman

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Community colleges are being asked to improve student success outcomes and operate more like a business – managing for quality, efficiency, and innovation. Higher education institutions (HEIs) only recently realized that organizational and operational structures such as project management might be beneficial to implement organizational change. This quantitative online survey study examined how mature the adoption of project management (PM) is at large, complex community college systems in the United States by benchmarking results with seminal studies of other industries, a first such empirical HEI PM study. Complexity for purposes of this study is defined as multi-campus urban or suburban institutions with Fall term student headcount greater than 19,999. Research thus far has not focused on PM maturity in the higher education context; only 26 of 895 (< 3%) peer-reviewed articles published since 1990 were related to higher education institutional maturity, capability or performance. The responses from 44 of the 55 largest U.S. community colleges/districts show PM practices being defined but at a low maturity level similar to late-adopters of PM in other industries. PM practices were often isolated to the Information Technology and Facility Construction departments. PM maturity ratings are higher in large community college systems having mature PM Office (PMO), knowledge management, and risk management practices. Results show higher maturity in leadership, culture, and PMSMS (systems/tools) than studies 10 years ago at two universities indicating increasing support for the concepts of project management at the department leadership level. However, scores remain unchanged on the operational staffing and PMO level that are necessary for institutional level adoption of PM fully aligned to institutional strategies. The HEI culture may hinder maturity progression to a project-based organization (Maturity Levels 4 and 5). The idea of a centralized PMO may be particularly challenging in the HEI culture where less bureaucratic and shared governance type of decentralized management is preferred. Thus, immature PM processes may leave community colleges unprepared as an organization for implementing efficiently and effectively the organizational changes necessary for improved student success that the public demands.


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