How environmental and organizational complexity affects opportunity recognition and exploitation in development projects

Zolin, Roxanne & Kropp, Fredric (2010) How environmental and organizational complexity affects opportunity recognition and exploitation in development projects. In Langan-Fox, Janice (Ed.) Proceedings of the 7th AGSE International Entrepreneurship Research Exchange, Swinburne University of Technology, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, pp. 293-307.

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Principal Topic:

Project structures are often created by entrepreneurs and large corporate organizations to develop new products. Since new product development projects (NPDP) are more often situated within a larger organization, intrapreneurship or corporate entrepreneurship plays an important role in bringing these projects to fruition. Since NPDP often involves the development of a new product using immature technology, we describe development of an immature technology. The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35 aircraft is being developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and eight allied nations. In 2001 Lockheed Martin won a $19 billion contract to develop an affordable, stealthy and supersonic all-weather strike fighter designed to replace a wide range of aging fighter aircraft. In this research we define a complex project as one that demonstrates a number of sources of uncertainty to a degree, or level of severity, that makes it extremely difficult to predict project outcomes, to control or manage project (Remington & Zolin, Forthcoming). Project complexity has been conceptualized by Remington and Pollock (2007) in terms of four major sources of complexity; temporal, directional, structural and technological complexity (See Figure 1). Temporal complexity exists when projects experience significant environmental change outside the direct influence or control of the project. The Global Economic Crisis of 2008 - 2009 is a good example of the type of environmental change that can make a project complex as, for example in the JSF project, where project managers attempt to respond to changes in interest rates, international currency exchange rates and commodity prices etc. Directional complexity exists in a project where stakeholders' goals are unclear or undefined, where progress is hindered by unknown political agendas, or where stakeholders disagree or misunderstand project goals. In the JSF project all the services and all non countries have to agree to the specifications of the three variants of the aircraft; Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL), Short Take Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) and the Carrier Variant (CV). Because the Navy requires a plane that can take off and land on an aircraft carrier, that required a special variant of the aircraft design, adding complexity to the project. Technical complexity occurs in a project using technology that is immature or where design characteristics are unknown or untried. Developing a plane that can take off on a very short runway and land vertically created may highly interdependent technological challenges to correctly locate, direct and balance the lift fans, modulate the airflow and provide equivalent amount of thrust from the downward vectored rear exhaust to lift the aircraft and at the same time control engine temperatures. These technological challenges make costing and scheduling equally challenging. Structural complexity in a project comes from the sheer numbers of elements such as the number of people, teams or organizations involved, ambiguity regarding the elements, and the massive degree of interconnectedness between them. While Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, they are assisted in major aspects of the JSF development by Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Pratt & Whitney and GE/Rolls-Royce Fighter Engineer Team and innumerable subcontractors. In addition to identifying opportunities to achieve project goals, complex projects also need to identify and exploit opportunities to increase agility in response to changing stakeholder demands or to reduce project risks. Complexity Leadership Theory contends that in complex environments adaptive and enabling leadership are needed (Uhl-Bien, Marion and McKelvey, 2007). Adaptive leadership facilitates creativity, learning and adaptability, while enabling leadership handles the conflicts that inevitably arise between adaptive leadership and traditional administrative leadership (Uhl-Bien and Marion, 2007). Hence, adaptive leadership involves the recognition and opportunities to adapt, while and enabling leadership involves the exploitation of these opportunities. Our research questions revolve around the type or source of complexity and its relationship to opportunity recognition and exploitation. For example, is it only external environmental complexity that creates the need for the entrepreneurial behaviours, such as opportunity recognition and opportunity exploitation? Do the internal dimensions of project complexity, such as technological and structural complexity, also create the need for opportunity recognition and opportunity exploitation? The Kropp, Zolin and Lindsay model (2009) describes a relationship between entrepreneurial orientation (EO), opportunity recognition (OR), and opportunity exploitation (OX) in complex projects, with environmental and organizational contextual variables as moderators. We extend their model by defining the affects of external complexity and internal complexity on OR and OX. ----------

Methodology/Key Propositions:

When the environment complex EO is more likely to result in OR because project members will be actively looking for solutions to problems created by environmental change. But in projects that are technologically or structurally complex project leaders and members may try to make the minimum changes possible to reduce the risk of creating new problems due to delays or schedule changes. In projects with environmental or technological complexity project leaders who encourage the innovativeness dimension of EO will increase OR in complex projects. But projects with technical or structural complexity innovativeness will not necessarily result in the recognition and exploitation of opportunities due to the over-riding importance of maintaining stability in the highly intricate and interconnected project structure. We propose that in projects with environmental complexity creating the need for change and innovation project leaders, who are willing to accept and manage risk, are more likely to identify opportunities to increase project effectiveness and efficiency. In contrast in projects with internal complexity a much higher willingness to accept risk will be necessary to trigger opportunity recognition. In structurally complex projects we predict it will be less likely to find a relationship between risk taking and OP. When the environment is complex, and a project has autonomy, they will be motivated to execute opportunities to improve the project's performance. In contrast, when the project has high internal complexity, they will be more cautious in execution. When a project experiences high competitive aggressiveness and their environment is complex, project leaders will be motivated to execute opportunities to improve the project's performance. In contrast, when the project has high internal complexity, they will be more cautious in execution. This paper reports the first stage of a three year study into the behaviours of managers, leaders and team members of complex projects. We conduct a qualitative study involving a Group Discussion with experienced project leaders. The objective is to determine how leaders of large and potentially complex projects perceive that external and internal complexity will influence the affects of EO on OR. ----------

Results and Implications:

These results will help identify and distinguish the impact of external and internal complexity on entrepreneurial behaviours in NPDP. Project managers will be better able to quickly decide how and when to respond to changes in the environment and internal project events.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 32172
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Environmental Complexity , Organizational Complexity , Development Projects, Entrepreneurship
ISBN: 9780980332865
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Entrepreneurship (150304)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 [please consult the authors]
Deposited On: 13 May 2010 03:34
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2014 03:18

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