Managing uncertainty in projects – a means to knowledge transfer, learning and organization development

Authors: Siva Ekambaram and Agnar Johansen

2011, Presented at the 12th European Conference on Knowledge Management, Passau, Germany.


This paper is about a research project called “Practical uncertainty management in a project owner’s perspective” (in short, the PUS-project). This paper describes efforts taken by the PUS-project to create better understanding and knowledge within the field of managing uncertainty in projects. Traditional way of managing uncertainty falls within the iron triangle of cost, time and quality that are associated with the project, and focuses mainly on threats rather than opportunities. The PUS-project proposed the perspective of project owner in order to deal with and manage uncertainty in projects effectively. This paper looks at how cooperation between the PUS-project and one of its main industrial partners (Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property Management (Statsbygg)) took place. In this regard, this paper presents what was done and what was achieved through this cooperation. Statsbygg organises, plans and executes around 160 projects – large and small – at all times, and 20-30 large projects are completed every year. Managing uncertainty is an important part of project management. This paper describes how improving uncertainty management in Statsbygg’s projects becomes a means to knowledge transfer, learning and organization development. Efforts related to learning and knowledge transfer played an important role in the process of organization development that Statsbygg experienced. These kinds of efforts have the potential to promote a culture that positively influences the way uncertainty is dealt with and managed in projects in Statsbygg. These efforts can contribute to create awareness and proper attitudes that are needed to obtain the desired results. Cooperation between the PUS-project and Statsbygg, which is presented in this paper, is an example that illustrates how knowledge and value can be created through collaboration between practitioners from the industries and researchers.