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Investigating project management practice in Nigerian government construction organisations: a systems thinking approach.

Lawani, Ama


Ama Lawani


David Moore

Bassam Bjeirmi


The differences between management in government organisations and private ones are well recognised in the literature, and these variances reflect in how project management is practiced in both organisations. Consequently, the difficulties of developing Project Management in government organisations have been acknowledged. Specifically, in African developing countries where socio-economic and political nuisance prevails, these difficulties are far from being resolved. Although a number of challenges confronting management of government projects in developing countries have been identified in the literature, no significant solution or initiative has been implemented by way of resolving the problem. In Nigeria, public sector projects are activities or projects administered by government in order to provide amenities to the general public. The Nigerian government has positioned itself to advance the nation's economy, by increasing the country's GDP through the execution of adequate and enduring building construction projects. A key component of this positioning is the intervention Vision 20:20, with one of its objectives being to provide housing facilities that will meet the demands of the increasing population and urbanization. Vision 20:20 introduced the project management concept to government organisations so as to improve management capabilities, with the purpose of enabling the public sector to efficiently manage projects and realise developmental objectives. However, the inadequate management and administration of government projects in Nigeria have resulted in a pool of abandoned, poorly developed and failed projects. From a review of previous studies, it was observed that various components have been identified as hindrances to the development of project management practice in African developing countries. However, the reductionist approach applied in these investigations means that components were defined in terms of a singular aspect in relation to the organisation. Such a singular focus on the challenges of developing project management practice has not been sufficient to guarantee a properly developed project management system in these contexts. Consequently, systems thinking theory is used as the basis for this study, in order to explore and explain the causal relationship of components impacting on project management practice in construction government organisations. A critical realism methodology is the philosophical approach adopted for this research, which is underpinned by the use of qualitative methods to explore existing mechanisms. Semi-structured interviews were the primary source of data, while secondary methods (literature review) served a crucial role in verifying the findings from the interview data. The study uncovered the significance of structure and agency on project management practice development in Nigerian government construction organisations. It reveals how the external environment, governance, middle management and project execution systems interact to influence project management practice. Another significant finding is the autopoietic nature of the middle management system, which demonstrates the capability of organising, reproducing and maintaining itself. Identification of this feature indicates that the middle managers in Nigerian government construction organisations have a relatively important role to play in influencing the development of project management practice. The developed framework highlights the relevance of the different systems towards the development of project management practice in Nigerian government construction organisations. It reveals that the project execution system is impacted by several elements within the external environment, middle management system and the governance system; the middle management system is influenced only by elements within the governance system; the governance system is influenced only by elements within the external environment, and the external environment is influenced by elements within the governance and project execution systems.


LAWANI, A. 2018. Investigating project management practice in Nigerian government construction organisations: a systems thinking approach. Robert Gordon University [online], PhD thesis. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 3, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 3, 2020
Keywords Project management; Systems thinking; Government organisations; Construction projects; Nigeria
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