By Donncha Kavanagh

Dublin, Ireland

This short paper is based on a study of the diffusion of project management, as a set of technologies, in different European countries. The study highlights the role of two distinct types of external change agents: Trendslators and Fashion Retailers.

Trendslators are centrally concerned with institution building and with creating a—not yet present—professional community that will prosper over the longer term and emulate longer-standing professions. Thus they either mimic or build linkages with other institutions, especially academic entities, and work hard at creating educational programs, research, newsletters, publications, public events, etc. Trendslators play a key role in advocating, educating and promoting a management technology.

Examples include the embryonic versions of the quasi–professional project management associations now present in many countries, as well as new academic units engaged in teaching and researching the subject.

A trendslator’s work is done once the formal institutions are in place and the movement has been institutionalised to the point where it re-generates itself. For instance, the discipline of accountancy is institutionalised to a much higher degree than project management, in that it is a business function, academic discipline (with well-established departments in universities), and profession (a profession being characterized by prolonged training, formal qualifications, strict regulations on practice, a regulatory body or bodies with disciplinary powers, and some monopoly rights).

Management consultancy firms are typically not understood as trendslators, unless they are centrally engaged in building institutions. However, a business guru might be considered a trendslator if he or she adopts the role of a prophet or evangelist, seeking to lead a new movement.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles is by members of the IPMA Education and Training (E&T) Board or other IPMA leaders on the subject of project management education, training, careers and related topics. More information about the IPMA E&T can be found at http://ipma.ch/education.

About the Author

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Dublin, Ireland

Donncha Kavanagh is Professor of Information & Organisation in the Business School at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland; Director of UCD’s Centre for Innovation, Technology and Organisation and a member of the Management Information Systems subject area.  He is also Director of PhD Programmes in the Michael Smurfit School of Business in UCD.

His research interests include the sociology of knowledge and technology, temporality, phronesis, the history and philosophy of management thought, pre-modern and postmodern modes of organizing, play and creativity. He is especially interested in the nature of ‘management’ in atypical forms of organising, while his most recent publications have focused on the relationship between work and play in management theory and practice. He has published widely in the fields of information and organisation, management, marketing, organisation studies, and engineering in leading international journals such as Organization, Organization Studies and Journal of Business Research.  Prior to his academic career, he worked in a number of project management and project controller roles. Further details at http://donnchakavanagh.com