Project Management Philosophy
Incremental improvement of project management through the use of research


By AP Van der Merwe, PhD

Professor of Business Management,
Faculty of Organisational Sciences
University of Belgrade

Serbia and South Africa



The scientific method of research dictates that findings are based on the observation of how things are found to exist in nature. Published papers describe significant findings in order to bring intelligent theory to the subject matter, resulting in the illumination of laws that govern the subject. Research centres collate findings to direct effort into as yet undiscovered areas, in order to improve understanding of the natural laws.

Academic education is based on – and operates in – the realm of research, to incrementally improve the understanding of theory and laws, so that the practical existence of the subject can be improved on, if possible. To ignore incremental improvement is to hasten the demise of the subject, as all systems tend to spiral to a close naturally.

Undergraduate students have to learn from existing theory to form a basic understanding. Postgraduate students prove to master the subject by describing the current state of the art. Doctoral students demonstrate that they have moved beyond the state of the art into the area of new knowledge, to bring new theory to improve the existence of the subject matter.

Research centres help students with topics in areas where an improved understanding is required from industry. Research must be based in theory and practice, while solutions need to be applied in practice, and the resultant success or failure published to be relevant. Simply describing the way things ought to be, or dictating what we think the laws should be, does not help.


Plato (429-347 BC) believed that all knowledge could be reasoned, whereas Aristotle maintained that knowledge relied upon empirical observation and measurement. Philosophy is the study of phenomena as found in nature. The task of science is to explain actual events, processes, or systems of phenomena. Scientific method is the means by which researchers are able to make conclusive statements about their studies. A theory or law, in the world of science, is the sum of many hypotheses which have undergone rigorous tests and have never been disproved. Science requires vision and the ability to observe the implications of results. Collecting data is part of the process, and needs to be analysed and interpreted. However, the visionary part of science lies in relating the findings back into practice.


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About the Author

AP Van der Merwe, PhD


Andre P. Van der Merwe, BTec, MBA, PhD, professor of Business Management, Faculty of Organisational Sciences, University of Belgrade, Serbia has forty years of experience in project management. Andre has published 49 papers internationally and regularly speaks at congresses and symposiums on the education of Project Managers, Social development and multi-project management. His work experience ranges from being part of a construction gang to commissioning control and Instrumentation systems at Nuclear Power Stations; he received a management award for innovation by successfully completing more than 2000 simultaneously occurring projects within time and budget. He is the Founder and past Chairman of the Association for Project Management in South Africa, has served as a member of the Global Forum for education in project management, a committee member of the doctoral research colloquium of Europe hosted by Trinity College Ireland, A member of the editorial committee of “Management” an international journal published by the University of Belgrade Serbia and a member of MENSA Society.   Prof Van der Merwe can be contacted at [email protected].