A note on accessing and utilizing collective experience in project-based organizations


By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia


Most organizations face a familiar situation – namely how to retain and utilize the collective experience of the people in the organization. Retaining expertise tends to be particularly difficult in many project-based organizations, because of the typically high mobility of project managers and other project people. In this regard large project-based organizations generally have some advantage, because they are better positioned to retain project people between projects.

Evidently different project-based organizations will have developed their own approaches to accessing and utilizing their collective experience. A good deal of my working life was spent in large project organizations, particularly Lend Lease and its subsidiary Civil & Civic (C&C), and this paper reflects some of their experiences in addressing these types of problems (or opportunities in disguise, as one of C&C’s chief executives was fond of saying).


Over a period of time Lend Lease/Civil & Civic developed very substantial documentation indeed on best practice on our projects. There were still instances where some of this recorded best practice was ignored, but generally only once!

However, on a more immediate ongoing level, Civil & Civic used quite a range of ways to try and get the wider experience currently in the organization to benefit individual projects. These included

  • An “old bull/young bull” approach
  • Actively seeking out existing in-company experience
  • Project Control Groups (PCGs)
  • Design Advisory Groups

An “old bull/young bull” approach

Until well into the 1950s, there had not been a single professional engineer engaged in the construction sector of the Australian building industry. Civil & Civic broke the mould in engaging young professional engineers (and some other professionals such as architects and quantity surveyors) to undertake the responsibilities of project managers. As a result, we tended to have relatively young project managers in charge of our projects. This had the advantage of their being able to contribute enormous amounts of youthful energy to their projects, together with the associated self-confidence of youth.


To read entire paper (click here)

About the Author

alan-strettonAlan Stretton, PhD      flag-australia

Faculty Corps, University of Management

and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)

Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia) 

Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 140 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.