Project Management Uncertainty

The Impact of Project Management Uncertainty on Project Management Practices in Family Firms


Joanna Sadkowska

University of Gdansk

Gdansk, Poland



The growing role of family businesses, independently of the economic and cultural context of these enterprises, has been widely confirmed in literature. Important finding from the aforementioned studies is that family firms have to tackle many, dynamically changing obstacles of different character which strongly determine their growth opportunities. The primary objective of this research is to study how Polish family firms, as representatives of Eastern-European emerging economy, evaluate the influence of project environment uncertainty on their project management practices. The results of this study provide broader and better understanding of the impact of project environment over project management success from a family firm perspective.

Keywords: project environment uncertainty, project management, family firms, emerging economy.

JEL code: L21, M21, O22


There is a common consensus in literature on the importance of family firms in every economy, independent of the development stage. The significance of businesses founded and managed by families results among other from the fact that these entities generate the majority of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At the same time however family firms have to look for solutions which enable them to overcome many obstacles they encounter in their business activities. For the above reason many family companies have started to employ project management practices. Employing project management facilitates performing business activities by these firms by offering them different methods and tools they can use to support their decisions and activities. As every project is implemented in a specific environment, family firms constantly have to pay attention and react to changes taking place in their environment. To the best knowledge of the author of this paper, there have been little, if any research dedicated to the problem of how Eastern European family firms evaluate the influence project environment has on projects they manage. This paper tries to fill in this gap by asking the research question: how do family enterprises evaluate the impact of project environment uncertainty on management and success of their projects. For the purpose of the paper, family businesses in the emerging economy of Poland have been investigated. This paper provides better understanding of project management practices in family-owned companies in the context of the impact of project environment uncertainty.

Theoretical framework

Project management success in light of the uncertainty of the project environment

Project management success is perceived in literature in many ways. The authors emphasize different aspects which influence project failure or success. An interesting approach can be observed while studying project management methodologies authored by: Project Management Institute, International Project Management Association and Office of Government Commerce (Project Management Institute 2013; International Project Management Association 2006; OGC 2005).

Project Management Institute in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) discusses the concept of project success in relation to both project knowledge areas and project processes (Project Management Institute, 2013, pp. 71-344). Successful completion of a project is seen among others as a consequence of project scope-, human resource-, quality-, cost-, time-, communications-, risk-, integration-, and procurement management. The aforementioned approach, by integrating project processes with particular management areas, builds a stable knowledge platform for a project manager and a project team.

International Project Management Association in the International Competence Baseline (ICB) approaches project success as a result of the proper and optimum application of three groups of competences: technical, contextual and behavioural ones (IPMA 2015). Such an approach underlines an important aspect of: the people, the project team and other project stakeholders- as a foundation for establishing processes and procedures in a particular project and further on building the basis for project management. It also underlines the necessity of a project manager to identify and work successfully with project context: organisational, economic and social one (International Project Management Association 2006; IPMA 2015). At the same time however, project is seen as successful when its outcomes finally gain the appreciation of different project stakeholders (International Project Management Association, 2006, p. 16). The idea of relating project success to the satisfaction of its stakeholders brings however certain risks (Compare Sadkowska J., 2016). The aforementioned are related mainly to the fact that, in most cases, projects ‘are unable’ to satisfy all stakeholder groups. This happens mainly for the reason that particular stakeholders have different expectations and requirements- which are in conflict. While managing projects in such an ‘environment’- project managers have to base their choices and decisions on the priorities – agreed according to the defined project objectives. Key project management success factors have been presented in figure number 1.


To read entire paper, click here


Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 6th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2017. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers

About the Author

Joanna Sadkowska

Gdansk, Poland



Joanna Sadkowsk
a has been a Researcher and academic teacher at the University of Gdansk- Management Faculty. She is a Project Management Associate (IPMA-D) certified by the International Project Management Association and PRINCE2 Foundation Certified. She specializes in project management with special attention to family-owned enterprises. She has participated in many projects including: Poland- Heat Supply Restructuring and Conservation Project by GPEC and the Worldbank – Modernization of Gdansk Matarnia HOB – CHP plant by GPEC and Global Environmental Fund. She has authored more than 40 publications dedicated to managing projects, innovations and functioning of family firms.

Joanna can be contacted at [email protected].