1st Edition

Exercising Agency Decision Making and Project Initiation

By Mark Mullaly Copyright 2015

    Exercising Agency is a book about decision making. In particular, it looks in detail at how a very important type of organizational decision gets made: whether or not to initiate a project. Making strategic decisions of this kind can never be a wholly rational and scientific process. And Exercising Agency lifts the lid on many of the important behavioural factors that inform project decisions: power and politics, personality, the ’rules’ of an organization. Mark Mullaly draws on his research to provide practical guidance for decision makers; project shapers, approving executives and those responsible for how initiation decisions are made. By explaining the influence, value and risks associated with the elements that inform the way we make strategic decisions he will help you identify how individuals and organizations can best support the process to ensure project initiation decisions are effective and most closely underpin the priorities of the organization. If you are involved in framing or making decisions about the future of your organization; the projects that you do or don’t decide to initiate, then read this book. It won’t make the decisions any easier but it will help you improve the quality of the decisions you make and over time, the effectiveness of your organizational decision making.

    Chapter 1 Introduction; Chapter 2 Exploring How Projects Do (and Don’t) Get Initiated; Chapter 3 The Influences on Project Initiation; Chapter 4 When Process Drives Choices; Chapter 5 When Politics Drives Choices; Chapter 6 When Individuals Drive Choices; Chapter 7 When Choices Go Off the Rails; Chapter 8 Shaping Better Project Results; Chapter 9 Making Better Project Decisions; Chapter 10 Improving the Project Initiation Process;


    Mark Mullaly founded Interthink Consulting in 1990 as a company dedicated to helping organizations to develop strategy, execute projects and manage strategic change more effectively. Mark is a senior management consultant with over 25 years of experience. Mark works with private and public sector organizations to develop effective strategic plans, make strategic decisions and solve complex and uncertain problems. Mark has been a pioneer in the development of organizational project management capabilities. He developed the first maturity model for PM in 1993, and launched a worldwide benchmarking effort to evaluate organizational PM practices in 1997. In 2004, Mark became one of the co-lead investigators of the research effort ’Understanding the Value of Project Management’, sponsored by the Project Management Institute. This study remains the largest and most comprehensive research effort undertaken in the field of project management. Mark was awarded a PhD by Bond University in Gold Coast, Australia.

    ’Strategy happens via projects. How strategy drives project initiation is a missing link in understanding between strategy-formulation and project-management. This study uses real-life experiences to theorise this process. Organisations and processes are important, but much is about individuals, their personality and their sense of agency. A very useful book for both academics and students who want to understand project initiation in practice, and practitioners who want to understand rigorously how to make decisions better.’ Terry Williams, Hull University Business School, UK ’Want to have a serious impact on your business? This book gives you a path to becoming an "agent for the right change"; leading decision-makers to identify projects that are worth doing and are likely to be successful. What a rare skill that is - incredibly important for you and the people you work for.’ Dave Garrett, CEO, ProjectManagement.com ’Exercising Agency should be a required text in MBA schools and advanced project management training the world over. With a large proportion of all organizational work taking place in projects, we do a woefully inadequate job of preparing executives to select and initiate valuable projects. A work of unique breadth and depth, this book delivers a cogent review of relevant project and strategy literature supported by detailed original research that provides solid practical advice to those charged with making difficult project initiation decisions.’ Janice Thomas, Athabasca University, Canada ’This book should be on the must-read list of every academic and reflective practitioner engaged in project organising work. Its emphasis is on how agency and rules influence decision making, at the project initiation stage, significantly shaping project delivery success or failure. It provides a much needed reference and in-depth treatment of how decisions about the purpose of projects are crafted. It provides new empirical evidence that is convinci