The SPM differs from a project manager in that

The aim of this essay is to
discuss the role of the strategic manager of projects (SPM) in respect of
governing and controlling projects for innovation. Moreover, Stoker’s claim
that “governance is ultimately concerned with creating conditions for
ordered rule and collective action” will also
be discussed (Stoker, 1998). This definition put forward
by Stoker (1998) is widely accepted (Musawir
et al., 2017; Bekker, 2015; Aloha et al., 2014). However, this definition sometimes falls short when
being applied to a particular project and the governance thereof (Roe, 2015). This is because every project is unique (Morris, 2004). For example, projects
from the same field can be governed differently in different
countries, industries, etc. Therefore, some doubt exists concerning the way in which project governance should be defined. However, because project
governance is associated with corporate governance, a SPM
may be advised to follow the definition given by Muller (2009). According to Muller
(2009), project governance “… comprises the value system, responsibilities,
processes and policies that allow projects
to achieve organizational objectives and foster
implementation that is in the best interest of all the stakeholders, internal
and external, and the corporation itself.” This definition is relevant
to a SPM because he/she should direct the project participants towards achieving the strategic aims of the organisation (Shenhar,


First of all, to
understand the role of the SPM with respect to governing and controlling projects for innovation, the distinction between a SPM and a project manager should be outlined. According
to Shenhar (2004), in classic project management, the project manager
aims to meet the budgetary and operational goals within the set time frame. Meanwhile, the SPM focuses on creating
competitive advantages in the market place, achieving
impressive business
results and adjusting the project to
fit in with the
organisation’s strategy. This demonstrates the role of the SPM is more
extensive and demanding than that of the project manager (Patanakul ,

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In addition,
a SPM differs from a project manager in that the
former should
concentrate most of his or her efforts on front-end activity
(Morris, 2013). Lyneis (2001) stated that a SPM tends to make
decisions in advance of the operational phase and then provides
guidance during operational processes to
ensure the long-term positive impact
of the project’s performance. Lyneis (2001) specified
the role
of a SPM as: “designing the project, determining what indicators to
measure, monitor, and exert pressure on, risk management; incorporating
learning from past projects; and making mid-course corrections.” This outlines the distinctive perspectives of SPMs and traditional project managers. SPMs’ responsibilities
mainly focus focuses on strategic, operational, and human issues (Morris, 2013). Meanwhile, a traditional project manager focuses only
on operational matters (Shenhar, 2004).


The human
perspective always involves leadership, vision and motivation (Shenhar, 2004).

Therefore, it could be more simply understood that the role of the SPM
is that of a leader. Kotter (1990) stated that “leaders
do the right things, manager do things right.” While traditional
project managers need to some extent to embrace
“planning and budgeting”, while a SPM, as a leader, handles
“change, setting a direction and building motivation and
inspiration” (Shenhar, 2004). Motivation entails guiding people to realise their
potential and to achieve sometimes challenging organisational goals. Thus, a SPM requires more leadership qualities than a traditional
project manager.


Leadership occupies an
important place in the discussion about the role of SPM in
innovation projects. This is due to the nature of innovation, which
always relates to new processes and change. In Latin, word for innovation
(innovatus) means renew or change. J. Schumpeter defined innovation as an
economic term: “it as a certain change made
in order to implement and use new types of consumer goods, new means of
production and transportation, markets and forms of organization in industry”
(Zhylinska, 2013). According to Mokyr (2002), innovation is the main
driver of economic growth and progress. This is evident throughout the history of humanity. Each new generation has its own set of innovative
thinkers. From the invention of the wheel to the development of Mars rover, innovation has made a massive contribution to the world. Innovation also
played a part in World War II, as evidenced by Winston Churchill’s invented
methodology of real-time decision making in his famous War Rooms (Holmes, 2010).

Moreover, innovation also has technological and organisational importance and
can be considered
fundamental to economic and social wellbeing.


According to (Schenar, 2004),
innovation is present in many projects, indeed some projects are defined by being innovative. To understand the
definition of an innovation project, it is important to emphasise the
difference between a traditional project and an
innovation project. According to Schenar (2004), the
former type of
project focuses on achieving precise
operational goals. In contrast, innovative projects sometimes do not have
clear and definite goals and their processes rarely follow strict guidelines. Van de Ven et al. (1999)
stated that the innovation process “is an uncharted river,
crossing a rugged landscape.” Essentially, such
projects are
often highly ambiguous, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. Thus, innovation
projects have also been described as “complex emergent
processes having a high degree of uncertainty attached to them” (Klein et
al., 2014; van de Ven et al., 1999). Complexity and uncertainty may lead to plans not being realised, and having to deal with unexpected problems
(Klein et al., 2014).


difference between innovation projects and
traditional projects relates to their
foundations or founders. Innovation projects commonly have to be “sold” or
presented to project sponsors, shareholders, or funding committees. Meanwhile, a traditional project manager usually
has no such
responsibility. Since innovation projects have to be reported on and
implemented by certain people, the ability to collaborate and work
effectively as a team is critical. Teams in innovation projects normally possess particular

According to (), an innovation project team
should be diverse and innovation projects are
usually not created in isolation. Innovation projects combine the
knowledge, efforts, and abilities of people with different perspectives (Gilbert,
1996). There is also usually a combination of interdisciplinary knowledge and interdependence
with other specialists to gain, develop, and exchange various kinds of
knowledge, information, and other resources. Innovation project teams should
also be ready for failure (Guzzini et al., 2017). Failure is always a
possibility, and as innovation teams are more actively involved with risk
management they need to learn how to fail fast and smart in order to move on
and come up with a more successful innovation. Therefore, innovation projects should
be ready to handle failure, where trust between team members is


Having discussed the differences between SPM and traditional project manager, and demonstrating
what constitutes an innovation project, we move on to more specifically address the essay question: what role
does a SPM play in governing and controlling innovation projects? It has already been mentioned above that a SPM should
be a leader, and this is also the case for innovation projects.

Leadership skills are crucial in managing innovation projects due to their various unknowns, complexities, and uncertainties (Guzzini,


Motivation is an integral
part of leadership and is therefore essential for any SPM of an innovation
project. A SPM, using motivation, should create a suitable atmosphere in which
to direct his or her team towards the project objectives of the company. When
people are motivated by overcoming challenges to achieve career promotions,
they will probably perform better. The career goals of those who are assigned
to project teams usually encompass personal and professional goals in addition
to fulfilling their project responsibilities (Denti, 2011). This means that SPMs
should understand the personal aspirations of their project team members and
support them in their efforts accordingly. As leaders, SPMs play an important
role in motivating and guiding people to simultaneously grow as professionals
and to fulfil their project responsibilities. There is ample evidence that
leaders can positively enhance the motivation of their employees (Deci &
Ryan, 1987). For example, they can maintain mutually beneficial
work-relationships (Liden & Maslyn, 1998) and offer sufficient levels of
freedom to stimulate their employees’ intellectual growth. Therefore, the role
of a SPM in an innovation project involves motivating people by being a good


Moreover, motivation may
entail encouraging individuals to come up with ideas and achieve results that
are not only useful for the company but also for the self-improvement of team
members. Motivation can be presented in different ways, such as offering
rewards. A reward system is a tool used in organisations to encourage specific
positive behaviours. Rewards may be important when it comes to promoting
creativity because individuals feel that their initiatives are being supported.

Rewards can take in various forms, and are not always monetary. They can also
come in the form of recognition and positive feedback.  Meanwhile, excessive incentives can be
damaging for an organisation as these may distract individuals from company
strategy, instead focusing more on what would benefit him/her personally
(Denti, 2011). This may increase the risk of misunderstanding in the
relationship between SPMs and team members. In addition, the increased risk of
conflict can be damaging for the results of innovation projects as this will
entice selfishness, which can deteriorate the working climate. Thus, the role
of a SPM also entails balancing the amount of incentives offered to team
members in an innovation project.


Furthermore, another
role of a SPM in governing innovation projects is to support openness and
transparency within the team. Gray and Larson (2005) stated that it
is essential to nurture human relationships during teamwork. SPM should
establish both predictability and openness with all team members as this
will have an influence on the success of the innovation project. Openness and transparency
instill trust among the project team members and their leader.  Establishing trust usually takes time but
projects are time-bound, thereby presenting the SPM with a significant
challenge. Trust encourages project team members to collaborate, network, and
innovate. By establishing trust, leaders can manage changes and mitigate
conflicts, that would otherwise derail project performance (Anantatmula, 2010).

At the same time, the level of trust between team members may also the overall
team morale. SPM can facilitate a positive team environment conducive to
creativity and innovation, consisting of intellectual debate, openness,
flexibility, and positive relations all of which have consistently been linked
to innovative outcomes (Hunter, Bedell, & Mumford, 2007).


A further role of the SPM in governing innovation projects is to choose an appropriate management approach. According to Turner (2004), there are two contrasting
types of management in innovation projects. The first is classified as a “linear-rational approach” which emphasises “rigid control, rigid control utilization, rigid evaluation
criteria” and follows strict processes. The second approach is “organic” which
is more flexible. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages and can
be applicable in innovation projects. The linear-rational approach is
about straight and narrow control, aimed at reaching final objectives.

Using this approach, SPMs in managing innovation projects should make
clear decisions. All ideas should be
tried and
tested before their implementation. This
allows for strict
control, following a step-by-step plan. The crucial advantage of this
approach is that it creates standards that all team members are
familiar with “and provides a systematic methodology for evaluation
across disciplines or functional areas”. Moreover, the linear-rational approach helps to
manage risks, however “it favors efficiency and control over creativity and effectiveness”
(Turner, 2004). On the other hand, the organic approach favours flexible management to overcome
weaknesses. Through this approach, it is still possible
to provide vision and direction for the project, and to coordinate the input of
resources. Turner (2004), named five dimensions of the organic approach: “delibirate redundancy, sampling, chance encounters, creative
communications and creative tensions.”


Delibirate redundancy
means that a manager should try to give tasks to several people, even though they could be
completed by one person. Companies like Intel and Hewlett-Packard use this
approach, which apparently helps to “come up
with more creative solutions to meet the client’s need.”(Turner, 2004) To achieve innovation in their projects, companies
should consider having several people or teams working independently during the
early stages and then choose the best way forward from their
various outcomes.

This can provide more creative solutions and communicate
those solutions to the rest of the organisation. Another
relevant method is sampling which entails arriving at the best solution from several options. That is something often applied by advertising agencies. However, note that the best solution may in fact be a combination
of proposals, rather than one proposal alone. Another part of the organic
approach is chance encounters. It was previously noted that teamwork is important
for innovation and that innovation projects should not be carried
out in isolation (Turner, 2004).

For example, an Irish advertising agency decided to decrease its
expenses on office rent and instead its staff worked from home. After a certain
amount of time, creativity dramaticsally decreased
(Larsson, 2001). This proves that cooperation between team members is vital
in an innovation project. The last two features
– creative
communications and creative tensions – are about establishing a creative atmosphere. This can be determined by various factors such as
dress code in the office or diversity of the workforce (Turner, 2004). Autonomy can
also be part of the organic approach in managing innovation. Denti (2011)
stated that autonomy is the freedom to pursue tasks according to one’s
own discretion. SPMs can give some degree of autonomy to team members, and doing so can instill
a sense of trust (Hemlin, 2006).


The suitability of the linear-rational and organic approaches will depend on the nature of the project and/or the stage of development of a product. Organic approaches are more applicable if a project is in the
research phase where new ideas must be generated. Whereas,
linear-rational approaches may be more appropriate in the final stage of an innovation
project where more rigid control is needed (Turner, 1999). The
linear-rational and organic approaches are quite different, but not entirely
incompatible. Both of the approaches can be applicable to the same innovation
project. However, neither can guarantee success which will
depend on how the SPM can balance these approaches. Strict governance may reduce creativity and decrease the level
of trust between SMP and team members (Puranam and Vanneste, 2009). Meanwhile,
weak governance and control may lead to a
loss of
adherence to organisational
objectives or could lead to a project overrunning (Muller, 2011). The
balancing between the relevant level of governance and control and freedom is one of the main
roles of a SPM in innovation projects. Indeed,
in this regard
the governance model of stewardship theory perhaps
ought to be
discussed. Stewardship theory is the model whereby individuals in organisations
work for the collective good of the organisation, and the aims of the
individuals are aligned to the aims of the principal (Mu?ller, 2011). This
model can be applied in governing innovation projects. Therefore, a SPM could use the
stewardship theory model, to convince team members to willingly work towards
achieving project objectives.


summary, this essay showed the difference between the roles of SPM and
traditional project manager. Where project manager focuses on operational
processes, while strategic project manager focuses on achieving impressive
business results and adjusting the project to fit in with the organisation’s
strategy (Shenhar, 2004). Also, SPM differs from a project manager in that the
former should concentrate most of his or her efforts on front-end activity.

Furthermore this essay presented the distinction between innovation project and
regular project. The importance of right managing innovation project is crucial
in determining competitiveness and national progress. Innovation projects
usually are ambiguous, unpredictable with high level of complexity and
uncertainty (Klein et al., 2014). And for successful Innovation projects mutual
trust, open and transparency and positive team climate are needed. SPM facing a
lot challenges in governing innovation projects. The issue of control vs.

freedom: how much control should be exerted over innovation projects? Too much
control restricts autonomy and effectively stifles motivation and creativity.

On the other hand, innovation cannot roam too freely as an organization needs
to set a direction and strategy for its development efforts. The sufficient
balance will allow the adequate supervision over the team, without loosing the
trust and steer them to reach company aims. Also, the SPM can apply governance
and control method similar to stewardship theory and outcome based controls.

However, SMP should take into account the specifications of governance in
different countries, industries and companies. 
And use a specific set of methods that are applicable to them.



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