The first chosen article is entitled “Building theories of project management: past research, questions for the future” by Jonas Söderlund1. The purpose of this paper is to evolve a discussion about several theoretical problems of project management research. Söderlund asserts that such a debate would contribute to the further evolution of project management as an academic discipline. The author also highlights five crucial questions which should be acknowledged to build a sound knowledge of project field and spotlight the current weaknesses of project organization research. These questions are why project organizations exist, why they differ and how they behave, what is their value and what determines their success.
The second article is headlined “Rational choice theory: toward a psychological, social and material contextualization of human choice behavior” by Tom Burns and Ewa Roszkowska2. The aim of the paper is to provide an analysis of the rational choice approach, identify its main criticisms and limitations. The authors pinpoint several key initiatives to develop more realistic and widely applicable approaches and make a comparison between the classic rational choice theory with an emerging one.
The method used in these papers is quite similar. Both articles carry out a selective review of theoretical literature, criticisms, and perspectives as well as subject’s applications and formulations. They consider underpinning assumptions of the theory and their modifications, critical arguments and theory’s limitations, which contributes to greater applicability and realism. There is no integrated approach presented in any article.
In the article, Söderlund infers that the field of project management is quickly expanding and that is the reason it gets wider interest from other disciplines. Hence, there is a need to create different projects theories but in a similar tradition – some universal approaches and some for the specific aspects of particular projects. In other words, this field is still open for additional perspectives and empirical studies. Söderlund stresses the importance of an internal debate on project management from a theoretical standpoint and provides the directions for the future research.
He emphasizes that it is impossible to build project theory based only on empirical data, there should be a certain theoretical perspective. It was mentioned that such perspectives can be found in other fields and they could be plausible in a project research. The article states that further development of project field might be beneficial not only for the management of single projects but for the effectiveness of companies’ organizations as well.
The main results of the second article are the identification of key constraints of rational choice theory, its extensions, and adaptations. The article distinguishes several kinds of constraints: the asocial individual, unrealistic cognitive and psychological assumptions, robotic agency agent and amoral agent. In order to abolish them, several modifications were created and a major contribution to these models was made by behavioral economists and social scientists. So, Burns and Roszkowska’s work demonstrates that rational economic individual with whom much of the modern economics was built, was a mostly fictional character.
The most important application of the results is the possibility to overcome some of the rational choice theory constraints. Also, the article declares an agenda for the future theory evolution and provides a systematic review of the current state of rational choice theory research.
In conclusion, we can say that rational choice theory plays an important role in the project field. It is vital to understand how people behave to run projects successfully. It is crucial to know what kind of reaction to expect when making any the decision. Additionally, Söderlund while answering his five key questions mentioned that usually, people tend to adhere to relatively rationalistic approach, which sometimes is not applicable.
1 Söderlund, J. (2004) Building theories of project management: past research, questions for the future. International Journal of Project Management, 22, 183-191.
2 Burns, T. and Roszkowska, E. (2016) Rational Choice Theory: Toward a Psychological, Social, and Material Contextualization of Human Choice Behavior. Theoretical Economics Letters, 6, 195-207.