Exploring a project-based organization through the eyes of continuous improvement and learning

Sammanfattning: The concepts of continuous improvement (CI) and learning are advocated in project management (PM) literature and standards, as suitable concepts to adopt when managing projects. CI can be described as philosophy in which all members of an organization work together to achieve sustained and incremental improvements.Learning can in turn be divided into the learning organization, focusing oncharacteristics that allow an organization to learn, and organizational learning,focusing on how learning is achieved in an organizational context. How big of a part projects play in organizations can differ, from scarce occurrence to being the dominant way of working. Organizations that solely carry out projects can bedescribed as project-based organizations (PBOs). This study explores the concepts of CI and learning in the context of a project-based organization. The reason for doing this is that little information has been found on how CI and learning should be achieved and sustained in a PM context, although being described as important concepts in PM.A longitudinal exploratory case study was performed, at the Projects department at Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB, in order to understand how the concepts of CI and learning could be applied in a PBO. Several data collection methods have been applied in order to achieve triangulation. A qualitative approach was used in order to understand the specific characteristics associated with operating as a PBO, and thus affecting if and how CI and learning could be applied. The research process, whichdescribes the case study in chronological order, and display findings as they emerged, is given a fair amount of room in the thesis, in order to allow the reader to both scrutinize the study, and reach conclusions of her own.The findings indicate that no aspects of operating as a PBO counteract the potential of achieving CI and learning, but that awareness has to be raised regarding the challenges that come with it. CI is described as attractive due to a low-cost approach, and low entry barriers. This description is however based on applying CI in repetitive task environments (e.g. manufacturing industry), not the non-repetitive task environment that characterizes operating as a PBO. If CI is to be achieved in a PBO it is likely that both the PBO and the concept of CI has to be adjusted to one another, to a much greater extent than is described in the CI literature. The current approaches to learning in PBOs seem to be based on a hard approach, trying to capture and disseminate learning throughout the organization. However, this study indicates that this way of working falls short, and suggests that a softer approach might be needed in order to achieve organizational learning in PBOs