Necessary and Critical Success Factors Essay
Research is a process by which people discover or create new knowledge about the world in which they live. http://www. sciserv. org/isef/primer/scientific_method. asp “Projects can be thought of as the allocation of resources toward a specific objective following a planned organized approach. Projects are shaped by their environment: society, time, politics, regulation, technology (Lientz and Rea 3). ” Research projects whether they are based on construction, science and technology or writing a research paper, all share and have very similar characteristics.
These characteristics form the basis which will prove/invalidate the purpose, nature and results of the project. The methodology of a research project has its foundation in the scientific method which states: 1. Define/Identify the Problem 2. Form a Hypothesis 3. Make Observations or Test Hypothesis and Perform Experiments 4. Organize and Analyze Data 5. Do Experiments and Observations Support Hypothesis? * If No, Perform New Experiments and Repeat Step 4 6. Draw Conclusions 7. Communicate Results http://scifiles.
larc. nasa. gov/text/educators/tools/pbl/scientific_method. html This timeless and sustainable framework outlines the general factors required to make a project well-defined and executable. What makes a project beneficial? “Benefits may be considered the effect of the changes, or the difference between the current and proposed way
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Because engineers, inventors, mathematicians, theoretical physicists, and computer programmers have different objectives than those of other scientists, they follow a different process in their work. The process that they use to answer a question or solve a problem is different depending on their area of study. Each one uses their own criteria to arrive at a solution. http://www. sciserv. org/isef/primer/scientific_method. asp For example, an engineering project may encompass 7 steps: 1. Define a need or “How can I make this better? ” 2. Develop or establish design criteria (could be more than one)
3. Do background research and search the literature to see what has already been done or what products already exist that fill a similar need. What make them good and what makes them weak? 4. Prepare preliminary designs and a materials list. Consider costs, manufacturing and user requirements. 5. Build and test a prototype of your best design. Consider reliability, repair and servicing. 6. Retest and redesign as necessary. Product testing. 7. Present results http://www. sciserv. org/isef/primer/scientific_method. asp The framework remains almost identical.
The logic behind the differences between an engineering project and a general research project remains in essence the same. A more generalized framework and the one selected for this research paper is the framework found in project management. Project management encompasses 11 steps: 1. Define objectives and scope of project. 2. Assess business and organization environment. 3. Develop strategy for the project 4. Identify the major parts of the project and overall schedule 5. Define initial budget. 6. Identify groups and departments who will participate in the project. 7. Determine methods to be employed in the project. 8.
Define the tools to be used in support of the methods. 9. Refine the budget and the schedule. 10. Establish the project team. 11. Develop a detailed project plan. (Lientz and Rea, 48). When defining the objectives, the desired goal is to be achieved at the end of the project. The scope may include a) time horizon for doing the project b) what is to be included in project tasks c) overall involvement of the organization in the project. Defining objectives also allows for the basis of measurement – that is something quantifiable. Research projects, in order to be of use, require assessing the business and organization environment.
Why is this necessary? If the business does not require the project or more importantly does not have management’s full endorsement, then that project will most likely fail (Lientz and Rea, 52-53). A project will also have impact within an organization and can have external impact on the way customers will perceive that business. This impact can be measured by success or failure however, a project succeeds or fails depending on who defines that criteria. For example, a dam may be created and may achieve political success however the impact on the environment is such that local wildlife are dying (Lientz and Rea 15).
Within an organization, the workers are divided into management and general employee. Management is charged with defining policy and directing the general employee to act and perform according to those specifications. However, what happens when this level of commitment is not agreed upon by either party? Chris Argyris in his essay on Empowerment:The Emperor’s New Clothes defines commitment as, “It is an idea that fundamental to our thinking about economics, strategy, financial governance, information technology, and operations (104).
” He further states, “Commitment is about generating human energy and activating the human mind. Without it, the implementation of any new initiative or idea would be seriously compromised (104). ” In order for anything to be achieved first we as human beings must be committed to that action. In the case of research, that commitment may take the form of approval by the committee or department chair or from private financial investors in order to proceed with the research project.
Commitment, according to Argyris is comprised of two elements: external and internal. External commitment is ‘… when workers have little control over their destinies (104). ’ This lack of control would result in the general worker not necessarily caring about the outcome of a project, so long as they do what is required of them. Internal commitment on the other hand has individuals who are, ‘committed to a particular project, person or program based on their own reasons or motivations (105). ’ How does this translate into an effective research project?
The researcher and/or team performing the research needs to understand that if they do not have commitment on both the research level and the parties formally approving that research then that project is being sentenced to premature failure and possible resentment. Developing strategy for the project is closely aligned with assessing the business and organizational environment. Initial strategy will take its lead from the research approval committee. Without their direction, guidance or blessing that research will not occur. Not only will the research not occur, nor will the necessary funding.
Goffee and Jones in What Holds the Modern Company Together discuss strategy in the form of communities and sociability. Sociability helps foster an enjoyable work environment, which boosts morale and camaraderie. Sociability also increases teamwork, sharing of information, openness to new ideas, and helps to create individuals who go beyond the formal requirements of their jobs (5). Without acknowledging or even knowing what strategy best fits the research project or its team will lead that research project into less beneficial areas for achieving success.
This strategy also needs to be flexible enough to handle any changes that may occur. For example, if a strategy is employed in research and the research team becomes fixated on that one strategy when that strategy fails or does not meet the criteria judged to be successful then that research project fails. Once the strategy is developed and the proper decision makers are solicited and their approval gained it is time to identify the major parts of the project and overall schedule.
This process can vary from very complex identification such as researching and identifying points of failure in a jet engine or less complex in the case of identifying the parts needed to make a miniature wired mouse for computer application. This process would also go beyond identifying the technology aspect. The human element is ever present and important. The human element can be further broken down by dispensing team members according to analysis, design, building, and testing phases of the project. The overall schedule can then be further refined, however, this is still arbitrary due to the nature that time is arbitrary and can change.
There are four steps to a rough draft of the project which allows for a beginning analysis of what budgetary requirements will be. This beginning estimate of a budget would include a preliminary personnel count, some of the equipment that might be required, tools, any additional training requirements, and documentation. Impacting this stage would also be any change to project scope, new requirements imposed by management or the client, management or the client withdrawing from the project or delaying the project.
It is important to note these factors as possibly affecting the overall research project and thus impacting the budget from project conception to its completion (Lientz and Rea, 57) A successful research project encompasses identifying the departments or groups that will be involved. Why would you do that? By involving parties from management to other departments will create and validate the scope of the project, help identify which departments will be affected by the project and lastly will aid in the project team recruitment (if necessary) and the schedule that will impact the projects deliverables.
The methods to be used in the project will enable the researcher to control how problems will be handled, how budget will be reported, schedule requirements and necessary deliverables of the project. Also, this would involve how management or the research committee be briefed on the status of the project. Lastly, the actual work – who will be assigned to what tasks. Determining what tools will be necessary in support of the methods is also a factor in a successful research project. For example, if statistical software is required to report findings and observations then this is necessary.
However, it is also necessary not to rely on the tool to accomplish the task of the researcher. If a research project is tool driven this may lead to overdependence on those tools. Should anything change on the requirements of the project, that tool may become obsolete and the project would then either have to start new or stop. The resources already invested in the project could be substantial and the stakes high. The value of the research and the research team would become diminished. With the available information, it is necessary to refine the budget, schedule and amount of resources.
This step would also include reducing large blocks of redundant steps (if any) that were described as part of the project scope. By refining and presenting this information to management or research committee, it demonstrates the willingness to substantiate the benefits of the research project. The refining of the budget allows for the true analysis of who belongs on the research team. The team and their various areas of specialization can now be fully realized and thus the detailed research project plan can be outlined and refined.
These eleven steps outlined are the necessary elements that bring together the thought process to aid in a successful research project. Each step is interdependent and builds upon the other. Steps can be modified to suit the type of research, however the core aspects of defining the objectives, assessing the environment, develop strategy, identify major parts and defining an initial budget should remain intact. Achieving a successful research project does not end in the creation of a successful project outline.
Many more factors are involved in a successful project. One such factor is the ability to persuade. The eleven steps presented – define objectives, assess business and organization, develop strategy, identify major parts of the project, define initial budget, identify groups and departments, determine methods, define tools used, refine budget and schedule, establish project team (if necessary) and develop a detailed project plan relies on the ability to persuade management or other decision makers of the merit of the research.
In Conger’s The Necessary Art of Persuasion, he outlines four steps that are necessary. They are: establish credibility, build common ground between their objectives and those who require persuading, reinforce the idea through compelling, vivid stories and frame of reference, and most importantly emotionally connect with the target audience. The hardest step to overcome is establishing credibility. Why should your target audience believe you? Why should they buy into your story, product and in this case your research project?
As a researcher you establish credibility by citing other research you have performed. If as a new researcher needs to be overcome, citing research projects you have previously been part of as well as endorsement from the primary researcher will also increase credibility. Hand in hand with credibility are relationships. How do you form relationships if you are a new researcher? Relationships begin when a project team is assembled and you are part of that team. Other members see the type of work ethic, how the research is conducted and how well you fit in with other researchers.
By increasing the capacity for positive relationships, you also increase credibility (227-235). The need for common ground is also essential. Without commonality it is impossible to engage your audience and thus present ideas that are beneficial and purposeful to both you as the researcher and those authorizing the research. Without commitment to the type of research project proposed that research will never begin. It is necessary to understand that these factors affect a successful research project and should not be overlooked. Presenting evidence is the next factor.
With established credibility and common ground, evidence needs to be presented. This evidence, however, involves more than just presenting raw statistics and facts. Engaging the research committee on benefits by describing possible applications and usefulness of the project will further enhance the merits of the research project. By creating an environment that is rich in anecdotes, stories, and stimulates the imagination for the possibilities will ensure research approval and will help endeavor success. Connected with this is emotional feedback from the approval committee.
In order to attune the requirements of the successful research project, a researcher must first be aware of what type of emotional impact that research will have on the approval committee. Frame the project too emotional and the committee will doubt whether you are objective in your research. Frame the project too objectively, the research committee may doubt your ability to show how that project will benefit society at large. Gauging the research committee and their emotional triggers will enable the researcher to focus on what is important to the committee.
This is not merely saying what the researcher believes the committee wants to hear. In fact if this approach is adopted the committee will be able to discern the lack of sincerity (246-250). For example, an exceptional salesperson will gauge the level of emotional commitment of a customer. The more a customer is emotionally committed, the greater the likelihood the customer will purchase and be satisfied with the product. The exceptional salesperson understands this and will focus the attention on what the customer needs and never on actually selling that product.
As a researcher, you are selling the idea of the research that you wish to perform. No research has ever taken place without the support of another party. Leonardo da Vinci relied on monetary gifts from rich families and a modern day researcher will rely on the ability to sell the idea and value of their research to a committee who then gives their stamp of approval and releases funds to proceed. With the ability to sell the research idea is assembling and empowering the research team (if required). Assuming that the research project is collaborative, the project will require team members.
How are team members chosen? A general research project has certain criteria – head researcher, supporting researcher(s), documentation/technical writer, and administrative support staff. The team might also expand or contract depending on the level of difficulty that the research project will encounter. For example, prototyping a bio-diesel fuel cell would require highly skilled, highly efficient engineers at the beginning of the project and as the project nears full prototype completion, the number of engineers will drop to one who is dedicated to the project.
Other departments may also have direct or indirect influence on the project. For example, if the research team is looking at the effects of a stimulant on the heart, nuclear medicine, radiology, pathology may be involved. Nuclear medicine might become involved because if a dye to trace the effects of the heart is injected, then a technician, specialist or department head might become involved to give their expertise and perform that procedure properly.
Radiology gets involved because the heart might need x-rays or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and pathology may be required to trace what systems might become affected from the dye used in nuclear medicine and what other systems are affected through the use of that stimulant. It is imperative that the different departments and their respective department heads understands the role each plays and the how each will contribute and at what step and phase of the research project. It is also crucial that the head researcher guide these departments and their people as to what is to be expected of them.
The head researcher acts as ambassador and diplomat to all the parties involved (Lientz and Rea). Since team dynamics is very important to a successful team research project, how is conflict handled? Conflict just doesn’t occur. It is built over a period of time. As head researcher, the non-verbal cues are there to be recognized. If a team member is not performing their assigned task, don’t wait. Ask. By asking, it enables both you as head researcher and that team member to possibly resolve what is occurring. Often, that conflict has nothing to do with the project.
That team member might have family or personal issues and those are affecting that team member’s performance. Outright conflict is the easiest to recognize – it might just happen in front of you. Resolving that conflict requires a deft touch, the negotiation skills of a hostage negotiator and the political awareness of a seasoned politician. The most insidious form of resistance to a research project is in the form of management resistance or from other members of the department where the research will be approved. This is the hardest form of resistance to overcome.
The researcher will not know (usually) where or why the research is being scaled back or stopped. What can be done? Canvassing the research department before petitioning to have your research approved will help. Speaking with other researchers and getting their feedback. Being politically aware of what research projects have occurred and why they have been approved or rejected. Successful research projects can be modeled and as well as how to properly conduct a successful research project. Team member expectations also play a key role in determining if a research project will be successful.
In Livingston’s Pygmalion Management he describes the effects that management’s perceptions can have on the performance of workers. Managers often unintentionally communicate low expectations to their subordinates, even though they believe otherwise. When they communicate low expectations, they undermine the self-confidence of their employees and reduce their effectiveness. Managers must be extremely sensitive, therefore, to their own behavior and its impact on subordinates. They must guard against treating their employees in ways that lower their feelings of efficacy and self-esteem and are unproductive (70).
Livingston further states, The difference between employees who perform well and those who perform poorly is not how they are paid but how they are treated. All managers can learn how to treat their employees in ways that will lead to mutual expectations of superior performance. The most effective managers always do (71). Clearly, the sheer belief that superior performance is a requirement needs to be demonstrated by the head researcher. To paraphrase Livingston, if a manager expects the worst, [he] will get the worst.
If the manager conveys that the best is a requirement, demonstrates that the best is what is needed and provides the means for the best to occur then the worker will provide the best. Does the requirements for a successful research project change when an individual researcher is solely responsible for the project? The answer is no. The individual researcher is not immune to the effects of team dynamics. He still needs to get approval from someone to get funds to start research or just to begin research As well as to interface with other people who will influence the viability and marketability of that research.
Viability and marketability doesn’t necessarily mean that the research has to be of commercial value; this means that the research has to be of value either to the research community or might have a larger impact – such as becoming the standard test for a certain disease. He may also require the involvement of other departments. The individual researcher in many ways has to wear many hats – that is manager, negotiator, tester, and documentation writer. Why bother even researching? Without research our evolvement as a species would not occur as rapid or even as progressive as it has been.
Without tools that research has created from the computer to heart medication to the internet to television we would not have progressed as far as we have nor would we aspire to even greater things. Research paves the way for future development and present applications. Empowerment through research is not a new concept. The practical applications that research helps to create have an impact that cannot be automatically gauged or immediately known. For example, the personal computer and its wide spread use was not immediately known or even believed to be necessary.
In 12 years from 1995, the personal computer affects our daily lives. We cannot function without interaction from this technology and its applications. Electronic mail (or e-mail) is pervasive and to allows a cheaper way of communicating. Telecommunication technology and its continuous research have improved the way we interact with each other. New heart medication and heart implant devices allow us to live longer. Blood product research allows for an alternative to natural blood products thus allowing for the reduction of communicable diseases.
The boundaries of research are limitless. As new challenges are created so are new avenues for research to explore. Research however is not a panacea. Research gives the ability to focus on a way or a means to overcome and improve the existing conditions. Without the commitment of researchers from all avenues and all vocations the basis to create change or develop a new approach to a pervasive problem would be stifled. Critical success factors in a research project involve numerous aspects.
Objectives and scope of the project need to defined, the business and organization environment needs to be assessed, the strategy of the project needs to be developed, major parts of the project need to be identified, an overall general schedule to be created, an initial budget based on initial criteria can be made, groups and departments who will participate in the project need to be recognized and identified, the methods to be used in the project need to be determined, tools that need to support the project can be gathered, budget refinement, establishing the project team and developing a detailed project plan based upon the information gathered in the previous steps round out the requirements to building a successful research project. These aspects form the basis of how research will be performed. They provide an essential framework and logical thought system. A research project involves much more than a research framework.
Research success involves committee approval, team member selection, other departments and their participation, negotiating, team dynamics, conflict management and resolution, political deftness and the willingness to accept that things can still be out of the researcher’s control, enable the researcher to be fully cognizant of the other requirements of a successful research project. It is important to garner team member participation. How the head researcher treats the other team members influences how that team member will perform and this can affect the entire outcome of the project. Other departments impact the research project because they may be competing for the same research resources. A savvy researcher needs to understand the other department’s dynamics, assess and if necessary persuade them that the research to be conducted will benefit their departments or won’t compete with their existing projects.
Having the other departments aware of the research being conducted can still hinder the progress of the research of the project however a savvy researcher knows that the perception of involvement increases the chances of success and decreases negative impact. A successful research project encompasses a mixture of technical expertise and a fundamental understanding of human psychology and social interaction. A successful research project is not created in a vacuum. It is a living, breathing entity. Works Cited 28 Jan. 2007 <http://scifiles. larc. nasa. gov/text/educators/tools/pbl/scientific_method. html>. 28 Jan. 2007 <http://www. sciserv. org/isef/primer/scientific_method. asp>. Argyris, C. “Empowerment: The Emperor’s New Clothes. ” Harvard Business Review on Managing People.
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