Project management, governance, and the normalization of deviance

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The term "normalization of deviance" was coined by sociologist Diane Vaughan (1996) based on her study of the culture of NASA prior to the Challenger disaster. This concept continues to reverberate within organizational settings, as companies grapple with employee behaviors that are often counter-productive to achieving organizational ends but are often so hidden or "normal" that organizational actors are either unaware of them or assume that this behavior is a natural part of the project management process. Using results from interviews with 21 project managers, we will consider how normalization of deviance affects project management practices in the areas of: 1) project proposals and strategic misrepresentation, 2) client/contractor relationships, and 3) planning and scheduling dynamics. Finally, the paper examines the role of organizational learning and corporate governance in identifying and subsequently, minimizing the negative impact of normalization of deviance behaviors on project-based work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-387
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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