Absorptive Capacity in Project Management: A Systematic Literature Review

Rodrigo Teixeira, Isabel Cristina Scafuto

Abstract


Purpose – The purpose of this study was to understand the intellectual structure of studies on absorptive capacity in project management

Theoretical framework – The ability to perceive external knowledge, assimilate it, and apply it for commercial purposes is defined as absorbing capacity. This capacity provides organizations with competitive advantages. Also, studies have pointed out projects as a powerful weapon to create organizational value. However, little is known about absorptive capacity in project management and it is in this gap that this work is inserted.

Design/methodology/approach – For this purpose, a systematic literature review of articles published on absorptive capacity in the International Journal of Project Management (IJPM), and Project Management Journal (PMJ), and International Journal of Managing Projects in Business was conducted.

Findings  The main findings noted the existence of two lines of research in project management that address the construction of absorptive capacity. The first line of research presents articles that deal with the transfer of knowledge between projects and organizations. Articles in this line present that knowledge transfer depends on the organization that will receive the project as well as presents the importance of different mechanisms of social integration in this process. In the other line, absorptive capacity and performance in projects, the different roles of the absorptive capacity realized and potential in the performance of the projects were identified.

Originality/value  The article contributed to the project management literature when it identified the lines of research in which absorptive capacity is inserted in the area and proposed a research agenda.


Keywords


Absorptive capacity; Project management; knowledge acquisition; knowledge transfer

References


Apriliyanti, I. D., & Alon, I. (2017). Bibliometric analysis of absorptive capacity. International Business Review, 26(5), 896–907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2017.02.007

Bakker, R. M., Cambré, B., Korlaar, L., & Raab, J. (2011). Managing the project learning paradox: A set-theoretic approach toward project knowledge transfer. International Journal of Project Management, 29(5), 494–503. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2010.06.002

Bardin, L. (1977). Análise de conteúdo (Lisboa-Portugal). Presses Universitaires de France.

Bartsch, V., Ebers, M., & Maurer, I. (2013a). Learning in project-based organizations: The role of project teams’ social capital for overcoming barriers to learning. International Journal of Project Management, 31(2), 239–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2012.06.009

Bernroider, E. W. N., Wong, C. W. Y., & Lai, K. (2014a). From dynamic capabilities to ERP enabled business improvements: The mediating effect of the implementation project. International Journal of Project Management, 32(2), 350–362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2013.05.006

Bernroider, E. W. N., Wong, C. W. Y., & Lai, K. (2014b). From dynamic capabilities to ERP enabled business improvements: The mediating effect of the implementation project. International Journal of Project Management, 32(2), 350–362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2013.05.006

Biedenbach, T. (2011). The Power of Combinative Capabilities: Facilitating the Outcome of Frequent Innovation in Pharmaceutical R&D Projects. Project Management Journal, 42(2), 63–80. https://doi.org/10.1002/pmj.20221

Bjorvatn, T., & Wald, A. (2018). Project complexity and team-level absorptive capacity as drivers of project management performance. International Journal of Project Management, 36(6), 876–888. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2018.05.003

Brady, T., & Davies, A. (2004). Building Project Capabilities: From Exploratory to Exploitative Learning. Organization Studies, 25(9), 1601–1621. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840604048002

Calvo-Mora, A., Navarro-García, A., & Periañez-Cristobal, R. (2015). Project to improve knowledge management and key business results through the EFQM excellence model. International Journal of Project Management, 33(8), 1638–1651. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2015.01.010

Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1989). Innovation and Learning: The Two Faces of R & D. The Economic Journal, 99(397), 569. https://doi.org/10.2307/2233763

Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive Capacity: A New Perspective on Learning and Innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(1-Especial), 128–152.

De Lima, M. F., Borini, F. M., & Santos, L. L. (2020). A Complementaridade entre Capacidade de Adaptação e Capacidades Dinâmicas. International Journal of Professional Business Review, 5(1), 86. https://doi.org/10.26668/businessreview/2020.v5i1.191

Di Vincenzo, F., & Mascia, D. (2012). Social capital in project-based organizations: Its role, structure, and impact on project performance. International Journal of Project Management, 30(1), 5–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2011.03.006

Gemünden, H. G., Lehner, P., & Kock, A. (2018). The project-oriented organization and its contribution to innovation. International Journal of Project Management, 36(1), 147–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2017.07.009

Gray, K., & Ulbrich, F. (2017). Ambiguity acceptance and translation skills in the project management literature. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 10(2), 423–450. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-05-2016-0044

Killen, C. P., Jugdev, K., Drouin, N., & Petit, Y. (2012). Advancing project and portfolio management research: Applying strategic management theories. International Journal of Project Management, 30(5), 525–538. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2011.12.004

Koria, M. (2009). Managing for innovation in large and complex recovery programmes: Tsunami lessons from Sri Lanka. International Journal of Project Management, 27(2), 123–130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2008.09.005

Lane, P. J., Koka, B. R., & Pathak, S. (2006). The Reification of Absorptive Capacity: A Critical Review and Rejuvenation of the Construct. Academy of Management Review, 31(4), 833–863. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2006.22527456

Lane, P. J., & Lubatkin, M. (1998). Relative absorptive capacity and interorganizational learning. 19, 17.

Leal-Rodríguez, A. L., Roldán, J. L., Ariza-Montes, J. A., & Leal-Millán, A. (2014). From potential absorptive capacity to innovation outcomes in project teams: The conditional mediating role of the realized absorptive capacity in a relational learning context. International Journal of Project Management, 32(6), 894–907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2014.01.005

Lima, R. D. de. (2015). DOES ABSORPTIVE CAPACITY AFFECT PROJECT PERFORMANCE? [Faculdade Getúlio Vargas]. http://hdl.handle.net/10438/13632

Love, P. E. D., Teo, P., Davidson, M., Cumming, S., & Morrison, J. (2016). Building absorptive capacity in an alliance: Process improvement through lessons learned. International Journal of Project Management, 34(7), 1123–1137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2016.05.010

Mainga, W. (2017). Examining project learning, project management competencies, and project efficiency in project-based firms (PBFs). International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 10(3), 454–504. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-04-2016-0035

Müller, R., Glückler, J., Aubry, M., & Shao, J. (2013). Project Management Knowledge Flows in Networks of Project Managers and Project Management Offices: A Case Study in the Pharmaceutical Industry. Project Management Journal, 44(2), 4–19. https://doi.org/10.1002/pmj.21326

PMI. (2017). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (Sixth Edition). Project Management Institute, Inc.

Popaitoon, S., & Siengthai, S. (2014). The moderating effect of human resource management practices on the relationship between knowledge absorptive capacity and project performance in project-oriented companies. International Journal of Project Management, 32(6), 908–920. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2013.12.002

Söderlund, J. (2004). Building theories of project management: Past research, questions for the future. International Journal of Project Management, 22(3), 183–191. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0263-7863(03)00070-X

Söderlund, J. (2010). Knowledge entrainment and project management: The case of large-scale transformation projects. International Journal of Project Management, 28(2), 130–141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2009.11.010

Stingl, V., & Geraldi, J. (2017). Errors, lies and misunderstandings: Systematic review on behavioural decision making in projects. International Journal of Project Management, 35(2), 121–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2016.10.009

Szulanski, G. (1996). Exploring internal stickiness: Impediments to the transfer of best practice within the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17(S2), 27–43. https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.4250171105

Thomas, J. L., Cicmil, S., & George, S. (2012). Learning from Project Management Implementation by Applying a Management Innovation Lens. Project Management Journal, 43(6), 70–87. https://doi.org/10.1002/pmj.21308

Todorova, G., & Durisin, B. (2007). Absorptive capacity: Valuing a reconceptualization. Academy of Management Review, 32(3), 774–786. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2007.25275513

Tranfield, D., Denyer, D., & Smart, P. (2003). Towards a Methodology for Developing Evidence-Informed Management Knowledge by Means of Systematic Review. British Journal of Management, 14(3), 207–222. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8551.00375

Tsai, W. (2001). Knowledge transfer in intraorganizational networks: Effects of network position and absorptive capacity on business unit innovation and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 44(5), 996–1004. https://doi.org/10.2307/3069443

Apriliyanti, I. D., & Alon, I. (2017). Bibliometric analysis of absorptive capacity. International Business Review, 26(5), 896–907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2017.02.007

Bakker, R. M., Cambré, B., Korlaar, L., & Raab, J. (2011). Managing the project learning paradox: A set-theoretic approach toward project knowledge transfer. International Journal of Project Management, 29(5), 494–503. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2010.06.002

Bardin, L. (1977). Análise de conteúdo (Lisboa-Portugal). Presses Universitaires de France.

Bartsch, V., Ebers, M., & Maurer, I. (2013a). Learning in project-based organizations: The role of project teams’ social capital for overcoming barriers to learning. International Journal of Project Management, 31(2), 239–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2012.06.009

Bernroider, E. W. N., Wong, C. W. Y., & Lai, K. (2014a). From dynamic capabilities to ERP enabled business improvements: The mediating effect of the implementation project. International Journal of Project Management, 32(2), 350–362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2013.05.006

Bernroider, E. W. N., Wong, C. W. Y., & Lai, K. (2014b). From dynamic capabilities to ERP enabled business improvements: The mediating effect of the implementation project. International Journal of Project Management, 32(2), 350–362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2013.05.006

Biedenbach, T. (2011). The Power of Combinative Capabilities: Facilitating the Outcome of Frequent Innovation in Pharmaceutical R&D Projects. Project Management Journal, 42(2), 63–80. https://doi.org/10.1002/pmj.20221

Bjorvatn, T., & Wald, A. (2018). Project complexity and team-level absorptive capacity as drivers of project management performance. International Journal of Project Management, 36(6), 876–888. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2018.05.003

Brady, T., & Davies, A. (2004). Building Project Capabilities: From Exploratory to Exploitative Learning. Organization Studies, 25(9), 1601–1621. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840604048002

Calvo-Mora, A., Navarro-García, A., & Periañez-Cristobal, R. (2015). Project to improve knowledge management and key business results through the EFQM excellence model. International Journal of Project Management, 33(8), 1638–1651. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2015.01.010

Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1989). Innovation and Learning: The Two Faces of R & D. The Economic Journal, 99(397), 569. https://doi.org/10.2307/2233763

Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive Capacity: A New Perspective on Learning and Innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(1-Especial), 128–152.

De Lima, M. F., Borini, F. M., & Santos, L. L. (2020). A Complementaridade entre Capacidade de Adaptação e Capacidades Dinâmicas. International Journal of Professional Business Review, 5(1), 86. https://doi.org/10.26668/businessreview/2020.v5i1.191

Di Vincenzo, F., & Mascia, D. (2012). Social capital in project-based organizations: Its role, structure, and impact on project performance. International Journal of Project Management, 30(1), 5–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2011.03.006

Gemünden, H. G., Lehner, P., & Kock, A. (2018). The project-oriented organization and its contribution to innovation. International Journal of Project Management, 36(1), 147–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2017.07.009

Gray, K., & Ulbrich, F. (2017). Ambiguity acceptance and translation skills in the project management literature. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 10(2), 423–450. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-05-2016-0044

Killen, C. P., Jugdev, K., Drouin, N., & Petit, Y. (2012). Advancing project and portfolio management research: Applying strategic management theories. International Journal of Project Management, 30(5), 525–538. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2011.12.004

Koria, M. (2009). Managing for innovation in large and complex recovery programmes: Tsunami lessons from Sri Lanka. International Journal of Project Management, 27(2), 123–130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2008.09.005

Lane, P. J., Koka, B. R., & Pathak, S. (2006). The Reification of Absorptive Capacity: A Critical Review and Rejuvenation of the Construct. Academy of Management Review, 31(4), 833–863. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2006.22527456

Lane, P. J., & Lubatkin, M. (1998). Relative absorptive capacity and interorganizational learning. 19, 17.

Leal-Rodríguez, A. L., Roldán, J. L., Ariza-Montes, J. A., & Leal-Millán, A. (2014). From potential absorptive capacity to innovation outcomes in project teams: The conditional mediating role of the realized absorptive capacity in a relational learning context. International Journal of Project Management, 32(6), 894–907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2014.01.005

Lima, R. D. de. (2015). DOES ABSORPTIVE CAPACITY AFFECT PROJECT PERFORMANCE? [Faculdade Getúlio Vargas]. http://hdl.handle.net/10438/13632

Love, P. E. D., Teo, P., Davidson, M., Cumming, S., & Morrison, J. (2016). Building absorptive capacity in an alliance: Process improvement through lessons learned. International Journal of Project Management, 34(7), 1123–1137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2016.05.010

Mainga, W. (2017). Examining project learning, project management competencies, and project efficiency in project-based firms (PBFs). International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 10(3), 454–504. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-04-2016-0035

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PMI. (2017). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (Sixth Edition). Project Management Institute, Inc.

Popaitoon, S., & Siengthai, S. (2014). The moderating effect of human resource management practices on the relationship between knowledge absorptive capacity and project performance in project-oriented companies. International Journal of Project Management, 32(6), 908–920. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2013.12.002

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Söderlund, J. (2010). Knowledge entrainment and project management: The case of large-scale transformation projects. International Journal of Project Management, 28(2), 130–141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2009.11.010

Stingl, V., & Geraldi, J. (2017). Errors, lies and misunderstandings: Systematic review on behavioural decision making in projects. International Journal of Project Management, 35(2), 121–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2016.10.009

Szulanski, G. (1996). Exploring internal stickiness: Impediments to the transfer of best practice within the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17(S2), 27–43. https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.4250171105

Thomas, J. L., Cicmil, S., & George, S. (2012). Learning from Project Management Implementation by Applying a Management Innovation Lens. Project Management Journal, 43(6), 70–87. https://doi.org/10.1002/pmj.21308

Todorova, G., & Durisin, B. (2007). Absorptive capacity: Valuing a reconceptualization. Academy of Management Review, 32(3), 774–786. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2007.25275513

Tranfield, D., Denyer, D., & Smart, P. (2003). Towards a Methodology for Developing Evidence-Informed Management Knowledge by Means of Systematic Review. British Journal of Management, 14(3), 207–222. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8551.00375

Tsai, W. (2001). Knowledge transfer in intraorganizational networks: Effects of network position and absorptive capacity on business unit innovation and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 44(5), 996–1004. https://doi.org/10.2307/3069443

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.24023/FutureJournal/2175-5825/2020.v12i3.545

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