The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


Elena Pessot on her experience at CPM as a visiting doctoral student

18 August 2017

Elena Pessot joined CPM in February 2017 as a visiting PhD student. We caught up with Elena as she prepares to leave the School, to find out how her time at CPM has benefitted her doctoral research.

Elena Pessot, visiting PhD candidate at The Bartlett CPM

What attracted you to visit the School as part of your PhD? 

I decided to apply for a research period at CPM last year. In August 2016 I attended the doctoral seminar on Perspectives on Projects at SKEMA Business School in Lille. I was already aware of CPM’s reputation and its prominent position in project management research and practice – not to mention the several publications by Prof Andrew Davies, Prof Hedley Smyth and Prof Peter Morris that are part of the list of references for my research.

During the seminar in Lille, I was glad to meet Professor Hedley Smyth and a group of CPM fellow PhD students with whom I had the chance to discuss their experiences at The Bartlett and the possibility of me applying as a visiting student. I was enthusiastic and after a few weeks, I submitted my application. I have been here since late February and my expectations have definitely been exceeded. 

What are you currently researching? 

During my research, so far I have been investigating how project-based organisations are facing the increasing complexity of their projects from an organisational learning perspective. Practitioners define complexity as a key feature of the project that emerges from its many elements, involving actors and their interconnections, and perceived as a characteristic that makes a project difficult to understand, foresee and keep properly under control. 
Project-based organisations require synergies and interdependences among resources and projects that are unique and limited in timing. They face recognised limitations in capturing the learning gained through projects and transferring it to the other projects and the wider organisation.

My research focuses on examining how complexity affects the process of organisational learning along these perspectives (within and across projects). I am currently conducting an in-depth case study with a leading company from the shipbuilding industry. I had the opportunity to interview people with different roles in the design and management of cruise ship projects and it was particularly interesting listening to their experience in facing project complexity. 

What stage is your research at now, and what are you planning next? 

I am completing the third year of my PhD and am currently focusing on the final steps of data collection and analysis. Meanwhile I started drafting the first chapters of my PhD thesis, as I am required to submit it in November 2017. 

Do you feel the resources at CPM have been helpful in your research? 

My experience at CPM was remarkably helpful. The staff helped me feel integrated as soon as I started. I had the opportunity to share findings and collect recommendations from people with different perspectives and backgrounds in a supportive and stimulating environment. My two assigned supervisors, Professor Andrew Davies and Dr Stefano Miraglia, gave me key insights for my research bibliography and advice on how to improve my research project. Furthermore, they involved me in several initiatives held at The Bartlett, from lectures hosted by relevant practitioners in the construction and project management field to focused research workshops. The overall experience has allowed me to enrich my knowledge and expand my research skills. 

What are your plans after you leave CPM? 

I will be leaving CPM at the end of August. I will then go back to work at University of Udine and concentrate on the last steps of my PhD research. After that, I will try to dedicate some time to finding available funding opportunities in the research and academic field. 

Would you be able to give us some insight on your experience at the SKEMA seminar in Lille? 

The seminar is short in time but rich in value. I had the opportunity to meet outstanding scholars and other PhD students in project management research and practice worldwide. The environment was friendly and stimulating in sharing experiences and potential connections among research topics. There were several networking opportunities and I was able to keep in contact with some of the participants even after the conclusion of the workshop.