The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


People: in focus - Simon Addyman, PhD candidate, on the motivations behind his research

2 February 2017

Simon Addyman speaks to us about the motivations behind his research and the support on offer to PhD candidates at the School.

Simon Addyman

Simon Addyman has had a varied career: working for VSO in West Africa for 4 years, for the UN in Yugoslavia and most recently at Transport for London (TfL). In this time, he became a member of the Association for Project Management and a certificated project manager. In 2013, he won the APM’s Project Professional of the Year award. We caught up with Simon to find out about his research at the School.

What are you currently doing at C&PM?

I am in my fourth year of my part-time PhD. I finished collecting data at the beginning of last summer and I have spent the last 6 months trying to work through all of that and wonder what it all means!

What is it that you are trying to pick out from your research?

I am trying to find patterns of action associated with pre-defined time limits to work activities. I am dealing with two theoretical areas: temporary organisations and organisation routines. Organisational routines are defined as repeatable and recognisable patterns of interdependent action by multiple people. I’m trying to understand why and how routines are recreated within temporary organisations.

How did you identify what you wanted to research?

I was very lucky to have a friend through working at TfL called Dr Harvey Maylor, who had run some training courses at TfL which I participated in. When I moved to TfL after my master’s, I worked in a much more regulated, process driven environment. I came into this with the perception that projects are all about moving from steady state A to steady state B and if you can define the process or the plan to do that you will successfully move from A to B.

As I practiced that for the first 10 years after completing my MSc, I came to realise that this wasn’t a guarantee of success. Quite a few very experienced people ignored management plans or governance altogether. I explored that problem with Harvey and he suggested that I have a look at organisational routines. An opportunity arose in 2013 when I met C&PM’s Dr Stephen Pryke through some work at TfL.

What are you currently working on alongside the PhD?

I was offered redundancy from TfL last summer, so that offered a great opportunity to step away from full time work and focus on finishing my research. I’m teaching and supervising some dissertations here in the school and doing a small bit of consultancy work. However, I want to substantially complete my research this summer. No doubt it will drag on, but I want to get most of the analysis and write-up done in the next 6 months.

What kind of support do you receive as a PhD student?

There is a lot on offer. Working full time, I probably didn’t, or couldn’t, take as much advantage of that as I would have liked. Nonetheless, every time I come to interact with the School my studies progress. I have seen the student research seminars and other PhD seminars develop over the past few years. I think we should continue to strengthen these. I find the School a very nice place to be. It’s a very friendly, sociable place. Coming from quite a politically run organisation, it’s a lot more collegiate here.

Being a part time PhD student is quite a solitary experience; you have to make the effort to come in to the school because no one chases you. I’ve found the academics to be very open and supportive, especially Stephen. You don’t need much other than a little nudge. If there’s something troubling you, they have a great amount of experience ready to impart and help you move forward.

Learn more about our PhD research programme