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How Does Project Termination Impact Project Team Members? Rapid Termination, ‘Creeping Death’, and Learning from Failure

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  • Dean A. Shepherd
  • Holger Patzelt
  • Trenton A. Williams
  • Dennis Warnecke

Abstract

Although extant studies have increased our understanding of the decision of when to terminate a project and its organizational implications, they do not explore the contextual mechanisms underlying the link between the speed at which a project is terminated and the learning of those directly working on the project. This is surprising because perceptions of project failure likely differ between those who own the option (i.e., the decision maker) and those who are the option (i.e., project team members). In this multiple case study, we explored research and development (R&D) subsidiaries within a large multinational parent organization and generated several new insights: (1) rather than alleviate negative emotions, delayed termination was perceived as creeping death, thwarting new career opportunities and generating negative emotions; (2) rather than obstructing learning from project experience, negative emotions motivated sensemaking efforts; and (3) rather than emphasizing learning after project termination, in the context of rapid redeployment of team members after project termination, delayed termination provided employees the time to reflect on, articulate, and codify lessons learned. We discuss the implications of these findings.

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  • Dean A. Shepherd & Holger Patzelt & Trenton A. Williams & Dennis Warnecke, 2014. "How Does Project Termination Impact Project Team Members? Rapid Termination, ‘Creeping Death’, and Learning from Failure," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(4), pages 513-546, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:51:y:2014:i:4:p:513-546
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Danneels, Erwin & Vestal, Alex, 2020. "Normalizing vs. analyzing: Drawing the lessons from failure to enhance firm innovativeness," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 35(1).
    3. Patzelt, Holger & Behrens, Judith & Wolfe, Marcus T. & Shepherd, Dean A., 2020. "Perceived project transition support and employees' assessments of entrepreneurial project performance," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 35(1).
    4. Judith Behrens & Holger Patzelt, 2016. "Corporate Entrepreneurship Managers’ Project Terminations: Integrating Portfolio–Level, Individual–Level, and Firm–Level Effects," Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, , vol. 40(4), pages 815-842, July.
    5. Marvel, Matthew R. & Wolfe, Marcus T. & Kuratko, Donald F., 2020. "Escaping the knowledge corridor: How founder human capital and founder coachability impacts product innovation in new ventures," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 35(6).
    6. Liu, Yiran & Li, Yong & Hao, Xiling & Zhang, Yuli, 2019. "Narcissism and learning from entrepreneurial failure," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 496-512.
    7. Khalil Rhaiem & Nabil Amara, 2021. "Learning from innovation failures: a systematic review of the literature and research agenda," Review of Managerial Science, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 189-234, February.

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