Interview with Shankar Sankaran


Interview with Shankar Sankaran, PhD

Professor of Organizational Project Management
University of Technology Sydney

Interviewed by Yu Yanjuan
Journalist, Project Management Review: PMR (China)

Introduction to the interviewee

Shankar Sankaran, PhD, is a Professor of Organizational Project Management at the School of the Built Environment, Faculty of Design Architecture and Building, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), in Australia. He teaches advanced-level subjects in the UTS Master of Project Management Course including aspects of organizational project management (governance, portfolio and program management) and systems thinking, and supervises doctoral students.

Shankar’s research focuses on organizational project management, megaprojects, project leadership, systems thinking and action research. He has received a number of research grants from various agencies to conduct research on project governance, megaprojects, project leadership, leadership in not-for-profit organizations, healthcare, action research, governance and ethics. The findings of his research have been published in more than 140 publications. He is a co-editor of the first book on research methods for project management, Novel Approaches to Organizational Project Management Research: Translational and Transformational, the first book on systems research, Guide to Systems Research – Philosophy, Processes and Practice; the first handbook on organizational project management, Cambridge Handbook of Organizational Project Management; and a co-author of Oranizational Project Management: Theory and Implementation.

Shankar is a member of the editorial boards of the International Journal of Project Management, International Journal of Managing Projects in Business and Project Management Research and Practice and Systems. He is the current President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences and founder of its Action Research SIG. He has also been on the board of PMI’s Global Accreditation Centre. He is its current vice-chair.

As a practitioner, researcher, professor, educator, author and speaker, Shankar has contributed to the development of project management in many ways. Let’s now find out more about his PM story.



Journey from Industry to Academia

Q1.      Why did you turn to academia after working for a long time in industry? Has the experience in practice served you well in academic research?

Shankar Sankaran (Sankaran):      Actually, I entered academia by accident. I had completed a PhD implementing a large-scale change in the project management operations of a Japanese multinational company, Yokogawa, in Singapore, using action research as my research methodology. I was a Technical Director of this firm and we set up a global engineering center in Singapore which needed a different model of working in projects. I left Yokogawa in 1999 when I migrated to Australia to set up my own software outsourcing business. When I went to live in Australia with my family, I visited Southern Cross University (SCU) to meet my doctoral supervisor Professor Alan Davies who introduced me to the university’s Vice Chancellor Professor Barry Conyngham. Barry asked me if I would like to teach in an MBA program as he wanted experienced operations managers from industry to teach SCU’s MBA students. I thought this was an interesting move and agreed to try it out for six months. I liked the work and stayed on and I have now been an academic for nearly twenty years. Working in academia has been an exciting and rewarding journey and has satisfied my curiosity about how theory and practice can work together. I am lucky to have been promoted from a Senior Lecturer to full Professor within fifteen years. I never thought I would become a Professor as I did not start my career as an academic. I have also been fortunate to have worked for five research grants and started my sixth recently and this has been very inspiring. I teach postgraduate students who have many years of experience in industry. My industry-linked research and my interaction with students from industry has kept me abreast of what is happening in the field.

Q2.      Do you have any life or work motto to share? What are the most fulfilling versus challenging aspects of your career?

Sankaran:      I believe in the philosophy of action research (http://www.aral.com.au/resources/aandr.html)  and its dialectical approach of acting and critically reflecting on the consequences of the action before acting again. Over the years, I have become more conscious about reflecting before acting when applying the plan-act-observe-reflect cycle of action research.


To read entire interview, click here


Editor’s note: This interview was first published in PMR, Project Management Review magazine, China.  It is republished here with the permission of PMR. The PM World Journal maintains a cooperative relationship with PMR, periodically republishing works from each other’s publications. To see the original interview with Chinese introduction, visit PMR at http://www.pmreview.com.cn/english/

How to cite this article: How to cite this interview: Yanjuan, Y. (2019). Project Management Has a Bright Future; Interview with Prof Shankar Sankaran; Project Management Review; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue X, November. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/pmwj87-Nov2019-Yanjuan-Interview-with-Shankar-Sankaran.pdf



About the Interviewer

Yu Yanjuan

Beijing, China




Yu Yanjuan (English name: Spring), Bachelor’s Degree, graduated from the English Department of Beijing International Studies University (BISU) in China. She is now an English-language journalist and editor working for Project Management Review Magazine and website. She has interviewed over forty top experts in the field of project management. In the past, she has worked as a journalist and editor for other media platforms in China. She has also worked part-time as an English teacher in various training centers in Beijing. For work contact, she can be

reached via email yuyanjuan2005@163.com  or Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/yanjuanyu-76b280151/.