Every year, CBS flies out around 90 researchers and staff members to join the prestigious Academy of Management research conference in the US. And had it not been for coronavirus, the two CBS graduates Finn Johansson and Fabio Galletta would have joined the troop this year.
Instead, they will be joining online, as they will be presenting a paper based on their master’s thesis, which they defended back in the summer of 2019.
“People who submit papers to this conference are experienced scholars. This was the first time we had submitted a paper, and we had no expectations that it would go through,” says Fabio Galletta, who studied Business, Language and Culture, and Diversity and Change Management at CBS, and is joining the Teams call from Copenhagen. His master’s thesis buddy Finn Johansson, who studied the same subjects, is joining from Hamburg. They are both employed full time, but for the past two years, have been working on turning their master’s thesis on project management into a scientific paper.
In short, the two graduates have explored two styles of project management; agile and traditional management, and whether a combination of both is a better fit for managing projects.
“We have seen a trend towards adopting a more agile approach in organizations, rather than relying on traditional project management. And some literature has indicated that rather than making the process 100% agile, a combination of the two approaches is better, but this was only evident in theory. Not in practice,” explains Finn Johansson.
Therefore, the two CBS students started working on a framework, The Project Management Canvas, that can help practitioners to mix the two approaches to structure a project management process.
“This is the core outcome of the paper. It basically outlines how to manage a project based on agile and traditional project management and combine them for a specific cause” says Finn Johansson.
And as the thesis progressed, a thought emerged among the two thesis writers.
“Even before we defended it, we talked about wanting to take it further. We kind of understood that our work had actual potential,” says Fabio Galletta.
Got the news on a parking lot
Being graduates and with no academic career behind them, the two graduates reached out to their thesis supervisor, Associate Professor Charles Tackney from the Department of Management, Society and Communication, who helped them turn the more than 100 pages into a 40-page scientific paper.
“It is not unique to see original contributions in master’s theses. However, what is special is that Finn and Fabio have found the time to actually refine their work and submit it to a conference. And that is definitely worth my time,” says Charles Tackney, who will also be presenting a different research paper at the Academy of Management conference to the Management, Spirituality, and Religion Interest Group.
Although Finn Johansson, Fabio Galletta and Charles Tackney submitted the paper in January 2021, they had to wait until April to hear whether the paper had made the cut.
“I clearly remember that day. I had been at work all day, and was just going for a walk with my family when I received an email with feedback on the paper and the news that it had been accepted. I sent a screenshot to Finn and called him up and asked: We are in, right?” says Fabio Galletta.
Finn Johansson continues:
“It was so exciting. I was in a parking lot outside a supermarket when I saw the screenshot. We talked about what to do next, and I just felt so delighted. Moreover, three weeks later, we got an email that said the paper had been awarded the Best Theory to Practice Award,” he says and adds:
“We put so much extra work into this thesis, nobody paid us for it, and we had jobs on the side, so to get this appreciation and have the paper accepted was a glorious moment.”
On the question of why Fabio Galletta and Finn Johansson decided to use all that extra time, Finn Johansson says:
“We wanted to make an impact. Everyone who has written a thesis knows that you’re occupied with it for about a year, and when you have defended it, you just want to get rid of it. But we had been working on this for so long, so we really wanted to see where we could take it.”
An underrealized potential
Although the two graduates are both in full-time positions, having the paper accepted for the Academy of Management conference opens a door into the academic world, which they are both drawn to.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to connect with other researchers and see what they are doing. And it’s sort of unreal knowing that our paper will be published and discussed by other researchers at the conference,” says Finn Johansson and continues:
“Fabio and I like academic work, and getting this kind of acknowledgement certainly opens a career door for PhDs or something like that.”
Charles Tackney hopes that Finn Johansson and Fabio Galletta’s work will inspire more graduates to pursue making their theses or bachelor’s projects into academic papers.
“I know that the students are capable of conducting original work that contributes to research. There’s underrealized potential here,” he says.