Does absorptive capacity affect project performance? A study based on project management practices, organization learning, and knowledge

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Brito, Luiz Artur Ledur
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The literature has emphasized that absorptive capacity (AC) leads to performance, but in projects its influences still unclear. Additionally, the project success is not well understood by the literature, and AC can be an important mechanism to explain it. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of absorptive capacity on project performance in the construction industry of São Paulo State. We study this influence through potential and realized absorptive capacity proposed by Zahra and George (2002). For achieving this goal, we use a combination of qualitative and quantitative research. The qualitative research is based on 15 interviews with project managers in different sectors to understand the main constructs and support the next quantitative phase. The content analysis was the technique used to analyze those interviews. In quantitative phase through a survey questionnaire, we collected 157 responses in the construction sector with project managers. The confirmatory factor analysis and hierarchical linear regression were the techniques used to assess the data. Our findings suggest that the realized absorptive capacity has a positive influence on performance, but potential absorptive capacity and the interactions effect have no influence on performance. Moreover, the planning and monitoring have a positive impact on budget and schedule, and customer satisfaction while risk coping capacity has a positive impact on business success. In academics terms, this research enables a better understanding of the importance of absorptive capacity in the construction industry and it confirms that knowledge application in processes and routines enhances performance. For management, the absorptive capacity enables the improvements of internal capabilities reflected in the increased project management efficiency. Indeed, when a company manages project practices efficiently it enhances business and project performance; however, it needs initially to improve its internal abilities to enrich processes and routines through relevant knowledge.

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