The concept of ‘benefit’ has always provided an explanation framework for better understanding of stakeholders' actions and tendencies, results in designing powerful process and structure which remarkably increase the effectiveness and efficiency in different areas of social sciences. The concept of ‘power’ is relatively new, complementary concept that clarifies many other ambiguous dimensions. Both concepts have been appropriately incorporated into the stakeholder theory. Stakeholders' power-benefit relations shape the institutional context and structural environment of project. Research studies about these two concepts in philosophy and social sciences lead to emergence of participation paradigm as an effective structural mechanism in different areas of project management.
The history of political philosophy reminds us the inherent defects of representation mechanisms. The implication of this finding in the area of project management is the necessity of direct engagement of stakeholders in project to rebalance the power relations and protect their benefits. Participation paradigm through distribution of ‘power’ and ‘benefits’ among all stakeholders has succeeded to motivate or force project key stakeholders to consider the interests and requests of secondary stakeholders and to behave ethically within the transparency of participatory atmosphere.
Participation paradigm has been raised as an important structural reformation for distribution of power and inhibiting the unbridled power of project's key stakeholders, results in more sustainable project governance. Stakeholder participation is supported by considerable amount of philosophical and theoretical findings and underlying reasons for its effectiveness have been identified. Participation paradigm is an external motivation mechanism which encourages key stakeholders to take into account the benefits and desires of all stakeholders, paves the way for more collaborative and innovative atmosphere as a critical element of sustainable project.
Following table and image show changing the paradigm from modernism to postmodernism and the paradigm shift which happens from postmodernism to participation, as a better explanation for the paradigmatic change in project management.
Above table clarifies the role of power in this paradigmatic shift, especially because this concept is an axial concept in postmodern philosophy and a neglected concept in project management literature. Therefore, focused power is replaced with effective communication. Any participation widely depends on the quality of communication; we can’t imagine participation without communication. Communication is replaced with central power and upgraded to its position as the main coordination mechanism. Communication is most favorable place for the emergence of informal power, and project management literature has neglected this important issue. Formal power has been replaced with informal power in the participation paradigm.
For more comprehensive information you can refer to the following article:
Sarhadi, M., and (2018), "Participative project management as a comprehensive response to postmodernism criticisms",
Mehrdad Sarhadi, PhD