The role of project and organizational context in managing high-tech R&D projects

Aravind Chandrasekaran, Kevin Linderman, Roger Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


High-tech organizations often struggle to manage different types of R&D projects. Evidence from research and practice suggests that managers frequently categorize and manage projects based on the extent of change triggered in product, process, technology, and market dimensions. However, this can create challenges in high-tech organizations. This study investigates how high-tech organizations manage R&D projects based on their learning goals. First, we argue for the benefits of categorizing R&D projects based on the degree of exploration and exploitation learning goals. A qualitative case study from four high-tech business units involving 10 R&D projects helps understand the different types of projects based on their learning goals. The case study shows that R&D projects in high-tech organizations typically fall into three categories based on their learning goals: Radical innovation projects, Incremental innovation projects, and Hybrid projects. Second, we iterate between literature and evidence from our qualitative data to theorize how project context and organizational context affect project performance depending on the type of project. The data for the empirical analysis come from a multilevel survey of 110 R&D projects across 34 high-tech business units. Results show the importance of designing project and organizational context differently for the three types of R&D projects. Collectively, this study offers a new perspective on how to manage high-tech R&D projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-586
Number of pages27
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Production and Operations Management Society.


  • R&D projects
  • exploitation
  • exploration
  • high-tech organizations
  • innovation
  • qualitative data
  • survey
  • team effectiveness


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