I am seeking help with identification strategy for figuring out causal direction in the following context:

There is a company where project managers (PM) rotate every 3-7 years across the country/globe. Naturally some PMs leave the company. I would like to measure the impact of PM rotation/turnover on project quality (as measured by time taken for completion ).

EDIT: I expect the PM rotation to be most likely independent of Project Quality. PM's must rotate between 3 to 7 years, with 7 being a hard limit with rare exceptions. PM's decisions are more likely to be driven by quality of life in a region, schooling, their own career aspirations, the type of opportunities that have opened up within or outside the organization. They cannot be fired (Govt) and don't get too much extra credit for a successful completion of a project and they don't get much flack if things are slow (unless it is a spectacular failure). Sometimes PMs move to a new region which is close to the old region so they are still able to hold on to their portfolio.

I would like help with identification strategy to distinguish between or tease out the separate impacts of the following scenarios:

Scenario 1: PM is rotated/changed --> Project quality suffers --> Project takes longer to complete.

Scenario 2: Project quality is good --> Project completes quickly --> PM didn't have the opportunity/time to leave


Scenario 3: Project quality is bad --> project takes forever --> PM rotates/leaves company due to natural career progression/rotation policy

I've spend the last many hours googling literature studying the impact of project manager turnover on project quality but I haven't been able to find any good design. Would be grateful for any suggestions for identification.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Is the 3–7 years random? If the length the PM stays is not random (related to quality, whether the project is finished quickly, etc.) then it would be hard to tease out the effect of PM rotation rate. Ideally, you'd have two branches; one that rotates PM every 3 years, the other every 7 years, due to external factors like difference in legislation... then you could see which branch is more productive. $\endgroup$ – Art Feb 26 '20 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ It is unlikely that the PM move is related to project quality. Nobody can be fired, everyone is working on 3-5 projects at the same time, and PM rotation window is driven by policy (3-7 years), and the specific exit point in that window is driven by quality of life/schooling in the region, career aspirations, lucrative positions opening etc. PMs may try to move at the earliest opportunity or they want to stay as much as possible and get exemptions to stay in a region beyond 7(tough to get). Sometimes PMs can move and still hold on to a project if the new location is close to the old one. $\endgroup$ – Amatya Feb 26 '20 at 3:07

This looks challenging, and the following would only work in circumstances where:

  1. Reliable estimates can be made of how long each completed project should have taken to complete.
  2. Good records are maintained of the progress of individual projects, enabling assessments to be made of the form "Project A was X% complete after n years".

Suppose two projects that were estimated to require 3 years were actually completed in 5 years, and in both cases a project manager had moved on after 2 years. One might then focus on how complete each project was at the time when the project manager left. If one project was 70% complete at that time, and so took a further 3 years on the last 30%, that suggests Scenario 1. If the other project was only 40% complete after 2 years, and subsequently progressed at the same speed taking a further 3 years on the remaining 60%, that suggests Scenario 3.


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