Sub-theme 38: Temporary and Project-Based Organizing

Brian Hobbs
University of Quebec at Montréal, Canada
Karlos Artto
Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
Jonas Søderlund
BI Norwegian Business School, Norway

Call for Papers

Temporary organizations base their operations on an assumption that after the fulfilment of a specific pre-determined goal their existence will come to an end. Abundant examples of this kind of organization can be observed in many project-based industries, such as construction, software, management consulting, film production, and event organizing. In these industries temporary organizations are purposefully set up, e.g. to deliver products and systems to external and internal customers, redesign or improve processes, respond to changes in the host organizations environment, and to enhance its adaptive capability.

Much of recent research on temporary organizing has centred on projects and project-based firms as they often provide rich contexts for studying different organizational phenomena empirically. Project-based modes of organizing have even been said to represent a new logic of organizing in market-based economies (Whitley, 2006) and researchers have begun to explore the notion of so-called P-form corporations (Söderlund & Tell, 2011) to highlight the dynamics between permanent and temporary modes of organizing. Furthermore, recent research has explored how organizations that were initially set up as temporary may through time transform into permanent organizations (Müller-Seitz & Sydow, 2011) and how temporary organizations contribute to the development of organizational capabilities and learning in project contexts (Davies & Brady, 2000; Prencipe & Tell, 2001; Ibert, 2004; Sydow et al., 2004, Manning & Sydow, 2011). In several respects, temporary organizations can serve as strategic arenas for developing new business opportunities for the future (Lindkvist et al., 1998; Engwall, 2003; Davies & Hobday, 2005), and as bridges across networks of organizations and individuals (Grabher, 2002; Sydow et al., 2004).


To date, research carried out in project contexts has concentrated on the following questions – all of which are central in the inquiry into temporary organizing:

  • How do temporary organizations differ and how can they be categorized?
  • Through which mechanisms and practices are temporary organizations coordinated and controlled?
  • How do temporary organizations interact with their environment, including permanent organizational dimensions?

Research on temporary and project-based organizing is multidisciplinary in nature and the aim of this subtheme is to provide an arena for scholars of organization research coming from different theoretical backgrounds to discuss research findings and relate them to viewpoints of individuals representing different schools of thought. In that respect, the aim is to attract people representing different disciplinary backgrounds to focus on a common theme: temporary and project-based organizing.

Potential research topics for submissions include but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between permanent and temporary organizations
  • The use of temporary organizations as a structure for coordinating complex transactions
  • The significance of networks and interorganizational relationships in temporary organizing
  • The role of stakeholders and stakeholder management in temporary organizing
  • The development and role of capabilities and routines in temporary organizations
  • The problem of learning and organizational forgetting in temporary organizing
  • Process and longitudinal research highlighting central features and mechanisms that are significant in temporary organizing



Davies, A. & T. Brady (2000): 'Organizational capabilities and learning in complex product systems: Towards repeatable solutions.' Research Policy, 29, 931–953.
Davies, A. & M. Hobday (2005): The Business of Projects. Managing Innovation in Complex Products and Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Engwall, M. (2003): 'No project is an island: linking projects to history and context.' Research Policy, 32, 789–808.
Grabher, G. (2002): 'The project ecology of advertising: tasks, talents and teams.' Regional Studies, 36 (3), 245–262.
Ibert, O. (2004): 'Projects and firms as discordant complements: Organisational learning in the Munich software ecology.' Research Policy, 33, 1529–1546.
Lindkvist, L., J. Söderlund & F. Tell (1998): 'Managing product development projects: on the significance of fountains and deadlines.' Organization Studies, 19 (6), 931–951.
Manning, S. & J. Sydow (2011): 'Projects, paths and practices: sustaining and leveraging project-based relationships.' Industrial and Corporate Change, 20 (2), 1–34.
Müller-Seitz, G. & J. Sydow (2011): 'Terminating institutionalized termination: Why SEMATECH became more than a temporary system.' Advances in Strategic Management, 28, 147–186.
Prencipe, A. & F. Tell (2001): 'Inter-project learning: processes and outcomes of knowledge codification in project-based firms.' Research Policy, 30, 1373–1394.
Sydow, J., L. Lindkvist & R. DeFillippi (2004): Project-based organizations, embeddedness and repositories of knowledge.' Organization Studies, 25 (9), 1475–1489.
Söderlund, J. & F. Tell (2011): 'Strategy and Capabilities in the P-form Corporation: Linking Strategic Direction with Organizational Capabilities.' Advances in Strategic Management, 28, 235–262.
Whitley, R. (2006): 'Project-based firms: new organizational form or variations on a theme?' Industrial and Corporate Change, 15 (1), 77–99.


Brian Hobbs holds the Project Management Chair in the School of Management at the University of Quebec at Montreal where he has been a professor in this field for almost thirty years. He is a prominent member of the international project research community and has published approximately 100 journal articles, conference papers and book chapters as well as co-authored six books. He was the primary organizer of the International Research Conference in Organizing by Projects that was held at his university in June 2011 and brought together 150 of the most important researchers in the field from 18 countries. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the 'International Journal of Project Management' and the 'Project Management Journal' and has been guest editor of four special issues of these journals in recent years.
Karlos Artto is Professor of Project Business at the Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland. He is leading the Project Business research group (PB). His publications include more than 100 academic papers, book chapters and books on project business and on the management of project-based firms. He belongs to several editorial boards, including 'International Journal of Project Management', 'Project Management Journal', and 'International Journal of Managing Projects in Business'.
Jonas Søderlund is Professor in the Department of Leadership and Organizational Management at BI Norwegian Business School. He is a founding member of and professor in the KITE Research Group (Knowledge Integration and Innovation in Transnational Enterprise) at Linköping University. Jonas has researched and published widely on the management and organization of projects and project-based firms and the evolution of project competence, including papers in 'Organization Studies', 'International Journal of Management Reviews', 'Human Resource Management', 'International Journal of Innovation Management' and 'International Business Review'. He is the author or co-author of five books and one of the editors of the "Oxford Handbook on Project Management".