Sub-theme 37: Studying Project-based Organizing through a Temporal Lens

René M. Bakker
Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Andreas Schwab
Iowa State University, USA
Jörg Sydow
Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin

Call for Papers

One of the most salient aspects of project-based organizing is that projects (as well as other forms of temporary organizations) are characterized by intentionally finite time spans that enable firms to organize in a flexible, ad-hoc manner (Sydow et al., 2004; Jones & Lichtenstein, 2008; Schwab & Miner, 2008). Interest by organization scholars in this subject is rapidly growing (Bakker, 2010) and has extended from studying traditional project settings, such as movie production (Faulkner & Anderson, 1987) and construction (Eccles, 1981), to studying a much wider variety of temporary organizational processes in firms (March, 1995).

Despite this broadening research interest, our progress toward understanding the temporal organizational processes that are germane to project-based organizing is being limited by the lack of a strong theoretical base. The aim of this sub-theme is to bring together current conceptual and empirical research that deepens our understanding of project-based organizing and the broader temporary organizational processes to which it relates. We are particularly interested in work that involves a temporal lens, as we believe time is one of the most salient dimensions of project-based organizing, and one that can have much broader theoretical implications in organizational research.


Key questions and themes

The following issues illustrate potential areas of interest, but offer only a starting point, as we welcome creativity in topic, theory and method:

Effects of time horizons and varying durations: While generally regarded as its distinguishing characteristic, the temporary nature of project-based organizing has received only scant research attention. Questions that are left unanswered include, for instance:

  • What are the antecedents of varying time horizons of organizational processes, and what are their effects on organizational functioning and outcomes?
  • How do the shadow of the past (e.g. prior experiences between participants, path dependence) and shadow of the future (the expectation of future interaction) influence project work?
  • What exactly are the dimensions of temporariness, and how can and should they be captured?

Organizational tensions between temporary and permanent. In many firms, temporary and more permanent organizational processes are inherently intertwined. However, current theories rarely address the resulting tensions. Key questions include:

  • How is temporary organizing interacting with organizational structures that are more permanent?
  • Which tensions and contradictions arise in such nested contexts?
  • What (additional) managerial activities are required for integrating temporary organizing into more permanent organizational structures?

Appropriate research designs: The study of temporary organizing requires research designs that explicitly model and account for temporality and the often nested nature of data.

  • Do existing methodologies hold promise when applied or adapted to project contexts, like process research designs to capture emerging and dynamic phenomena in their temporal order, or advanced multilevel modeling to better capture cross-level effects pertaining to the tensions at the nexus between temporary and permanent?
  • What novel methodological approaches hold promise for capturing temporary organizing phenonema? 

Last, but not least, please note:

Organization Studies, the official journal of EGOS, invites paper submissions for a Special Issue on "Temporary Organizing" (submission deadline: September 30, 2014). For more information, please click here.


Bakker, René M. (2010): 'Taking stock of temporary organizational forms: A systematic review and research agenda.' International Journal of Management Reviews, 12 (4), pp. 466–486.
Eccles, Robert G. (1981): 'The quasifirm in the construction industry.' Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2 (4), pp. 335–357.
Faulkner, Robert R. & Andy B. Anderson (1987): 'Short-term projects and emergent careers: Evidence from Hollywood.' American Journal of Sociology, 92 (4), pp. 879–909.
Jones, Candace & Benyamin B. Lichtenstein (2008): 'Temporary inter-organizational projects: How temporal and social embeddedness enhance coordination and manage uncertainty.' In: Steve Cropper, Chris Huxham, Mark Ebers & Peter Smith Ring (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Inter-Organizational Relations. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 231–255.
March, James G. (1995): 'The future, disposable organizations and the rigidities of imagination.' Organization, 2 (3-4), pp. 427–440.
Schwab, Andreas & Anne S. Miner (2008): 'Learning in hybrid-project systems: The effect of project performance on repeated collaboration.' Academy of Management Journal, 51 (6), pp. 1117–1149.
Sydow, Jörg, Lars Lindkvist & Robert DeFillippi (2004): 'Project-based organizations, embeddedness and repositories of knowledge: Editorial.' Organization Studies, 25 (9), pp. 1475–1489.


René M. Bakker is a research fellow at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. His main research interest is broadly in the time dimension to organization, with a focus on time horizons (e.g. those of strategic alliances), timing (e.g. of opportunity exploitation decisions), and temporary organizations (e.g. creative projects).
Andreas Schwab is Associate Professor of Management at Iowa State University, USA. His research investigates organizational learning processes in project venture settings. He is a member of the editorial boards of 'Organization Science', 'Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal' and 'The Journal of Small Business Management'.
Jörg Sydow is Professor of Management and Inter-firm Cooperation at the School of Business & Economics of Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, and Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Business of Strathclyde University, Glasgow, UK. His research focuses, among others, on temporary organizing in networks. Jörg is a member of the editorial boards of 'Organization Studies', 'Organization Science', 'Academy of Management Review', 'The Scandinavian Journal of Management' and 'Academy of Management Journal'.