Sub-theme 43: Projects, Knowledge and Time

Jonas Søderlund
BI School of Management, Oslo, Norway
Andrew Davies
University College London, UK
Paolo Canonico
University of Napoli Federico II, Italy

Call for Papers

Projects as an organizational form play a critical role in many industries and societal contexts. Recently, the scholarly investigation of projects has advanced considerably through theoretical perspectives highlighting the close linkages beween projects and innovation, the difficulties of managing complexity in practice, and the nature of new forms of organizing. Research has also investigated the role of projects play in triggering learning and developing organizational capabilities. This theme seeks to advance our knowledge about organizing by projects by seeking to combine the knowledge and time dimensions in projects.

Indeed, knowledge integration has always been a critical part of organizing by projects. People join projects to integrate their diverse and uniquely held knowledge. However, knowledge integration in the context of projects is closely associated with time and timing. For instance, the ideas of knowledge integration as a matter of "knowledge entrainment" as well as the effort of syncronizing time perspectives and time orientations among the actors willing to achieve knowledge integration at the right point in time are increasingly central issues. This observation was already apparent in the classic work by Lawrence and Lorsch (1967) but there are still much more to do on this very subject. Knowledge integration requires a deep understanding of the speed and tempo of different knowledge processes, of different players' cycles of problem solving, and the ability for people to take part in organizational processes. Accordingly, we believe that project scholars interested in knowledge processes and knowledge integration should be more aware of the time dimensions.

Time limits bring about different reactions in project team members, depending on individual perceptions and attitude towards deadlines (Packendorff, 1995; Orlikowski & Yates, 2002). Gersick (1994), building on Clark (1985), distinguishes between chronological pacing, elapsing on conventional clock measures, based on the achievement of milestones, on the one hand, and entrainment-based pacing, on the other hand, in which the key concept is the alignment with external markers and field configuring events. This distinction underlies the subsequent redefinition of non-linear learning patterns. The plurality of approaches to the role of time in projects may help in providing insights on knowledge integration, but need to be developed further through in-depth empirical research.

The sub-theme invites contributions that focus on one or several of the following topics, addressing the intersection of issues related to projects, knowledge and time:

  • Knowledge integration in project settings
  • The role of time and temporality in project based organizations
  • Temporal issues in the organizational design of project based organizations
  • The interplay of power and organizational issues in knowledge integration processes at project level
  • The externalization of human resources and the new forms of division of labour for empowered knowledge workers in project settings
  • The investigation of learning and knowledge challenges in projects
  • The relationship between boundary-spanning activities in projects and knowledge integration
  • The combination and integration of extremely diverse knowledge for fostering innovation

The above should only be intended as a tentative list; we would also encourage authors to explore issues that extend beyond these initial suggestions. The aim of this sub-theme is to attract conceptual and empirical research able to increase our understanding of the role of time and timing in knowledge integration in the context of projects. We are particularly interested in research that draws on a variety of organizational theories and perspectives.

We welcome contributions at multiple levels of analysis – on individuals in projects, on processes at the project level, and on firms organized through projects. Given that much theorizing at present has been overly static we are interested in contributions that seek to uncover the emergence and dynamics of projects and project-based firms – how knowledge is developed over time, how knowledge is integrated over time, and how projects change over time.

All presentations will be commented by a discussant from the group. Session chairs will be asked to provide a friendly atmosphere for discussion.




  • Clark, P.A. (1985): "A Review of the Theories of Time and Structure for Organizational Sociology." Research in Sociology of Organization, 4 (1), 35–79.
  • Gersick, C.J.G. (1994): "Pacing Strategic Change: The Case of a New Venture." Academy of Management Journal, 37 (1), 9–45.
  • Lawrence, P., & Lorsch, J. (1967): "Differentiation and Integration in Complex Organizations." Administrative Science Quarterly, 12, pp. 1–30.
  • Orlikowski, W.J., Yates J. (2002): "It's about Time: Temporal Structuring in Organizations." Organization Science, 13 (6), 684–700.
  • Packendorff, J. (1995): "Inquiring into the Temporary Organization: New Directions for Project Management Research." Scandinavian Journal of Management, 11 (4), 319–333.


Jonas Søderlund is Professor in the Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at BI Norwegian Business School and a founding member of the KITE Research Group (Knowledge Integration and Innovation in Transnational Enterprise) at Linköping University, Sweden. He has published widely on the management and organization of temporary organizations and project-based firms, time and knowledge integration, and the evolution of organizational capabilities, including papers in 'Organization Studies', 'Human Relations', 'Management Learning', 'Human Resource Management', 'International Business Review', 'Personnel Review', 'R&D Management', and 'International Journal of Management Reviews'. He is one of the editors of the "Oxford Handbook on Project Management".
Andrew Davies is Professor of the Management of Projects in the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, University College London, UK. His research has focused on how innovation occurs in complex product systems, project-based firms and organisations, and on systems integration. He has published in journals such as 'California Management Review', 'MIT Sloan Management Review', 'Research Policy', 'Organization Studies', 'Industrial Marketing Management' and 'Industrial and Corporate Change', and authored leading volumes such as "The Business of Projects: Managing Innovation in Complex Products and Systems" (Cambridge University Press) and "The Business of Systems Integration" (Oxford University Press).
Paolo Canonico is Associate Professor of Organization Studies at University of Napoli Federico II, Italy. His research interests are broadly related to the study of knowledge and human resources in project oriented organizational forms. His research appeared in journals such as 'International Journal of Project Management', 'Journal of Knowledge Management', 'Journal of Management and Governance', 'International Review of Public Administration'. In 2013, he served as guest editor of a special issue of the 'International Journal of Managing': Projects in Business devoted to knowledge creation in projects.