Sub-theme 66: Temporality and Project-based Organizing
Call for Papers
Temporary organizing in the shape of projects, events or contract and temporary work is a widely spread empirical phenomenon
in today’s organizations and the wider society that still continues to grow in importance. It reflects both the uncertainty
resulting from intensified competition in globalized markets and the “Zeitgeist” of acceleration and time limitation in society
(Lundin et al., 2015). Forms of temporary organizing provide a high degree of flexibility to the actors involved and it is
the predominant form of organizing to implement innovative and transformative activities. Projects are characterized by intentionally
finite time frames which enable organizations to act in a flexible and often ad-hoc manner (Sydow et al., 2004; Kenis et al.,
2009; Bakker et al., 2016). Furthermore, projects have, on the one hand, been said to be enhancers for change as they allow
organizations to try out risky ideas without fixed resource commitments that could compromise the entire organization (Defillippi,
2002). On the other hand, however, there is also increasing criticism about structural temporary employment and research has
shown that despite its potential, temporary organizational forms suffer from “organizational amnesia” (Grabher, 2004, p. 1492),
because the knowledge combined to serve the goals is often “thereafter allowed to disperse” (Lampel et al., 2008, p. 10).
Despite of the increased scholarly interest in the field of organization theory (Bakker, 2010), our understanding of temporary organizing is still limited. For example, the role of time in project-based organizations is poorly understood (Bakker et al., 2016) even though temporality plays a central role in managing projects. Projects are embedded in the history of organizations and prior project successes or failures (Stjerne & Svejenova, 2016) while at the same time they have the potential for stating a future direction for the organization and making larger transitions. These dynamics may create tensions between temporary and permanent organizing and deserve to be further addressed, e.g. we should better understand how the interaction between stability and change in organizations can be possibly balanced with the potential of attaching or detaching these projects from their embedded organizations and institutions over time (Sydow et al., 2004). This may cause attachment-detachment dilemmas that can be difficult for managers to navigate in the portfolio of projects (Sahlin-Andersson & Söderholm, 2002) or in HR policies in organizations as a whole.
Project participants’ temporal orientations play an essential role in managing these tensions hereby both delimit and enhance new projects (Stjerne & Svejenova, 2016). Dispersed or even conflicting temporal orientations may also create tensions in settings in which participants from different organizational settings collaborate in projects such as in inter-organizational projects (Dille & Söderlund, 2011; Reinecke & Ansari, 2015). Hence, successfully managing temporality is an important yet undertheorized aspect of managing and understanding projects. We therefore need to look further into the work on temporal tensions and boundaries that are negotiated both within projects as well as their relation to the organizations and institutions in which they are embedded.
Moreover, the insights from the context of project-based organizing will contribute to the development of organization theory in general, which is currently increasingly addressing issues of time and temporality. We welcome contributions from various conceptual, methodological and empirical approaches that are employed to capture facets of temporary organizing and projects.
The following issues illustrate potential areas of interest, but offer only a starting point, as we welcome creativity in topic, theory and method:
Influence of temporality (past-present-future) on the process and outcomes of project-based organizing
Project-based organizing as a source of stability and change
Dealing with tensions between the inherent temporariness of projects and the intended permanence of project outcomes
The function and effects of ‘serial’ projects
Projects as arenas for institutional conflict and transition
Historicity and path-dependence of projects
Embeddedness of projects in more permanent structures and institutional conditions and their potential interplay
- Bakker, R.M. (2010): “Taking stock of temporary organizational forms: A systematic review and research agenda.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 12 (4), 466–486.
- Bakker, R.M., DeFillippi, R., Schwab, A., & Sydow, J. (2016): “Temporary organizing: Promises, processes, problems.” Organization Studies, 37 (12), 1703–1719.
- DeFillippi, R. (2002): “Information technology and organizational models for project collaboration in the new economy.” Human Resource Planning, 25, 7–18.
- Dille, T., & J. Söderlund (2013): “Managing temporal misfits in institutional environments. A study of critical incidents in a complex public project.” International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 6 (3), 552–575.
- Grabher, G. (2004): “Temporary Architectures of Learning: Knowledge Governance in Project Ecologies.” Organization Studies, 25 (9), 1491–1514.
- Kenis, P., Janowicz-Panjaitan, M., & Cambré, B. (eds.) (2009): Temporary Organzations. Prevalence, Logic and Effectiveness. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
- Lampel, J., Scarbrough, H., & Macmillan, S. (2008): “Managing through Projects in Knowledge-based Environments. Special Issue Introduction by the Guest Editors.” Long Range Planning, 41 (1), 7–16.
- Lundin, R., Arvidsson, N., Brady, T., Eksted, E., Midler, C., & Sydow, J. (2015): Managing and Working in Project Society. Institutional Challenges of Temporary Organizations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Sahlin-Andersson, K., & Söderholm, A. (eds.) (2002): Beyond Project Management. New Perspectives on the Temporary–Permanent Dilemma. Copenhagen: Liber, Copenhagen Business School Press.
- Stjerne, I., & Svejenova, S. (2016): “Connecting Temporary and Permanent Organizing: Tensions and Boundary Work in a Series of Film Projects.” Organization Studies, 37 (2), 1771–1792.
- Sydow, J., Lindkvist, L., & DeFillippi, R.J. (2004): “Project-based organizations, embeddedness and repositories of knowledge. Editorial.” Organization Studies, 25 (9), 1475–1489.