Sub-theme 66: Temporality and Project-based Organizing

Timo Braun
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Jörg Raab
Tilburg University, The Netherlands
Iben Sandal Stjerne
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

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.

Timo Braun is Junior Professor for Project Management at the School of Business & Economics of Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, as well as project leader of the newly established scientific network “Temporary Organizing”. He has published on cooperative behaviors and on interorganizational relations in project-based organizing. His work appeared in journals such as the ‘British Journal of Management’, ‘Scandinavian Journal of Management’, and the ‘International Journal of Human Resource Management’. Timo is currently on the Editorial Board of the ‘International Journal of Project Management’.
Jörg Raab is Associate Professor of Policy and Organization at the Department of Organization Studies, Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Jörg has conducted extensive research in the fields of (temporary) organizations, inter- and intra-organizational relationships and policy networks. He currently is a member of the newly established scientific network “Temporary Organizing”. He has published in journals such as the ‘Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘International Journal of Project Management’, and ‘Journal of Management Inquiry’.
Iben Sandal Stjerne is a post-doctoral fellow at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Her primary research focus is in the intersection between temporal-permanent organizing, projects and Human Resource Management. She has published on temporal-permanent organizing of projects, inter-organizational projects and organizing of employment in project-based industries. Empirically this has been investigated in creative industries and more recently in more traditional production firms with an emphasis on the inter-organizational supplier-buyer relationships. Iben’s work appears in journals like ‘Organization Studies’ and ‘Ephemera’. She is currently a reviewer in ‘Human Relations’,’ International Journal of Project Management’, and ‘Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies’.