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Organizing project-based operations: The interplay of content, context and social processes
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Industrial Management.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7338-1404
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Project-based organizations (PBOs) are becoming increasingly widespread and important for the modern economy and society. Thus, they attact significant scholarly attention to their distinctive features. The unit of analysis employed by the majority of the studies is the project-based organization as a whole. Hence, the locus of attention stays at the organizational level, whereas project-related effects are discussed in terms of aggregate properties. With very few exceptions, projects as distinct entities do not feature prominently in the discussion of project-based organizations.

This observation creates an interesting paradox. In particular, when projects are discussed as separate units of analysis, their complex organizational dynamics, idiosyncrasies, and institutional embeddedness are among important loci of attention. However, when projects and project collections are discussed within the context of the PBO, the very same aspects tend to be downplayed. Most commonly, projects are either neglected or implicitly assumed to be homogeneous, interchangeable atomic units without internal structure or dynamics, obediently following orders of the parent organizations. Their internal organizational properties are overlooked and the individual-level variables are assumed to have little or no influence on the project outcomes. This thesis questions these assumptions and posits that understanding the dynamics at the project operations level might have important implications for explaining the effectiveness of management arrangements in the PBO.

In particular, this thesis aims to explore the factors that shape project-based operations in the setting of the project-based organization. The thesis examines three particular factors which affect organizing of the project-based operations: (1) the content of operations; (2) the context of operations; and (3) the social processes at the operational level. Structurally, the thesis comprises a cover essay and four appended papers (three of them published in international peer-reviewed journals).

Largely inductive in nature, the thesis builds on two research studies. The first study represents an in-depth “insider” case study of project-based operations in the Operations division of a large pharmaceutical company. It employs a combination of data collection methods, including semi-structured interviews, participant observations, and document analysis. The second study represents a structured framework-based literature review. Recognizing the organizational properties of projects, the thesis draws upon several literature streams within organization theory and design to analyze the empirical data. The results elaborate how the organizing of project-based operations in the PBO is shaped by the interplay between the content, intra-organizational and wider institutional contexts, as well as endogenous social processes.

The thesis contributes to the literature on project-based organizations by developing an institutional, as well as extending a contingency perspective on organizing project-based operations. Further, the results call for revisiting the conceptualization of the PBO by questioning the view of projects as atomic and homogeneous units. Finally, the thesis contributes to the literature by developing an organization design perspective on the PBO.

In terms of managerial implications, the thesis offers a few frameworks which can be used to support the decision-making process in a PBO. In particular, Paper I develops a contingency model of program management competences (the 3C model), Paper II derives a framework that can help PBO managers in evaluating the sources of isomorphic pressure on individual projects and programs, while Paper IV puts forth an organization design model for the PBO. At a more general level, Paper II discusses how the identified isomorphic processes within the PBO can limit flexibility, innovation, and efficiency. Finally, the cover essay discusses the important factors that need to be scrutinized in order to assess organizing of the project-based operations, such as the technical content, the project landscape and social landscape or the influence of institutionalised practices and models.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm, Sweden: Kungliga Tekniska högskolan, 2017. , p. 77
Series
TRITA-IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; 2017:09
Series
ISRN/KTH/IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; R-17:09-SE
Keywords [en]
project-based operations, project-based organization, PBO, contingency, new institutionalism, organization theory, organization design
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Research subject
Industrial Engineering and Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-206670ISBN: 978-91-7729-407-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-206670DiVA, id: diva2:1093511
Public defence
2017-05-30, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20170508

Available from: 2017-05-08 Created: 2017-05-08 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Exploring program management competences for various program types
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring program management competences for various program types
2016 (English)In: International Journal of Project Management, ISSN 0263-7863, E-ISSN 1873-4634, Vol. 34, no 3, p. 545-557Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper challenges the implicit 'one-size-fits-all' assumption that dominates mainstream program management competence literature. Findings from case studies of 10 programs executed in a large pharmaceutical company suggest that different programs require different competences of program managers. Based on the Pellegrinelli's (1997) program typology we put forward a framework, linking specific management competences to program types. By establishing the link between the program typologies literature and program management competence literature, the paper shows that programs should not be treated as a generic and homogenous category in discussions on program management competences. In addition, the findings highlight program content as a significant contingency variable for understanding program management dynamics. The paper suggests a conceptual framework that combines program types with program management competence profiles that could be applied to appointment decisions, staff assessments and organizational development.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016
Keywords
Capabilities, Competence profile, Competences, Contingency theory, Program management, Program typology, Project governance, Innovation, Project management, Competence profiles, Human resource management
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Industrial Engineering and Management; Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-175040 (URN)10.1016/j.ijproman.2015.07.006 (DOI)000371941200014 ()2-s2.0-84959111810 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20151208

Available from: 2015-12-08 Created: 2015-10-09 Last updated: 2017-12-01Bibliographically approved
2. Mechanisms of isomorphism in project-based organizations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Mechanisms of isomorphism in project-based organizations
2016 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The paper challenges dominant assumption of goal rationality behind temporary organizations’ design in project-based organizations. While extant literature posits that organizations strive to select most appropriate project arrangements to fit the particular task requirements at hand, findings from an in-depth ethnography-inspired case study suggest that projects tend to imitate each other’s structures, strategies and practices with little consideration of the potential performance effects. The paper builds on the notion of the project as a temporary organization to conceptualize the project-based organization as an organizational field of temporary organizations. Thus the paper draws upon the new institutionalism in organizational analysis in order to discuss isomorphism pressures on temporary organizations within project-based organizations and to explicate these processes. The paper concludes with the discussion of a number of implications of the results for both theory and practice.

Keywords
Project-based organization, temporary organization, organization design, institutional theory, isomorphic mechanisms
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-197650 (URN)
Conference
Scandinavian Academy of Industrial Engineering and Management Conference (ScaIEM 2016)
Note

QC 20170118

Available from: 2016-12-06 Created: 2016-12-06 Last updated: 2018-05-23Bibliographically approved
3. The organization design perspective on the project-based organization: a structured review
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The organization design perspective on the project-based organization: a structured review
2017 (English)In: International Journal of Managing Projects in Business/Emerald, ISSN 1753-8378, E-ISSN 1753-8386, Vol. 10, no 3Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to use an organizational design perspective to determine the scope of the state-of-the art of research into project-based organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper follows a structured framework-based literature review approach. It uses an analytical framework from the organization design literature to assess 177 papers relevant to the design of the project-based organization that were published in four leading PM journals between 2008 and 2015. We determine which elements of organization design are covered in each paper and identify specific research themes for each of the element emerging from the literature. Finally, we examine the degree to which interdependencies among separate elements are addressed in the literature and discuss the most holistic papers in more details.

Findings

The results show that the literature on project-based organizations downplays broader organizational issues (such as organizational strategy, incentive schemes and performance management systems) while emphasizing research agenda inherited from research on single project management. In addition, the study highlights limited attention in the literature to the interdependence between separate design choices. Finally, it develops a research framework to map current themes in the literature and their relative importance and discusses a prospective research agenda.

Research limitations/implications

Academic implications stem from looking at the project management literature from a fresh theoretical perspective and putting project-based organization as a whole in the focus. There is a great research potential in studying organization-wide aspects and interdependencies between various organization design choices in project-based organizations.

Practical implications

Reflective practitioners could benefit from a wider view on the project-based organization and its design. They could also use the developed framework in management discussions.

Originality/value

The paper offers a novel way of conceptualizing research on project-based organizations by linking it to an established stream within the field of organization theory and design.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2017
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-206368 (URN)10.1108/IJMPB-06-2016-0048 (DOI)000403612100003 ()2-s2.0-85020398198 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20170502

Available from: 2017-04-30 Created: 2017-04-30 Last updated: 2017-06-30Bibliographically approved
4. Towards a design for the project-based organization
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards a design for the project-based organization
2017 (English)In: International Journal of Project Management, ISSN 0263-7863, E-ISSN 1873-4634, Vol. 35, no 3, p. 479-491Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Organization design is an established field of research within organization studies, focusing on different organizational forms, the array of the design strategies available to managers and their external and internal contingencies. However, our understanding of the complementary design choices available to managers of project-based organizations is limited. Building on both organization theory and design and project management literature this study identifies design choices available for the design of the project-based organization. Adopting the contingency perspective, it reviews the literature on project-based organizations to explore key factors that influence the design of the project-based organization in comparison with more traditional organizations. The resulting model offers a starting point for further studies on the design of the project-based organization. The study concludes by suggesting a research agenda in light of the results.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2017
Keywords
Organization design; New forms of organization; Project-based organization; Contingency theory; Design choices; Organizational project management; Management by projects
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Engineering and Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-206367 (URN)10.1016/j.ijproman.2016.12.007 (DOI)000397074100019 ()2-s2.0-85009433247 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20170502

Available from: 2017-04-30 Created: 2017-04-30 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved

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