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”It’s in the between”

Inter-Project Organising in Project Ecologies

Time: Fri 2022-06-03 10.00

Location: F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26 & 28, Stockholm

Video link:

Language: English

Subject area: Business Studies

Doctoral student: Susanna Hedborg , Ledning och organisering i byggande och förvaltning

Opponent: Professor Jonas Söderlund, Linköpings Universitet

Supervisor: Professor Tina Karrbom Gustavsson, Ledning och organisering i byggande och förvaltning

QC 20220509


The word project is used to describe everything from mundane tasks tomajor government-initiated structural changes. Projects are also thefocus of a growing research field that seeks to understand how society isorganised. On the back of this ‘projectification’, projects are becomingincreasingly entangled with each other, both in and betweenorganisations. This means that it is not only important to understandsingle projects, but also the interdependencies between projects in multiprojectcontexts. There is a call for a deeper understanding of multiprojectcontexts as interdependencies between projects can influenceproject work and outcomes widely, even though the interdependenciesare not visible in formal relationships. This thesis applies the concept ofproject ecologies to explore interdependencies that go beyond strategic orformal relationships. Inspired by a practice perspective, the purpose ofthis thesis is to increase the understanding of multi-project context,through investigating inter-project practices in project ecologies.In this thesis, urban development and construction projects are studied togain insight into inter-project practices in project ecologies. Spaceinterdependencies are multiple when parallel and sequential constructionprojects are carried out in a confined urban development district, and theactions of construction clients in this setting are studied using interviews,meeting observations and project documents. Routine dynamics are themain analytical framework, and the emergence of inter-project routines isused to study inter-project practices and how interdependencies becomerelationships through joint action.The findings show that construction clients commencing projects in anurban development district must apply both an intra- and inter-projectfocus. As project ecologies have low levels of formal management,construction clients must take actions to handle space interdependenciesbetween projects, i.e., actions patterned into routines between projects.These actions are not steered through principal-agent relationships, butstem from self-organising to a large extent. In project ecologies, the maincomplexities lie between projects, but benefits can be achieved if theactors can overcome issues relating to skewed power relationships, trust,and resource allocations. In the case of urban development, these benefitscan include the creation of new neighbourhoods and sustainability.The focus on the space between projects and on inter-project routinessuggests that the concept of project ecologies would benefit from an interprojectlayer running horizontally between projects. This layer, whencoupled with the routine dynamics framework, could help move theconcept of project ecologies beyond identifying actors, projects andorganisations in networks, to following the actions and actors’ practicesthat emerge in a project ecology.This thesis contributes to project studies by exploring organising that isboth inter-project and inter-organisational, moving beyond programmesand megaprojects as concepts explaining complex project organising.More specifically, it contributes to the literature on project ecologies byextending the understanding of organising in project ecologies throughexploring actions between projects. By using organisational routines tozoom-in on the actions between projects, the current definition of projectecologies as centred around a single project and firm is scrutinised.Moreover, this thesis contributes to the construction managementliterature by redirecting the focus away from contractual relationships toshowing how construction clients’ roles are influenced byinterdependencies between projects and by having to perform intra- andinter-project practices in parallel.