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Managing complex development projects: arenas, knowledge processes and time

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The literature on project management has been dominated by techniques and methods for separating activities and making thought out plans. Closely related to this research stream is the research on product development, which seems to advocate somewhat of a different strategy where managing projects is a matter of enabling the crossing of functions and knowledge bases. This paper attempts to integrate these two lines of research.

The paper is based on two in–depth case studies of project management in product development contexts. The projects under study were highly complex and consisted of multiple interrelated parts, which called for ‘tightly coupled’ organizational solutions. From our point of view, much effort by the project management teams was put into establishing a project that was responsive and where participating local units were oriented toward various ‘global’ measures.

In our conception, the overall deadline seemed to have played an important role for promoting communal and interactive problem solving. Furthermore, the deadline emphasized the need for global arenas where the interactive problem solving could take place. It is argued that time–based controls set a global time for the project. The paper also demonstrates the importance of various global arenas, such as testing activities and project management forums, in order to keep track of time limits and to trigger global knowledge processes. Furthermore, based on the notion of ‘separation’ and ‘coupling’ of sub–systems and project phases, the paper suggests a model identifying four types of project organizations. The paper contributes to the knowledge on project management in complex product development.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Linköping University, Sweden  [email protected]

Publication date: 2002-11-01

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