Models in action: how management models are interpreted in new product development

Authors: Engwall, Mats; Kling, Ragnar; Werr, Andreas

Source: R&D Management, Volume 35, Number 4, September 2005 , pp. 427-439(13)

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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This paper studies the use of product development management models. Through an interpretive research approach based on in-depth interviews with 22 middle managers in two product development organizations, five ways of conceiving projects, project management and the role of models are identified – administrative, organizing, sense giving, team building and engineering – all representing different perspectives on – and ways of using models. The findings question essentialist views of models, common in the literature, as either normative guides for action or symbolic tools decoupled from action. Instead, the study indicates a large variety in the use of models mediated by the user's conception of the situation and the model. The study highlights the communicative role of models as boundary objects, enabling coordination of and communication about different conceptions of the development task. Rather than contributing to behavioral standardization (an implicit assumption that underlies most formal models), this study suggests that models support cognitive standardization by providing a common set of concepts and a framework that may be drawn upon in making sense of complex product development projects.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Stockholm School of Economics, Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden. , Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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