#9 ‘Embracing the Drifting Environment’

Together with Markus Hällgren and Anders Söderholm, I got just got a paper published in a recent special issue on Classics in Project Management. The paper is titled “Embracing the drifting environment: The legacy and impact of a Scandinavian project literature classic”, and can be download in its full length here.

To cite the paper: Hällgren, Markus, Jacobsson, Mattias and Söderholm, Anders (2012), “Embracing the drifting environment: The legacy and impact of a Scandinavian project literature classic”, International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 5, No.4, pp. 695 – 713.

Structured abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview and analysis of the legacy of Christensen and Kreiner’s (1991) literally classic Projektledning: att leda och lära i en ofullständig värld (Project Management: to manage and learn in an incomplete world).

Design: The paper is based on a three-step theoretical analysis deduced from the mentioned classic. The first step provides an overview of the content where the core ideas of the book are derived. This is followed by an analysis of the legacy and impact on theory, empirical approaches, and education. Finally, three main takeaways from the book are discussed.

Findings: In tracking the legacy, the paper analyses, discusses, and illustrates how the Scandinavian approach to projects has evolved. It pinpoints the two core insights of the book; the importance of understanding the impact of the institutional environment on operations, and embracing uncertainty as a natural part of everyday organizational reality. Based on these insights it is shown how the book has expanded the theoretical contributions towards a focus on temporary organisations and everyday practice, how it has helped to make situated empirical research matter, and how it has influenced education to deal with real-life project challenges.

Research limitations: This paper investigates a book available only in the Scandinavian language and thus only available for a Scandinavian research community. As such the review is written from a Scandinavian perspective, with the limitations in terms of objectivity to the book that follow from that.

Practical implications: The main lessons discussed in relation to the heritage from the book are: an increased focus on the details of organizing, situated multi-level case-studies, and situation-sensitive teaching methodologies. The paper argues that an increased understanding of projects should start with a detailed multi-level analysis of temporary organizing to provide a sound foundation on which to base future research and teaching.

Originality/value:  The paper provides an understanding of the origins and diffusion of underpinning ideas of the Scandinavian approach to project management.

Keywords: Books, Contextualizing projects, Practice institutional impact, Project management, Project management classic, Project planning, Scandinavia, Scandinavian School, Uncertainty management