Inquiring into the temporary organization: New directions for project management research (Packendorff, 1995)

Inquiring temp orga

Packendorff, Johann: Inquiring into the temporary organization: New directions for project management research; in: Scandinavian Journal of Management, Vol. 11 (1995), No. 4, pp. 319-333.

Firstly Packendorff gives a brief overview about the research on project management. He roots PM research in operations research with the development of the Gantt-Chart in 1910. The other big themes of research Packendorff identifies are

  • scheduling techniques (1950s and onwards)
  • Organisation Theory/HR Management/Leadership (1960s and onwards)
  • software tools/2nd generation Operations Research (1980s and onwards)
  • critical success factor research (1990s and onwards)
  • team building and matrix organisations (1995 [the year the article was written])

In this article Packendorff identifies three main shortcomings of project management research and theory. (1) Project Management is usually seen as a general theory and a theoretical field in its own right, (2) research on project management offers an abundance of normative advice despite being not sufficiently empirical, and (3) projects are seen as “tools” and not organisations.

Furthermore Packendorff recommends three changes in project management research to overcome these shortcomings. (1) Middle range theories for different kinds of projects should replace the general theory focus. (2) The aim of research should be to provide a descriptive theory (instead of the normative advice) which is grounded in empirical narrative studies on human interaction on projects = comparative case studies. (3) Projects should be seen as temporary organisations (instead of management tools) which are an aggregate of individuals temporarily enacting a common cause.

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