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Much of today’s work is accomplished within projects. In Temporary Organizing and Institutional Change, recently published in Organization Studies, Sampo Tukiainen and Nina Granqvist investigate how people engage in temporary project work that ultimately holds potential for institutional change. They analyzed how events unfolded over time within a project designed to establish the “Innovation University” that contributed to a nationwide university reform in a European country. The article shows how the process of establishing this university took many twists and turns, and highlights the way that “lock-ins” can occur and promote change.
I particularly like this article because the authors show us the real messiness of such project work, while also giving attention to the temporal aspects of institutional change. Tukiainen and Granqvist develop a theoretical model of institutional project work that shows how actors engage in interactions while scoping and specifying the change. In addition, their case study suggests that successful institutional projects build on previous change attempts; the odds of success are improved by finding ways to build on previous activities and learning, even those arising from previous failures. This is an important article for everyone who wants to gain a greater understanding of temporary organizations and how they can drive institutional change.
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