Managing and Working in Project Society


Bpmwj47-Jun2016-Pells-BOOKook Title: Managing and Working in Project Society: Institutional Challenges of Temporary Organizations
Authors: Rolf A. Lundin, Niklas Arvidsson, Tim Brady, Eskil Ekstedt, Christophe Midler, Jörg Sydow
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
List Price:   US$99.99       Format: hard cover; 274 pages
Publication Date:  July 2015       ISBN: 978-1-107-07765-2
Reviewer:     David L. Pells       
Review Date: March 2016


Introduction to the Book

This is one of the best books about project management that I have read in years. It’s also one of the most important. I don’t usually review books. We receive so many project management books that normally I forward them to others for review through one of our book review programs. In this case, however, because the topic was one that I have been interested in for many years, namely the projectification of society, I wanted to review it myself. In addition, Professor Lundin and his co-authors are true experts on the topics of temporary organizations, project-based work and project management so I wanted to see what they had to say. I am very happy that I did.

This book clears the air on many important topics, explaining for example why projects and temporary organizations are becoming more common everywhere, how projects and project management apply to such industries as movie production and The Arts, why academic institutions find it so hard to embrace project management as a major topic in business schools, the impact of project-based work on economies, employment and labor trends, and more. These are important aspects of the field that I have thought about for a long time, as someone involved with the project professional field for several decades.

In addition, this book provides both a theoretical and practical description of the context for both projects and project management, an increasingly visible and important aspect of professional project management standards, training and qualifications. This emphasis on context is especially visible in Europe, but increasing worldwide.

As I hope you will understand from my comments below, I think this book belongs on the bookshelf of every leader in the project management profession worldwide, everyone researching some aspect of project management, every student of project management, every executive of a project-based organization, and every practicing project management professional who plans to stay in the field. The book is that important!

Overview of Book’s Structure

The book is organized in only six chapters, each one important and containing significant new information, as follows:

  1. Project organizing and industrial organization – transformation dilemmas: Chapter One sets the stage, the global context for modern project management. The authors briefly describe the widespread and growing trend towards projectification, the fading era of traditional industrial organizations, and some of the dilemmas of the transition. Chapter one ends with a fuller explanation for the purpose of the book, and summarizes the contents of the remaining chapters.
  2. Projectification trends and organizational archtypes: Chapter Two “discusses projectification trends and processes in more detail” and introduces (and fully describes) three organizational” archtypes: project-based organizations (PBOs), project-supported organizations (PSOs) and project networks (PNWs).” The context for each of these three organization types is fully explained, including historical trends, environmental factors and practical application considerations.
  3. Managing in Project Society: Chapter Three discusses project management in each of the three organizational archtypes, and specifically how managing projects (temporary organizations) differs from managing in traditional industrial production-based organizations (bureaucracies). The impact on individual lives, especially during organizational transitions, is discussed. What happens when projects and traditional structures collide? Of particular interest is the discussion of “key management dilemmas” in each of the three organization types, PBOs, PSOs and PNSs.
  4. Work and employment regimes in Project Society: Chapter Four describes the changing nature of jobs and employment in the modern project-based economy, challenges for individual job seekers and project professionals, and implications for companies, governments and society at large. The authors “describe how the character of work is changing with Project Society.” Major sections discuss ‘use of the working time and space’ and ‘work and employment’ in project-based organizations, project-supported organizations and project networks. Points related to project-related careers are included.
  5. Institutions and projectification: Chapter Five “focuses on the effects of projectification on institutions..”       As the authors state in the first paragraph, “when a strong trend toward projects and other forms of temporary organizations confronts the predominant institutions of the surrounding society, friction and tensions inevitably arise because most of these are still adapted to industrial work in more permanent settings.”       The authors then go on to describe the impact of projectification on labor laws and other elements of law and legal institutions, market regulations and regulators, politics and political institutions, educational institutions, professional societies and less formal institutions (for example, self-employment, temporary and part-time work).
  6. Trends and theory implications: Chapter Six brings the authors back to their academic and theoretical roots as they discuss projectification trends in relation to current debates among researchers, traditional management and organizational theories, and theories related to change in general, both incremental and disruptive. The authors end with a call for more research, introduce some challenges and suggest some topics.

But before the six chapters, don’t miss the “Preface: Contents in a Nutshell”, where the authors explain that the book is “about the ascendance of projects and temporary organizations in society.” The bottom line: “the evolution of Project Society has been alluded to in other contexts, but the movement has accelerated and will continue to do so since it is facilitated by modern information and communication technology and knowledge formation..”


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About the Reviewer

David L. Pells

Managing Editor, PMWJ



 David L. Pells is Managing Editor of the PM World Journal, an open source digital Journal for sharing knowledge in program and project management, and Executive Director of the PM World Library. He has been an active professional leader in the United States since the 1980s, serving on the board of directors of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) twice. He was founder and chair of the Global Project Management Forum (1995-2000), an annual meeting of leaders of PM associations from around the world. David was awarded PMI’s Person of the Year award in 1998 and Fellow Award, PMI’s highest honor, in 1999. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK; Project Management Associates (PMA – India); and Russian Project Management Association. He was previously managing editor of the globally acclaimed PM World Today eJournal.

David has more than 35 years of project management related experience on a variety of programs and projects, including engineering, construction, defense, energy, transit, high technology and nuclear security, and project sizes ranging from several thousand to ten billion dollars. His experience has been in both government and private sectors. He occasionally provides high level advisory support for major programs and global organizations. David has published widely, spoken at conferences and events worldwide, and can be contacted at [email protected].

To view other works by David Pells, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/david-l-pells/.