On the Road to Project Society – A Swedish Story


Managing and Working in Project Society

By Torbjörn Wenell, Eskil Ekstedt and Rolf A. Lundin


In the book” Managing and Working in Project Society” (Lundin et al, 2015) there is a discussion about challenges in the transformation from the dominance of traditional industrial organizations to an extensive use of project organizations, especially challenges related to management and work. The senior author of this article, Torbjörn Wenell, has been involved in the development of major projects and project thinking since the 60`s, a period covering most of the ongoing transformation so far in Sweden. In the following we will provide some illustrations to the “projectification” process in this country essentially building on his experiences starting in the 60’s with how international industrial companies in Sweden (like Volvo, Saab and Ericsson) developed and increasingly became supported by advanced projects to the present time when we have seen a diffusion of projects and project thinking to all parts of society of today.

In the previously mentioned book on “Project Society” the following three archetypes are used to characterize “projectification” and the resulting projects in different environments: 1) Project based organizations (PBOs) deliver projects directly to their customers as their business, 2) Project-supported organizations or PSOs refers to organizations making use of projects in the traditional, internal functioning and of the development of their organization. 3) Project networks or PNWs, refers to the proliferation of inter-organizational (and interpersonal) projects in various contexts. These kinds of projects are not only numerous but they are also becoming increasingly sophisticated. To meet the increasing demand of knowledge on how to handle management and work in projects, models have been developed, educational programs have been started and professional organizations for project managers have been founded.

The three archetypes are useful when it comes to describe the development as seen in the trajectory of the experiences by Wenell. In the early 60’s he was working with planning different projects within Saab and Ericsson. In this PSO environment the projects were related to engineering and covered computer and electronics development as well as military equipment. The activity also emphasized rational ways of project planning per se. When realizing that models and computer support not by itself gives successful projects he started to stress integration and communication methods for projects. Leadership, teambuilding and coaching became important ingredients.

The early experiences of the planning for success in the industrial context were developed and extended into project consultancy work of a PBO type and into competence programs for practical project work and project management. Towards the end of the 60’s an association for practicing project managers was formed, “Projektforum”, initiated by Wenell. At approximately the same time the first international symposium in project management took place in Europe. The organizer was called “Internet” (standing for international network) which has now changed the name into IPMA (International Project Management Association), playing a similar role in Europe as PMI (Project Management Institute) in the US.

Towards the end of the 60’s Wenell started his own consultancy firm. Initially the company focused on the extensive demand for education, especially on how to manage projects. The design of practical models contributed to the “projectification” of many organizations. The company also took part in the start-up of major project in for example Volvo and Saab in the transportation sector and in the pharmaceutical producer (Astra) and its development of Losec in the health care sector. Today the company is heavily engaged in the development of sustainable project strategies in global Swedish industrial groups.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles from members of the Swedish Project Academy is based on the theme and concepts in the book Managing and Working in Project Society by Rolf A. Lundin, Niklas Arvidsson, Tim Brady, Eskil Ekstedt, Christophe Midler and Jorg Sydow, published by Cambridge University Press in 2015. The book won the PMI David I. Cleland Project Management Literature Award in 2016. Check back next month for another article in this series.



About the Authors

Torbjörn Wenell, CEO

Projektkultur Torbjörn Wenell AB
Stockholm, Sweden



Torbjörn Wenell
is one of the most experienced consultants in the project area in the Nordic countries in Europe. He has made it his task to develop the project work form in practice since the beginning of the 60’s. He has been dealing with projects in several industries and has been responsible for educating some 150 thousand people in the project field. He started by planning for the development of computers at SAAB in 1961 and planned for the electronic system in the Viggen military aircraft. In 1963 – 1965 he worked as a project planning expert for Ericsson and finalized the first handbook of project planning for that company. In 1965 he started a project consultancy, Wenell Management AB, where he was the chairman of the board until 2000. During several years, he was also connected to the University of Linköping as a PM expert. In 1967 he initialized the association called “Svenskt Projektforum” for people with an interest in the field and in 1994 he contributed to the start of the Swedish Project Academy where he served as secretary for 15 years.

In total, he has authored nine books about projects of which “Wenell on Projects” received a special award. In 1961 he got his engineer title and since then he has gone through other educational programs as well. However, in PM he is a self-taught person. Torbjörn can be contacted at [email protected]


Eskil Ekstedt, PhD

Professor of Business Administration
Associate Professor of Economic History
Uppsala University, Stockholm, Sweden



Eskil Ekstedt
became Ph.D in Economic History at Uppsala University in 1976 and full professor at the University of Stockholm and the National Institute for Working Life in Stockholm 2001. He has had academic positions at the University of Uppsala, the FA Institute, University of Stockholm and The National Institute for Working Life. He was an expert to the Swedish State Commission on Productivity ( 1991), to the Swedish State Commission on Competence (1992) and to the Swedish State Commission on Labour Law (2002). He was the founding editor of the Scientific Publication series “Work Life in Transition” in 2000 – 2007. His research has been focused on knowledge formation, temporary organisations and projects in relation to structural change of the economy.

Ekstedt is one of the authors to the book “Neo-industrial organising. Renewal by action and knowledge formation in a project intensive economy” (Routledge, 1999). He is also co-author of the book Managing and Working in Project Society: Institutional Challenges of Temporary Organizations, published in 2015 by Cambridge University Press and winner of the 2016 PMI Book of the Year award. Prof. Ekstedt can be contacted at [email protected]


Rolf Lundin, PhD

Jönköping International Business School
Jönköping, Sweden



Rolf A Lundin is a professor (em.) of Business Administration at the Jönköping International Business School (JIBS) and a Courtesy Professor-in-Residence at the Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE). He received his PhD in 1973 at the University of Chicago (now the Booth Business School) in Management Science. He has been a full professor since 1978, first at the business school of the University of Umeå (in northern Sweden), where he was also the founding dean of that school. In 2001 he was recruited to dean JIBS. He stepped down as dean in 2007. Since then he has been affiliated with the Media Management and Transformation Center. He has several publications in the management of projects and temporary organization area and is currently serving on the board for the PMI Global Accreditation Center which is working with accreditation of project management educational programs around the world. His current research focus is on the use of projects in media industries.

He is the lead author of the monograph Managing and Working in Project Society: Institutional Challenges of Temporary Organizations, published in 2015 by Cambridge University Press winning the 2016 PMI Book of the Year award.  Rolf is active in the Swedish Project Academy. He can be contacted at [email protected]