Making Projects Critical - previous workshops

Making Projects Critical Workshop 7

January 23 - 24 2014, Stockholm, Sweden

Organisers MPC 7

Call for papers MPC 7

Download the call for Papers MPC 7

Programme MPC 7

Download the programme MPC 7

Making Projects Critical Workshop 6

April 16 -17 2012 at  Manchester Business School

Call for Papers MPC 6

Download the call for Papers MPC 6

Programme MPC 6

Download the programme MPC 6

Making Projects Critical Workshop 5

The 5th Making Projects Critical Workshop took place at Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, 21/22 January 2010
 

Organisers: MPC 5

 

Making Projects Critical Workshop 4

Stockholm, 31 March - 1 April 2006

Making Projects Critical Workshop 3 - Beyond Project Rationality

Manchester, 11-12 December 2006

Making Projects Critical Workshop 2

13-14 December 2004
St Matthias Campus, University of the West of England, Bristol

Introduction to The Workshop 2 Themes

There is emerging evidence from several sources of an increasing reliance upon projects as an alternative to bureaucratic and hierarchical means of organising (Pettigrew, 2002) which has been linked by some to the move toward post-bureaucratic, even post-modern organisations (Clegg, 1990; Heckscher and Donnellon, 1994).

At the same time, for many writers such evidence appears to support those writers who first drew attention to the 'projectification of society' (Midler, 1995; Lundin and Söderholm, 1998) to encapsulate the apparent colonisation of all quarters of life by project-related principles, rules, techniques and procedures to form a new 'iron cage' of project rationality.

For many, then, 'the project' may be seen as a defining feature of late modernity, reflecting shifts towards discontinuity, flexibility, insecurity and impermanence across both developed and developing societies. The attraction of 'projectification' lies in its promise to deliver both 'controllability and adventure' (Sahlin-Anderson, 2002) and at the same time 'devolution and accountability'.

In the 12 months since the last Making Projects Critical workshop, the debate on the future of project management and our understandings of projects has shown signs of opening up, with an increased willingness from several in the field to re-examine taken-for-granted assumptions underpinning current practice.

In large part, it is concerns about the poor performance of project management on its own terms, and the enduring failure to deliver projects 'on time, on budget, and to specification', which have motivated this reassessment of the discipline. However, such criticisms may be seen as locked into the same instrumental rationality which has characterised the discipline so far, focusing almost exclusively upon the (in)effectiveness and (in)efficiency of projects as currently organised.

We wish in this workshop to move beyond this functionalist position to consider the other side of projects more often neglected in this debate - the broader consequences of projects for those who work within projects, those who are directly affected by projects and indeed those who manage projects. On the one hand, there are strong arguments that project working typically leads to the removal of discretion and autonomy from skilled and committed employees and a tendency to deskill project workers of all levels. At the same time, the intensity of project working has major human impacts within and beyond the workplace, which are often ignored or obscured in the search for greater project efficiency. At the same time, the increased reliance upon projects in the public sector and in international development can be argued to have had deleterious effects upon representation and local democracy, transplanting a neo-liberal form of 'control at a distance' in a broad range of contexts.

This workshop is intended to encourage research which applies critical perspectives to understand the implications of project management and project organisations for work in the contemporary workplace and for society more broadly. Among the broad range of themes we wish to address in the workshop, issues of power and domination, control and resistance, autonomy and surveillance, figure strongly. Through the workshop, we hope to both highlight and break down the theoretical and methodological limitations of traditional conceptions of projects, project-based organisations/organising and Project Management.

International Invited Speakers:

  • David Courpasson, EM Lyon
  • Stuart Green, University of Reading
  • Donncha Kavanagh, University College Cork

Making Projects Critical Workshop 1: A Crisis of Instrumental Rationality?

10 - 11 April, 2003
St Matthias Campus, University of the West of England, Bristol

Introduction to The Workshop 1 Themes

In recent years, Project Management has increasingly attracted the attention of researchers and practitioners in the broad field of management, in part reflecting the increased 'adoption' of project-based work across industrial sectors. At the same time, the foundations and practical applications of this once-glorified managerial technology, reflecting the scientific achievements of operational research in work scheduling and control under specific constraints of time, cost, and a unique outcome, have been seriously challenged by both the practitioner and the academic communities.

Despite all the practical advice and academic knowledge available, projects still regularly fail in key respects. The concurrent development of project management knowledge remains unstable and fragmented, and as a consequence, the dream of establishing project management as an exemplary field of management science has become increasingly remote. Questions have been raised by a number of authors (e.g. Packendorff, 1995; Frame 1995; Turner, 1995, 1999; Buchanan and Badham, 1999) about the underlying belief system which exhibits a strong bias towards functionalist/unitarist tradition, reductionism, operational research, and 'how-to-do' prescriptive forms of intellectual output. Nonetheless, the response to this crisis has so far been a yet-greater emphasis on technicist solutions, quantitative methodologies, positivist methodologies and a stronger reliance on instrumental rationality.

In light of the impact of the Critical Management Studies conference and related CMS workshops, this workshop is intended to encourage research which applies critical perspectives to understand the implications of project management and project organisations for work in the contemporary workplace and for society more broadly. Among the broad range of themes addressed by the papers, issues of power and domination, control and resistance, autonomy and surveillance, and related themes figure strongly. Through the workshop, we hope to both highlight and break down the theoretical and methodological limitations of traditional conceptions of projects, project-based organisations/organising and Project Management.

 

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