The purpose of this paper is to question why current thinking towards project complexity ignores the role of objects in achieving social order and transformation. An alternative, but complementary, approach to address project complexities, drawing upon actor‐network theory (ANT), is offered to redress this concern.
Current thinking towards project complexity is briefly reviewed in the first section to illustrate the reasons why nonhumans are downplayed. An historical case study, the Skye road bridge project, is mobilized to explain, and develop, an ANT perspective on project complexities, and responses to such complexities.
ANT develops accounts of project complexity by highlighting the role of nonhumans in influencing how practitioners register, respond and stabilize project complexities. Front‐end planning and stakeholder analysis is shown to be only one narrow element of four moments through which actors apprehend and stabilize project complexities.
The empirical case study is developed to suggest some significant ways in which ANT could contribute, and complement, extant theories of project complexity. Alternative approaches to socio‐materiality are noted and may yield other important insights.
The paper positions ANT to offer a novel theory of project complexity. It is intended to be primarily of use to project management researchers, and theoretically informed practitioners, who are interested in developing fresh insights into notions of project complexities (unintended consequences, emergence and unpredictability).
Sage, D., Dainty, A. and Brookes, N. (2011), "How actor‐network theories can help in understanding project complexities", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 274-293. https://doi.org/10.1108/17538371111120243Download as .RIS
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