The purpose of this paper is to examine how project partners respond to contractually agreed collaboration in an infrastructural megaproject. Problematic performances of megaprojects have shifted away attention from the instrumental towards the interpretative, focusing on daily work life, practices, power, ambiguity and sense making in project organizations. Such an interpretative perspective helps to better understand practices of collaboration in complex mega projects, which the authors studied in the Panama Canal Expansion Program (PCEP).
Given the focus on daily work life, the authors chose an in‐depth single case study. Practices of collaboration have been studied during a one‐year ethnographic fieldwork period in Panama, in which the daily work life of project participants was intensely observed.
First, it was found that practices of collaboration in complex projects change in periods of conflict. In these periods actors are forced to reflect upon their practices and to negotiate about new practices. Second, the authors identified collaborative practices in which a consultancy firm teaches their client and supervises its appropriate behavior. The authors have labeled these as chaperoning.
This study illustrates that when innovation in contracts requires an innovative relationship between project partners, specific attention to this innovation and the related practices of collaboration enhances the collaborative relationship among partners, which can prevent cost overruns and delays.
Ethnographic fieldwork has not been used frequently to study project management practices. The paper builds upon a one‐year ethnographic fieldwork period to study practices in the daily work life of the project participants from “within”.
Smits, K. and van Marrewijk, A. (2012), "Chaperoning: practices of collaboration in the Panama Canal Expansion Program", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 440-456. https://doi.org/10.1108/17538371211235317Download as .RIS
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