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The politics behind design projects: when space, organization, and technology collide

Grégory Jemine (HEC-ULg Management School University of Liege, Liege, Belgium)
François Pichault (HEC-ULg Management School University of Liege, Liege, Belgium)
Christophe Dubois (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 19 August 2020

Issue publication date: 6 April 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

While more and more organizations commit to transformation projects with the aim of redesigning simultaneously their workspaces, work organization, and technologies, the design process supporting such projects remains largely understudied. This paper examines the political tensions that occur when such processes unfold as well as their implications for project management. By doing so, the paper counterbalances the prescriptive and normative literature on “New Ways of Working” which largely overlooks the political complexity of such projects.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on a qualitative study of a triple design process in a media company. Data collection mainly consists of a nine-month process of non-participant observation of weekly meetings held by the strategic group in charge of the project. Semi-structured interviews with members of the executive committee have also been conducted.

Findings

The analysis illustrates how space, organization and technology are gradually designed and structured. Four interconnected and often concealed mechanisms that support triple design processes are identified: political tensions, unexpected twists, conflicting temporalities and arbitration measures.

Originality/value

The originality of the paper lies in breaking down the concept of design in three separate objects – organization, space and technology – and examining how these objects were conjointly problematized by an organization in transformation, whereas existing studies often investigate organization design, space design or technology design in isolation.

Keywords

Citation

Jemine, G., Pichault, F. and Dubois, C. (2021), "The politics behind design projects: when space, organization, and technology collide", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 743-766. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-01-2020-0020

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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