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Using action research in innovation project management: building legitimacy and organizational learning in an SME during a merger process

Constance Elizabeth Kampf (Department of Management, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)
Charlotte J. Brandt (Department of Management, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)
Christopher G. Kampf (Engineering Management, Worthington Industries, East Greenwich, Rhode Island, USA)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 23 June 2021

353

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose is to explore how the process of action research (AR) can support building legitimacy and organizational learning in innovation project management and portfolio practices in merger contexts.

Design/methodology/approach

Meta-reflection on method issues in Action Research through an action research case study with an innovation group during an organizational change process. This case demonstrates an example of an action research cycle focused on building practitioner legitimacy rather than problem-solving.

Findings

Key findings include (1) demonstrating how AR can be used for building legitimacy through visualizing the innovation process, and embedding those visuals in top management practices of the organization; and (2) demonstrating how AR can work as an organizational learning tool in merger contexts.

Research limitations/implications

This study focuses on an action research cooperation during a two-and-a-half-year period. Thus, findings offer the depth of a medium term case study. The processes of building legitimacy represent this particular case, and can be investigated in other organizational contexts to see the extent to which these issues can be generalized.

Practical implications

For researchers, this paper offers an additional type of AR cycle to consider in their research design which can be seen as demonstrating a form of interplay between practitioner action and organizational level legitimacy. For practitioners, this paper demonstrates a connection between legitimacy and organizational learning in innovation contexts. The discussion of how visuals were co-created and used for building legitimacy for an innovation process that differs from the standard stage gate model demonstrates how engaging in AR research can contribute to developing visuals as resources for building legitimacy and organizational learning based on connections between theory and practice.

Originality/value

This case rethinks AR practice for innovation project management contexts to include legitimacy and organizational learning. This focus on legitimacy building from organizational learning and knowledge conversion contributes to our understanding of the soft side of innovation project management. Legitimacy is demonstrated to be a key concern for innovation project management practices.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Shankar Sankaran for his inspiration, advice and sparring in the process of developing this paper.

Citation

Kampf, C.E., Brandt, C.J. and Kampf, C.G. (2021), "Using action research in innovation project management: building legitimacy and organizational learning in an SME during a merger process", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-02-2020-0044

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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