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The organization design perspective on the project-based organization: a structured review

Maxim Miterev (Department of Industrial Economics and Management, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden) (Polytechnic University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
J. Rodney Turner (SKEMA Business School, Lille, France) (Polytechnic University of Milan, Milan, Italy) (Shanghai University, Shanghai, China)
Mauro Mancini (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Polytechnic University of Milan, Milan, Italy)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 6 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to use an organizational design perspective to determine the scope of the state-of-the art of research into project-based organizations.


The paper follows a structured framework-based literature review approach. It uses an analytical framework from the organization design literature to assess 177 papers relevant to the design of the project-based organization that were published in four leading PM journals between 2008 and 2015. The authors determine which elements of organization design are covered in each paper and identify specific research themes for each of the element emerging from the literature. Finally, the authors examine the degree to which interdependencies among separate elements are addressed in the literature and discuss the most holistic papers in more details.


The results show that the literature on project-based organizations downplays broader organizational issues (such as organizational strategy, incentive schemes and performance management systems) while emphasizing research agenda inherited from research on single project management. In addition, the study highlights limited attention in the literature to the interdependence between separate design choices. Finally, it develops a research framework to map current themes in the literature and their relative importance and discusses a prospective research agenda.

Research limitations/implications

Academic implications stem from looking at the project management literature from a fresh theoretical perspective and putting project-based organization as a whole in the focus. There is a great research potential in studying organization-wide aspects and interdependencies between various organization design choices in project-based organizations.

Practical implications

Reflective practitioners could benefit from a wider view on the project-based organization and its design. They could also use the developed framework in management discussions.


The paper offers a novel way of conceptualizing research on project-based organizations by linking it to an established stream within the field of organization theory and design.



This paper is produced as part of the EMJD Programme European Doctorate in Industrial Management (EDIM) funded by the European Commission, Erasmus Mundus Action 1.


Miterev, M., Turner, J.R. and Mancini, M. (2017), "The organization design perspective on the project-based organization: a structured review", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 527-549.



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