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Governing major transformation portfolios in practice: illustrations from the UK central government

Dicle Kortantamer (Business School, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 11 January 2019

Issue publication date: 8 October 2019



The purpose of this paper is to examine major transformation portfolio governing practices. Previous research focuses on the structure of project portfolio governance and is relatively silent on micro-practices of governing. This paper intends to respond to this gap.


This qualitative case study draws upon practice approaches and the theoretical lens of organisational routines. The empirical inquiry is conducted across six major transformation portfolios in two UK central government departments. The data are collected through conducting semi-structured interviews and gathering documentary reports and analysed by adopting an abductive approach.


The findings highlight that two governing practices that have not been previously discussed in the literature: structuring the policy relationship and structuring the business relationship. These practices can be associated with the complex ownership system of the UK central government. The findings also show that in complex ownership systems owners may have different governing and supporting orientations. The micro-dynamics of these governing practices illustrate that the ecology of governing practices is complex, both in terms of the co-existence of complementary and competitive relationships between practices, and in terms of bundles of practices enacting different control regimes.

Research limitations/implications

This qualitative case study supports further inquiry into major transformation portfolio governing and complex ownership systems.


The paper adopts a governance-as-practice approach and examines governing major transformation portfolios.



This study is supported by the Association for Project Management (APM) research fund. This research is part of Project X: an initiative by the IPA bringing together academia, industry, government and consultancies to generate insights into government’s major projects and programmes that can inform and guide continuous improvement. The author would like to thank all participants who contributed to the study. The author would also like to thank the reviewers, editors and participants of the EURAM 2018 conference for their comments on the earlier version of this paper.


Kortantamer, D. (2019), "Governing major transformation portfolios in practice: illustrations from the UK central government", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 755-784.



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