Global projects - investigated through an interactional perspective

A current industrial PhD project carried out by CIRCD-member Liv Otto Hassert

Background for the project

Liv Otto Hassert

Today, project managers in global companies lead teams consisting of transient, multi-national members, who engage in virtual collaborations across great distances. The projects are often impacted by high degrees uncertainty, as there are many unknown variables, many interdependencies, highly complex work tasks, unstable environments etc. How these challenges impact in practice, how the project actors manage the consequences in-situ, and what interactional resources they rely on to accomplish the work is of interest in the PhD study.
The PhD project is collaboration between Maersk Line (Transport & Logistic IT) and the University of Copenhagen. Drawing on Ethnomethodology and Conversation analysis, the project examines how in-situ project management of global, complex projects is performed in practice and focus especially on how the actors interactionally organize their work and handle challenges.

Stage 1: Data collection

Data for this PhD study was collected within Maersk Line IT. The primary data set consists of 2-day observations of 16 different project managers and audio- and video recordings of the project teams’ meetings. The data collection took place in different locations: Two offices in Copenhagen, one in London and in Maidenhead (North of London) in the UK, in Charlotte, US, and in Bangalore, India.

Stage 2: Exploring data

By firstly exploring the empirical material inductively, practical challenges and phenomena were identified. Secondly, meeting recordings were micro-analyzed and these findings were related to the observations, and this revealed a central challenge: The tension between ‘constant change’ and ‘stability’, identifiable on actor, team/project, and organizational levels. This has led to three analytical attentions all related to this tension: 1) The production of stability in projects and how project actors produce ‘business as usual’ behavior, 2) The uncertainty of and in projects and how project actors deal with unexpected events, 3) The challenge of distance, virtuality, fluidity, and organizational ties, and how teams in practice establish belonging to the team and the project.

Stage 3

Currently, the project has entered and is in the midst of the analytical and writing process. The analyses are unfolding and showing several interesting points, such as how project actors are able to routinize their dealing with unexpected issues.

Project period and dissemination

The final dissertation will be finished in October 2018.
Findings are continuously being disseminated to practitioners (project managers and others) in Maersk Line through presentations, written materials and workshops. Likewise, findings are being presented at conferences and in published materials.