Managing emergent changes: ad hoc teams' praxis and practices
Journal article, 2018

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore how emergent changes are handled in research and development (R&D) projects. R&D projects' business potential lies in their exploration of the unknown; conversely, this makes them uncertain endeavours, prone to emergent changes. Design/methodology/approach Uses a single-case-study design, based on a projects-as-practice perspective and a soft systems methodology (SSM) analysis, to map how ad hoc R&D teams handle emergent changes, specifically the solution identification and assessment phase and the implementation plan. An R&D project in the power industry, involving over 250 engineers, was analysed. Findings This paper shows how emergent changes are handled differently from initiated changes during the decision-making phase. The system analysis shows that the most critical factors for managing these changes are: collective reflection between project parties; and including experienced engineers in implementation-plan reviews. Practical implications The results are of relevance both to R&D managers aiming to improve team performance and to general project management. Informal notions of emergent changes can be formalised in the change request process. Weaknesses in the project team's organisation are highlighted, and details of how of how to mitigate these are provided. Originality/value Combines engineering-design and project-management research on emergent changes, adding to the former regarding people-organisational and strategic issues. Furthers understanding of the projects-as-practice approach and emergent change (deviations) handling by ad hoc teams in a project environment. SSM has not previously been used to explore aspects of projects-as-practice, and this is a novel way of adding to the body of knowledge on project praxis and practise.

Ad hoc teams

Project management

Research and development

Emergent change

Soft systems methodology


Peter Sjögren

Mälardalens högskola

Bjorn Fagerstrom

Mälardalens högskola

Martin Kurdve

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management


Magnus Callavik

ABB China

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

1753-8386 (eISSN)

Vol. 11 4 1086-1104

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Information Science

Information Systemes, Social aspects



More information

Latest update