Institutional work across multiple levels: The case of strategic public facilities management in the making
Doctoral thesis, 2021

The research in this thesis deals with the implementation of strategic planning measures in
public facilities management organizations (PFMOs) and the development of strategic public
facilities management (SPFM). The aim is to increase the understanding of how individual and
organizational actors work with strategic public facilities management and how this influences
both public facilities management organizations and the institution of public facilities

Data were collected through interviews, observations, shadowing, a survey, notes from a
workshop and readings of organizational documents. The practice-oriented theoretical lenses
of institutional work, institutional logics and sociomateriality have been applied when
analyzing the data.

In the thesis it is discussed how old practices, characterized by short-term measures as response
to urgent maintenance needs of buildings, is associated with negative connotations. Together
these practices constituted the old practice of public facilities management (PFM) and
associations to lack of planning makes it an unwanted practice. On the other hand, the new
practice of PFM, characterized by planning for the future, is associated with positive
connotations of strategic and long-term planning measures. For SPFM to be realized, it is
argued that these two practices, and the logics associated with them, can co-exist. The
institutional logics of PFM are discussed in relation to when the new and the old practice o
PFM are imbricating each other. The findings show how it is not the logics presence per se that
is of importance for actors and for how practices change and develop, but how these logics are
understood and acted upon.

In addition, findings show how different types of actors engage in different types of institutional
work, at different organizational levels, in both external and internal dimensions during the
implementation and development of SPFM. Positioning work, a specific type of institutional
work prevalent in PFMOs, has been highlighted. Positioning work includes taking new space
and placing it in the organizational nexus and is aimed at providing PFMOs with a new position
within their institutional field. Moreover, together with humans, several objects were found to
be part of the change processes in several ways; objects were shown to attack and, thereby,
disrupt established institutions and were also found to justify preferred routes. Through acts of
safeguarding and emotional regulation, objects also took part in maintaining practices.
The focus has been on conceptualizing current challenges for PFM as a multi-logic challenge,
i.e. the challenge is to integrate different perspectives in practice. The importance of
recognizing the aspects of pre-reflexive agency for successful change work in an institutional
setting constituted by several different logics and professional backgrounds is acknowledged.
How actors’ levels of agency are not constant but dependent on their social positions and their
abilities to identify and combine different forms of institutional work has also been shown.
Different objects were shown to be part of the change processes studied as institutional
implements and emotional implements and, as such, actively involved in institutional work.

institutional logics


qualitative research

changing practices

institutional change

institutional work

public facilities management

Vasa B, Vera Sandbergs allé 8, Chalmers University of Technology, Password to online defence: 625007
Opponent: Prof. Paul Chan, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands


Ingrid Svensson

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Service Management and Logistics

On the nexus of changing public facilities management practices: purposive and co-creative actions across multiple levels

Construction Management and Economics,; Vol. 36(2018)p. 259-275

Journal article

Navigating the logics of changing public facilities management

Facilities,; Vol. 39(2021)p. 737-758

Journal article

Svensson, I., & Gluch, P. The role of objects in change processes in public built environment organizations

Svensson, I., Brorström, S., & Gluch, P. Institutional work in public facilities management organizations: Organizational repositioning during institutional change

Svensson, I. Exploring the connection between emotions, artifacts, and institutional work: The case of institutional change for public facilities management

A substantial amount of the public building stock needs extensive renovation.
Contrasting to previous ad-hoc renovation measures a more strategic type of public
facilities management, focusing on long-term and sustainable planning, is being
established in public facilities management organizations. This new type of public
facilities management is labelled strategic public facilities management. The need to
consider strategic public facilities management as an ongoing process and a direction is

Further, findings show how the meaning of strategic public facilities management varies
between stakeholders, ranging from smaller adjustments of current practices to
fundamental changes.

Moreover, findings show how the implementation of strategic public facilities
management involves the navigation in and management of a multitude of different
perspectives, involving several actors that reside in and move between different
organizational levels. Here, different types of work are conducted, both externally and
internally; conceptual, relational, disruptive and operational work.

Adding to previous research, this thesis finds that much work associated with strategic
public facilities management is so called positioning work; work aimed at taking public
facilities management organizations to a new position in the institutional field and
thereby, presumably, giving them a position from which they can move away from adhoc

Managning strategic change in public facilties management organizations

Centre for Management of the Built Environment (CMB) (126), 2019-01-01 -- 2020-12-31.

Facing the energy challenge: Innovative business models for renovation of buildings

Formas (2012-253), 2012-07-01 -- 2015-12-31.

Centre for Management of the Built Environment (CMB), 2013-08-01 -- 2017-12-31.

Subject Categories

Work Sciences

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 5055


Chalmers University of Technology

Vasa B, Vera Sandbergs allé 8, Chalmers University of Technology, Password to online defence: 625007


Opponent: Prof. Paul Chan, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

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