Consulting engineering companies strive for more innovation and flexibility as a response to the contradictory demands from the organization and an unpredictable business environment. In doing so, knowledge management strategies, project organization and the redesigning of office spaces are employed. A five-year longitudinal set of ethnographic research studies uses multidisciplinary perspectives to examine organizational change and development in a consulting engineering firm. The analytic approach encompasses three scales: the development of the firm itself, the way in which it organizes its projects and the spatial/community dimension. This enables an understanding of the multiple, often contrasting, organizing dynamics in the organization as well as diverse interests and groups found within this type of organization. It finds that it is not only the clients of the company who rule in a ‘project tyranny’, but also other organizing dynamics that in contrast ‘perforate’ the projects and maintain professional communities. The ‘tyranny’ of projects affects the allocation of resources and the scheduling of work can constrain organizational and other innovations. An attempt to create a new organizational grouping in the studied engineering consultancy to ‘perforate’ the project-based structure and improve internal interactions within the organization reveals that although spatial integration is obtained, too few resources are allocated to support the change. The implications for other consulting engineering organizations are the need for multiple organizing principles and management to bridge contradictory and competing concerns for skill development, resource alignment and innovation efforts; and a strong need to focus on soft management practices such as mediation, brokering and coaching.
Building Research and Information, 2005, Vol 33, Issue 6, p. 536-546