Sensemaking, safety, and situated communities in (con)temporary networks

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Kavanagh, Donncha
Kelly, Séamus
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Research Projects
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This paper discusses the difficulties involved in managing knowledge-intensive, multinational, multiorganisational, and multifunctional project networks. The study is based on a 2-year quasi-ethnography of one such network engaged in the design and development of a complex new process control system for an existing pharmaceutical plant in Ireland. The case describes how, drawing upon the organisational heritage of the corporations involved and the logic implicit within their global partnership arrangements, the project was initially structured in an aspatial manner that underestimated the complexity of the development process and the social relations required to support it. Following dissatisfaction with initial progress, a number of critical management interventions were made, which appeared to contribute to a recasting of the network ontology that facilitated the cultivation and protection of more appropriate communicative spaces. The case emphasises the need to move away from rationalistic assumptions about communication processes within projects of this nature, towards a richer conceptualisation of such enterprises as involving collective sensemaking activities within and between situated ‘communities’ of actors. Contrary to much contemporary writing, the paper argues that space and location are of crucial importance to our understanding of network forms of organising.
Industrial networks , Trust , Project management , Space , Communities of practice , Virtual organisation
Kavanagh, D. and Kelly, S. (2002) 'Space, sensemaking and situated communities in (con)temporary networks,' Journal of Business Research, 55(7), pp. 583-594.