Temporary Organizations
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Temporary Organizations

Prevalence, Logic and Effectiveness

Edited by Patrick Kenis, Martyna Janowicz-Panjaitan and Bart Cambré

This important and timely book provides a systematic treatment of temporary organizations – an increasingly prevalent organizational form in which organizations work together on a joint task – for example, a movie production, a rescue operation, development of a new product – for an ex ante limited period of time.
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Chapter 3: Applying Organization Theory to Temporary Organizations

Patrick Kenis, Bart Cambré, Gerardus J.M. Lucas and Leon A.G. Oerlemans


Patrick Kenis, Bart Cambré, Gerardus J.M. Lucas and Leon A.G. Oerlemans Although the phenomenon of temporary organizations is clearly prevalent in contemporary economic and social life (see Chapter 1), our understanding of its development, functioning and outcomes remains unexplored. Theories applicable to temporary organizations (TOs), in particular, are rare and the assumption of organizational permanence continues to prevail in organization theory (Lundin and Söderholm, 1995). Hence, there appears to be a great need for theory building to gain better understanding of the phenomenon of temporary organizations. However, before developing new and distinct theories of temporary organizations, it is essential to analyze if and how existing organization theories contribute to our understanding of TOs, or whether organizational temporariness makes them inapplicable to TOs. If existing organization theories sufficiently explain the phenomenon of TOs, there is no need to develop new theories. In this chapter, we will evaluate a selection of organization theories based, specifically, on their explanatory power for temporary organizations. Before doing so, we will first present the theories which we have selected and secondly, we will be more specific on how we have assessed their explanatory power for TOs. In a 1993 study, Evan concluded that there is no single theory dominating the discipline of organization studies (p. 2). Similarly, Aldrich (1999, p. 42) claimed that ‘[p]aradigm proliferation in organization studies has given us a wealth of perspectives from which to view organizations’. Based on this, we can conclude that there are a number of theories that...

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