UEF business scholars recognised with Academy of Management Best Action Research Paper

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Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland Business School have been recognised with the Academy of Management Best Action Research Paper for their article Project-as-Practice: Change in a City Organization. The award was presented in the Academy of Management Annual Meeting held in Seattle, US, on 8 August 2022.

The award-winning study concludes that day-to-day project management practices can accelerate sustainability transitions in a hierarchical organisation by fostering people’s commitment and bringing together the resources needed for change. The study was authored by Doctoral Researcher Jatta Pitkänen and Professor Hanna Lehtimäki of the University of Eastern Finland Business School and the Sustainable Resource Society Research Community (RESOURCE), together with Senior Research Fellow Ari Jokinen of Tampere University, Faculty of Management and Business, Administrative Studies.

Companies and public organisations launch projects to bring about sustainability transitions. Focusing on project management, the study brings into question the effectiveness of projects geared towards creating change, since they tend to be fixed-term in nature and project leaders lack authority in a hierarchical organisation. The study shows that day-to-day project management practices can accelerate internal reform within a permanent organisation and promote the city’s role as a leader in sustainability transitions on a regional level.

The study by Pitkänen, Lehtimäki and Jokinen is a two-year action research examining a Finnish city organisation. Every two weeks, the researchers met with people working on sustainability transition projects and learned about their day-to-day project management practices. The unique longitudinal study enabled the monitoring of change and the identification of navigation practices used by the project team.

“The study provides interesting insight into how ambitious and skilled people working in projects take persistent and even slightly cunning approaches to reforming the permanent organisation in order to reach sustainability goals,” Professor Hanna Lehtimäki says.

“The project team we examined brought together people important for change, repeated its main messages over and over again, continuously assessed their own activities, and adjusted them as deemed necessary,” Doctoral Researcher Jatta Pitkänen says, summing up the main findings.

“Our study shows that projects are useful in accelerating sustainability transitions within cities when the project team is committed to bringing about sustainability transitions. Projects geared towards sustainability play an important role in strengthening the city’s role in leading local sustainability transitions,” Senior Research Fellow Ari Jokinen says.

Best Action Research Paper (Academy of Management, Organization Development and Change Division):
Project-as-practice: Change in a City Organization
Jatta Pitkänen & Hanna Lehtimäki, University of Eastern Finland, Business School, Innovation Management
Ari Jokinen, Tampere University, Environmental Policy, Administrative Studies
Academy of Management Proceedings, Vol. 2022, No. 101

For further information, please contact:
Jatta Pitkänen, Doctoral Researcher, jatta.pitkänen@uef.fi
Hanna Lehtimäki, Professor, hanna.lehtimaki@uef.fi