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“A Theory of Temporary Organization” by Lundin and Söderholm Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 20th, 2022

Since the industrial era, the idea of an organization as an eternal entity has dominated business studies. However, modern economic and social tendencies gave rise to an increased number of temporary projects and organizations and generated a need for a comprehensive theoretical basis. Aiming at providing a framework for understanding the temporary organizations’ specific, Lundin and Söderholm elaborated on the idea of an action-based theory, four basic concepts for the organization demarcation as well as sequencing concepts.

The action was singled out as the predominant factor in apprehending the essence of temporary organizations as opposed to the notion of decision-making as the primary determinant. The researchers claimed that decisions do not always bring about actions; on the contrary, decisions are consequential to actions. It was established that the prime source of motivation in business is the necessity to act. Thus, the new theory should be stressing the nature of the action and its aspects.

Further, the researchers introduce four concepts for defining action areas and demarcating a temporary organization. According to Lunden and Sömerholm, a temporary organization can be described regarding time, task, team, and transition. In contrast, a permanent organization is rather explained by its goals (instead of tasks), survival (instead of time), working organization (instead of the team), and sustainable development (instead of transition). The said concepts, however, only demarcate actions but do not give a detailed account as to what they entail.

Lunden and Sömerholm employ four sequencing concepts for action description; each represents a phase in running a temporary project or organization. At the entrepreneurial stage, it is crucial to provide the driving force for business creation. Further on, time brackets, tasks, and termination criteria are to be specified, which is followed by the task execution and the timely dissolution of a temporary organization. The authors argue that the possibility of interruption at any stage does not undermine the validity of the concepts.

Lunden and Sömerholm strove to establish the phenomenon of temporary organizations in its entirety and give the impetus to further analysis. In the future, one may investigate successful temporary organizations and the actions they took in order to pass all the sequencing stages. On the contrary, it may be useful to study stagnated organizations, for the interest as to why the plans failed is equally justifiable.

Reference List

Lundin, RA & Söderholm, A 1995, ‘A theory of the temporary organization’, Scandinavian Journal of Management, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 437-455.

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