In 2017, two overlapping communities of scholars - The Engineering Project Organization Society and the Fifth Megaprojects Workshop - have agreed to combine their strengths and resources into a unique event- the EPOC-MW 2017 conference from June 6-8 near San Francisco. We aim to make EPOC-MW 2017 a unique conference that will bring together scholars and practitioners from different research traditions including engineering design, project management, innovation, and organizations. Attendees will have the opportunity to present research findings, have in-depth exchanges on emerging research, and network at the highest-level of the academic community. Our shared system-level goal is to further our collective understanding of engineering projects as a form of organizing. In so doing, we aim to advance the debate on organizational mechanisms necessary to design and govern these enterprises, and how and to what extent their performance can be traced back to organizing.

We see modern-day capital-intensive project-based organizations as complex phenomena that conflate a unique set of attributes: long gestation and delivery periods, complex product and organizational architectures, intense needs for coordination and cooperation across heterogeneous actors, and heightened uncertainties in requirements and goal formulation. This suggests that traditional project management research must be re-visited to better incorporate conceptualizations of projects as dynamic, adaptive, and evolving organizations that attempt to unify participants with conflicting goals all of whom want to create and appropriate individual value in addition to creating collective value. Therefore, today's project leaders (including project directors, project managers, and elected leaders) need new skills and conceptual frameworks to cope with emerging disputes, conflicting interests, evolving requirements, and changes in the external environment. Better equipped leaders will be able to adapt their project organizations over time in order to achieve the higher-order goals behind the organizations.

With this backdrop, we invite researchers to attend EPOC-MW 2017 and to present papers. We will entertain conversations that will range from discussing how project management can be re-conceptualized to discussing ways to extend organization and management theory to make it relevant to the phenomena at the heart of our conference. This will create opportunities to debate emerging scholarly ideas about new forms of organizing and governing complex, pluralistic systems, the meaning of performance in these complicated institutional settings, and the role of innovation. We also invite researchers to discuss innovative project delivery approaches and organization structures through a systems perspective. Additionally, we invite researchers to unpack the 'how' of modern complex project management practice by providing innovative insights on the management of work processes and practices unfolding in real world dynamic complex systems.

As in the past, we encourage authors to bring in social and organization science perspectives and grounded empirical experience and observations into the study of project organizations. This broad approach to project organization research has always framed the EPOC conferences and continues to frame EPOC-MW 2017. To reflect these goals, the overall theme for the conference this year is Managing Complex Adaptive Systems. Papers are invited but are not restricted to the following thematic areas, many of which align with EPOC tracks in the past:
  • Inter- and intra-firm coordination and cooperation– research on the interfaces and interdependencies within and between actors participating on projects, and how these actors resolve emerging coordination and cooperation problems in order to achieve higher-order goals under disputation;
  • Project- and program-based enterprises – research on the project or program-specific organizational complexity at various levels of organizing and governing;
  • Project environment - research that links project organizations to the broader surrounding context including the sociological, economic, environmental, and political dimensions.
  • Project design – research on concepts, methods and tools for product and organization design in settings rife with contestation.
EPOC-MW 2017 will focus on these themes over 2 1/2 days. Each of the sessions within these themes will be limited to 3-4 speakers followed by 30 minutes of open discussion. The extended discussion periods will emphasize the debate and exchange of knowledge and ideas among the participants. The conference format will once again have morning sessions with free afternoons to encourage free-time, social and intellectual exchange, followed by invited evening speakers and activities. Submissions that are viewed as relevant and of high-quality, but not able to be accommodated within our available sessions, will be grouped into poster sessions.