The “self-organizing” project”: a “systemic” view of the design and project processes

Format: Papers, RSD2, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Author: Michel de Blois

This paper examines the phenomenon that allows the built environment (design) project to organize itself and carry out its objectives. The hypothesis states that: projects influence, transform and create the organizations and processes that conduct them, following a dynamic and iterative process, referred to as «self- organizing » and «  structuring ». This « active organizing » process generates transformations – organizational and structural – conditioned by the very nature of the project itself. To support this assumption (hypothesis), an ontological frame, based on four categories of analysis has been devised, including: (a) organization and structures; (b) the project and its processes; (c) the artefact and its design, and; (d) actors’ dynamic. These knowledge fields are put in relations using systemic principles and tools within the paradigmatic frame of complexity. This research, through case studies and case surveys, explores the following topics:(1) the design thinking approach to projects and actors’ dynamic behavior ; (2) the informality of communications and coordination ; (3) contingency factors that influence the « structuring » of the temporary multiorganization – TMO;  (4) the typologies of the TMO, and ; (5) the study of iterative processes and their influence on organizational structures. The analysis produced a set of seven results. They help validate sub-hypotheses that state that: a process of «self-organization » generates transformations – organizational and processual – linked to the specific nature of the project. Therefore, the project : (1) is conducted by both formalized and often linear management approaches as well as  iterative design process, the former being non-linear and self-organizing and responding to systemic principles ; (2) contributes to create its own processes of development, and ; (3) constitutes a contingency factor that influences the structuring of the TMO that is created to conduct the project itself. Two important contributions are drawn from these conclusions : (1) the existence of inter-organizational work constellations; (2) the statement of the « organizing  project » that, through the « self-organization » approach, « organizes » itself and the processes and organization that are created to conduct it.

Presentation & paper

Citation Data

Author(s): OCTOBER 2013
Title: The “self-organizing” project”: a “systemic” view of the design and project processes
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 15 September 2013
Last update:
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Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


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