Our research - As projects end, and operations begin, how is continuity ensured?
What is the research about?
This paper looks at the transition at the end of the project, as projects close and operations start. It draws on interview data from professionals working on Heathrow Terminal 5, London 2012 Olympics and Crossrail. We asked questions about both handover and operational readiness. Theoretically the paper contributes by showing how different understandings of time (temporalities) come into contact in this transition, and how disjunctures and shifts need to be overcome to achieve continuity.
Why is it important?
Project management has focused on delivery. We know less about this transition from delivery to operations – yet it is where value is realised. We know it is practically challenging and not always accomplished well – and work can become significantly delayed at this stage. Project teams may have a linear understanding of time and be focused on finishing their work. Operations teams may have a more circular understanding of time, and not be interested in the setting up of new things. Existing research on coordination assumes that different groups will work alongside each other in an ongoing way, yet in this transition coordination is particularly challenging as different organizations are leaving and joining.
What is the novelty?
The novelty is to show how continuity is achieved across this transition. We argue that achieving continuity is very important. Practitioners coordinate using a range of procedures and artefacts to transfer project knowledge into operations. They use tests and the idea of ‘soft landings’ to ensure operations are understood in the transition from the project (and to extend the transition). Continuity is difficult as organizations leave and join; and as the new stakeholders that become involved during this transition bring new ideas about future operations.
What are the practical implications?
Practitioners should anticipate that this transition will involve people with different understandings of time, that organizations will join and leave in uncertain ways (which may lead to disjunctures); and that organizations that join will have different understandings of future operations (shifts). They need strategies to ensure continuity across emerging disjunctures and shifts, and these may use a variety of artefacts, procedures, soft landings, and tests.
Who was involved
Professor Jennifer Whyte
Centre Director, Laing O’Rourke / Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Systems Integration
Civil Engineer at BuroHappold Engineering
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