Project Governance Research Paper (Detailed Critical Analysis)

In recent years, research on project governance has increased, yet its focus on structural factors and business perspectives may hinder one’s ability to understand what governance means for contexts and practices. Specifically, researchers have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to systematic review to learn about the main topics, theories, and methodologies associated with project governance research. Moreover, the research presents four alternative models of governance of organizational projects: organizational project governance, institution-wide governance, and institutional-wide governance. By identifying both similarities and differences between different studies of project governance, these four archetypes add to previous results. The study further argues that the practical, and the contextual views are both promising systematic shifts for conceptualizing governance as an ongoing process that interacts with society. As a result of our findings, scholars will not only be able to recognize the lived experiences of governing practices and their social contexts but will also be encouraged to generate dialogue across multiple archetypes and the theory-practice gap.

This article has been written based on the 12 project governance papers, while main paper analysis was about 

Rethinking project governance: Incorporating contextual and practice-based views


It has been argued that projects have evolved into far more than just tactical tools; they have become strategic engines for organizations to undergo change. This has led to increasing interest in research related to project governance. Considering the diversity of perspectives and implications of project governance, researchers adopted the mainstream definition from Müller (2009, p. 4). According to this definition, it is the structure, functions, and procedures that allow an organization to achieve its goals and to implement projects that benefit its stakeholders internally and externally.

Since a study of formal governance structures is insufficient to explain project governance, this study cannot explain project governance in its actual context. Academics seek to better manage projects and better relate to practitioners through enactment and adaptation in their daily practices. Moreover, some projects are part of broader ecosystems that extend far beyond the individual project networks themselves, therefore it is unlikely that a business-based approach to project governance could capture both the contextual embeddedness and the sociopolitical complexity of projects. To describe the governance phenomenon holistically and clarify the construct of project governance, we can identify these emerging insights (Mair, J., Wolf, M., & Seelos, C 2016).

In any case, there are at least two areas of large potential that allow researchers to go even further. Although new metaphors and views within disciplines like organizational studies, public administration, urban development, and environmental management may present limitations, they can enrich researchers’ understanding of governance and increase the context in which it can occur.

The paper begins by asking: Considering project governance from a multidisciplinary perspective, what are the main topics, theories, and methodologies?

Additionally, project governance can lead to confusion when disciplinary diversities exist, since different theoretical factors can lead to different interpretations of the same phenomena. It is therefore important to identify the commonalities and differences among diverse studies. Generally, project governance is accepted to be a process rather than a fixed structure because it has no definition in stone (Martinsuo, M., & Geraldi, J. 2020).  In complex, dynamic, and interconnected projects, practice-based and contextual perspectives can strengthen our understanding of daily governing activities. Thus, the second question is: How can project governance research be improved by incorporating context and practice?

The paper follows the following structure. After taking stock of the research streams, it describes the methodology. A comprehensive framework of four alternative archetypes and two promising shifts is then developed based on the results of the study. As a result, it explores potential future avenues for enriching project governance research by discussing the contributions of researchers.

Literature Review

There has been extensive debate on project governance relating to budget, time, and scope planning and control, project partner roles, and contracting (Turner & Keegan, 2001). Two streams of literature are distinguished by Ahola et al. (2014). According to the first stream, project governance refers to imposing standards, procedures, and rules by an organization on a project. In the calculative approach, rational actors reduce risks by taking rational actions, as described by Latusk and Vlaar (2018). Using contractual terminology, governance is defined as a collaboration between partners in the public and private sectors within constraints to guarantee consistency and predictability in project delivery (Müller, 2012). As such, it can serve as a blueprint for collaborative behavior, and encourage actors to clarify all their responsibilities in advance, based on what is expected to happen in the future (Benitez-Avila, Hartmann, & Dewulf, 2018). Quite a few interests are at stake in these pre-arranged contracts (Müller, 2012).

During the second stream of the project, governance is defined through agreements which define shared sets of procedures, rules, and coordination. The relationship approach (Latusk & Vlaar, 2018) is based on the premise that actors cannot anticipate or mitigate all risks, still a collaborative working relationship should be maintained.

The two approaches, according to Sanderson (2012), create an illusion of foresightedness, in that by building an ability to deal with future events within governance structures, the commissioner creates a sense of foresightedness. Despite that, historical relations between project partners influence daily governance practices (Poppo, Zheng Zhou & Ryu, 2008). Anderson (2012) indicates that the governance practices cited by the author contribute to the inability of megaprojects to be collaborative. There are often turbulences of ambiguity, conflict, and uncertainty throughout megaprojects, making it impossible for groups involved in the project to respond effectively. (Miller & Hobbs, 2005). Micro-processes are useful for gaining a deeper understanding of how governance practices shape employees’ actions (e.g., Müller 2012). For this reason, Researchers emphasizes the importance of people’s actions regarding project governance and their relationship to their organizational and institutional contexts.


To ensure that literature was gathered from multiple disciplines and to minimize bias, a systematic review is conducted (Snyder, 2019). Using this approach, Crossan and Apaydin (2010) report that an accurate knowledge base is generated with a reverse engineering, scientific, and transparent design (Tranfield et al., 2003):

  • Data Collection: The first step is collecting data by using selection criteria that have been predetermined,
  • data analysis: identifying statistical patterns in results based on final findings; and
  • synthesis: combining the findings of the current state with new insights.

Each step is explained in detail in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Research Flow (Jinbo Song, 04, 2022)


Data Analysis

As a result of document cocitation analysis, the researcher might be able to uncover thematic clusters more objectively, thereby reducing the subjectivity inherent within the conventional literature review (Zupic and Cater, 2015). Since clusters with fewer than ten articles are less representative, we excluded clusters containing fewer than ten papers; therefore, we obtained nine critical cocitation clusters. Fig. 2, shown in CiteSpace, shows the cocitation network.

Figure 2: A visualization of the document co-citation network. (Jinbo Song, 04, 2022)


Analyzing research streams on project governance

Explicit contracts, relationship governance, opportunistic behavior, and project investment success make up the stream. According to scholars from multiple research communities, the first two clusters correspond to contractual governance and relationship governance functions, described as complementary or substituting mechanisms (Ben’tez-Avila et al., 2018; Cao & Lumineau, 2015). Relational governance includes trust and reciprocity in addition to norms (Hoetker & Mellewigt, 2009; Pinto et al., 2009) while contractual governance puts more emphasis on agreements with a formal structure. Additionally, in studies exploring governance outcomes (Lu et al., 2015; You et al., 2018; Badewi, 2016; Joslin & Müller, 2016), opportunity and success are often conceptualised as dependent variables based on neoclassical economics and psychological theories (Cao & Lumineau, 2015).

Figure 3: A comprehensive framework of Project Governance Research (Jinbo Song, 04, 2022)

Research on alternative project governance archetypes

By combining the four streams of Section 3 in framework (see Fig. 3), students will gain deeper insights into the interconnections between these streams. It is possible to debate among articles within a given research archetype if there are common grounds within each of these archetypes. Table 1 shows a common philosophical orientation and metatheoretical assumption among the articles about project governance.

Table 1: Comparison of each archetype in the comprehensive framework. (Jinbo Song, 04, 2022)



Findings & Discussions

Researchers developed a comprehensive framework that integrates practice-based and contextual insights across multiple disciplines. By recognizing the deep roots of fragmented project governance research, this framework has the potential to clear up ambiguity and confusion. By examining each archetype, the framework provides scholars with insight into latent distinctions and common ground.

Researchers can observe how governance arrangements are enacted and implemented by observing daily practices. a result, the practice turn can strengthen the role of actors who engage in governing behaviors, since practitioners do not simply follow rules, but think and act in specific ways. According to this perspective, projects themselves are contemporary phenomena that impact and transform organizations and social systems (Geraldi & S oderlund, 2018; Lundin et al., 2015). According to this perspective, Archetype IV is designed to provide a bridge from macro context to micro activity, allowing the practice turn to meet the contextual turn. 

Megaproject governance practices evolve over time. Research into the governance structures of megaprojects has shown that governance structures aren’t inflexible. Denicol et al., 2021; Ahola, 2018) consider governance structures of the London 2012 Olympic Park and Crossrail to be integrated core networks, and these structures have evolved over time (Gil & Fu, 2021). The effects of technological advancements on project management.

With the advent of virtual reality, big data, and blockchain technology, existing concepts concerning project management can be rethought in a digital and a physical context. According to Clare (2020), China’s largest property developer plans to start mass producing construction robots, which is likely to alter the roles and status of workers in the construction sector in addition to their occupational knowledge.


The field of project governance research has experienced a boom in the past two decades. Interdisciplinary reviews often bring novel perspectives and methodologies to the project research community, but this work attempts to move beyond the expansion of theories to offer a comprehensive, alternative understanding and to emphasize real-world concerns concerning project governance. There are two emerging and even provocative directions that increase the vibrancy of research on project governance: the practice turns and the contextual turn. Researchers are challenged to think beyond structural approaches and project business perspectives. According to research, project governance can be better understood as an ongoing process rooted in social, cultural, and historical contexts rather than within a substantialist framework. Thus, organizational, and practice-based insights highlight the key role of human agency in dealing with emerging and changing contexts, which could contribute to improving the relationship between management journals and organizational studies. The practice turn and contextual turn rarely occur at the same time. The practice turn not only changes the research focus but introduces new assumptions and guiding principles that are at odds with the established ones. As a result, researchers may start with the contextual turn to discern how governance arrangements impact and are influenced by the interactions between the project and its embedded network, local community, and sociopolitical settings.

Limitations & Future Implications

A few limitations apply to this study. Several journal articles were used as data sources. The article selection may be limited in validity since it overlooks other types of publications (Martinsuo & Hoverf alt, 2018), although these articles are considered the most valid sources (Derakhshan et al., 2019b). Moreover, each cluster was labelled based on the LLR weighting algorithm and no other algorithms during the analysis of the data (the modularity Q and silhouette value). Because of this practice, the labels might seem not to be as closely related to their actual themes as they are. Further, the relatively large number of selected samples may have affected the representativeness of the clusters. The nine main clusters were re-examined to identify this risk. Additionally, study acknowledges the inherent subjectivity of the process of developing conceptual frameworks, such as accepting a “combinatory” (Burgelman et al., 2018, p. 533) perspective to connect the practice and process research communities, which sacrifices nuanced exploration within those communities. Recent research by Brunet et al. (2021) supports this assertion.

Future implications
  • The development of our framework contributes to the flourishing of project governance research; hence we encourage further research.
  • We must also explore the potential of agile technology and its philosophy to expand our understanding of project governance in future studies. An increasing number of nonsoftware projects and portfolios have adopted agile approaches, despite widespread criticism that they are unsuitable for large and complex projects (Lappi et al., 2018).
  • As a result of the practice turn, we can study and analyze how characterizations of role and status, interrelationships, unanticipated deviations, and even the criteria of success are enacted during governing processes.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution or way to predict project performance, but rather this research allows practitioners to holistically understand project governance since the reality of project governance depends on specific actors and their practices, not generic patterns.
  • Researchers offer practitioners an insight into the governance phenomenon through the use of these archetypes.
  • It is no longer assumed that project governance is a one-off decision or a fixed arrangement; instead, contextual interaction and temporality continuously shape actors’ understandings. Thus, we emphasize the importance of practitioners’ skillful improvisations when faced with unexpected situations.
  • Further, project directors and managers should realize they use multimodal methods of expressing their ideas and persuading others, such as their tone of voice, rhetoric, gestures, and postures.



Rethinking project governance
Governance methodology


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