Temporary Knowledge Organisations (TKOs)

October 26, 2009

The concept of temporary organisations has been recognised in project management literature for many years. The primary tool of project management, the project team, is a temporary organisation.

The concept of TKOs builds on this concept and recognises the team is a network of complex responsive human connections and disconnections focused on creating the new knowledge needed to successfully deliver their project. This human network is non-linear. People’s actions and responses may be more or less proportional to the stimulus; unexpected, emergent actions will arise; and emotions, uniformity and diversity are all played out within the team. Consequently, traditional, linear approaches to project management are no longer likely to be adequate for meeting the needs and emergent outcomes of project teams in contemporary organisations.

The new management paradigm, which the TKO represents, is a shift from technically determined mechanistic activities to socially organised learning, co-constructed knowledge creation and problem solving through sense-making processes within the complex adaptive system of the project team. The individual team members co-create meaning and order, rather than having it imposed.

The role of leadership in a TKO is ‘we-centred’ rather than ‘I-centred’ participative leadership that will:

  • guide, mentor, assist, coach, partner with team members
  • co-create and co-evolve meaning and context
  • keep an eye on the network horizon; what connections are happening between team members and with the external stakeholder community?
  • give feedback based on performance/execution of project tasks to facilitate learning and improvement

Traditional project artefacts such as schedules still have important roles to play as communication and sense-making tools within the TKO. This is a totally different concept to the old paradigm of ‘control tools’.

Can project management adapt to this new environment? To read more on the challenges see some of the papers by Patrick Weaver: