Pro&Con - Project Studies Group

Manufacturing futures

Pro&Con – Project Studies Group (formerly termed Center for Advanced Studies on Projects - CASPRO) aims to open space for reflexivity in and about project practice. We are a networked and open organization created with the support from the Department of Organization at CBS, and working in close collaboration with likeminded colleagues located at CBS, Denmark and internationally.

We do not offer a fast, simple and certain journey; rather the vision of Pro&Con is to offer a distinct set of intellectual tools to explore alternative project futures. We therefore call ourselves Pro&Con. Pro for Projects, that is, a fascination for projects as a rich and multifaceted empirical context that feeds our theoretical curiosity. Con stands for our constructive and contrarian perspectives. We purport to create an open space for reflection in the lookout for richer and providential connotations and conceptions of projects.

The manifesto summarizes Pro&Con’s vision and distinct approach to the project phenomenon and a number of important challenges and dilemmas confronting project management in practice:

1. When the future is unknowable. The future is unknowable, not only uncertain and unknown. It is unknowable because it is an emergent state of affairs which reflects the endless number of acts, processes and interactions that will happen in between now and the "future". The emergent future cannot be manufactured by design because it is the effect of multiplicity of things being manufactured, prior knowledge encoded in written plans being only one of those things that can be implicated in enacting the future in the present “now”. This unknowable future is a fundamental condition for the project organization and it becomes a dilemma and challenge when project management is expected to act as if they know the future – as if being super humans. Pro&Con questions such expectations and assumptions due to their complete lack of usefulness.

Pro&Con offers a distinct pragmatic alternative: Research and collaboration with practitioners with the vision and ambition to develop more sophisticated and useful theories so people working in and with the project can live with the uncertainty and explore its possibilities and futures.

2. Manage in the project process. Project conditions change as unexpected events emerge and experiences are gained about the complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty of the project and outcomes. This creates a dilemma and challenge for the management of a project when seeking to control in order to deliver results according to initial expectations and plans. Managing in the project process implies a distinct pragmatic alternative to generic “best practice” approaches which favors the management of projects. Managing in the project process includes further considerations about the project as a learning process in which expectations and plans can be enriched by the experiences and knowledge gained; from the management technologies in use, the frictions and surprises created as people and things interact.

Manage in the project process implies taking learning and knowledge seriously as potential resources and constraints.

3. With a pragmatic ethics, for an ontological performative politics. The usefulness of projects and outcomes has primacy over initial expectations about project results. With a pragmatic ethics Pro&Con offers a distinct alternative to a principal ethics which disregards the actual usefulness, value and longer term relevance of outcomes in the name of control and consistency between initial expectations and immediate results. Pro&Con recognizes that current “best practice” project management bodies of knowledge operates with ontological propositions that enact and perform societal, political and ethical realities with an undue emphasis on short term exploitation, rationalization, control and bureaucratization, what is named ‘projectification’ of (project)organizations and society at large. Pro&Con takes issue with and challenge contemporary and prevailing propositions about “best practice” as an integral part of its ontological performative politics. Pro&Con operates with a completely different set of propositions by regarding the project phenomenon as a trans-historical organizational mechanism, its ontology and ethical rationale being similar to the classical virtues of the research project aiming for the exploration of yet unknown worlds and possible futures.

The page was last edited by: Department of Organization // 01/19/2021