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Presentation of AOM paper: Understanding Project Based Production through Socio-technical Modularity

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This paper develops an approach for understanding Project Based Production. This form of production is characterized by unique deliverables, high complexity, high value, high risk, profound …

This paper develops an approach for understanding Project Based Production. This form of production is characterized by unique deliverables, high complexity, high value, high risk, profound uncertainty and many stakeholders and is increasingly important the postmodern society. Common to the practices of PBP and other production practices is the goal of balancing the dilemma between creativity and productivity.
In response to industrialized production, the concept of modularity gained popularity for addressing this dilemma by exploring product, process and organization structures. However with the starting point in system theory and a strong bias towards industrial production, the predominant understanding of modularity faces difficulty in explaining practices of Project Based Production in both social – technical and dynamic – stable aspects.
Illustrated by a case the paper addresses this gap, by offering a reinterpretation of the modularity concept from a socio-technical perspective in general and Actor Network Theory (ANT) in particular. By formulating modularity from an ANT perspective covering social, material and process aspects, the modularity of a socio-technical practice can be understood as an entanglement of product, process, organizational and institutional modularity.
The paper concludes proposing central questions for the development of the concept of modularity for understanding, designing and managing of PBP.

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  • such as an organizational, product of process modularity any importance. But these categories might arise through analysis of the central concepts (actors, networks and translation).
  • Transcript

    • 1. Understanding Project Based Productionthrough Socio-technical ModularityAOM 2012, BostonChristian Thuesenchth@dtu.dk dk.linkedin.com/in/matute
    • 2. Areas of interest2 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 3. Project Based Production• An increasing amount the production in of our society is realized through projects.• Some examples are – construction industry (buildings, infrastructure…) – offshore projects (shipbuilding, oil & gas rigs…) – creative projects (movies, theatrical productions, festivals…) – IT projects (IT development, programming…)• These cases on project based production (PBP) combines in various degrees technologies and practices from industrialized production and project management3 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 4. Challenges of Project based ProductionOrder ChaosDisciplinary InterdisciplinaryHierarchy NetworkStandardized UniqueEfficiency CreativityLinear IterativeBureaucratic DynamicCodifying ExperimentingRepetition InnovativeClass IndividualDegeneration4 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Stress Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 5. Possible solution… modularityOrder ChaosDisciplinary InterdisciplinaryHierarchy NetworkStandardized UniqueEfficiency CreativityLinear IterativeBureaucratic DynamicCodifying ExperimentingRepetition InnovativeClass IndividualDegeneration5 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Stress Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 6. What is modularization?• Modularity is an attribute of a complex system that advocates designing structures based on – Minimizing interdependence between modules and – Maximizing interdependence within them that can be mixed and matched in order to obtain new configurations without loss of the system’s functionality or performance (Baldwin and Clark 1997; Langlois 1992).• Each module communicates and interacts with the others via standardized interfaces that allow modules’ decoupling6 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Source: Campagnolo & Camuffo 2009 Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 7. Two ways to describe modularity7 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Source: (Fixson 2003) Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 8. Literature review of modularityCampagnolo & Camuffo (2010) reviews 125 publications and finds:• A complex field of studies offering different definitions, measures and applications of the modularity concept• Three main units of analysis – product design modularity – production system modularity – organizational design modularity.8 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 9. The shortcommings of existing theories• Research is based on an assumption of technological determinism (Campagnolo & Camuffo 2010, p 279).  hard to explain the dynamic contexts and social entanglements of modularity• “Modularity is mostly studied in static situations….  In reality, however, no system is really static. Products change, processes evolve, organizations adapt, and innovations appear, and all of these changes are accelerating.” (Fixon 2006, p.31)• No studies are capable of linking the three perspectives (Campagnolo & Camuffo 2010, p. 277).13 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 10. Requirements to a reinterpretation• A reinterpretation of the concept of modularity should be able to understand a system with – physical and material artifacts – social actors• while at the same time both – handle stability and dynamism…14 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 11. Ambition• to explore the possibilities for understanding modularity from a socio- technical perspective in general and actor network theory in particular.• More specifically is the intention to develop: an approach for analyzing the modularity of Project Based Productions practices covering both social – technical and dynamic – stable aspects.• open up new avenues of research and practice.15 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 12. Actor Network Theory• A theory of technology, science, social actors, society, nature and power, all analyzed with the same conceptual framework (Callon 1986, Law 1992 & Latour 2005).• Key concepts – Network – Actors – Translations• Principle of symmetry – Covering both human and nonhuman actors – An actor is an network and visa versa• Not a normative theory subscribing predefined analytical categories any importance16 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 13. An exemplary case
    • 14. Understanding the socio-technical modularity Through: Actors…18 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 15. Understanding the socio-technical modularity Through: Actors, Network…19 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 16. Understanding the socio-technical modularity Through: Actors, Network, Translations…20 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 17. Understanding the socio-technical modularity Through: Actors, Network, Translations and Black boxes21 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 18. Modularity in ANTModules = groups of actors (blackboxes) which have stabilized overtime.Product stable collection ofmodularity non human actorsOrganizational stable collection ofmodularity human (and non human) actorsProcess translationsmodularity processes with a high degree of repetition among certain actors22 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 19. Types of modularity Product modularity Organizational modularity Process modularity23 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Source: Campagnolo &(chth@dtu.dk) Christian Thuesen Camuffo 2009
    • 20. Consequences Modularity is a matter of perspective Different types of modularity • Product, Process, Organizational • Customer, User, Market • Practices • Institutionalized24 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 21. ConsequencesModularity is in the makingEnables us to understand learning and innovation processes• Reproductive/Incremental Managerial challenge• Disruptive/Radical• Might be combined with existing normative modularization tools like MFD and PVM25 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 22. Framework for understanding the socio-technicalmodularity of Project-based Production practices Dimension Questions Market To whom is it produced / delivered? (customer/user/market) Product What is produced / delivered? (product/service/experience) Organizational Who is producing / delivering it? (organization/practice) Process How is it produced / delivered? (process/practice) Institutional How is it influenced by institutional actors?26 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 23. Directions for further studies“For a hammer everything is a nail” we must be reflective in our approach for studying, designing and managing modularityThis opens up a research agenda regarding• Clarification of the concept of Modularity (theoretical and practical)• Conducting empirical analysis of the modularity of different socio-technical systems• Development of tools and practices for studying, designing and managing modularity.27 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)
    • 24. Questions and comments28 DTU Management, Technical University of Denmark Christian Thuesen (chth@dtu.dk)