Adapting to the changing needs of managing innovative projects

Satu Rekonen*, Tua Björklund

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the changes in managerial activities and challenges at different phases of innovative projects. Design/methodology/approach – Six NPD project managers were interviewed in three different project phases in a qualitative, longitudinal design. The resulting 18 semi-structured face-to-face interviews were content analyzed and categorized according to thematic similarity. Findings – Altogether 19 categories describing managerial concerns in managing innovative projects were recognized. Task-oriented, rather than people-oriented, approaches were dominant throughout the projects, although the reported concerns clearly varied at each phase. The early development phase emerged as a transition point, where managers had to transform their roles, reported activities decreased, and reported challenges increased. Research limitations/implications – Although based on a small number of participants in a single setting, the results highlight the need for longitudinal studies and differentiating between the various phases of the innovation process, as there was great variance in the concerns of each phase. Furthermore, domain expertise seemed to have a large impact on how the managers reformulated their role in transitioning from the front-end to the development phases. Practical implications – The present study emphasizes the need to support managers in transitioning between different innovation phases and to recognize the need to adjust managerial roles. Further, it seemed crucial to establish the practices supporting successful teamwork in the front-end phase before the first phase transition. Originality/value – The study is a rare example of a longitudinal research design examining the implications and transition between different phases of the innovation process within the same projects for project managers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-132
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Innovation Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Front-end phase (FEI)
  • Managerial activities
  • Managerial challenges
  • New product development (NPD)
  • Project manager


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