Boundary activities and readiness for change during change program initiation

Päivi Hoverfält

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Multi-project change programs have become increasingly common in both private and public sector organizations. The special characteristics of large and complex programs pose novel kinds of managerial challenges, which prior project management research has not adequately addressed. Furthermore, previous research has mainly viewed projects and other temporary organizations as isolated and independent entities, whereas programs that aim at large-scale change are in many ways embedded in their organizational context. This dissertation, positioned in the field of project and program management, examines the initiation and planning of change programs. The study explores the activities that the key actors of an emerging program employ in managing the program’s interaction with its organizational environment. Viewing programs as temporary organizations, the study adopts the concepts of organizational boundaries and boundary activities from organization theory and applies them to examine the connections between a change program and its parent organization. The research is conducted as an abductive case study of three large service sector organizations initiating significant change programs. The primary data consists of 58 interviews with people involved in program initiation. The findings show how an emerging change program is in constant interaction with its organizational context. The analysis reveals ten types of boundary activities that the key program actors employ to build, shape, cross and guard the program’s boundaries. The results suggest that active boundary management is associated with establishing readiness for change program implementation, and further propose that the different types of boundary activities contribute to the different aspects of this readiness. The findings specifically highlight the emerging change program’s need for autonomy. The study also brings to the fore contextual factors that are proposed as affecting the progress and the success of the early program stages. The study contributes to the theoretical understanding of how temporary organizations are initiated and how they interact with their context. The findings shed light into the logic of how the boundaries of a temporary organization are formed and how they evolve. The results also extend the concept of readiness for change using evidence from large-scale change programs. For organizations establishing change programs, the findings direct attention to the early program stages and particularly to the means of linking the emerging program to other organizational structures and activities.
Translated title of the contributionMuutosohjelman rajojen hallinta ja muutosvalmius ohjelman käynnistysvaiheessa
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Artto, Karlos, Supervising Professor
  • Martinsuo, Miia, Thesis Advisor, External person
Print ISBNs978-952-60-4642-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-4643-3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • program management
  • project management
  • temporary organizations
  • organizational change
  • organizational boundaries
  • boundary activities


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