Negotiating through boundary objects in global design project networks

Melissa K. Di Marco*, Pauli Alin, John E. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Technological advances in boundary-spanning tools have fostered collaboration in global architecture, engineering and construction project networks. These boundary-spanning tools can be used to create, co-create and share knowledge in the form of boundary objects. For example, building information modeling (BIM) tools enable the co-creation of models which connect the work of the disparate specialist organizations in a project network. Global project networks of firms often use models that function as boundary objects for collaboration across the geographic, time and cultural distances that separate them. Past research has shown that boundary objects are effective at the interface between individuals and organizations, but little is known about the role these objects play towards negotiation outcomes in global project networks. In this manuscript we explore the role of boundary objects in negotiating complex design knowledge across national and organizational boundaries. We observed a three day series of design review meetings involving U.S. and Indian engineering firms. We applied organizational network analysis to assign specific actions and tasks associated with these boundary objects to empirically observe the salient role boundary objects can play towards negotiation outcomes. We also conducted a qualitative analysis of each negotiation instance to establish the boundaries being negotiated in order to link the negotiation processes with negotiation outcomes. We found that boundary objects play a critical yet complex role in establishing mutual understanding and resolving conflicts across boundaries. These findings have important implications for firms collaborating across organizational and national boundaries in global project networks.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnnual Conference of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering 2011, CSCE 2011
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2011
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventAnnual Conference of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering - Ottawa, Canada
Duration: 14 Jun 201117 Jun 2011


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering
Abbreviated titleCSCE


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