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Multi-project work and project performance: Friends or foes?

Colicev, A., Hakkarainen, T. & Pedersen, T. (2023). Multi-project work and project performance: Friends or foes?. Strategic Management Journal, 44(2), pp. 610-636. doi: 10.1002/smj.3443


Research Summary: While multi-project work (MPW) is becoming an increasingly popular work arrangement, its relationship with project performance is understudied. On the one hand, MPW is deployed to increase employee worktime utilization and productivity, which should be reflected in more timely project completion. On the other hand, MPW also brings switching costs due to attention residue and cognitive setup. Based on this trade-off, we derive an inverted U-shaped relationship between MPW and project performance. We find support for this relationship in a longitudinal dataset containing 9,649 project-month-employee observations. More specialized experience, project similarity, and employee familiarity positively moderate the inverted U-shape. Furthermore, the results are robust to a host of model specifications, data structures, assumptions, and alternative explanations.

Managerial Summary: How many projects can you work on simultaneously? We study this question in the context of new product development (NPD) projects in a multinational organization. We suggest that multi-project work (MPW) might be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, MPW academics or engineers can be more productive by filling the gaps in their schedules and developing time management practices. On the other hand, MPW also carries switching costs. This trade-off creates an inverted U-shaped relationship between MPW and project performance. So, how can MPW be more beneficial or less costly? We find that more specialized employees can benefit more from productivity gains while working with familiar members or similar projects can alleviate switching costs.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors. Strategic Management Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: multi-project work, productivity, project performance, specialized experience, switching costs
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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