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Time tactics: Project managing policy implementation in a network


Carter P. Time tactics: project managing policy implementation in a network. Time & Society. 2016. p.0961463X16682517.


Projects are ubiquitous throughout the management of public services and the implementation of public policy but implementation processes often remain a ‘black box’. This article argues that technical approaches to project management neglect the role of power. Combining Foucault’s concept of the productive power of governmentality with the notion of timescapes into an analytical lens, the ethnography opens up the black box to reveal how project management functions as a powerful disciplinary technique. I show what escapes the imposed boundaries of the project as, in contrast to rational representations of the linearity of the project life cycle, decisions are retrospectively framed and the past rewritten. Simultaneously, project managers attempt to bring an uncertain future under control, discursively enrolling actors into their visions. Discursive and symbolic meanings of projects link to materiality as resources are represented as plentiful or meagre. Financial year-end exerts a disciplinary force so that time gets compressed and decision making becomes expedient. As resources move between budgets, governmentality is enacted, while budget headings of ‘other’ account for inevitable remaindering. Creative ‘time tactics’ are an adaptive response to achieving externally imposed targets while performing local project success. It turns out that time is at once metaphysical and mundane.