Digging for change: Change and resistance in interorganizational projects in the utilities sector

A.H. van Marrewijk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Intentional organizational change is a multi-level and multi-authored process in which resistance is an integral part of successful change. Resistance can be productive when it is taken as a challenge to normal power relations and taken for granted practices. Successful organizational change is even more challenging in the context of inter-organizational collaboration as several organizations each with their own interests, history and practices are then involved. The paper discusses a longitudinal case study (2012-2016) of resistance to bottom up changes in an inter-organizational collaboration in the utility sector. The findings of the study show that middle managers first resisted to changes in work practices proposed by shop floor employees. Five practices emerged in the inter-organizational collaboration to generate productive change; (1) delaying the making of decisions, (2) projectification of the change process, (3) adapting the speed of transformation, (4) keeping benefits and costs ambiguous, and (5) aligning of top and middle management and shop floor. The contribution of the paper involves an extending of the notion of productive resistance in an inter-organizational context and show an empirical case of resisting middle managers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
JournalProject management journal
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


The author(s) received financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research was financially supported by the nine organizations participating in the Innovation Atelier and by PMI’s Sponsored Research Program 2017 (SRP).

FundersFunder number
Philip Morris International


    • resistance, collaboration, productive change, IOPs, bottom up change


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