Development Working Groups
Friday, June 3rd 2011
16:00 - 17:30
Estonian Business School, 407

DWG: Thinking about the future - and its implications for managing the present

Track Chairs:
Kristian Kreiner. Professor, Copenhagen Business School.
Graham Winch. Professor, Manchester Business School.
Lars Lindkvist. Professor, Linköping University.

Organisational Coordinator:
Kristian Kreiner. Professor, Copenhagen Business School. +45 3815 2800.

The role of the future, and the temporal aspects of managing organizations and projects, has
implicitly been an element in management theory as well as practice. The very label „project‟
refers to the projection of something into the future. This DWG brings the phenomenon of the
future into the forefront in order to inspire new ways of theorizing the practice of project and
organizational management. The question we want to raise is, “In which ways are ideas about the
future impacting management action in the present”. For example, spelling out the future may
equip current action with purpose and meaning that may coordinate collective effort. It may
motivate current action in ways so that the effort becomes resilient in the face of the turbulence
and obstacles which most projects experience. And it may legitimize the toil and sacrifices
experienced in many projects.

The future has appeared in at least two very different ways in theories of management. First and
foremost, some decision making theories contend that choices are made on the basis of the future
consequences of alternative actions. Consequences and effects are logically subsequent to
choices and causes. However, these futures need little independent conceptualization because
they are assumed to be more or less calculable. They are simple extensions of the present.
However, the future has also been conceived logically to precede the present. Alfred Schutz
claimed that human action is based on „future perfect thinking‟. Sensemaking is fundamentally
retrospective, not prospective, and therefore sensemaking can only guide action if the future is
imagined to have already happened. Such „future perfect thinking‟ has informed recent theories
of project management, but the practice of linking imaginations about the future and current
action needs further study and theorization. We invite theoretical as well as empirical papers.

Keywords: project organizing, future-perfect-thinking, management practice.