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Keywords:

  • knowledge workers;
  • R&D;
  • project management;
  • portfolio management;
  • control

This paper examines the erosion of autonomy among research and development (R&D) engineers in a global information technology company and the ways in which they responded. Over a 14-year period, we examine the changing regime of control as knowledge workers in this firm are increasingly subjected to increased project and portfolio management interventions. Drawing on extended interviews, we consider the propensity of such knowledge workers to challenge, subvert or else acquiesce to these enhanced control mechanisms. The idea of the project, we argue, plays a critical role in affording meaning and security and informing their responses.