Continuity and change in interorganizational project practices: the Dutch shipbuilding industry 1950-2010

R.C. Levering, HD Ligthart, N.G. Noorderhaven, L.A.G. Oerlemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The Dutch shipbuilding industry has a longstanding tradition in project-based production. Recently, industry actors have acknowledged a serious misfit between interorganizational project practices, defined as behaviors related to collaboration, and interorganizational project demands, defined as environmental conditions. This misfit leads to a weaker competitive position due to higher communication and production costs, and longer production times. However, the causes of this misfit remain unclear. Among project researchers there is a growing awareness that history has a major influence on contemporary practices in interorganizational projects, suggesting that some of the causes of the present-day misfit may be rooted in the past. This paper studies historical developments of interorganizational project practices in Dutch shipbuilding projects, in order to understand to what extent contemporary misfit in project practices is rooted in the past and results from path dependencies and lock-ins. We answer the following research question: How did interorganizational project practices and demands in the Dutch shipbuilding industry develop between 1950 and 2010 and to what extent do these developments help us understand the current misfit between project practices and demands? Our results show that a web of self-reinforcing mechanisms at least partially explains the current misfit in the Dutch shipbuilding industry. This paper answers to the conceptual call by Sydow et al. (2009) and supplements path dependence literature by showing that self-reinforcing mechanisms causing path dependence can be separated analytically, but are intertwined empirically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-747
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Interorganizational projects
  • Path dependency
  • Project history


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