Latour (1996) observes, drawing on Simian sociology, that the social, in its purest form, is a matter of engaging in face-to-face interaction. Rules, daily plans, relationships and social structures such as power, sexual relationships and alliances are established, interactively and collectively, and have to be constantly renewed through the ongoing work grooming, posturing and acting.
Our question is whether this pure simian interactionism can provide a useful basis for shedding light on the nature and use of project tools. From a simian interactionist perspective, project tools substitute for, and in theory improve, the effectiveness of face- to-to face interactions; they create a turbo-charged interactionism. For example, the mere act of committing to writing an agreed work schedule, extends the durability of the 'structuring effects' of that initial interaction. This is because the interaction can be re- invoked without actually needing to 'reproduce' the meeting itself. However, creating something like a contract to replace on-going interaction also carries dangers – unanticipated effects. A simian group, by being in more or less constant line-of-sight of one another, will have an opportunity to monitor the behaviour of others and so will have on-going opportunities to re-assess whether a present action is appropriate or not. Circumstances, other unanticipated interactions, can render a written agreement ridiculous to some of the signatories. In the case of the simians, the arrival of a predator in that part of the forest may trigger a re-think about being there. A sudden change in behaviour in one monkey will trigger that re-think - even if they have not actually seen the predator themselves. However, in the human world, changing economic circumstances (for example a shift in the cost of labour or the cost of a service) can see
1 Professor Chris Ivory, Acting Director of Institute of International Management Practice, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Associate Professor Anette Hallin, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Mälardalen University, Västerås. email@example.com
Abstract submitted to SCOS workshop, 11-14 July, Uppsala University, Sweden
some firms bankrupted while others make fortunes; as their fortunes are 'bound' to the original, now out-dated agreement. Simians would not allow such a state of affairs. In a sense they are more, not less, rational. From this perspective it is ironic that project management tools are generally framed as a form of über-rationalism (Hodgson & Cicmil, 2006).
Our paper will examine the effects of project tools by contrasting them against the less encumbered, and potentially more rational, world of simian ordering. To do so, we draw on Latour's ANT, Simian sociology and our own empirical research of a newly emerging project tool call Prindit. This is a tool which tries, at its root, to bring more line-of-sight between managers and the rest of the project. Prindit was developed with the aim of helping organizations to “move beyond traditional result-oriented measurements”3 by identifying and visualizing the status of the project on a weekly basis. It is a cloud-based B2B service developed by SICS; a Swedish research institute for applied information- and communication technology. Not only does the example of Prindit provide a nuanced understanding of tools in project management, highlighting the need, as with simian groups, for constant feedback; it also highlights how the social is constantly re- negotiated through, and mediated through, project tools.
Hodgson, D., & Cicmil, S. (Eds.). (2006). Making projects critical. New York: Palgrave. Latour, B. (1996). On Interobjectivity. Mind, Culture and Activity, 3(4), 228-245.