A ‘Stranger’ in the Making of Strategy: A Process Perspective of Project Portfolio Management in a Pharmaceutical Firm

Jane Bjørn Vedel*, Joana Geraldi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Scholars assume that the strategic direction of project portfolios is designed within organisations. Our study challenges this assumption. Taking a process perspective, we explored the long-term influence of an external partner, a university researcher, on the development of a project portfolio in a large pharmaceutical firm. By following five contracts that connected the researcher to the firm, we observed how the researcher initiated and managed projects in the portfolio, thereby keeping his influence and relevance alive. Yet, despite his long-term influence, the researcher was perceived as a ‘stranger’ with an ambiguous, and at times surprising, role. We advance our theoretical understanding of the link between portfolios and their contexts by extending the concept of project lineage to inter-organisational lineages and showing their nonlinear and social character. We also suggest related contracts, ‘contractual paths,’ as novel and useful for exploring the link between portfolios and their contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)454-463
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 10 June 2020


  • Contractual path
  • Contracts
  • External context
  • External partner
  • Longitudinal study
  • Process perspective
  • Project portfolio
  • Stranger
  • Strategy

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