The reinforcing effects of formal control enactment in complex it projects

Gloria Hui Wen Liu, Cecil Eng Huang Chua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Complex IT projects pose particular challenges for the application of control, because of the dynamism and uncertainty involved. Prior studies suggest self-control can complement formal control within complex projects. However, how managers can enact controlee self-control remains an unsolved question. This paper proposes and investigates how enacted formal control unfolds during the course of an IT project and, in particular, how formal control enactment can promote or hinder controlee self-control. We demonstrate through case studies of a control in two wireless communication product development projects that an enabling control style can induce controlees to act to the benefit of both the controller and the controlee, while an authoritative control style encourages controlees’ self-interested behavior. We also show how controlees influence the enactment of control within complex projects and demonstrate the reinforcing effects of the controller’s enactment and controlee response on project outcomes. For practice, this research identifies preconditions necessary for inducing controlee self-control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)312-340
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Control enactment
  • Control style
  • Controlee response
  • Formal control
  • Self-control

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