Combined utility streetworks involve cable and pipeline owners and authorities that concurrently undertake work in the same physical space. In this networked project setting, ownership fragmentation and lacking formal coordination instruments complicate the integration of multi-stakeholder engineering and construction operations. Boundary spanners have a unique position to pursue integration in this complex system. To understand what it is that constitutes their practices, we explore them through Mintzberg’s seminal framework of informational, interpersonal, and decisional roles. Specifically, we extend the framework to the context of boundary spanning in networked projects by conducting semi-structured interviews with seven boundary spanners of combined utility streetworks: the so-called utility coordinators. Based on open coding of the interview data, we identified 149 performed activities, and twenty-three lower-level management roles (such as involving stakeholders; facilitating formal processes; and, creating a collective memory). Next, axial coding allowed us to tailor Mintzberg’s role model to networked project settings. Based on this, we reflect on how a setting that lacks formal coordination instruments influences the roles that boundary spanners adopt. This empirical study of coordination in networked projects contributes a case to the practice turn literature that calls for explorations of everyday organizational practices in their situated context. Other contributions are the extension of Mintzberg’s framework to networked projects; and, the development of two hypotheses about the position and roles of utility coordinators. Eventually, our findings may help practitioners identify what interpersonal and informational skills they need to improve alignment in loosely connected project networks.
Keywords: Utility streetworks, networked coordination, boundary spanning roles, Mintzberg