External stakeholder management strategies in infrastructure megaprojects : an organizational power perspective

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Infrastructure megaprojects, due to their colossal nature, can cause inconvenience to multiple external stakeholders such as stakeholders in lands, existing services and project communities. These stakeholders are difficult to manage as they interact with the project across permeable boundaries, are not accountable to the requirements of a Detailed Project Report (DPR) and cannot be governed with contractual instruments or conformance to standards as in the case of internal stakeholders. In this context, this research aims to understand 𝘩𝘰𝘸 an infrastructure megaproject during its construction and operation phase can manage these external stakeholders through strategic action from an organizational power perspective. Anchored in the dimensions of power, persuading strategies, framing strategies and hegemonizing strategies are observed from two exploratory case studies. Multiple organizational power theories which relate to these strategies such as influence tactics framework, bases of power framework, framing theory, governmentality theory and circuits of power theory are considered in this study. The literature review of these organizational power theories and the megaproject literature pertaining to each of these strategies helped identify gaps in the literature, for addressing which eight research questions are proposed. To address these research questions, I selected a metro rail megaproject in India. Multiple data sources from this project such as semi-structured interviews, news media articles, and social media posts were used to investigate the strategies employed by the megaproject to manage external stakeholders. Subsequent to developing twenty-one propositions through a grounded theory approach, a conceptual framework that can help explain external stakeholder management in megaprojects is proposed. The research makes multiple contributions to theory, methodology and practice. The role of strategy in making power dynamic by creating power, using power and maintaining power is established. The definition of project community is broadened to involve all stakeholders of the project (both internal and external) as the strategies used to manage the project community percolated and trickled down to other stakeholders as they are also part of the project community. A structured approach to study naturalistic data such as news articles and social media is proposed and their ability to contribute to megaproject research is highlighted. To practice, I contribute a framework to explain external stakeholder management in megaprojects. The study also emphasizes the role of the covert strategies such as framing and hegemonizing in dictating the visible stakeholder management strategies such as persuading strategies, and vice versa.
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