Complex public construction projects prove challenging for governments and other organisations. This thesis focuses on the complexities caused by social difficulties. More specifically, the collaboration and potential stressful relationships between involved organisations, leading to complex, interchanging, unstable situations. A solution to this form of complexity is the use of one or more boundary spanners. These are people forming bridges between different organisations, improving knowledge sharing, cooperation and trust. However, possible negative qualities of boundary spanners have been under-researched. Therefore, this thesis tries to fill that academic gap, by answering the central research question: (how) do potential negative qualities of boundary spanners affect the performance in networked governance construction projects, and if so, under what conditions? The performance of projects is defined in both objective and subjective terms, thus relating to project efficiency, and the satisfaction of those involved. Both methods were picked because they complement each other. Through an extensive literature review combining insights from politics, management, and governance, three possible negative qualities of boundary spanners came to light. The first potential negative quality is their power imbalance. Boundary spanners try to mediate between different power relations in a network, but hold a special power position themselves. Second, information bottlenecks. When all information in a network needs to pass through one point, be it a person or a team, an information bottleneck may be created. Third, personal, informal relations. Although personal, informal relations are generally thought to be helpful, they can turn sour, result in favouritism, obstruct critical thinking, etc. Traditional literature on boundary spanners defined conditions for boundary spanning. Three conditions are important: role stressors, organisational support, and individual competence. Three case studies were picked to study boundary spanners and their workings: the quay development, the University Quarter, and the Gaasperdammertunnel and the Brasapark. All three cases are located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Through a document analysis and a series of interviews, a detailed overview of the cases was achieved. The results show that boundary spanners do in fact suffer from power imbalances, information difficulties, and personal, informal relations, hindering results and satisfaction. Stakeholders are generally less positive than boundary spanners. The flaws mostly come from role stressors and role uncertainty, things that can partially be fixed by organisational support and individual competence. In sum, more role stressors lead to stronger negative effects, and less efficiency and satisfaction.

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Dr. Leon van der Dool, Dr. Jose Nederhand
Public Administration
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Anneke van der Werf. (2022, August). DIFFICULTIES WITH POWER, INFORMATION AND RELATIONS. Public Administration. Retrieved from