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.


Business and Information Technology

Keywords and Phrases

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

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1536-9323; 1558-3457

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2020 Association for Information Systems (AIS), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Apr 2020