The main objective of this thesis is to make a contribution to knowledge regarding the nature of improvisation and bricolage activities in the practice of embedded software design and how the tensional relationship between process management and improvisation and bricolage can be balanced. There is a lack of understanding embedded systems development in practice, and how the difficulties correspond to prescribed and emergent processes in this context. In order to address this knowledge gap I conducted an in‐depth case study of an embedded system development project in the German automobile context between December 2004 and November 2008. The research adopted an interpretive approach, which involved the collection and analysis of qualitative data. Empirical data that was derived through interviews and observation revealed new insights as to how embedded systems are developed in practice. I adopt the position that emergent processes occur not randomly, but as purposeful agents that navigate through a turbulent environment of ongoing need to improvise with the items at hand. The finding indicates that the success to achieve the aims is bound to the capabilities to be continuously reflexive and induce corrective actions as appropriate. A theoretical conceptualisation disclosed measures that may enhance the capacity to be reflexive. The findings implied that process management frameworks help as scaffolding in order to practice improvisation and bricolage as a coping strategy. Moreover, improving the capabilities to cope with challenges means enhancing reflexive capabilities. The original contribution of this research is founded on rich descriptions and interpretations as to how embedded systems are developed in practice, and the theoretical conceptualisation that can aid to balance the tension between process management and improvisation and bricolage
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