Abstract This paper uses a clinical study that suggests that exploration versus exploitation strategies have a mechanistic aspect that can be dysfunctional when managing large automotive and IS projects in highly turbulent cyclical environments. The clinical research demonstrates that the results of the strategies tuned to mechanical systems and ERP sustained systems were short-sighted and were suitable only for simple automotive projects. In the current complex landscape, the management should adopt a cyclical view of their complex project landscape that recognizes that IS projects can be improvised and then switch to a mechanical system. The fragile ecosystem of automotive integrators is a factor in the enrichment of well-established theories, including the contingency, the structuration or the innovation theory (Qiu, Gopal & Hann 2017). In this context, neither the target nor the path to reach it can be defined, and anticipating problems proves even more impossible. The main result of this study is that the timing of the switch between exploration and exploitation of the IS projects and automotive project is a key success factor.

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