Advances the importance of early sequences of the project lifecycle.•
The start of the project seemed to be the beginning of the end.•
The multi-goal context in the public sector makes the temporal alignment challenging.•
Important implications in policy fields such as public health.
Temporary organizations have multiplied in the public sector and are often used as the organizational solution to secure long-term societal needs on a project by project basis. This article investigates how actors in temporary and permanent organizations work to connect, transcend and reshape competing temporal structures in their attempt to make project intentions impact on permanent organizing. The study uses qualitative interviews, observations and written documents to examine interactions at the boundaries between a temporary health promotion project and two permanent organizations – primary schools – which are the target of a health intervention. The results highlight how the multi-goal context inherent in the public sector can explain why temporal alignment is more difficult to achieve in comparison with a commercial context, affecting what makes project intentions survive in permanent organizing.