Addressing complexity in the construction industry: A learning approach

Alghamdi, N . 2011
Publication Work Type: 
Unpublished Master's Thesis
Publishing City: 
London, UK
Project management, Complexity, Construction, Skills, Competencies, Knowledge, Leadership, Manager
Thesis Type: 
Master's Thesis
The Bartlett, University College London (UCL)
Publication Abstract: 

Projects in the construction industry have continued to fail at an astonishing rate (Bosch-Rekveldt et al., 2010; Flyvbjerg et al., 2003; Hall, 1981; Morris and Hough, 1987; Thamhain and Wilemon, 1986). Thus, this thesis is intended to provide an insight into the importance of skills, competences and knowledge necessary in handling major and complex projects successfully. The departure point of this research from other studies of this nature, stemmed from a need to move away from defining complexity and instead proposing frameworks to manage complexity as a means to tackle the crux of the issue. Specifically, this study has chosen to investigate the human skills or 'soft skills', which is generally recognised to be an important factor in managing projects (Cooke-Davies, 2002) particularly under increasing complexity (Müller, Geraldi and Turner, 2011). To achieve such a feat, an empirical study has been conducted through interviewing 12 highly influential and experienced professionals in the construction industry. These individuals are employed by the top construction companies in the UK according to The Top 100 Construction Companies 2010 (The Construction Index, 2010). Results have shown that although having had sufficient education and training, there is no substitute for experience gained from managing major and complex projects. Secondly, it appears that what senior managers perceive as complex is related mainly to the context of the project and also the contextual constraints. Finally, setting up the front-end of the project is also considered to be a vital component. Recommendations are also provided for both practitioners and academia to overcome some issues of complexity in construction and help bridge the gap between current circumstances of training and skills, competencies and knowledge necessary for future project managers.