Flow and organization in the construction industry

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Jakob Olsen
  • Jacob Nicolai Olsen
This thesis argues that the traditional ways of organizing projects in the construction industry is economically regulated which is a hindrance to the sharing of knowledge and information, and thus is a hindrance for the creation of flow. The study also highlights the fact that the organisational structure creates a gap between responsibility expected and control with the assignment, which creates sub optimization as each part struggles to maintain control. Furthermore it is argued that the information perspective elaborated by Lauri Koskela (1999) is too narrow to explain the necessities of the construction process and is defined as an important research topic for further understanding.
An explorative study of the construction industry in Denmark was conducted in order to structure a cause and effect diagram relevant for the current situation in the industry where symptoms like low quality and exceeding time schedules and budgets still affects heavily on performance. Companies have sought to deal with this through the use of concepts like Lean Construction with its focus on minimizing waste and delivery time while increasing customer value. Empirical findings suggest that only a small number of companies are actually using the concept and the company most involved have only applied this to half their projects where bad performance still is an issue.
Why is this still a problem and how does Lean Construction actually affect the flow of work processes? This is the main issue addressed by this thesis and explanations are found in the theory about organizational structuring and knowledge sharing, which are applied on three embedded case studies and compared to organizational and environmental characteristics for the project organisation. The project group has participated in a construction project as observant and over six weeks participated in weekly group meetings and collected causes for unsuccessful work. In the end seven interviews was conducted with workers and leaders at the construction site on the basis of selected instances regarding work not done. Methodologically the thesis treats præmises, theory and empirical data in a hermeneutical circular interpretational structure of understanding and has supported the project group in getting from exploration to valid and reliable explanations to barriers in the flow of work processes.
The thesis concludes the analysis by cross referencing the embedded cases and sums up empirical and theoretical findings as barriers for the flow of work processes. The most important findings are: 1) a narrow and ineffectual definition of information and knowledge in Lean Construction refers to a lack of understanding of the preconditions necessary for completing assignments. Acknowledging this will close the gap between information and knowledge produced and what is really in demand. 2) Lean Construction presumes an organisational regulated incentive for the exchange of knowledge and information while the industry and the structure promoted by the project organisation presumes an economically regulated incentive. 3) The contradicting præmises create a gap between responsibility for and control with the assignments which gives rise to unnecessary conflicts and sub optimization and thus a bad flow of work processes. These findings are discussed and put in perspective of the case company in the end of the report and should be considered case specific considerations as well as a muse for further studies.
Publication date5 Jan 2011
Number of pages122
ID: 43355697