Organizational learning in construction supply chains

Stuart Tennant (Department of Civil Engineering, School of Engineering, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK)
Scott Fernie (School of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Publication date: 4 January 2013



Learning within the supply chain is widely considered to provide the basis for enhanced competitive advantage. The purpose of this paper is to explore the theory and current practice of organizational learning in UK construction supply chains.


A qualitative research strategy is followed for this exploration of supply chain management and organizational learning. Research enquiry draws on semi‐structured interviews with key construction supply chain stakeholders. The semi‐structure interviews are recorded, transcribed and analysed via qualitative data analysis software.


Careful examination of the transcripts reveal that whilst supply chain management practice in construction is limited, key schools of organizational learning are similarly underdeveloped. Findings disclose construction supply chain organizations routinely employ learning strategies that are best described as reactionary and interventionist.

Research limitations/implications

Research was limited to the UK construction industry and represents the assessment and evaluation of construction clients and first‐tier supply chain members working within construction framework agreements. The perspectives of construction SMEs were out with the data set.

Practical implications

Underdeveloped organizational learning practices within supply chains present a significant barrier to the development and diffusion of supply chain management theory and practice in construction. In practical terms, the attainment of competitive advantage and the development of competing supply chain in construction would be extremely limited.


Connecting organizational learning to the development and diffusion of supply chain management has been largely overlooked within the construction management literature. The research makes two notable contributions. First, the adaptation of a pragmatic and holistic organizational learning framework for the appraisal of learning strategies and second an evaluation of organizational learning in construction supply chains.



Tennant, S. and Fernie, S. (2013), "Organizational learning in construction supply chains", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 83-98.

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