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The implications of trust in relationships in managing construction projects

Ellen Lau (Division of Building Science and Technology, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Steve Rowlinson (Department of Real Estate and Construction, University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 13 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine trust relationships in managing construction projects to determine the trust situations, the psychological perception of trust relationship, and the underlying value of trust. Association is made to project management, project team and strategy implementation for managing construction projects.


A case study approach is adopted to collect qualitative data from ten projects. The collected data are analysed with content analysis and discussed with a flow model and interactive model approach.


Using the real‐life evidence, the findings revealed a diversified meaning of trust, which subsequently confirm the multi‐faceted nature of trust with qualitative data analysis.

Research limitations/implications

Further research is necessary for multi‐party working as this working style dominates the construction industry and greatly affects the overall project performance, and the effect of such is particularly obvious when managing differences among people. For a better understanding of trust, the moral and social dimensions of trust need to be studied separately.

Practical implications

The study offers a direction for implementation of relational contracting in project management, project teamwork and strategy implementation. Implications in practice include: project management – time, cost and quality are greatly affected by people implementation and therefore a balance of control and trust is required; project team – trust needs to be cultivated with rules and norms in a multi‐party working team because trust is not self‐generated; and strategy implementation – both interpersonal and inter‐firm trust have to be considered, particularly at the middle management level.


The paper is of value to both practitioners and academics/researchers in the management development of construction projects by providing a different perspective from the human side.



Lau, E. and Rowlinson, S. (2011), "The implications of trust in relationships in managing construction projects", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 633-659.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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