McCaffer, R. (2014), "Editorial", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 21 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-02-2014-0018Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Volume 21, Issue 2
ECAM 21.2 took 16 authors to produce the six papers included in this issue. One paper has four authors, two papers have three authors and three papers have two authors. There is much evidence of multi-institutional collaboration. One paper has three authors from three institutions in Hong Kong and one paper has authors from two Institutions in mainland China and one Institution in Hong Kong. The paper from Singapore has one author from a University and one from industry. I had hoped and still hope that we will see more joint papers from Universities and industry. It is clear and widely accepted that in construction there is a need to demonstrate the relevance and impact of research. One way of ensuring relevance is to undertake the research jointly with industry colleagues. Having industry involved in research helps focus research on real issues that are seeking solutions. Working with industry increases the opportunities to implement the research output. Such joint work is to be encouraged.
The distribution of our international authors in this issue is six from Hong Kong, four from China, two from Singapore, two from Canada and two from New Zealand.
The topics in this issue are coping behaviours for stressed construction professionals annexing their cultural values, modelling competition intensity, project cash flow forecasting the impact of rework on schedule performance, public-private partnerships and public participation in infrastructure disputes in China. The research methodologies were questionnaires and interviews. I am always comforted when questionnaire results are supported by interviews and other data sources. I've never been convinced that a questionnaire alone gives the research the necessary insight required. Direct contact with industry professionals allows the researchers to test their understanding of the issues they are researching. Our industry colleagues frequently challenge researchers' perceptions and that ensures that the researchers examine these perceptions more carefully. Even more frequently our industry colleagues improve their understanding of the problems they face simply by dialogue with researchers. There is great benefit to both.
The paper that was closest to my own experience was the one on the impact of rework on the programme schedule. As a young site engineer I can well remember the rage of the site manager when we had to plan for some rework because of our own errors! Nostalgia!
The papers in this issue are as follows:
Chan, Leung and Yuan invite us to consider the coping behaviours of stressed construction professionals and the effects of different cultures. The authors establish statistical evidence that desired cultural values of construction professionals can influence their adoption of coping behaviours. Data collection was by questionnaire and 139 were completed by construction professionals in Hong Kong. The main findings were: interpersonal integration triggers problem solving; a disciplined work ethos triggers positive reappraisal and alleviates emotional discharge; and interpersonal integration triggers a disciplined work ethos. A series of recommendations are presented to encourage construction professionals to adopt adaptive coping behaviours through cultivating their cultural values.
So far so good but I would like to see how these findings can be implemented. I don't know how so I would look to the researchers to develop an implementation strategy. Could it be training courses or development sessions to encourage the advocated approach? I think the researchers should take a lead on this.
Ye, Shen and Lu are interested in competition intensity in construction markets. The authors argue that competition intensity is important to companies setting their competition strategy and are critical of existing methods of measuring competition intensity. The authors propose a model based on discriminant analysis. The proposed model is composed of predictor variables concerned with market operation as well as criterion variables that classify markets into a few predefined groups based on the values of competition intensity. Empirical data of China's local construction markets were collected to verify the proposed model. It is recommended using the proposed model to predict the competition trend of construction market especially when data for the traditional approaches are poor or not readily available.
The research needs to be taken further to demonstrate that the predictions of the model are of value to companies setting competition strategy. How will these companies use this model? Will they find it of value? The researchers will need to educate the industry on the value of this model.
Zayed and Liu return us to the topic that recurrently attracts researchers, namely, cash flow modelling and forecasting. The authors argue the importance of cash flow, its variability and its difficulties in forecasting cash flow. All these reasons are why many researchers have been attracted to model cash flow in projects. The chosen modelling technique is that favored by many researchers the analytical hierarchy process (AHP). Data collection to establish the AHP was by questionnaire in China and North America. Results show that the most significant factors are: change of progress payment, payment duration, and financial position of the contractor, project delays and poor planning. The developed model is expected to help contractors realistically forecast project cash flow under uncertainty. However, I'm not convinced that by simply expecting the model to be helpful is enough. The researchers having developed a model should find ways of demonstrating its value, otherwise like a host of all the other cash flow models it will simply not get used by anyone.
Hwang and Yang have examined rework and schedule performance. The authors argue that studies in rework have concentrated on cost over-runs and have largely ignored the impact on the schedule performance. They begin with a discussion on the causes of rework. The data sources are from a questionnaire and six face-to-face interviews with industry experts to understand the implications from the survey results. The researchers have identified rework as a major contribution to schedule disruption. The root causes identified were namely design-related changes, poor design coordination and poor site management. The hope is that once companies recognise the causes they can develop strategies to manage and prevent rework. I would have expected that the researchers would work with the companies to develop the strategies. Having undertaken the research and established the causes the researchers need to provide the solutions. Describing the problem isn't enough to help our industry advance.
Liu and Wilkinson have studied the use of public-private partnerships for providing school assets and services. The main data were semi-structured interviews with the key stakeholders from two comparative case studies in Australia and New Zealand. The researchers established five critical elements:
(1) sound business case development;
(2) size-adjusted and streamlined tendering process;
(3) localised private sector partner and streamlined finance;
(4) extensive stakeholder engagement; and
(5) effective governance and organisational structure and enhanced partnership
The authors believe that these provide the practical implications for policy makers.
The big issue with PPP is that governments and public authorities see it as a means of providing assets without providing the capital. However, the costs of the service on the future recurrent budgets are usually too burdensome and the pain is not felt till the recurrent budgets are stressed. The data I have seen suggests that PPP is now less popular as the costs of such schemes are being seen as outweighing the benefits of finding the initial capital.
Xie, Yang, Hu and Chan examines the public participation in China's infrastructure projects. There is a growing frequency in China in using public participation to resolve disputes in public infrastructure and construction projects. The researchers surveyed major stakeholders involved in relevant projects. The survey results were used to perform a strength-weakness-opportunity-threat analysis for evaluating the status quo of public participation in PIC projects.
The results were that the use of public participation in China was slow so the authors have developed a four-step strategic plan to overcome the main barriers for the implementation of public participation and promote its development in China.
The authors are attempting to promote public participation through the development of their strategic plan. What would help is a description as to how their strategic plan will be implemented.