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Standardizing the free and independent professional: The case of construction site managers in Sweden

Martin Löwstedt (Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Rikard Sandberg (Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 24 February 2020

Issue publication date: 22 June 2020

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287

Abstract

Purpose

Research concerned with standardization of the construction process has generally considered the challenges from only rational and instrumental perspectives. The purpose of this paper is to foreground a social perspective of this challenge. Specifically, the work of construction site managers is explored through a professional work lens in order to emphasize significant misalignments with the principles of standardized production in the construction industry.

Design/methodology/approach

Data are drawn from a longitudinal (2014–ongoing) case study of site managers’ work in a large Swedish construction company. The research design is characterized by an explorative approach, altogether consisting of 44 in-depth interviews at the site manager level (28) and at other managerial levels (16). All the interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed particularly to highlight two contrasting dominant discourses: “standardized construction production” and “site manager work.”

Findings

The findings show that site manager’s work is enmeshed with a particular type of professional expertise and identity that is ideologically crafted around a proclivity for free and independent work. It is outlined in detail how these social dimensions of work are enacted to form an ongoing (and successful) resistance to organizational initiatives that are based on principles of standardization.

Originality/value

This study improves our understanding of an unresolved social challenge that impedes the transformation toward more standardized construction production. It adds new perspectives and value to current research by reminding that (and how) significant changes in production processes also seriously implicate professional work.

Keywords

Citation

Löwstedt, M. and Sandberg, R. (2020), "Standardizing the free and independent professional: The case of construction site managers in Sweden", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 1337-1355. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-11-2018-0489

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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