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Initiation of capital projects in industries having an operational focus: an Australian stevedoring case example

Haya Aldaghlas (Infrastructure, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Felix Kin Peng Hui (Infrastructure, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Colin Fraser Duffield (Infrastructure, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 15 December 2020

Issue publication date: 20 May 2021

328

Abstract

Purpose

The initiation phase of capital projects is critical as this is where the highest number of options exist for modifying the project with minimal expenditure. Government and large organisations frequently involved in major capital projects have extensive procedures for this phase, yet organisations having an operational focus (like major container terminal stevedores), that only occasionally undertake capital projects face the dilemma of the trade-off between project planning and the management of operations. This research reported in this paper investigated the impact of industry operational considerations on the initiation of capital projects.

Design/methodology/approach

In addition to an extensive literature review, a living research investigation of real projects initiated by a stevedoring company operating in Australia has been observed; the primary author of this paper spent six months as a participant/observer and witnessed the initiation of 12 capital projects. The collected data was qualitatively analysed using a four-step coding method.

Findings

The findings confirm that project initiation is a challenge for organisations who only spasmodically undertake capital projects and available project management frameworks do not necessarily consider the impact of such an organisation's culture. Issues identified that may have a negative impact on the initiation phase include lack of workplace trust, high individualism, ineffective interdepartmental communication, lack of resources and engineering and safety complexity.

Originality/value

The study investigated an underexplored industry within the context of project initiation, using the Australian stevedoring as a case study. This initial investigation suggests that a tailored project management framework is needed for the initiation phase of projects to reflect the unique nature of the stevedoring industry and by inference other industries that have a strong operational focus.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The researchers would like to thank the case study organisation and its staff for their support and commitment to this research. The authors also acknowledge the scholarship support from the Australian Commonwealth Government support through the “Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship” and the University of Melbourne. In addition, the helpful comments received from the reviewers of the paper are gratefully acknowledged.

Citation

Aldaghlas, H., Hui, F.K.P. and Duffield, C.F. (2021), "Initiation of capital projects in industries having an operational focus: an Australian stevedoring case example", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 898-916. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-09-2020-0277

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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