The study aims to investigate the concept of strategy-as-practice in construction management literature has been investigated. The focus is on the link between strategizing practices and project management.
An exploratory literature review is carried out based on fifteen journal articles on strategizing practices in the construction industry.
The analysis shows how strategy-as-practice questions and contradicts project management practices as depicted in the dominant deterministic perspective. Strategy-as-practice has a focus on reacting and adapting to a chaotic and changing environment, while project management is concerned with creating and maintaining a stable working environment. The findings point to the necessity of considering the organizational and institutional context of project management practices, and hence the values the strategy-as-practice lens, when considering new avenues for improving the industry.
As the study is based on an exploratory literature review of only 15 articles, generalizations should be made with caution. The identified literature is restricted by search words and choice of database.
The differences between strategizing and project management practices are very clear, and a focus on both may offer insights into how the construction industry could improve its productivity by developing more robust management practices.
The paper illustrates the benefit of applying a strategizing perspective, which hitherto has been under-investigated in construction management research.
Klitgaard, A. and Gottlieb, S.C. (2019), "Strategizing and Project Management in Construction Projects: An Exploratory Literature Review", Lill, I. and Witt, E. (Ed.) 10th Nordic Conference on Construction Economics and Organization (Emerald Reach Proceedings Series, Vol. 2), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 253-258. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2516-285320190000002040
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2019, Anne Klitgaard, Stefan Christoffer Gottlieb.
Published in the Emerald Reach Proceedings Series. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode
Project management (PM) has traditionally been dominated by a deterministic perspective, which implies the possibility of planning, managing and controlling the construction project phenomena (Padalkar and Gopinath, 2016). Clear roles and responsibilities of the project actors are regarded as the way to ensure efficiency in collaboration (Gustavsson and Gohary, 2012). This approach to PM overlooks how projects exist in an external environment (Kreiner, 1996), which is constantly changing and influencing the original intentions and aims of the projects. While this is no longer a new or controversial insight, we see the deterministic approach as a so-called dominant logic (Bettis and Prahalad, 1995) that still is the norm in the construction industry.
Recently, the focus has shifted toward trying to create a better understanding of the contextual factors that shape projects and project practices. This includes also non-deterministic and explanatory approaches focusing on, e.g. project uncertainty, governance and project portfolio management (Padalkar and Gopinath, 2016).
One such theory or approach is that of strategy-as-practice (SAP). The traditional definition of strategy assumes that a strategy is something organizations own or have, argues Johnson et al. (2007), and stresses that in the SAP perspective, strategy is something people do. In SAP, strategizing (or doing strategy as practice) “comprises those actions, interactions and negotiations of multiple actors and the situated practices that they draw upon in accomplishing that activity” (Jarzabkowski and Spee., 2009: 70). With this turn toward practice, research into strategy shifts from a focus on the firm and why strategy is needed, to a concern for people and how they achieve the wanted strategy (Johnson et al., 2007).
Drawing on practice perspective, Söderholm) (2008: 81) argues that PM can be seen as an on-going social accomplishment or “everyday struggle to keep projects on track and on schedule” within a given context and that this can shed new light on situations that are nrmally not include in PM models.
While SAP is a well-established perspective in business management research, it is less used in construction management. On this basis, we ask
(RQ1) How is SAP and the role of context treated in the construction management literature?
(RQ2) How can SAP contribute to project management in construction?
The paper is based on an exploratory literature review. The literature search was conducted in the EBSCO database Business Source Complete, which covers all disciplines of business. A two-block “free text” search was conducted with a limitation to peer-reviewed journals. The first block containing the phenomena of interest represented by the search words “strategizing” and “strategy-as-practice” (722 hits). Another context block was created using the search words ”construction industry” (12,521 hits). A combination of blocks one and two gave seven articles; this was reduced to five articles by removing copies.
The first block was combined with another block containing the search query “project management” (14,662 hits), which gave ten combined hits. Eight of these were concerned with the construction industry, bringing the total of articles up to thirteen articles. In a final quality control of the search, two additional articles were found that were added to the sample, bringing it up to a total of 15 articles.
This search will at a later stage be extended with a snowballing search back and forth Löwstedt et al. (2018) “Doing strategy in project-based organizations: Actors and patterns of action”, which puts emphasis on the relation between strategizing and project management.
3. Analysis and Findings
3.1. Strategy as practice and the project-based construction industry (RQ1)
The final result of 15 articles in the search indicates a relatively low interest from the construction industry in the SAP concept. With one exception, all the empirical articles were written within the last six years, indicating a growing interest in the concept.
We divided the articles into two groups comprising empirical articles (11) and theoretical articles (4). The empirical articles were then further divided into three categories depending on the context in which strategizing took place (see Table 1).
|Category I, Practitioners under the influence of the organizational context of the firm|
|(Bhattacharya et al., 2012)||The growth and change of the firm (strategizing)|
|Category II, Practitioners under the influence of the organizational context of the firm and the project.|
|(Davies et al., 2016)||The use of dynamic capabilities in a complex largescale project to balance the exploitation of routine and stability (project managing) with the exploration of change and fluidity (strategizing)|
|(Floricel and Miller, 2001)||The complexity of large projects where an environment of robustness and foreseen risk (project managing) and governability of unforeseen risk and uncertainties (strategizing)|
|(Ju and Rowlinson, 2014)||The official strategy of health and safety is implemented through project management, but locally on site, it is met with compromising and avoidance practices (strategizing)|
|(Löwstedt et al., 2018)||The proactive measures of strategy (strategizing) clashes with the pragmatic problem-solving practices of project management (project managing)|
|(Vit, 2011)||Technical and economic consideration (project managing) can be disregarded in a context with a strong social and ideological support (strategizing)|
|(Sage et al., 2012)||A focus on the meso-level of strategizing is required because it provides a vital understanding of how strategies are translated between the level of firms and organizations and the everyday practices on building sites|
|(Koch et al., 2015)||Dynamics of projects intersect with the dynamics of the project-based company and the surrounding environment. This impacts on the extent to which particular strategies aligns with other managerial interests|
|Category III, other|
|(Comi and Whyte, 2018)||Strategizing is orientation towards the future. The use of visual aids helps this orientation|
|(Whyte et al., 2008)||The use of visual tools to manage knowledge in projects for exploitation and exploration of knowledge within the project|
|(Ling and Lee, 2012)||The use of strategizing to further one’s career development|
The literature illustrates an interest in the difference between the practice of project managing and strategizing as the two practices are difficult to combine owing to their different focus.
In the theoretical articles, Clegg et al. (2018) set out to provide an agenda for further practice-based research in project portfolio management. Biesenthal et al. (2018) suggest a value in studying the institutional differences in megaproject and doing this by “taking a cue” from the strategy-as-practice approach. Flood and Issa (2010) suggest that the research practitioner should use strategizing as a step in developing an empirical model. Finally, the use of sensemaking, to create scenarios and narratives as a mean of strategizing, is addressed by (Wright, 2005). He stresses that practitioners working at the periphery of the firm (project manager) tend to construct their strategy by induction rather than the rational strategists at the center of the firm.
This is an indication of how the project can shape the strategizing process of project managers. Several of the empirical articles also discuss the role of the firm. Sage et al. (2012) note in their study (on lean construction strategizing) that concepts are continuously translated and transformed during their journey through different contextual settings – and so are people. A group of practitioners working mainly in the firm will thus be working under the influence of the organizational context of the firm, while the practitioners working in projects will be working under the institutional influence of both the firm and the project.
Also, Löwsted et al. (2018) and Koch et al. (2015) discuss how “project actualities” and “nature of the situated practices which surround” operational strategizing afford project actors’ legitimacy and shape practices. Their findings suggest that the traditional PM focusses on principles of project fulfillment, and a narrow focus on how the project performs according to these, is insufficient and can benefit from a more nuanced perspective of the contextual factors that influence project practices. This is also noted by Vit (2011) who suggests that technical rationality is overridden in certain contexts. Davies et al. (2016) illustrate how specific dynamic capabilities, including strategic behaviors and collaborative processes, that are required to deliver complex projects, are based on the ability to balance routine and innovative action in changing and uncertain project environments.
3.2. SAP and a new understanding of project management (RQ2)
The SAP perspective may thus also offer some insights into the opportunities for building construction project teams. In SAP, practitioners are those involved in doing strategy. The strategy practitioner may refer to an individual or a group of individuals (Jarzabkowski and Spee, 2009). This group of practitioners will often be joined in communities of actors or project teams. As Baiden et al. (2006) argue, a failure to collaborate effectively in the project teams has been seen as a major cause behind the productivity issue, stressing the need for effective PM.
In the construction industry, a belief in clearly planned and defined project roles and responsibilities as a basis for PM exists. This is, however, contrary to Whittington et al.’s (2006) claim that strategizing and organizing run together as a smooth simultaneous activity.
The industry needs to ask itself if the deterministic PM approach focusing on stability could cause a loss of opportunity to develop practices toward better productivity. One way to address this issue may be with the introduction of new organization forms in guise of, e.g. integrated project delivery or strategic partnerships (Gottlieb et al., 2018).
Another approach is that of knotworking, a new form of collaboration which shows promising results (Buhl et al. 2017). Results, which offer a more fluid, approach to the matter. Finally, a developing practice, which may link PM and strategizing, is the use of facilitation for changing existing routines to develop practices (Klitgaard et al., 2017)
In this paper, we investigated the link between strategizing practices and project management practices. This literature study shows that the role of SAP in the construction industry is an area of increasing interest and that the literature is sensitive to the practioners’ double obligation; toward their firm and toward the project in which they are involved.
The dominant logic concept suggests that awareness of the primary perspective on practice is necessary. It seems that as long as the determinisitic approach toward PM is so dominant in the industry, it may hinder strategizing practices. Strategizing and project management practice are clearly distinct practices although there is a clear co-dependency between them. We argue that a focus on both may offer insights into how the construction industry could improve its productivity by developing more robust management practices.
This literature study is based on a limited number of articles so further studies are necessary.
Baiden, Price, and Dainty, 2006Baiden, B. K., Price, A. D. F. and Dainty, A. R. J. (2006), “The extent of team integration within construction projects”, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 13–23.
Bettis, and Prahalad, 1995Bettis, R. A. and Prahalad, C. K. (1995), “The Dominant Logic: Retrospective and Extension”, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 16, No.1, pp. 5–14.
Bhattacharya, Momaya, and Iyer, 2012Bhattacharya, S., Momaya, K. S. and Iyer, K. C. (2012), “Strategic Change for Growth: A Case of Construction Company in India”, Global Journal of Flexible Systems Management. Vol. 13, No 4, pp. 195–205.
Biesenthal, Clegg, Mahalingam, Sankaran, 2018Biesenthal, C., Clegg, S., Mahalingam, A., Sankaran, S., (2018), “Applying institutional theories to managing megaprojects”, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 43–54.
Buhl, Andersen, and Kerosuo, 2017Buhl, H., Andersen, M., and Kerosuo, H. (2017), “A Knot – breaking the inertia in construction?”, In Buser, M., Lindahl, G. and Räisänen, C. (Ed), “9th Nordic Conference on Construction Economics and Organization, 13-14 June, Chalmers University of Technology.
Clegg, Killen, Biesenthal, and Sankaran, 2018Clegg, S., Killen, C. P., Biesenthal, C. and Sankaran, S., (2018), “Practices, projects and portfolios: Current research trends and new directions”, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 36, No. 5, pp. 762–772.
Comi, and Whyte, 2018Comi, A. and Whyte, J. (2018) “Future Making and Visual Artefacts: An Ethnographic Study of a Design Project”, Organization Studies, Vol. 39, No. 8, pp. 1,055–1,083.
Davies, Dogdson, and Gann, 2016Davies, A., Dogdson, M. and Gann, D. (2016) “Dynamic capabilities in complex projects: The case of London Heathrow Terminal 5”, Project Management Journal, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 26–47.
Flood, and Issa, 2010Flood, I. and Issa, R. R. A. (2010), “Empirical Modeling Methodologies for Construction”, Journal of Construction Engineering & Management, Vol. 136, No. 1, pp. 36–48.
Floricel, and Miller, 2001Floricel, S. and Miller, R. (2001), “Strategizing for anticipated risks and turbulence in large-scale engineering projects”, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 19, No. 8, pp. 445–455.
Gottlieb, Frederiksen, Koch, and Thuesen, 2018Gottlieb, S. C., Frederiksen, N., Koch, C. and Thuesen, C. (2018), Institutional Logics and Hybrid Organizing in Public-Private Partnerships . In: Gorse, C. and Neilson, C. J. (Eds.), Proceedings 34th Annual ARCOM Conference, 3-5 September 2018, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, pp. 383–392.
Gustavsson, and Gohary, 2012Gustavsson, T. K. and Gohary, H. (2012), “Boundary action in construction projects: new collaborative project practices”, International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 364–376.
Jarzabkowski, and Spee, 2009Jarzabkowski, P. and Spee, A. P. (2009) “Strategy-as-practice: A review and future directions for the field”, International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 69–95.
Johnson, Langley, Melin, and Whittington, 2007Johnson, G., Langley, A., Melin, L. and Whittington, R. (2007), Strategy as Practice – Research Directions and Resources, Cambridge University Press.
Ju, and Rowlinson, 2014Ju, C. and Rowlinson, S. (2014) “Institutional determinants of construction safety management strategies of contractors in Hong Kong”, Construction Management & Economics. Vol. 32(7/8), pp. 725–736.
Klitgaard, Beck, Andersen, Jeppesen, Nissen, and Buhl, 2017Klitgaard, A., Beck, F., Andersen, M., Jeppesen, R. D., Nissen, S. B., and Buhl, H. (2017). “Towards the use of knotworking for increasing innovation in construction projects In: Chan, P. W. (Ed.) and Neilson, C. J. (Ed.), Proceedings 33rd Annual ARCOM Conference, 4-6 September 2017, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, UK. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 420–429.
Koch, Sage, Dainty, and Simonsen, 2015Koch, C., Sage, D., Dainty, A., and Simonsen, R. (2015). Understanding operations strategizing in project-based organisations: middle managers’ interaction and strategy praxis. Engineering Project Organization Journal, Vol. 5(2-3), 106–117.
Kreiner, 1996Kreiner, K. (1996) “In search of relevance: Project management in drifting environments”, Scandinavian Journal of Mangement, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 335–346.
Ling, and Lee, 2012Ling, F. Y. Y. and Lee, S. Y. (2012) “Careers development in construction firms: application of Sun Tzu’s Art of War principles”, Engineering Construction & Architectural Management, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 173–191.
Löwstedt, Räisänen, and Leiringer, 2018Löwstedt, M., Räisänen, C. and Leiringer, R. (2018). “Doing strategy in project-based organizations: Actors and patterns of action”, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 36, No. 6, pp. 889–898.
Padalkar, and Gopinath, 2016Padalkar, M. and Gopinath, S. (2016), “Six decades of project management research: Thematic trends and future opportunities”, International Journal of Project Management. Vol. 34, No. 7, pp. 1,305–1,321.
Sage, Dainty, and Brookes, 2012Sage, D., Dainty, A. and Brookes, N. (2012) “A ‘Strategy-as-Practice’” exploration of lean construction strategizing.”, Building Research & Information. Vol. No. 2, pp. 221–230.
Söderholm, 2008Söderholm, A. (2008). “Project management of unexpected events”. International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26, No 1, pp. 80–86.
Vit, 2011Vit, G. B. (2011), “Competing logics: Project failure in Gaspesia”, European Management Journal. Vol. 29, No. 3, pp. 234–244.
Whittington, Molloy, Mayer, and Smith, 2006Whittington, R., Molloy, E., Mayer, M. and Smith, A. (2006), “Practices of Strategising/Organising-broadening Strategy Work and Skills”, Long Range Planning, Vol. 39, No. 6, pp. 615–629.
Whyte, Ewenstein, Hales, and TiddWhyte, J., Ewenstein, B., Hales, M. and Tidd, J., “Visualizing Knowledge in Project-Based Work”, Long Range Planning, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 74–92.
Wright, 2005Wright, A. (2005), “The role of scenarios as prospective sensemaking devices”, Management Decision, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 86–101.
- THE ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS OF CONSTRUCTION
- Updating and Cleaning Out: The “Make or Buy” Decision in Construction Revisited
- Bispevika Project: Research for Constructing a Collaborative Value Chain
- Social Considerations in the Procurement of Road and Railroad Projects in Sweden
- Standardization and Industrialized Construction of Special Purpose Building
- Identifying Contradictions of Integrating Life-Cycle Costing in Design Practices
- Advancing Networking-Based Business Management in Construction Markets
- Contracts and Culture in a Partnering Project
- Sub-Contractors’ Perception of Contracting: The Case of Crime
- Project Managers: Gatekeepers or Inside Men?
- The Hybridity of Strategic Partnerships and Construction Supply Chain Management
- Dynamic Capabilities and Risk Management: Evaluating the CDRM Model for Clients
- An Opposite Design-Build Procurement Method: Competing on Quality with a Fixed Price
- CONSTRUCTION AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
- An Appraisal of Water Infrastructure Projects’ Financing Challenges in South Africa
- The Soft Factors in Design Management: a Hidden Success Factor?
- Room to Manoeuvre: Governing the Project Provisions
- A Longitudinal View of Adopting Project Alliancing: Case Finland
- A Simulation-Based Optimization for Contractors in Precast Concrete Projects
- Governed by Municipal Land Allocations: Implications for Housing Developers
- Situation Picture Through Construction Information Management
- Who Benefit from Crime in Construction? A Structural Analysis
- Quality Evaluation of Contractor’s Schedule in the Bidding Phase
- Activity Cruciality as Measure of Network Schedule Structure Resilience
- Construction Programmes and Programming: A Critical Review
- Procurement Research: Current State and Future Challenges in the Nordic Countries
- Exploitative Learning in Inter-Organizational Projects: Evidence from Dutch Infrastructure Practices
- The Transition from Design-Bid-Build Contracts to Design-Build
- Exploring the Dynamics of Supplier Innovation Diffusion
- Understanding Collaborative Working in a Facilitated Interdisciplinary Environment
- Ensuring Successful Knowledge Transfer in Building Renovation Projects
- Public Private Collaboration in the Context of Zero Emission Neighbourhood
- Strategizing and Project Management in Construction Projects: An Exploratory Literature Review
- BUILDING INFORMATION, DATA AND DIGITALIZATION
- BIM-Enabled Education: a Systematic Literature Review
- A BIM-Enabled Learning Environment: a Conceptual Framework
- “I Work All Day with Automation in Construction: I am a Sociomaterial-Designer”
- Developing Smart Services to Smart Campus
- An Overview of BIM Adoption in the Construction Industry: Benefits and Barriers
- BIM for Construction Education: Initial Findings from a Literature Review
- Model for Smart, Self-learning and Adaptive Resilience Building
- Investigating the Drop-Out rate from a BIM Course
- INNOVATIONS IN THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS
- Senior Residence Concepts in Norway: Challenges and Actions for a Sustainable Development
- 3D-Printing Technology in Construction: Results from a Survey
- Product and Manufacturing Systems Alignment: a Case Study in the Timber House Building Industry
- Opening the Black Box of Accessibility Regulation
- Orchestrating Multi-Actor Collaborative Innovation Across Organizational Boundaries
- SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE EFFICIENCY
- Social Sustainability in Modelling of Value Creation in Housing Refurbishment
- Reviewing the Role of Sustainability Professionals in Construction
- Exploring the Evolution and Impact of Building Environment Assessment Methods in Achieving Green Building
- STAKEHOLDERS OF CONSTRUCTION AND REAL ESTATE
- Challenging the Rhetoric of Construction Briefing: Insights from a Formula 1 Sports Venue
- Underlying Causes for Risk Taking Behaviour Among Construction Workers
- Towards Developing a Framework for User-Driven Innovation in Refurbishment
- Reconstructing Knowledge Integration in the Norwegian AEC-Industry
- Institutional Complexity for Chinese International Contractors
- BUILT ENVIRONMENTS
- BIM Related Innovation in Healthcare Precinct Design and Facilities Management
- Location is Crucial in Retrofit: Strategy Selection in Different Regions
- CONSTRUCTION EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
- From Theoretical to Practical Competence on Health and Safety
- A Test Platform of Viable Methods to Improve Production and Learning on Construction Sites