The technocratic totalitarianism of construction process improvement: a critical perspective

S.D. GREEN (Department of Construction Management & Engineering, University of Reading, PO Box 219, Reading RG6 6AW, UK)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Publication date: 1 April 1998


The current research agenda for construction process improvement is heavily influenced by the rhetoric of business process re‐engineering (BPR). In contrast to the wider literature on BPR, there is little evidence of critical thought within the construction management research community. A postmodernist interpretation is advocated whereby the reality of management practice is defined by the dominant management discourse. The persuasiveness of BPR rhetoric is analysed with particular reference to the way in which it plays on the insecurity of modern managers. Despite the lip service given to ‘empowerment’ and ‘teamwork’, the dominant theme of the re‐engineering movement is that of technocratic totalitarianism. From a critical perspective, it is suggested that BPR is imposed on construction organizations to ensure continued control by the industry's dominant power groups. Whilst industry leaders are fond of calling for ‘attitudinal and cultural improvement’, the language of the accepted research agenda continually reinforces the industry's dominant culture of ‘control and command’. Therefore, current research directions in process improvement perpetuate existing attitudes rather than facilitating cultural change. The concept of lean construction is seen to be the latest manifestation of this phenomenon.



GREEN, S. (1998), "The technocratic totalitarianism of construction process improvement: a critical perspective", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 376-386.

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Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

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