An investigation of the effectiveness of professional bodies in developing the competence of construction project managers in the UK

13679 words (55 pages) Dissertation

13th Dec 2019 Dissertation Reference this

Tags: ConstructionProject Management

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Abstract

The construction industry plays a vital role in the economic and social development of contemporary society in the United Kingdom (UK) contributing to the economy and providing employment. It is essential therefore, that the industry is profitable and productive. However, there is evidence to suggest that the industry delivers projects late and over-budget, with high levels of client dissatisfaction associated with this poor performance. This dissertation takes the view that project managers play a key role in delivering a successful project and examines the role of professional bodies in developing competence of construction project managers.

The research is based on the collection of secondary data in a critical view of available literature and the collection and analysis of primary data using a questionnaire. The research finds that a competent project manager is an essential factor in project success. Professional bodies have a role to play in developing these competencies through the provision of guidelines and assessment frameworks. However, improving competence levels is largely dependent on the commitment of individual managers and their employers to learn through study and experience.

 

Table of Contents

Copyright Statement………………………………………….

Acknowledgements…………………………………………..

Abstract……………………………………………………

List of Figures……………………………………………….

List of Tables………………………………………………..

List of Abbreviations………………………………………….

1.0 Introduction……………………………………………..

1.1 Research Background: Problems Statement………………………

1.2 Importance of this Study……………………………………

1.3 Research Objectives……………………………………….

1.3.1 Aim………………………………………………..

1.3.2 Objectives……………………………………………

1.4 Outlined Methodology………………………………………

1.5 Dissertation Structure………………………………………

2.0 Literature Review…………………………………………

2.1 Introduction……………………………………………..

2.1.1 Structure…………………………………………….

2.1.2 Quality of sources……………………………………..

2.2 The Role of the Construction Project Manager…………………….

2.3 Professional Bodies in the Construction Sector…………………….

2.3.1 Functions of a Professional Body…………………………..

2.3.2 Need for professional bodies………………………………

2.4 Competency in Project Management……………………………

2.4.1 Meaning of competence in project management……………….

2.4.2 Measures of Competence………………………………..

2.4.3 A Competent Project Manager…………………………….

2.5 Key competencies required by the construction project manager………

2.6 Level of control that professional organisations have over performance of construction project managers……..

2.6.1 RICS: Assessment of Professional Competence………………..

2.6.2 PMI: Project Management Competency Development……………

2.6.3 IPMA: Baseline Competence Standard……………………….

2.7 Summary of Literature Review………………………………..

3.0 Methodology……………………………………………..

3.1 Introduction……………………………………………..

3.2 Research Strategy…………………………………………

3.3 Research Methods…………………………………………

3.3.1 Secondary Data……………………………………..

3.3.2 Primary Data………………………………………..

3.3.3 Adopted research method………………………………..

3.4 Research Design………………………………………….

3.4.1 Development of the Questionnaire………………………….

3.4.2 Survey Sample………………………………………..

3.4.3 Pilot study……………………………………………

3.4.4 Analysis of the data…………………………………….

4.0 Results and Analysis……………………………………….

4.1 Introduction……………………………………………..

4.2 Section 1……………………………………………….

4.3 Section 2……………………………………………….

4.4 Section 3 ……………………………………………….

4.5 Section 4 ……………………………………………….

5.0 Conclusion……………………………………………….

5.1 Introduction……………………………………………..

5.2 Findings of this study………………………………………

5.2.1 Objective 1…………………………………………..

5.2.2 Objective 2 ………………………………………….

5.2.3 Objective 3 ………………………………………….

5.2.4 Objective 4 ………………………………………….

5.2.5 Objective 5…………………………………………..

5.3 Conclusion………………………………………………

5.4 Limitations of the research…………………………………..

5.5 Recommendations for further study……………………………

6.0 References………………………………………………

Appendix 1………………………………………………….

Appendix 2………………………………………………….

List of Figures

 

Figure 1.1- Client Satisfaction with the construction industry in the UK 2003-2014 (Crane 2015, p. 8)

Figure 1.2- Time and Cost in construction industry in the UK 2003-2014 (Crane 2015, p. 9)

Figure 1.3- Methodology Road Map (Author Own, 2017)

Figure 2.1 – Typical Structure of a Professional Body (CIOB 2015, p.8)

Figure 2.2 – Aspects of competence (Cartwright and Zinger 2008)

Figure 2.3 – Levels of competence (RICS 2015a)

Figure 2.4 – Dimensions of competence (Cartwright and Zinger 2008)

Figure 4.1 – Responses to Question 2

Figure 4.2 – Responses to Question 3

Figure 4.3- Responses to Question 6

Figure 4.5 – Question 7(i)

 

List of Tables

 

Table 1.1 – Dissertation Structure

Table 4.1 – Responses to Question 4

Table 4.2 – Responses to Question 8

 

List of Abbreviations

UK    United Kingdom

RICS    Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

APC   Assessment of professional competence

PMI    Project Management Institute

PMCD   Project Management Competence Development

IPMA   International project Management Association

OGC   Office of Government Commerce

CITB   Construction Industry Training Board

CIOB   Chartered Institute of Building

BIS   Department for Business Innovation and Skills

BSI   British Standard Institute

1.0 Introduction

A construction project is a complex undertaking, where success is measured in terms of time, cost and quality (Walker 2015). There are numerous project management tools that can be used to optimise the chances of project success, which depend on effective construction management (Harris and McCaffer 2013). This means the role of the project manager is key to project success.  This dissertation explores the role of the construction project manager, focusing on the impact of professional bodies in the development of construction project manager competency.

1.1 Research Background: Problems Statement

The UK construction industry is a diverse sector comprising designers, contractors, sub-contractors and a wide range of suppliers who are active in new construction, repair and maintenance. All industry clients have a right to expect a good service from the industry and organisations within the sector should seek to optimise productivity and profitability (Myers 2010; Fewings 2013). However, there is evidence to suggest that the construction industry in the UK persistently under-performs (Griffith and Watson 2003). The UK construction industry key performance indicators were reviewed, where Crane (2015) highlights the average client satisfaction ranges from approximately 78% in 2003 to 86% in 2011, before dipping to 80% in 2014 as shown in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1- Client Satisfaction with the construction industry in the UK 2003-2014 (Crane 2015, p. 8)

It is argued that these figures are low given the high levels of investment and commitment that even the simplest of construction projects requires (Myers 2013). Further analysis of the industry key performance indicators reveals the underlying cause of this dissatisfaction as on average less than 50% of projects are completed on time and approximately 55% of projects are completed within budget, as shown in Figure 1.2 (Crane 2015).

Figure 1.2- Time and Cost in construction industry in the UK 2003-2014 (Crane 2015, p. 9)

The above statistics suggests general stagnation rather than continual improvement in the industry to which there are numerous factors that can be attributed to this poor performance. The Office of Government Commerce (OGC 2007a) imply that poor management practices can adversely affect project performance, including lack of planning, ineffective leadership and failure to define and work towards the client’s goals. Walker (2015) suggests that it is difficult to achieve project success without clear leadership and management of time, cost and quality. Muller and Turner (2010) agree pointing out that the attitude of the project manager and leadership style can influence project outcomes. The point being that ineffective project management is a key contributing factor to the industry’s poor performance.

This is surprising, given that the industry has a wide range of professional organisations that are in place to ensure that there are high professional standards within the sector and that members of these organisations respect and commit to these requirements. There are specific institutions and organisations guiding project managers such as the Project Management Institute and the International Project Management Association, as well as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in its project management programme. It is argued that project manager competency should improve from competency strategies developed by the project management institutes (Omidvar et al. 2011).

It is suggested that given the range of organisations guiding professionals active in the construction industry, that these organisations would have a grasp of the problems within the industry and would provide effective training and guidance to enhance construction project management skills in the industry. This dissertation seeks to understand the link between professional institutions and competence within the construction profession, focusing on construction project managers.

1.2 Importance of this Study

The Project Management Institute (PMI) predicts a growth for the demand of project managers in project-based industries between 2010-2020 (PMI, 2013), where the construction industry is considered the largest project-based industry (Dainty et al. 2005). However, the “demand for project management professionals is not matched by availability of resources with relevant project management skills” (PMI, 2013, p. 4). Additionally, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) acknowledge the construction and project management disciplines present the biggest challenge to qualify the workforce (CITB nd). The unmatched demand highlights the importance of the dissertation topic to investigate the relationship of professional organisations  in developing project manager’s competency.

The efficiency and productivity of the construction industry is important because the industry contributes more than 6% to the national economy and provides employment for almost 10% of the working population in the UK (Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) 2013). In addition, the industry contributes to the social wellbeing of UK society providing housing, infrastructure and services, whilst facilitating other sectors (HM Government 2013). The population of the UK is growing year-on-year which means that the construction industry will continue to play a vital role in the future development of the built environment (Rhodes 2015; HM Government 2013). It is argued that there are close links between the government and the construction industry as the government is a co-funder of major public projects and a major client of the industry drawing money from the tax payer, responsible for an estimated 30% of the sector’s output (Rhodes 2015). The industry needs to offer value and to improve productivity.

The construction industry is susceptible to fluctuations in the economy as evidenced by the dramatic decrease in output in the 2007-2008 recession and its slow recovery (Rhodes 2015). It is suggested that the industry could be more resilient to economic downturns if there was greater control over costs, productivity and profitability within the sector (Myers 2010). This dissertation takes the view that these objectives can only be achieved if the industry improve the management of projects, which can only be achieved through improved construction project management (Walker 2015; Ofori 2008).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.3 Research Objectives

1.3.1 Aim

The aim of this research is to explore the effectiveness of the professional bodies in developing the competence of the construction project manager in the UK.

1.3.2 Objectives

  • Discuss the role of the project manager in the construction industry
  • Identify the key competencies required by the construction project manager to achieve project success
  • Assess the level of control that professional organisations have over performance of construction project managers
  • Investigate how the project managers competencies are measured and developed by the profession
  • Recommend ways in which this relationship could be enhanced to improve project outcomes

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.4 Outlined Methodology

The proposed research methods to satisfy the research objectives are outlined below.

Figure 1.3- Methodology Road Map (Author Own, 2017)

1.5 Dissertation Structure

 

 

 

Table 1- Dissertation Structure (Author Own, 2017)

 

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

2.1.1 Structure

 

This chapter addresses research objectives one, two, three and four, considering the role of the project manager in the construction industry, outlining the key competencies required for project success and addresses the role of professional organisations in delivering competent construction project managers.

 

2.1.2 Quality of sources

Published literature on the competences of the project manager hold a snapshot of requirements related to its publish date, highlighting the importance of the selected sources considered in the context of its date. The review draws on books, peer reviewed academic journals and papers as well as reliable internet sources such as those hosted by HM Government.

2.2 The Role of the Construction Project Manager

The role of the project manager is to identify the client’s objectives in carrying out the project, to communicate this information to the project team and to implement plan, control and monitor progress throughout the project lifecycle to achieve these objectives (Walker 2015; Fewings 2013). This is achieved through leadership, organisation and planning by the project management team which is guided and driven by the project manager (Mir and Pinnington 2014).

Winch (2014) suggests that the role of the project manager is to take a systems approach to a project, ensuring control of all aspects internal and external which could affect the project goals. This can be achieved using project management tools and processes such as risk management and value management (Office of Government Commerce 2007b). Fewings (2013) highlights the importance of a clear oganisational structure and communication system across vertical and horizontal interfaces, critical to the efficiency and integration of the project team.

There are a range of benefits associated with effective project management, including the fact that it facilities a more efficient use of resources and offers better value for money for the organisation and the client. In addition, effective project management optimises development of the project team and individuals within the team through greater realisation of the benefits of human resources (British Standards Institute 2010).

2.3 Professional Bodies in the Construction Sector

A professional body is an organisation or institute that is concerned with the “public benefit as well as the reputation of professionals (Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) 2015, p.7). The purpose of these bodies is to maintain and develop professionalism in the construction industry.

2.3.1 Functions of a Professional Body

According to the CIOB (2015) a professional body is important in creating public trust in the ability to carry out work in a safe, skilled and considered manner. In addition, professional bodies, set technical standards to guide the profession and enact ethical standards to which the professional in that body must comply with throughout their career (Walker 2015). Furthermore, these bodies can help the profession build social capital and optimise the economic contribution whilst enhancing productivity and profitability (CIOB 2015). The CIOB (2015) suggest that the structure of professional bodies is broadly similar, illustrated in figure 2.1.

 

 

 

Figure 2.1 – Typical Structure of a Professional Body (CIOB 2015, p.8)

 

2.3.2 Need for professional bodies

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB, nd.) makes the point that there is general acknowledgement within the construction industry of the need to improve productivity. In addition, there is poor supply chain integration and ineffective strategic management (CIOB 2015). There is also growing pressures on the industry to become more sustainable, to develop new methods of working such new materials and modern methods of construction such as pre-fabrication and communications technology (CIOB 2015). This requires making changes to traditional building methods and management that in turn will have major implications for learning and skills required by construction professional. The industry needs to be prepared for these changes, and it is suggested that professional bodies have a key role to play in this development (CIOB 2015; CTIB nd.).

2.4 Competency in Project Management

 

This research explores competence levels of project managers in the UK construction industry, it is therefore important to explore the meaning of competency in the context of this study. The Oxford English Dictionary define competence as “the ability to do something well” (Soanes and Hawker, 2008, p.197). Competence has been further extended and applied to the project management profession.

 

2.4.1 Meaning of competence in project management

Westera (2001) argues that the interpretation of competence depends on the individual, project and organisational perspective. Competence can also be viewed from a theoretical perspective where competence is related to the cognitive structure of an individual, which facilitates behaviour (Westera 2001). In contrast, competence can be viewed in an operational perspective to which Suikki et al. (2006, p.724) describes as “higher order skills and behavours” which provide an indication of the individual’s ability with complex and unpredictable situations.

Dainty et al. (2005) suggests that there are different schools of thought on the relationship between project management and competency. The first school of thought considers the attributes of the individual where competency is linked to personal characteristics and behaviour traits and skills that a person brings to their job to enhance project success (Dainty et al., 2005). The second school of thought focuses on “output based criteria” such as the individual performance standards, which relate to the organisation’s business strategy or to the individual job description (Dainty et al., 2005, p. 40). It is argued that some professional organisations adhere to the second school of thought, providing minimum standards of performance for achievement of professional accreditation, with growing awareness of the need to also account for the attribute based approach (Dainty et al. 2005).

2.4.2 Measures of Competence

Dainty et al. (2005) explains that there are different measures of competency such as behaviour competencies, which refers to personal attributes that enable a person to carry out their role effectively.  A competent project manager must have the ability to self-assess and correct to ensure optimal performance at all times, holding a consciousness of the implications of their actions and performance. In addition, an effective project manager must be aware that they have to lead by example, which requires an inherent self-awareness.

Competence can be measured in terms of technical abilities, which are often dependent on training and education rather than the attributes of an individual’s character. It is suggested that technical competence is easier to assess as these are learnt by induction and through work experience and can be influenced by individual factors such as cognitive ability as well as organisational culture (Suikki et al. 2006).

The PMI (2013) stress the importance of competence and project managers as it reflects on the reputation of the industry. Crawford (2003) makes the point that the competence of a project manager is a subject of concern on an individual level for career development and at a business level as effective management is vital for corporate performance. Omidvar et al. (2011) add that in a competitive environment organisations are keen to recruit competent managers as a means of gaining a competitive advantage. It is argued that innovative organisations adopt intensive training programmes to enhance the basic management skills of their employees, establishing competency of the individual as an important resource and management tool (Sanghi 2016).

 

2.4.3 A Competent Project Manager

A project manager can be defined as competent if the individual has a combination of performance related and attribute-based skills and knowledge, behaviour and attitudinal characteristics with an ability to demonstrate consistent performance (Crawford, 2003; Dainty et al. 2005). There are commonalities on what it means to be a competent project manager such as the need to have a degree of cognitive and technical ability, the ability to seek guidance as required and characteristics such as the ability to lead, instill confidence and to facilitate a collaborative, positive work environment within the project team (Sears et al. 2015).

It is argued that many of these definitions of competence overlap and as this research considers the influence of institutions in project management competence it is important to determine what competence is in the context of this study. It is therefore noted that this study takes the view of the PMI on competence which Cartwright and Zinger (2008) suggest measures in three interlinked ways, illustrated in figure 2.3.

Figure 2.2 – Aspects of competence (Cartwright and Zinger 2008)

2.5 Key competencies required by the construction project manager

Tabassi et al. (2016) emphasise the need for strong leadership to achieve the project goals, while Zhang et al (2013) argue that an effective project manager must have hard skills such as the ability to plan and control, as well as soft skills such as empathy and good interpersonal skills. Kim et al. (2009) make a similar point, suggesting that good interpersonal skills were fundamental to effective project management.

CIOB (nd.) highlight the importance of occupational competence in the ability, skill and experience of planning and organising work as well as managing health and safety. The CIOB (nd.) also take account for the wider competence levels such as sustainable construction, quality control and stakeholder management, to ensure managers are aware and involved in good practice.

The contract plays a vital role in a construction project as it allocates risk and responsibilities, sets out payment mechanisms and processes to implement changes. In addition, the contract provides mechanisms for dispute resolution in the event of conflict (Hughes et al. 2015). The CIOB (nd.) competence framework recognises this importance as it links a project manager’s effectiveness to knowledge of commercial, contractual and legal issues. The CIOB (nd.) highlight the importance of good communication skills in project management and decision-making skills. Given that a construction project relies on the flow and management of information, the CIOB (nd.) reinforce the need for effective management of information as a key competency for a construction project manager.

 

 

2.6 Level of control that professional organisations have over performance of construction project managers

 

Project management institutes provide support, guidance, education and training for project managers in all sectors including the construction sector. Omidvar et al. (2011) add that these institutes focus on improving competency through continuous learning and improvement, on the basis that this process will ensure that project managers are ready for challenging and complex projects and will have the ability to increase their individual competencies to achieve individual professional goals and to enhance the creditability of their profession. While these institutes share a common purpose, each has a slightly different approach to competency assessment and continual professional development.

A review was carried out of the competency assessment process used by the RICS in the UK. In addition, the review also included organsiations such as PMI and IPMA due to the increasing globalization of the construction industry (HM Government 2013).

2.6.1 RICS: Assessment of Professional Competence

 

The RICS (2015a), APC scheme assesses competence of project manager’s in the UK construction sector, focusing on the skill and ability of the individual to perform a task or function in accordance with the standards set by the institution, including taking account for attitudes and behaviours. The RICS (2015a) defines and measures competencies at three acceding levels of attainment, illustrated in Figure 2.5.

Figure 2.3 – Levels of competence (RICS 2015a)

The RICS (2015a) set out two levels of core competencies and a third level of optional competencies. The mandatory competencies include contract practice and managing people along with procurement and tendering. A project manager must also have competency in programming and planning as well as construction technology and environmental services. As pointed out earlier, a project manager must have leadership skills and this is a key competency within the RICS (2017) along with project procedures and risk management (RICS 2015a). A competent project manager must also have the ability to understand accounting principles and procedures, as well as experience in business planning and conflict avoidance (RICS 2015b). A construction project can often be derailed due to conflicts (Fewings 2013), it is therefore unsurprising that the RICS (2015b) include a requirement for project managers to have the ability to manage conflicts with experience of dispute resolution procedures. The UK construction industry is under pressure to develop a more sustainable built environment (HM Government 2013), therefore project managers require sustainability as a key competence (RICS 2015b).

Other important factors in the RICS (2015a) accreditation scheme include the ability to manage clients, such as the ability to establish good client relationships and the ability to define and understand the client’s objectives and needs. Communication is a vital element in project management (Walker 2015) therefore the RICS (2017), require accredited project managers to have the skill and ability to communicate and negotiate with clients and other project stakeholders.

2.6.2 PMI: Project Management Competency Development

 

The project management competency development (PMCD) framework for the project management institute is designed as a performance based framework and is applicable in most projects and industries, regardless of size or complexity of the project. In this framework, a project manager is assessed on the ability to perform management tasks to a pre-defined level of performance (Omidvar et al. 2011). Cartwright and Zinger (2008) add that the PMCD was first published in 2002 and revised in 2007. The aim of the framework is to guide individuals and organisations on the optimal way of assessing, planning and managing the professional development of project managers. The process includes passing a specific competence exam to evaluate the project manager to have a combination of the competencies shown in Figure 2.6.

PMCDF Dimenseions of Competence

Figure 2.4 – Dimensions of competence (Cartwright and Zinger 2008)

Omidvar et al. (2011) argue that this relies on the definition of the key components of competencies and assessment of an individual manager in relation to these competencies. However, while this is beneficial, it does not prioritise the importance of each competency element and doesn’t take into account the organisational context or the type of project. The PMCD is essentially a general framework rather than a construction industry-specific process providing guidance only.

In this institute, key attributes of a project manager include effective leadership, the ability to think in an innovative or creative manner and analytical thinking (Muller and Turner 2010).  It is suggested that the PMI provides a framework and standards for improving competences in project management, covering a wide range of industries and organsiations where the onus is on the individual to develop competencies based on this guidance.

2.6.3 IPMA: Baseline Competence Standard

The IPMA (2015) developed a common framework for certification for worldwide members with the purpose of developing personnel working in the project management profession. The IPMA as an institute takes the role of facilitator, assessor and developer of standards. Competence is assessed through the submission of evidence based on an individual’s performance in the workplace (Omidvar et al. 2011). The IPMA is similar to the RICS (2017) basing their framework on Knowledge, skill and ability. In addition the IPMA (2015) framework can be applied to individual competences and can be extended to team competences, which can be used to assess and address the collective competences of the team and organisation.

The IPMA (2015) describe competence in terms of leadership skills and the ability to negotiate, as well as the ability to plan, communicate, organise and to manage problems in a dynamic environment. The key to achieving these competencies is according to the IPMA (2015) that project managers must be willing to invest in “self-development” by studying and learning-by-doing to broaden their individual experiences and by learning from those experiences. Competences can also be improved through peer-development, education and training, coaching and mentoring (IPMA 2015). It is argued that the message from the IMPA is that improving competence requires the willingness from the individual to develop professional competence in personal time as well as the commitment from their organisation.

2.7 Summary of Literature Review

In summary, it is clear that there is a link between competency and effective project management and the competency. There are a number of professional bodies which aim to set standards for project managers to instill public confidence in the profession and to ensure that members of the profession adhere to pre-defined standards to uphold the reputation of the profession and to provide a benchmark for competence assessment.

Several professional bodies were explored, revealing a general consensus relating to the meaning of competence in project management. There are commonalities between the definition of competence used by the professional bodies that are used describe effective project managers such that a competent manager has the knowledge and technical skills to drive a project as well as an ability to organise, plan and lead a project. Key attributes that are essential to a competent construction project manager are an ability to communicate and interpersonal skills.

It is suggested that there is a gap between the requirements of the professional bodies that are designed to encompass a wide range of industries and the specific problems within construction projects. The broad nature of the professional bodies assessment of competence, may be at odds with the very specific challenges such as fragmentation within the sector and the disjointed nature of project delivery. The dissertation will progress to attain the construction industry’s views on these issues, the importance placed on professional body accreditation and the perceived role of these organisations in improving construction project manager competence.

3.0 Methodology

3.1 Introduction

This chapter outlines the selected research method, presenting the details of its design, the results of the pilot study, the chosen study group and the process of data analysis. Firstly, the research strategy will be discussed followed by a discussion of alternative research methods to justify the selected method.

3.2 Research Strategy

The research strategy is explored to encompass the rationale that underline the study, which in turn influence the research method to collect, analyse and interpret the research data.

In the context of this research, respondents will present an insight into the experiences of their working environment and their perceptions on the effectiveness of professional bodies in the development of project manager competency. This research takes an interpretive view considering construction project managers hold differing interpretations of the working environment (Hinkelman and Wischel, 2013). The timescale of the research project is considered in relation to the selected research method and providing a snapshot of perceptions from a cross-sectional view of the UK construction industry (Saunders and Tosey, 2012). Exploratory research approach is considered to explore the effectiveness of professional bodies in developing the project manager’s competency, guided by inductive reasoning to draw conclusion from the findings.

Research methods give two types of data, quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative research collects numerical data when investigating a problem, providing hard and reliable data (Naoum, 2013). This is effective when incorporating adjustable conditions to highlight correlations relevant to the research topic and study group. Qualitative research therefore is descriptive, collecting data on experiences, perceptions or behaviour to identify a problem (Naoum, 2013). Qualitative research is effective in exploring and elaborating on areas of interest.

In undertaking the aim of this research, to investigate the effectiveness of professional bodies in developing the project manager’s competency, a combination of quantitative and qualitative research is required to fully discuss and satisfy the research goals.

3.3 Research Methods

The available research methods are explored to select the most effective method for this research in addition to the literature review. There are two approaches to data collection, primary data and secondary data.

 

3.3.1 Secondary Data

Secondary data is collected from other sources that will be discussed by the author (Naoum, 2013). Saunders and Tosey (2012) makes the point that secondary data is re-cycled and re-interpreted drawing away from the original purpose of the data, presenting a lack of control over the quality of data. The selection of data in this research is considered in relation to up-to-date and reliable sources. Secondary data is advantageous to the researcher in terms of time and cost, in comparison to undertaking primary research (Naoum, 2013).

3.3.1.1 Literature Review

The literature review is a form of secondary data that presents the findings of a comprehensive and critical review of literature. The literature review explores the topic of project management in the construction industry, the role of the construction project manager and the role of professional institutions which addresses objectives one, two, three and four.

The review draws on secondary data in the form of books and reliable internet sources. The review also draws on primary data including academic journals, government reports and institutional publications such as those hosted by RICS, CIOB, PMI and IPMA. The literature review highlighted common themes, similarities, differences and issues, assisting the development and structure of the research method (Naoum, 2013).

3.3.2 Primary Data

Primary data is collected first hand, producing an accurate source of original information (Naoum, 2013).  Interviews, case studies and questionnaires are primary research methods considered for the research. The chosen research method is evaluated outlining the effectiveness for this research project.

3.3.2.1 Interviews

Interviews present questions for discussion that can hold a structured, unstructured or semi-structured design. A structured interview includes the same structure and wording to all questions, preventing the interview to elaborate or expand outside of the questions (Naoum, 2013). Unstructured interviews presents a topic or questions are changed during the discussion. Semi-structured interviews will combine the two with an opportunity to elaborate outside of the questions. Interviews can be undertaken face-to-face, over the telephone or a video calling.

The interview method has been critised for its reliability and honesty of the participants responses, highlighting “the differences between what people say and what they actually do” (Dainty, 2008, p. 7). The topic of professional bodies effectiveness on the development of project managers competency could result in a focus on self-representation rather than the key issues.

3.3.2.2 Case study

The case study method collects in-depth data on a particular project, person or organisation (Naoum 2013). The specific information collected for individual case studies restricts a generalisation on the UK construction industry to draw meaning full conclusions for this research project (Breach, 2009).

3.3.2.1 Questionnaires

Questionnaires are a structured data technique, requiring the respondent to answer a set of questions, which can incorporate quantitative, qualitative, or both types of data (Naoum, 2013). Questionnaires can be designed using open-ended questions to enable the respondent to elaborate their response or closed-ended questions to give a definitive answer that can be statistically analysed and correlated.

Questionnaires are effective in reaching a large number of people, distributed through the post or internet making it a cost effective method in a short-time frame (Naoum 2013). In contrast, Gillham (2008) makes the point that questionnaires can have low response rate due.

3.3.3 Adopted research method

The questionnaire method is selected for this research to incorporate mixed methods of both qualitative and quantitative reasoning with the benefits of reaching a large number of people. This is aligned with the view of White (2000, p.25) that looking at the same problem from a number of viewpoints is an excellent way to verify your interpretation and conclusions.

3.4 Research Design

3.4.1 Development of the Questionnaire

 

The findings of the literature review indicate that the key aspects of this research should be considered in the questionnaire are:

  • the role of the project manager in achieving project success
  • the perception of competency in construction project management
  • the construction industry’s perception of professional organisations and the role of these organisations in achieving competence
  • the barriers to better collaboration between professional bodies, the construction industry and construction project managers.

The questionnaire aimed to address the above issues through a series of closed and open questions. Closed questions were included to ensure that there were sufficient clear responses to address the research objectives. Open questions were used to draw on the respondent’s wider experience of these issues. The questions were developed in a logical manner using the data collected in the literature review and the research objectives. This was carried out by developing a long list of all possible questions and then reducing the list to a manageable number that addressed the key issues and could be completed in a reasonable timeframe (Fink 2015). The questionnaire was divided into four sections with a logical and clear structure for the participants to follow as per Appendix 1.

3.4.1.1 Section 1 – Demographics

The first section of the questionnaire was included to screen the participants and to ensure that these professionals had sufficient experience to contribute to the study.

3.4.1.2 Section 2 – Role of the project manager in construction projects

The second section of the questionnaire focuses on the perceptions of the role of the construction project manager in projects. This section was included as it sets project manager in context within the UK construction industry and is therefore important in determining the role of professional bodies in relation to construction management.

3.4.1.3. Section 3 – Key competencies of the construction project manager

The third section of the questionnaire was included to test the findings of the literature review against opinions held by managers active in the construction industry, through the ranking of most important attributes of a competent project manager in a construction project.

3.4.1.4 Section 4 – The role of professional bodies and competence in construction project management

This section was included in the questionnaire as it addresses the core of the research, seeking the industry’s perspective on the role of professional bodies in improving competence, through the use of the likert scale and an open-ended question.

3.4.2 Survey Sample

The reliability of the data collected in the questionnaire is dependent on the sample of professionals taking part in the questionnaire and their knowledge and experience of the industry. The validity of this study is dependent on choosing a sample that is representative of the project management section of the UK construction industry (Fellows and Liu 2015; Biggam 2015). This was achieved by inviting a wide range of construction personnel, specifically project managers and aspiring project managers currently active in the UK construction industry to participate in the questionnaire. The questionnaire was distributed using the linkedin database as well as using the researcher’s contacts. The questionnaire was issued with a cover letter to invite and explain the research to the construction personnel as per appendix 2. Ultimately, this resulted in 28 professionals completing the questionnaire.

3.4.3 Pilot study

 

A pilot study was conducted with a construction project manager for a main contractor in advance to the questionnaire role out.  The aim of the pilot study is to provide a trial run of the questionnaire, to identify any issues with the wording and to improve the effectiveness of the questions and presentation (Naoum 2013).

Following the pilot study, improvements were made to the brevity of questions to improve the effectiveness and simplicity of the questionnaire. The rating of most important attributes of a competent project manager in section 3 of the questionnaire was adjusted from stating the competences of the project manager, to describing the attributes of a project manager in undertaking their role.

Analysis of the Data

The questionnaire is analysed using quantitative and qualitative reasoning. The quantitative results will be detailed in bar charts, column charts, tables and pie charts to accurately present the comparisons of data. The qualitative results will be presented in quoted form. The results will be discussed in relation to the literature review findings and the research goals.

4.0 Results and Analysis

4.1 Introduction

As mentioned in the previous chapter, this dissertation included collection of primary data in the form of a structured questionnaire, using a sample of project managers and aspiring project managers currently active in the construction industry. This chapter presents the results of the data collection and provides an analysis and discussion of these results. The data will be discussed in relation to the literature review findings and research goals, to develop conclusions to be drawn. The questionnaire is attached to Appendix I of this dissertation.

4.2 Section 1- Demographics

The first question was included to ensure that the participants have experience of management in the construction industry in the UK, with the responses confirming that all 28 participants have management experience. The second and third questions relate to the type of experience. The literature review implied that managers within the construction industry have a range of backgrounds, with many evolving into the role of project manager. The responses to Question 2, as shown in Figure 4.1, indicate that the participants come from a range of backgrounds including design and construction, which it is suggested represents the wider population of the construction industry.

Figure 4.1 – Responses to Question 2

Question 3 was included to gauge the depth of experience within the sample with the results in Figure 4.2 confirming the adequacy of the sample in responding to this questionnaire.

Figure 4.2 – Responses to Question 3

This response is unsurprising as the participants were selected based on their experience. It is acknowledged that 28 participants provide a small sample of a large diverse body of people. However, it is argued that as shown in the following sections, the sample offers a snapshot of the industry and their professional bodies, project management and construction project outcomes.

4.3 Section 2- Role of the Project Manager in Construction Projects

The second section of the questionnaire focuses on the perceptions of the role of the construction project manager in projects. The questions started with investigating the perception of problems in the sector, which as indicated in the literature review (Walker 2015; Mir and Pinnington 2014) influence the need for effective management.

This section started with question 4, which asked if there are problems in delivering a successful construction project in the UK construction industry. The responses indicated that all of the respondents believed that there are problems in the industry. The responses to the second part of the question were examined using key words, revealing that the majority of the participants believed that problems in a typical construction project included issues such as ineffective control of change and lack of planning as shown in Table 4.1.

Issues No. of Participants
Client changes to the design during construction 25
Poor design-construction communication 22
Late issue of information 18
Ineffective communication 19
Poor planning of time and resources 23
Failure to collaborate 16
Ineffective supply chain management 15

Table 4.1 – Responses to Question 4

It is argued that these responses are in keeping with the findings of the literature review (CIOB nd.; HM Government 2013; CITB nd.; BIS 2013). Question 5 was included to understand the participant’s views on the role of project management in eliminating these problems and it is unsurprising that 100% of the participants believed effective project management could reduce these problems. This indicates that there is awareness within the industry of the need to change and the need to improve productivity (CIOB 2015).

4.4 Section 3 – Key competencies of the construction project manager to achieve project success

 

The literature review indicates that the construction industry values the ability to plan, monitor, organise and communicate while key UK professional bodies such as the RICS measure these abilities in terms of knowledge, skill and aptitude (RICS 2015a, 2015b, 2017). Question 6, which asked the participants to use the likert scale to rate the attributes of a competent project manager in order of importance with 1 being the most important and 10 being the least important. The responses provide an interesting snapshot of project management from the construction industry perspective. As shown in Figure 4.3 the most important attribute is the ability to communicate, with the least being commercial awareness.

Figure 4.3- Responses to Question 6

There are clear correlations between this response and the reponses to question 4 where the main problems are controlling change and communication. In addition, it is suggested that there are strong correlations to the concept of competence as described by the various professional bodies setting standards for project management.

4.5 Section 4 – Role of professional bodies and Competence in Construction Project Management

The Literature review highlighted the function of the professional bodies and the need for effective management in construction projects. It also reinforced the concept of competence and the fact that the challenges faced by the construction industry could be resolved through better management (RICS 2017). In addition, the literature review revealed that there are numerous tools and processes available to construction project managers to facilitate effective management and that the professional bodies have frameworks to guide the development and enhancement of competence in construction project management. Yet problems of time, cost and quality persist in the construction industry. This section was included in the questionnaire to seek the industry’s perspective on the role of professional bodies in improving competence.

Question 7 was presented in two parts; the closed sub-question was intended to clarify the position on professional organisations and the second was to qualify these opinions. The response to 7(i) was shown in figure 4.5, with only 19 of the 28 participants agreeing that professional bodies have an important role in achieving competence in construction project management.

Figure 4.4 – Question 7(i)

This response was clarified in the second part of the question, with two distinctive groups of opinions. The first was dominated by those from a purely project management background and architecture background believed that professional bodies were essential as it provides a structure within which project managers to attain specific goals. One of the project managers stated that:

“the professional organisation sets the standards for the profession. This means that a client can differentiate between different organisations and provides an indication of the competence of personnel working on a project”

Another participant took the view that professional bodies (specifically mentioning PMI) provided a learning forum for individuals within the sector and a mechanism for collective learning, which was beneficial in improving construction project outcomes.

In contrast, one of the participants, a project manager with more the 20 years’ experience pointed out that he was a member of a number of professional bodies. In the participants opinion, it was not essential to apart of professional body provided a manager was committed to self-direction, had the ability to learn from experiences and had sufficient support from their organisation in terms of career development. A similar view was help by an aspiring project manager with an engineering background stated that:

“professional body membership is not compulsory so therefore responsibility is held on the individual but also the employer to invest in continuous training and competence development”

 

Another took the traditional view that a manager had to have some basic characteristics that could not be learned or developed through professional accreditation. In the participants view:

“there are people who are natural leaders and there are people who are followers. Each has value in a project environment but you can not teach leadership, as it is an innate quality. In my opinion the best managers are those who have leadership attributes and an innate ability to engage with people. These qualities cannot be taught by a professional body.”

 

Several of the participants took the view that professional bodies did not reflect the unqiue complexity of the construction industry. Robotham and Jubb (1996) makes a similar point, explaining that in many cases, competence relates to the definition presented by the assessing professional body. It is clear from the assessment of the different competence standards in professional bodies such as PMI and IPMA, that there is considerable overlap between the requirements of these bodies and what is considered good practice in the construction industry. However, the difficulty is that the professional bodies are developed for general industry, leaving it to the construction industry to develop these standards for the challenges faced in this sector. It is argued that this is a difficult task given the disjointed nature of the industry (BIS 2013) and the diverse range of activities and processes used in construction management (Walker 2015). The competence approach implies that the skills listed by generic organisations can be applied in different industries, yet there is no such thing as a generic manager, Robotham and Jubb (1996, p.25) argue that the “competence approach would appear to be fundamentally flawed”.

Question 8 was used to confirm these responses, setting out a series of closed questions to optimize the reliability of the responses obtained on this key element of the research. The responses as shown in Table 4.2 are similar to those obtained in question 7.

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
(i) A professional body is important in setting standards for construction managers 12 7 0 7 2
(ii) I think that practical experience is more important in developing project management competence than formal assessment by a professional body 7 2 0 14 5
(iii) Competence can only be achieved through commitment to individual learning and employer support of the development process 16 9 2 1 0
(iv) The role of a professional body is to provide a benchmarking system for project managers which improves the quality of management in the construction industry 11 8 5 4 0
(v) Professional accreditation is vital as it demonstrates competence and can be used 7 12 0 9 0

Table 4.2 – Responses to Question 8

Given that the participants were divided on the value of professional bodies in improving competence levels, the final question in the questionnaire, asked the participants their opinion on the barriers to improving competence in construction project managers. This question was included as it explores the industry’s opinion on the barriers to competence among construction project managers. The responses to these questions could be divided into main themes. The first was that project managers are under pressure to perform from the start of a contract and that very often there is little time to learn “on the job” or to take time out to participate in continued education.

 

The second theme was lack of security of employment, which was attributed to the cyclical nature of construction output. One of the respondents, an aspiring construction project manager, suggested that staff turnover and the temporary nature of project-based work were key barriers to improved competence. He pointed out that his employer was committed to education and training of management personnel in line with the requirements of professional bodies. He added that this included a mentoring system and a series of planned educational courses undertaken as part of the working day and during his personal time.

The view was shared by a number of the participants suggesting that it is difficult to retain talent within this high-pressure, unpredictable environment. This outcome is similar to that found by Holzle (2010) who conducted research on career paths in project management and concluded that project managers believed that their work was under-rated and under-paid.

5.0 Conclusion

5.1 Introduction

This research set out to explore the effectiveness of the professional bodies in developing the competence of the construction project manager in the UK. This chapter summarises the findings of the study, presents the conclusion drawn from these findings and recommends further useful study on this topic.

5.2 Findings of this study

The findings of the study are based on the objective of the research as follows

5.2.1 Objective 1 – Role of the project manager in the construction industry

This research finds that the construction project manager plays a key role in the success of a project. It is suggested that the success of a project is typically measured in terms of time, cost and quality. However, the reality is that success is dependant on the client’s goals in carrying out the project and the constraints associated with the site, the complexity of the design and construction and financial constraints. A construction project is a risky undertaking, which can only be delivered with input from a range of stakeholders, each with differing agendas and competencies. It is found that there is a greater chance of project success if a project is managed effectively, whereby the project manager sets the project framework in terms of the project goals and creates an environment where all project stakeholders work to a shared concept of success. Effective project management is described as planning, monitoring and controlling all aspects of the project to achieve the client’s goals.

5.2.2 Objective 2 – Key competencies required by the construction project manager to achieve project success

A review of construction industry literature and professional body frameworks reveal that knowledge, skill and experience are key factors in developing competency in the construction industry. A competent project manager in the UK construction industry is one that can lead a diverse project team and create a clear organisational structure all parties are aware of and are committed to their role and responsibilities within the team. This requires personal attributes such as good interpersonal skills, good communication skills and an array of abilities such as the ability to plan, organise and manage time, cost and quality. It appears that a construction project is a dynamic environment, which means that flexibility and effective decision-making are also key attributes of competency.

5.2.3 Objective 3 – Investigate how the project manager’s competencies are measured developed by the profession

This study reveals that each of the project management professional bodies such as the RICS, have developed a measurement framework to measure the competencies. It is found that this does provide a useful guide for aspiring project manager, however attainment of the competencies is dependant on gaining suitable experience and employer-organisational support for development. It is suggested that it is difficult to translate the requirements of these professional organisations to the construction industry, as this sector is complicated not only by the variety of disciplines need in a construction project but the fact that the design and construction activities are often carried out in isolation and that all work must comply with a legal contract.

5.2.4 Objective 4 – Level of control that professional organisations have over performance of construction project managers

 

This research finds that professional organisations have little control over competency in the construction industry however professional bodies such as the RICS do provide useful guidance and direction with competency frameworks that focus on individual self-development and help organisations to implement in-house development programmes. It is noted that this organisation also provides support for construction professionals through numerous educational courses and guidance on self-development. However, there are so many pressures on these individuals such as the temporary nature of project work and the cyclical nature of construction industry workloads, which adversely affect training and de-rail career paths.

5.2.5 Objective 5 – Recommend ways in which this relationship could be enhanced to improve project outcomes

It is found, based on the responses to the questionnaire, that professional bodies in the construction industry have a role to play in developing competency in construction project managers. However, the industry is strongly traditional, valuing experience over professional membership and links professional membership with reputation. The questionnaire revealed that project managers within the industry must be committed to self-development and have the ability to learn from experience if improvements are to be in levels of competence.

5.3 Conclusion

The conclusions drawn from these findings are that professional bodies have a role to play in developing competency levels among construction project mangers. This is achieved through the provision of guidance frameworks that define competence and direct managers on ways to improve their individual competence levels. This relies on self-development and self-reflection, whereby a manager must have the ability to self-assess in an honest manner and take every opportunity to learn from experience.

5.4 Limitations of the research

5.5 Recommendations for further study

The findings of this study are based on a detailed review of pertinent literature and primary research through a questionnaire. It is suggested that the findings of the study could be validated through additional research on this topic. For example, the professional bodies were not represented in the questionnaire and would offer another perspective on the role of professional bodies in developing competency. The questionnaire revealed that there are two approaches to project management in the industry, the first is through academic and professional accreditation and the second is the more traditional route of achieving management status through work experience. It would therefore be interesting to explore the differences in project management styles and approaches from these two backgrounds. Such a study could take the form of interviews with project managers from both backgrounds.

 

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