Cultural Differences in Construction Projects

8626 words (35 pages) Dissertation

16th Dec 2019 Dissertation Reference this

Tags: Construction

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 Research Methodology

Introduction

The research methodology in this study begins with a critical review of the research objectives followed by highlighting the process of data collection and analysis and finally gives a description of the reliability and validity of the sample design used in the research study. The process of data collection has employed both quantitative and qualitative techniques. The quantitative technique has employed a questionnaire methodology that will be analyzed and surveyed in order to identify the existence of correlations between the variables which is then followed by interpretation of the survey findings using a qualitative approach. This process of data triangulation assists the researcher in counteracting any bias which may have negatively affected the data accuracy (Fellows & Liu 2002).

Research Methodology

Past research reveals that the development of trust-based and harmonious relationships including culture management is extremely important for the organization’s success. Several studies have been carried out to assess the manner in which construction projects’ management is affected by different types of culture such as professional culture, organizational culture, national culture, and industry culture (Palmer 2002). Cultural difference in relation to construction projects can be defined within the context of project culture. However, culture at the project level and its influence on the management of construction projects has not yet been fully examined.

The construction industry as a project-based industry requires more insights on the extent and means through which culture affects the performance of a construction project. Consequently, this study attempts to fill this void by empirically exploring these concerns by examining the extent and manner in which the management and performance of construction projects are influenced by project cultures.

The first part in this process involves assessments that identify correlations among project performance, procurement approaches, and the project culture variables. An investigation then follows to determine the manner in which the performance of a project is affected by the procurement approach and the project culture. Knowledge of these concerns can greatly assist the project team, project managers, and other stakeholders to successfully tackle these issues towards the success of their projects.

Research Methods and Data Sources

This research involves obtaining preliminary information through case studies, questionnaire surveys, interviews, and reviewing the performance of construction projects, project culture, and the relevant literature surrounding the organizational culture. This study has defined procurement approach, project performance, and project culture as variables which can be tested. This study has adopted a 5 phase research model that consists of the main objectives, data collection methods, analysis, and expected outcomes in each phase. The main objective in the first phase involves identifying culture issues at the project level and developing a questionnaire and hypotheses. Preliminary interviews and literature review will comprise the data collection methods in this phase and a qualitative analysis will be conducted with expected outcomes consisting of draft research instruments and a theoretical framework. The main objectives of the next phase involve confirming the selected variables and shaping the final questionnaire and hypotheses making necessary modifications to the ones developed in phase 1. The data collection method will mainly involve a pilot study that consists of pilot testing of the questionnaire and interviews. A qualitative analysis will then be conducted with expected outcomes consisting of the final research instruments and an operationalized framework.

The main objectives of the third phase consist of examining the relationship between the project performance and the study variables where a questionnaire survey will be the main method of data collection. A quantitative analysis is then conducted in this phase with an expected outcome of statistical relationships that may develop between the variables. The main objective of the fourth phase involves obtaining in-depth information on how project performance is affected by the procurement approach and project culture. Case studies are the main data collection methods in this phase involving documentary evidence and in-depth interviews. This phase involves a qualitative analysis with expected outcomes consisting of project culture manifestations and examples of the manner in which construction projects are affected by the procurement approach and project culture. The last phase which is the fifth phase in this research has the main objective of analyzing the results and establishing the framework that will describe these relationships. This phase will involve both a quantitative and qualitative analysis with an expected outcome consisting of the project culture model and the manner in which it affects the performance of the project.

The data that has been used to conduct this research study has been obtained from numerous sources such as consultants, main contractors, clients, and many others. Similarly, this study has employed several data collection techniques such as case studies, interviews, questionnaires, and observations. The combination of numerous data sources and data collection techniques excessively promotes the validity of the findings obtained in this study. Data collection techniques are listed in this study according to the research phases described above subsequent to the identification of the necessary data that needs to be collected.

The final approach adopted in this study has used a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches such that insights that have been gained from the qualitative approach that uses semi-structured interviews and case studies have been backed up by quantitative surveys which primarily consist of the quantitative approach to identify the project culture components that have a significant impact on construction performance and to answer the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that are typical of the qualitative research (Sekaran 2003).

This research study has undertaken two fundamental research stages. The first stage involves a questionnaire which has been structured to collect evidence (empirical) for the conceptual framework that is established in the preliminary interview and literature review. An analysis is then conducted to determine the existence and possibilities of statistical correlations among the variables. A case study technique has been used in the second stage to gain evidence of the construction project performance and the actual project culture. Both of these two case studies have used interviews to gather information in the first instance which is subsequently followed by the application of documentary evidence.

In order to facilitate a comprehensive interpretation of the survey findings, government authorities and some senior personalities such as major contractors were also interviewed. Following the ethics approval of the University of South Australia, this research methodology involved a pilot study that involved the testing of both the interview schedules and questionnaires that were prepared. The SPSS software was also used for analyzing the data collected in addition to the testing of the relationships between the concerned variables which included construction project performance, procurement approach, and the project culture.

Summary

The literature review has been undertaken to formulate the research framework, to define the research questions, and to identify the loopholes in the current literature. According to Chan et al. (2004), the reviewed literature consists of internet information, refereed publications, professional journals, research reports, conference papers, and textbooks. Subsequent to the literature review is the creation of a project culture model that is primarily based on theoretical evidence and is essentially conceptual in nature. In order to incorporate the particular qualities of construction projects, a modification, synthesis, and review of the organizational culture models that are currently available such as the Cameron’s model, Hofstede et al’s model, Harrison and Handy’s model, and Denison’s model has been undertaken.

The conceptual model in relation to project culture requires the support of empirical evidence. In order to ascertain the availability of such empirical evidence in validating the model, field trips have been carried out. This is then followed by the modification of the project culture model that has a theoretical basis of evidence. Preliminary interviews involving project participants and observations of project meetings played a significant role in assisting the researcher to comprehend the actual project culture factors that are present in construction projects. Concurrently, interviewees were requested to select the key performance indicators (KPI) that would determine the construction project success.

In summary, it is imperative that there is a clear understanding of what is meant by project culture. Despite the fact that project culture lacks a distinct and authoritative working definition, it can nevertheless, be defined as beliefs, basic assumptions, and shared values that are held by project participants and which determine the manner in which they carry out the project and the type of relationships which are formulated or are already in existence with each other within the project environment. A clearer understanding of project culture facilitates that better information is gathered, obtained, and analyzed through research methodologies such as interviews and questionnaires.

Results and Discussion

Introduction

This chapter consists of the results and a discussion of the methodologies used in this research study. It consists of the methodological approaches used in this study comprising of pilot studies, a questionnaire survey, and case studies. A summary analysis has been given regarding the data generated from both the case studies and the questionnaire survey. Pilot studies were conducted prior to the collection of the necessary data in order to validate the research instruments that comprise of the interview schedule and questionnaire in addition to validating the research framework. These pilot studies that were held between Feb and May of 2005 consisted of research instruments pilot testing, preliminary interviews, and observations. The commencement of the pilot study consisted of preliminary interviews involving 27 respondents. This comprised of 21 industry professionals who had some prior experience with a few construction projects.

These professionals consisted project managers, quantity surveyors, architects, main contractors, and clients while the other six respondents mainly consisted of academicians with several years of experience in the construction industry. The majority of interviewees totaling 18 had a professional experience in the industry of more than 15 years thus, they were better placed to respond to the interview questions that were put to them. Each interview consumed a minimum of one hour and in each case the researcher used the first five minutes to elucidate the background of the research such as the research objectives, research questions, and the topic concerned. Explanations of the terminologies used in the study for instance, project culture and its definition were also given to the respondents prior to the commencement of the interview.

The researcher requested the interviewees to make use of their prior experiences when making comments pertaining to cultural concerns at the project level and the following are some examples of the interview questions: What elements are involved in an appropriate project culture? Is it your belief that a project environment contains an identifiable project culture? Which parties should be responsible to maintain and develop an appropriate project culture? What are the key characteristics of trust? What are the advantages of having an appropriate project culture in a construction project?

At the end of these interviews, opportunities were given to the respondents to discuss any matters which they felt were of importance and therefore, they could express their concerns about their opinions regarding culture at the project level. Pilot tests also included pilot testing of the questionnaire. This involved asking the respondents whether they completely understood the questionnaire instructions including the questions contained in the questionnaire. The average time used by the respondents to complete the questionnaire was another concern that was addressed during these pilot tests. If the respondents took a very long time to complete the questionnaire, it signified that they were either reluctant to complete the questionnaire or they were having trouble understanding the questions contained in the questionnaire. The questionnaire survey was aimed at investigating the quantitative evidence of the impact that the procurement approach and the project culture had on the construction projects’ performance.

Sampling was also involved in this process and according to Fellows and Liu (2002), sampling is meant to provide a practical means within which research components can be collected and processed while ensuring that the selected sample is a comprehensive representation of the population. The target population in this research study involved key players within the construction industry from South Australia and they included subcontractors, suppliers, consultants, architects, and the main contractors. The sample size consisted of 250 participants and comprised of consultants, main contractors, clients, and government agencies. These participants were selected because they are representative of the organizations and individuals involved in the construction projects in South Australia.

The selection of the main contractors for this research sample included head contractors who were obtained from major construction companies in South Australia. Other key members included suppliers, subcontractors, consultants, and client representatives who were all contacted through the project construction managers. This study involved nonresidential construction projects where the respondents were required to give their responses to the questionnaire. The South Australian construction companies were selected according to their market share in the country. This research involved five major construction companies from the region which agreed to participate in the research study. One person was selected from each company to distribute the questionnaires to randomly selected construction companies where project team members and construction managers distributed these questionnaires to their staff members. Out of the 250 practitioners who agreed to participate in the study, 69% of them completely answered the questions contained in the questionnaires to aptly enable the researcher make an appropriate analysis.

This research also involved a range of case studies which were undertaken in order to examine the manner in which construction projects’ performance and project culture is affected by the procurement approach, the manner in which construction projects’ performance is affected by project culture, and the manner in which project culture manifests itself in construction projects (Kumaraswamy 2002).

One of the primary objectives of these case studies was to examine if different types of procurement approaches had any effect on project outcomes and project culture. In this regard, therefore, this research involved the procurement of a wide range of projects within the public sector using different approaches. These case studies involved in-depth interviews from key participants who comprised of consultants, managing contractors, architects, government agencies, and clients. These case study participants were selected because of their availability during the research study and their different positions which would bolster the validity and reliability of the research findings. Subsequent to the interview processes, the project documents were then read to ascertain the interviewees’ statements and included contractors’ work documents, relevant government reports, project completion reports, team building and high performance reports, and tendering documents.

Results

It was agreed by all interviewees that at the project level culture does indeed exist and it is imperative that all participants should give it the attention it deserves. They also all agreed that construction projects’ performance is significantly influenced by project culture. They underscored the fact the performance of some teams which they had worked with was much higher than others and they attributed this phenomenon to having an appropriate project culture such as trust and teamwork. However, the majority of interviewees claimed that the construction industry is still dominated by an adversarial project culture particularly in construction projects that still use the traditional procurement systems that are extremely popular with the win-lose culture. One particular interviewee held the opinion that construction industry does not invest in adequate training and R&D and it is not an attractive or profitable industry because it has conditions that are similar to the conditions experienced in a war.

Conversely, it was agreed by all interviewees that a positive culture can be created within the project team through collaborative approaches such as alliancing and partnering (Gunn 2004). An appropriate project culture has several characteristics. Some of the mostly mentioned characteristics by the respondents in this research study included; the willingness to assist each other, understanding each other, honesty, no disputes and blames, effective and open communication, forewarnings in the event of problem signs, timely decisions and collective responsibilities, and mutual respect and trust.

The interviewees held the opinion that it is imperative to develop an appropriate project culture at the beginning of a project and sustain it throughout the entire project process. Furthermore, they also recommended that this project culture can be further strengthened with the help of continuous workshops and trainings. The research findings in this study produced an interesting element because the findings revealed that all the interviewees held the common opinion that the project culture in the construction industry was significantly determined and influenced by the procurement approach that was used. For example, these interviewees identified traditional hard money contracts as one of the most ineffective approaches towards configuring an appropriate project culture. Conversely, they identified relationship-based contracts which are examples of collaborative procurement approaches as contracts that promote a positive project culture which is characterized by a high degree of mutual trust and co-operative and collaborative relationships.

The interviewees held the opinion that the fundamental elements of trust comprised of honesty, mutual support, appreciating each other’s values and expectations, and open discussions (Frazer & Lawley 2000). The majority of respondents also highlighted the fact that it is imperative for project participants to always keep their promises which essentially means that consistency is a very critical component of trust. Research findings reveal that there is a consensus among the respondents that it is essential to maintain a high degree of trust within the project culture so as to enable project participants to maintain and sustain collaborative relationships.

Before the commencement of a project, project team members should inculcate a positive project culture that has a high degree of trust so that the benefits associated with a positive project culture can be enjoyed by team members. The initiation of cooperation and trust should at the minimum be introduced at the tendering phase of a project (Atuahene-Gima & Li 2002). According to the interviewees, better and strong relationships are made up of common characteristics that include high degrees of trust, co-operation, and collaboration. Conclusions derived from the preliminary interviews reveal that an appropriate project culture plays an extremely fundamental role towards facilitating the success of construction projects and improving the working relationships that exist between or among the project participants. These findings also reveal that the achievement of better project outcomes and positive project cultures are considerably shaped by collaborative procurement approaches.

This research study also contained findings of the questionnaire pilot tests which revealed that the majority of the comments that were made during these pilot tests were mostly positive. These findings also revealed that none of the respondents claimed that they experienced any difficulties in either answering or reading the questionnaires. The interpretation of this fact is that the instructions were carefully structured such that all participants comprehended what they were required to do after completing the questionnaire and the appropriate time for returning the completed survey. In addition to the fact that the questionnaire did not have any major revisions, research findings revealed that the questionnaire covered some of the most significant components of project culture. Results also revealed that the majority of respondents spent between 10 and 15 to completely address all the concerns contained in the questionnaire which they considered to be appropriate.

Some comments made by respondents in the questionnaire led to its modification to a certain extent. For instance, some comments stated that some of the questions that examined the projects’ performance were too general and to a large extent vague. Their arguments were directed towards the method of analyzing the results obtained or contained in the questionnaire such that they questioned if declaring that a project is successful on the basis of the answers obtained from the questionnaire is most suitable approach. For instance, can a project be declared to be successful without due regard to its schedule simply because the respondents have indicated that it has been completed in time?

The respondents also criticized the manner in which some of questions were worded. They argued that the structure of some of the questions had the effect of implying that the particular respondent answering the questionnaire was a contractor. In order to improve the validity and reliability of the questionnaire survey, it was revised accordingly such that several questions were targeted towards project performance thereby giving the respondents greater opportunities to submit substantial and extensive details concerning project performance. In addition to this, a supplementary in-depth interview was added as an additive to the questionnaire at the end of the questionnaire by requesting the respondents to give their opinions regarding project performance and the factors they thought or suspected to influence projects’ performance. The questions were meticulously reviewed in order to avoid the implicit assumption that the respondent was a contractor.

The final question in the questionnaire related to project performance and project culture. The respondents had the option of selecting either ‘don’t know’, ‘no’, or ‘yes’ and a space was given for them to further explain why they thought the questionnaire was either irrelevant or relevant to the performance and culture of the construction projects. A very small portion (6%) of the respondents made their additional comments in the given space and answered ‘no’ to the questions related to project performance and project culture. Most of the comments made by this 6% underscored the fact that the questionnaire questions were a bit too general and some suggestions were made that further studies were needed in order that in-depth information could be collected or obtained by the researcher. However, the majority of the respondents comprising of 81% agreed that the questionnaire contained questions that related to project performance and project culture.

Discussion

This research paper mainly involved 4 case studies which were carried out to investigate the manner in which construction projects’ performance is influenced by project culture and the manner in which both the construction projects’ performance and project culture is affected by the procurement approach. Table 6-9 gives the names of the particular projects, their procurement approaches, and the sectors involved.

The UniSA CW 2 was procured through the traditional hard money contract where the contract price involved a summation of the cost of changes that were made according to client’s wishes in addition to the original negotiated price of the project. This project involved the employment of subcontractors by the main contractor where the roles of administration and project oversight were played by the architect. It primarily involved the City West campus redevelopment in the South Australian University and its fundamental objective was to provide better services through the provision of new facilities to both staff and students of the institution. It mainly comprised an extension to the already existent library building and the construction of two fresh buildings. It involved a questionnaire survey where the questions’ internal consistency that belong to the five culture dimensions was checked using the Cronbach’s alpha coefficients (Frazer & Lawley 2000). The reliability of the constructs was accepted for further analysis since all the coefficients were recorded above the acceptable level of 0.70.

This project also involved a correlation analysis between the project team members’ satisfaction perceptions and the project culture dimensions. Using the correlation coefficients of Spearman’s Rho, the results indicated that all the five dimensions of project culture such as the people- oriented, flexible, goal-oriented, cooperative, and integrative project culture elements contributed towards the project’s success. Table 6-13 below shows the results of the Mann-Whitney U test which was used to investigate the presence of any significant differences between the project culture perceptions of the non-client and client respondents.

Table 6-13

It was concluded that since the value of the Asymptotic Significance was more than 0.05, there was no significant difference in the dependent variable mean scores for project culture five dimensions. In other words, this test indicated that there are no significant differences between the participants’ perceptions from the non-client and client side. The suggestion is that the project team had a strong project culture. The university management considered UniSA CW 2 to be a successful project despite exceeding its schedule and budget (Stephens 2006). There were more than 400 nil cost variations among the 1600 agreed variations which cost $ 5.07m that was approximated to be 17% of the original budget. This was however, not considered to be an excessive outcome due to the sculptural architectural designs, technical workshops, and complex designs involved. More so, there arose some extraordinary concerns that had some significant budget impacts such as the scarcity of resources due to unprecedented construction activities that took place in Adelaide, concerns relating to the construction of additional buildings onto the already existing structures, and the requirements for site remediation. As much as the buildings did not meet the required time for teaching purposes because of exceeding the schedule with more than five months, there was a constructive and cooperative atmosphere in the project team that effectively minimized the effects of late occupation.

In relation to the UniSA CW 2 project, the Adelaide Convention Centre Extensions (ACC EXT) employed a slightly different approach because of the limited number of project participants available and therefore, it was decided that in-depth interviews were more favorable than the questionnaire survey for this particular project. The objective of these interviews was to investigate the project participants’ perceptions on the project culture and the impacts that the procurement approach and this project culture had on the project outcomes. However, there were some significant and extreme risks involved in the ACC EXT project as was determined by DAIS, which is the government department in Australia that is responsible for all the public projects in the country. In terms of size, ACC EXT was a large project that involved the main building which used more than 3000 tonnes of steel framing, 700 tonnes of structural steel in the plaza deck, more than 6000 cubic meters of concrete, and more than 7000 square meters of column free floor space.

The convention centre capacity was doubled upon the completion of the project and it was the largest Government building in South Australia since the late 80s Adelaide Entertainment Centre (DAIS 2001). The second risk involved the time frame of the project that was fixed. In the year 2001 onwards, a number of exhibitions and major conventions were proposed and during the same year, South Australia acquired the right to host the International Wine Conference that was to be held in the Adelaide Convention Centre. In other words, the Centre had to be ready before the scheduled date of the event and therefore, the completion date could not be compromised.

The extremely limited time frame for project delivery meant that the tendering process used incomplete documents in addition to the fact that there was a very tight project budget that was caused by the client having a limited budget that could not be exceeded. The third risk involved the project design which was very complex because it involved construction of the facility that was in close proximity to River Torrens and adjacent to the Festival Drive, around the ACC operating centre and over operational railway tracks. In addition to this, there had to be a minimization of disruptions to the facilities surrounding the project. The fourth risk involved meeting the client requirements within a very limited time frame because the calling of tenders, full documentation, using the traditional approach for full designs, and the final construction could not be completely achieved within the limited time frame.

This necessitated adoption of a fast track approach that would enable construction and designs to overlap concurrently. This approach significantly increased the risk of claims and disruptions relating to the construction contract (DAIS 2001). The ACC EXT project therefore, adopted a form of relationship contracting that was meant to address these all these significant and extreme risks. The contractual documents labeled this procurement approach as a collaborative procurement that involved an Integrated Management Team (IMT) that was responsible for ensuring the provision of adequate, ensuring the support of corporate management, giving advice to the principal, and decision-making matters that included the collaborative relationship.

The third case study is the TQEH l (The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Stage 1) that involved similar project participants as the other case studies with the same client thereby enabling a better comparison and added a degree of data triangulation to the research study. The LMHS A (Lyell McEwin Health Service Redevelopment Stage A) and TQEH 1 are two major hospital projects that have been recently completed in SA (South Australia). A simultaneous redevelopment was required by both the LMHS and TQEH for achieving the strategic objectives of the North Western Adelaide Health Service within the planning time frame of between 10 and 15 years.

This enabled the maximization of change opportunities relating to the organizational and financial structure and quality of service that was brought about by the redevelopment. The study of these two projects is through a comparative approach because the majority of participating parties including the personnel were the same, they used different procurement approaches, they both involved the public sector, and they used the same industrial environment for their construction. Direct comparisons between LMHS A and TQEH 1 are very useful to examine the effects of procurement approaches on projects’ performance, whether using different procurement approaches causes a difference in the project culture, the effect of project culture, and whether a different project culture causes a difference in the project outcomes. The study of these two projects also involved interviews of the projects’ key participants which is consistent with the methodology adopted in this research study.

The LMHS A project developed a collaborative culture with the development process beginning at the extremely early stages of the redevelopment. The procurement approach incorporated the principles relationship contracting principles which were then incorporated into the conditions of the contract. The tendering documents explicitly stated that the project would require a collaboration arrangement between the contractor, consultant team, and the client. This collaborative relationship made the project team to focus on the achievement of the common project objectives in order to attain a ‘win-win’ outcome for all the project stakeholders.

Summary

This summary begins with highlighting the fact that the pilot studies contained in this research study were carried out in order to test and develop the quality of research instruments. The preliminary reviews consisted of 27 academicians and industry practitioners and their comments were instrumental in developing the interview protocol and questionnaire, which was essentially based on the literature research. The majority of interviewees had a positive opinion regarding the draft research instruments and the research topic. Constructive suggestions were provided by these interviewees on the manner in which the research questions should be pursued.

The research study involved a pilot testing which was aimed at making some minor adjustments to the questionnaire such that it would adequately address the respondents’ comments. The study also involved a questionnaire survey which was carried out to assess the views of the practitioners on the relationship between the performance and culture of the construction project. Through the help of the senior managers of the major contracting companies in South Australia, a random sample was selected where questionnaires were sent to the construction managers of these companies.

Similarly, several other participants such as major subcontractors, consultants, architects, and clients were included in this research study such that these questionnaires were sent to them on the basis of the random sample that was selected consisting of major construction companies in South Australia. A statistical analysis was then undertaken to assess the performance and culture of the particular construction projects that these companies were undertaking. The results revealed that there was a significant correlation between project performance and project culture in all its five dimensions. A series of case studies were carried out to obtain in-depth information towards investigating why and how the construction projects’ performance is affected by project culture. The case studies involved a wide range of construction projects that used a variety of procurement techniques such as relationship contracting and traditional hard money contracts.

The procurement approach of relationship contracting has been established to bolster the achievement of project objectives and to promote a collaborative relationship between or amongst the project participants. In this study, the traditional competitive tendering process was deemed to bring about a confrontational atmosphere in addition to being responsible for dismal and poor performance within the construction industry. In this regard, project culture issues were investigated in construction projects that had used different procurement techniques in their procurements. An examination was also carried out concerning the project outcomes and the effects that procurement approaches had on the project culture.

The study revealed that relationship contracting is very instrumental in development of a positive project culture. This culture has several characteristics such as the willingness to assist each other, giving early warnings in the event that the signs of a problem manifest themselves, timely decisions and collective responsibility, mutual respect and trust, understanding each other, honesty, no disputes and blames, effective and open communications, and an approach that is outcome oriented. Conversely, the research findings revealed that there are some negative characteristics associated with the culture of construction projects that were procured through traditional lump sum contracts such as the TQEH1. Nevertheless, if the procurement process can incorporate some of the principles of relationship contracting, then similarly traditional procurement approaches can be very instrumental in configuring a positive project culture.

An exemplification of this fact was in the UniSA project where the role of the procurement approach was recognized by the interviewees in relation to the project outcomes and project culture. One interviewee stated that there was a much better performance of the same participants in projects that had been procured through relationship contracting as opposed to projects that had been procured through traditional lump sum contracts. In other words, this research discovered that project outcomes were significantly affected by project culture. This led to the identification of the common characteristics of an appropriate project culture and the research findings revealed that the procurement approach significantly affected the project culture.

Conclusion

Introduction

This research study developed a model to examine cultural difference within the framework of project culture and its impact on construction projects’ performance in Australia. A qualitative and quantitative questionnaire survey was used to capture the project participants’ perceptions on the project performance and project culture. Statistical relationships between the project performance, procurement approaches, and project culture were generated through a survey analysis of the questionnaires, interviews, and case studies. However, the questionnaire approach had some limitations because the nature of the questions was relatively general and did not give the respondents adequate opportunities to sufficiently comment on the manner in which the projects’ performance would be affected by the procurement approach and project culture. This was however addressed using in-depth interviews and case studies which gave the participants more freedom and leverage to make their comments particularly on matters pertaining to how and why construction projects in Australia are affected by cultural issues. Furthermore, accessibility to project documents provided supplementary information to the participants’ subjective statements.

Main Conclusions

This research study contained a literature review on the cultural issues revolving around construction projects in Australia. It also involved a review of the studies on organizational culture in addition to the project culture literature review. The literature review in this research study enabled the identification of the organizational culture concept and its impact on the management of both the construction projects and the organization. Project culture was clearly defined where a theoretical conceptual framework was developed as a modification of the generally used model of organizational culture. This model was later revised to another model that involved cultural and behavioral factors of relationship contracting. It consisted of five dimensions namely; people-oriented, flexible, goal-oriented, cooperative, and integrative dimensions.

The interview schedule and questionnaire were designed to identify the project culture and the manner in which it influences construction projects’ performance. The questionnaire and theoretical framework were then verified using pilot tests. The comments of the respondents were generally positive and as such there was no need for any major revision. The identification of appropriate project culture common characteristics was made possible with the aid of local Australian practitioners who underwent preliminary interviews. There was a general agreement among the interviewees that the development of these characteristics should begin at the early stages of the project. Research findings revealed that the type of procurement approach that is used to procure a construction project may have a significant impact on the project culture. The traditional procurement approach was criticized for being accountable for confrontational relationships and adversarial behaviors within the project team resulting in recommendations from academic observers, government authorities, and industry reports towards a cultural shift. For instance, much success has been achieved in the construction industry over the last two decades due to alliancing and partnering which are examples of collaborative procurement approaches.

A statistical analysis established that there was a significant positive correlation between construction projects’ performance and the project culture five dimensions in terms of overall performance, relationships’ satisfaction between parties, knowledge obtained from the project. Future business opportunities, commercial success, and project process satisfaction. This indicated that project culture that is people-oriented, flexible, goal-oriented, cooperative, and integrated should be developed so as to achieve a better overall project performance, satisfaction improvements with the project process, satisfaction improvements from relationships established with other parties, maximization of knowledge obtained from the project, development of future business opportunities, and commercial success.

The question of why cultural difference is an important aspect to achieving successful construction projects was addressed using a variety of case studies involving projects that used different procurement means and in-depth interviews with major contractors and senior government authority members. It was established that the right project culture had a positive impact on project performance with the following benefits; rewarding time or cost savings that promote commitment maximization from all the participating parties, innovations encouragement which adds value to the project and the client, waste reduction through having fewer conflicts, and a better comprehension of the needs of the client through incorporating end users and clients into the process of decision-making.

Once the importance of project culture was understood, the next question was how to incorporate it into the construction projects. Results of in-depth interviews showed that client played the most important role towards this development process. The level of resources and capacity of the client directly impacted their ability to affect the values and expectations of other project participants. The results also revealed that it is necessary to engage a facilitator to coach and train project participants to comprehend the reasons of the importance of project culture and the manner in which they ought to behave during this process.

 

Results from the questionnaire survey revealed that different procurement approaches brought about a different project performance and project culture. Case studies findings revealed that there was a generally more positive and collaborative culture in construction projects that were procured through relationship contracting in comparison to those that were procured through traditional hard money contracts. This is not always the case however, that poor and negative project cultures are always associated with traditional procurement approaches. For instance, the UniSA CW 2 project case study revealed that a project procured through traditional hard money contracts resulted in a positive project culture.

Key project stakeholders’ personalities are a crucial element during this process. Projects procured through traditional hard money contracts can give better results if there is a positive project culture. An appropriate project culture and its development is affected by several other factors. Having realistic project goals is extremely vital. The comments of some interviewees stated that relationships among project team members can be negatively affected by unrealistic project goals and can also generate adversarial attitudes among project participants.

The entire project team on site co-location is conducive towards achieving efficient and effective communication. The benefits of this co-location were not immediately achieved in the ACC EXT project until later in the project when the co-location on site took place between the architect key representatives with the managing contractor. This partial co-location however, was also recognized as a crucial element towards the successful completion of the project.

Recommendations

Through the identification of factors that contribute towards the development of an appropriate project culture, this research provides an essential body of knowledge concerning construction projects’ management. These factors include selection of appropriate incentive schemes, selection of the most suitable project participants, the personalities of key stakeholders, and the adoption of relationship contracting. Industry practitioners should take advantage of these factors and benefit from them towards developing a positive project culture. Practitioners should also take advantage of the procurement approaches that have been highlighted in this research study and incorporate the factors associated with the procurement approaches that result to successful project completion.

Several academic papers and industry reports have established that poor project performance is generally associated with traditional procurement approaches. Consequently, industry practitioners should adopt alternative procurement strategies such as relationship contracting towards improving and solidifying the chances of achieving a successful project outcome. These practitioners should also develop and incorporate a collaborative project culture that has been empirically established to result in successful project outcomes. In this regard, they should integrate the characteristics associated with collaborative project cultures into their working schedules which include loyalty, honesty, flexibility, respect, mutual support, openness, and trust.

Further Research

Considering the fact that accurately identifying the reasons why cultural difference is an important aspect to achieving successful construction projects in Australia is associated with several limitations particularly the methodological approach, further research needs to be conducted to establish the most suitable methodology that will give accurate, valid, and reliable results. In this regard, more insights are needed on the factors revolving around project culture which has been defined within the context of construction projects in this study.

The questionnaire survey is the main methodology that was used in this research and it primarily focused on collecting the practitioners’ perceptions in South Australia. In order to fully comprehend the overall situation of the construction industry in the country, the questionnaire survey should not be limited to South Australia only and should therefore be sent to a wide range of industry practitioners from all over the country. This involves amplification of the representative sample consisting of industry practitioners to include participants from North and South Australia. Such a sample can be generated using an industry database or the Yellow Pages.

Further analysis can also be conducted on the factor analysis for identifying an appropriate project culture. This will include further research on factors that cannot be easily labeled such as ability to take risks, flexibility, the focus on participants, and the extent of how well new project team members are integrated into the team.

References List

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Stephens, B 2006, ‘Perception of Project Success and its impact on the practice of Project Management’, School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia.

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