A Comparative Study: Construction Management and Economics

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Construction Management and Economics (July 2005) 23, 595–607

Architects and contractors: a comparative study of organizational cultures N. A. ANKRAH1 and D. A. LANGFORD2*
1 2

Research Institute in Advanced Technologies, University of Wolverhampton, UK Department of Architecture and Building Science, Strathclyde University, UK

Received 9 February 2004; accepted 26 January 2005

Conflicts between project participants have been identified in various construction industry reports as being one of the principal causes of poor performance on construction projects. These conflicts occur at the interface level in one respect because participants have different objectives and different organizational cultures which define their approach to work and relationship with the other project participants. This research was therefore undertaken to investigate and identify the organizational cultures of two significant players in the project coalition – architects and contractors – on the premise that by revealing specific cultural characteristics and orientations, establishing significant areas of difference and initiating discussion on some of the implications for conflicts and project performance, the context would have been set for assessing and understanding the behaviour of these project participants. A questionnaire survey based on some specific indices of organizational culture conducted on these two groups of participants revealed that in terms of specific traits, significant differences exist in task organization, sources of power and influence, control and coordination, formality, people issues and nature of tasks. The implications are that conflicts are likely to occur within the project coalition at the interface level where human interaction elements occur and this could detract from achieving project objectives. Awareness of these differences, however, improves the chances of achieving the right balance when constructing the team and this could lead to the development of synergy and good ‘project chemistry’ with positive consequences for overall project performance. Keywords: Architects, construction industry, contractors, organizational culture, project coalition

Introduction
UK construction industry reports since Simon (1944) have continued to berate the culture of the construction industry and in particular, the adversarial and antagonistic aspects that have persistently plagued the industry and affected performance, with project organizations being unable to exceed or even live up to the expectations of clients. A significant number of published research papers have done likewise, blaming many of the industry’s ills on culture. The general consensus is that there is a need for cultural change within the construction industry, for conflicts to be reduced and for performance to be improved.

*Author for correspondence. E-mail: d.langford@strath.ac.uk

Fundamental to such change is the need to fully investigate and understand the manifestations and effects of culture in the industry. However, relatively little by way of research has been conducted in this area, due mainly to the generally recognized complexity of the subject and its ‘soft’ and subjective nature. Research on project performance has so far focused mainly on the impact of strategic factors, such as procurement routes, construction methods and management techniques on performance (Kumaraswamy and Dissanayaka, 1998; Proverbs et al., 1999; Xiao and Proverbs, 2003). More recently however, softer issues such as ‘project chemistry’ (Nicolini, 2002) and organizational culture (Rameezdeen and Gunarathna, 2003) have begun to interest construction industry researchers, demonstrating the growing realization that these softer issues have

Construction Management and Economics ISSN 0144-6193 print/ISSN 1466-433X online # 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/01446190500126973

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