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Applying project histories and project learning through knowledge management in an Australian construction company

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Purpose ‐ With the advent of information and communication technologies (ICT), some organisations have endeavoured to develop and maintain systems commonly known as project histories. This paper aims to provide a framework to the construction organisations in order to improve the learning from projects through the development and use of project histories. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This paper provides an interpretative investigation of the issues concerning project histories for one leading construction company in Australia. A systems approach (soft system methodology (SSM)) is used in this study as a tool to comprehend the underlying processes and to highlight the related issues. Findings ‐ The research has shown that project histories are poorly designed, implemented, managed and applied in the organisation studied. This paper argues that reason for this deficiency is the lack of support from senior management, and proper integration of project histories into a company's overall strategy and vision. As a result of applying SSM participants of the study and analyst have come into an agreement of carrying out six actions that have the ability to improve the process concerning project histories. Research limitations/implications ‐ The study is relevant to the organisation under study. It is because the use of SSM results in developing a relevant system rather than developing a correct general system. However, the study involves one of leading construction organisation in Australia and other organisations may find commonalities in problems and issues raised and solution proposed. Practical implications ‐ The research has the potential to improve the use of project histories and put these into practice. This could inhibit mistakes being repeated, saving on rework and not re-inventing the wheel. Originality/value ‐ Recent interest in organisational learning and knowledge management is having an impact in the construction industry. Major companies are gearing up to incorporate these emerging business philosophies into their overall strategy and vision. With the adoption of knowledge management strategies into construction companies, it will be possible to apply project histories and conduct project learning in an efficient way. This type of the study can be said to be the one of the firsts of its kind in an Australian context and may be regarded as a founding work for future studies.
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Keywords: Australia; Construction industry; Knowledge management; Learning; Learning organizations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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