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Factors influencing the culture of a construction project organisation: An empirical investigation

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Purpose ‐ It is widely recognised that improving project delivery in construction requires a consideration of the culture within the project organisation that is often associated with fragmentation, antagonism, mistrust, poor communication, finger-pointing, machismo, and sexism. Many have thus called for cultural change on construction projects. However, change can only take place when there is an understanding of the drivers of culture within the construction project organisation (CPO). Given the argument in cultural theory that culture reflects distinct adaptations to the environments in which people operate, this research seeks to look for empirical evidence that the culture of the CPO is associated with particular features of construction projects. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A mixed methodology approach was employed with qualitative data collected through semi-structured interviews, and quantitative data on project features and cultural orientations collected through a questionnaire survey of UK contractors. Findings ‐ Factor analysis revealed five principal cultural dimensions: workforce orientation, performance orientation, team orientation, client orientation, and project orientation. It was found that these five dimensions are associated with a number of key project features, in particular project size, complexity, influence of participants like the quantity surveyor, client and main contractor, the level of importance of cost and health and safety (H&S), location, and the number of variations. Significantly, no evidence was found to confirm that the procurement approach adopted influenced culture. Originality/value ‐ The findings provide some insight into the cultural consequences of project features, awareness of which is essential if appropriate strategies are to be developed to mitigate the negative impacts of culture.

Keywords: Construction industry; Culture; Research methods; United Kingdom

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 9, 2009

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