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Insights into collaboration at the project level: Complexity, social interaction and procurement mechanisms

Marshall, David; Cicmil, Svetlana; Marshall, Duncan


David Marshall

Duncan Marshall


Drawing upon relevant concepts in organizational social theory (becoming ontology and processual view of complexity), and adopting an interpretative approach to studying organizational phenomena, this paper aims to make a contribution to the understanding of social processes in multi-organizational settings defined as 'construction projects'. The study takes a critical view on the claimed advantages of non-conventional, innovative project procurement strategies as integration-enhancing mechanisms at the project level. Taking a swimming pool construction project governed by an innovative procurement procedure known as 'two-stage tender' as a case in point, the paper evaluates the extent to which better project team integration has been achieved in this context. Two major concerns emerged from the case study analysis: (1) two-stage tendering is an incomplete solution to tensions, adversarial culture and a lack of genuine cooperation over time; and (2) there is a need for facilitating mechanisms of a different nature to support and sustain collective situated learning and shared understanding of longer-term benefits of collaborative work. Based on the theoretical considerations and the interpretation of the empirical accounts, the paper proposes and refines a conceptual framework for understanding the complexity of construction projects as social settings. In the light of this framework, alternative concepts and skills for enhanced collaborative interaction among participating parties in this kind of social setting are suggested. © 2005 Taylor & Francis.


Marshall, D., Cicmil, S., & Marshall, D. (2005). Insights into collaboration at the project level: Complexity, social interaction and procurement mechanisms. Building Research and Information, 33(6), 523-535.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Nov 1, 2005
Journal Building Research and Information
Print ISSN 0961-3218
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 6
Pages 523-535
Keywords collaboration, complexity, construction project, interaction, management skills, organizational change, project dynamics, project management, team integration,
two-stage tender
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