Welcoming high reliability organising in construction management

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To achieve project objectives, construction project managers have to manoeuvre through complex coordination structures. They have to simultaneously deal with limited budgets, tight schedules, demanding stakeholders and a fragmented supply-chain. Despite their extensive coordination efforts, project managers are frequently confronted with unexpected delays that force them to improvise and re-plan. As a consequence, budgets and schedules tend to overrun and project organisations appear out-of-control rather than stable and reliable. To enrich our understanding of these phenomena, we propose using the theoretical lens of High Reliability Organising (HRO). HRO stems from research into high hazard industries, and is relatively new to construction management. It provides five generic guiding principles that help practitioners anticipate and contain unwanted events. Given that the use of HRO beyond high hazard contexts is not universally accepted within the scientific community, we ask whether it is justified to apply the HRO lens to the organisation and coordination of 'mainstream' construction projects. We elaborate on this issue by addressing its main theoretical concepts, its origin and its application beyond the fields of risk and safety. We further explain why reductionist interpretations of HRO concepts unnecessarily limit HRO's research domain. We propose a pragmatic reinterpretation of HRO that provides access to the field of construction management. Finally, we present preliminary results of our study into delays and overruns in inner-city subsurface utility reconstruction projects. Our theoretical and empirical arguments provide a stepping-stone for future HRO research projects in the construction management field.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 29th Annual ARCOM Conference, 2-4 September 2013, Reading, UK
EditorsS.D. Smith, D.D. Ahiaga-Dagbui
Place of PublicationReading, UK
PublisherAssociation of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM)
ISBN (Print)978-0-9552390-7-6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2013
Event29th Annual Q conference 2013 - VU University, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 5 Sept 20137 Sept 2013
Conference number: 29

Publication series



Conference29th Annual Q conference 2013
Abbreviated titleARCOM 2013


  • IR-90805
  • METIS-297404


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