1 - Chalmers tekniska högskola


1 - Chalmers tekniska högskola

English summary (extended)

This thesis is the result of an Industrial PhD project conducted in cooperation between the university and

NCC Construction Denmark – one of the largest contractors in Denmark. The specific purpose is to examine

how failures and defects are produced and handled in the social practices of construction projects in order

to make changes and thereby reducing the extent of failure in the building processes. As a result of the re-

search design and the rooting of the study in the company the thesis contributes with an in-depth understand-

ing of the relationship between the structural premises and the actions and decision-making of the project

managers and craftsmen on construction projects. The premise is that failure and defects cannot be seen as

isolated incidents, but must be regarded as a correlation between the successful as well as the faulty process-

es. The key contributions of the thesis are the expansion of the understanding of:

Failures and defects; how routines and experiences in addition to helping to reduce the extent of fail-

ures and defects, also can be seen as instrumental in producing and maintaining a certain level of failure.

Practices of problem solving; the study highlights reactive and proactive problem-solving practices as

being important for the completion of the construction project. Problem-solving practices are often

forced into reactive problem solving.

Unintended consequences of routinized practices; elaborated through a) lack of knowledge sharing

beyond the project boundaries, b) the reproduction of project participants as powerful problem-solvers

and c) the reproduction of an "acceptable" level of failures and defects.

The research project is designed as an abductive research process where theory and empirical data inform

each other in iterations. Based on Alvesson & Sköldberg (2000) a reflexive qualitative methodology is

adopted with interpretation on four hermeneutic levels, acknowledging the need for various types of interpre-

tations. The empirical material consists of a collection of written background material and a 15-month eth-

nographic field study comprised of workplace observations and qualitative interviews. The thesis is primarily

sociological but represents an interdisciplinary approach through elements of an engineer-scientific approach

applied for understanding the rationality of management, the habitus of engineering as well as planning.

The theoretical framework enables the central analysis that includes the underlying structures as well as the

processes of structuration. It enables the understanding and analysis of the actions of the agents in the con-

struction processes through the combination of processual elements with elements of stability (structures).

The thesis’ main theory is Anthony Giddens theory of structuration (e.g. Giddens 1984) which is adapted to

the empirical analysis primarily on basis of Rob Stones 'strong structuration project' (Stones, 2005). The so-

cial practice is the mediating term between action and structure and describes the relationship between

agent, action and structure in a duality of structure where the three concepts are mutually related. Structures

are both the medium and the outcome of the process and are considered both constraining and enabling and

as embedded in the agent - and may change over the course of time. On the basis of structures the social

practice constitutes individuals as conscious, knowledgeable agents and through “activities agents reproduce

the conditions that makes these activities possible” (Giddens 1984; 2). I.e. structures are reproduced, or per-

haps reinforced or transformed - often unconsciously, which is described as an unintended consequence of

social practices.


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