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af Hällström, A and Bosch-Sijtsema, P (2021) The Dark Side of Collaboration: The Risks of Strong Ties in Collaborative Project Networks. In: Scott, L and Neilson, C J (Eds.), Proceedings 37th Annual ARCOM Conference, 6-7 September 2021, UK, Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 402-411.
- Type: Conference Proceedings
- Keywords: collaboration, large-scale infrastructure, collaborative project management model, project management, project network, ties
- URL: http://www.arcom.ac.uk/-docs/proceedings/8a7c3f7a0f5342da55c7f33f282df985.pdf
Collaborative project delivery models (CPDMs) have been introduced as a way of managing infrastructure projects to improve the adversarial mindset characteristic for the field and improve project outcomes. A plethora of valuable research exists pertaining to the relevance and benefits of increased collaboration, but is all collaboration positive? A recent rise in the interest in social networks and their impact on project implementation has highlighted the need for further research into the structure of project networks. We apply a project network lens to study the strength of collaboration in infrastructure projects in which CPDM is applied to increase collaboration. We have conducted a pre-study using a collaborative way of working and two case study projects utilising a CPDM during 2019-2020. The data consists of interviews, observations and document analysis. We found that strong ties between individuals enable rapid information exchange and build trust within the network, but if the initialising phase is incomplete, it can be hard to include all participants later on in the process. Strong ties can also become over-embedded, resulting in a restricted project network and a constricted information flow. This is an interesting aspect to consider especially in long-term, major projects, where a certain relocation or reassignment of people is to be expected during the project’s life cycle. Another aspect to consider is the need for the project manager to rely on interpersonal relationships (i.e. strong ties) for efficient leadership as they lack traditional tools to manage project participants originating from other organisations, such as contractual ties. While strong ties are reported to bring several benefits, such as rapid information exchange and trust, they also carry risks restricting network development which become relevant for the application of CPDMs in large scale projects.