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Abadi, M (2005) Issues and challenges in communication within design teams in the construction industry: Investigation the use of virtual teams and information and communication technologies in the UK construction industry, Unpublished PhD Thesis, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester.

  • Type: Thesis
  • Keywords: best practice; communication; manufacturing; teamwork; professional; design process; fragmentation; organizational culture; case study; interview; questionnaire survey; organisational structure
  • URL: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.488315
  • Abstract:
    This study is concerned with communication in the UK construction industry. This industry has long been criticised for its fragmented nature. This nature makes achieving effective communications between all project partners more difficult than in other industries. It has been reported in the literature that new forms of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have provided the foundation for innovative forms of organisational structures and methods of team working e. g. network organisations and virtual teams. Virtual teams (VT) have been successfully used in many other industries e.g. manufacturing, high technology, and professional services industries. Many reports in the UK construction industry, e.g. Egan Report (1998) and Latham Report (1994), have called on the industry to re-engineer its processes and learn from other industries' best practice. Reviewing the literature reveals that the virtual teams concept has not received significant attention in the construction industry. Of relevance here is that the existing literature shows the adoption of this new concept and associated ICTs into construction processes not to be a trouble-free process. The adoption process involves many issues and challenges. This study provides a deep insight into this under-researched field. It looks specifically at the day-to-day issues and challenges a virtual design team operating in the construction industry may encounter. Gaining a deeper understanding of the way issues develop and interact will help organisations considering the adoption of the VT concept to avoid these issues, or at the very least mitigate their effects. The methodology combines a questionnaire survey, semi-structured interviews and a case study analysis was implemented. This approach is especially designed to show an appreciation of the context in which the VT operates. Firstly, a questionnaire survey was conducted to explore the degree to which VTs are used in the construction industry. It also aims to capture practitioners' views about different aspects of virtual teamwork, and the suitability of different processes regarding the adoption of VT working. Findings reveal that a significant percentage of the survey respondents believe that amongst all other processes, the design process is the most relevant process for the application of VTs and associated ICTs. Hence, the next step was to locate a virtual design team in the construction industry willing to take part in the research. As a follow up to the questionnaire, the case study was undertaken. Data were collected through a series of semi-structured interviews that aimed to capture the day-to-day experience of practitioners in different design groups involved in the design of this project and identify main issues and challenges that the virtual design team had encountered. Findings reveal that there are several areas of challenge facing virtual design teams operating in the construction industry, namely: communication, technology, and organizational culture. These challenges have also resulted in many managerial and operational issues. These issues, their causes and their interactions are explicated and examined in this thesis. Two main conclusions are derived at the conclusion of the thesis. Firstly, the highly fragmented nature of the industry is defeating all attempts by the industry to deal with its effects. It was found that all issues that the design team has encountered could be linked to the fragmentation of the virtual design team. Secondly, there is an urgent need for the construction industry to unlearn itself in both the organisational and individual levels in order to become more adaptive and successfully adopt new technologies and methods of working. Finally, some success factors related to the main areas of challenge discussed above are provided.