Effective team working across disciplines is essential to solve the technological and managerial problems associated with construction projects. However, while it is widely accepted that this method of working is critical to the achievement organisational goals, it is a poorly understood process. Generic best practice recipes on how to improve team work in collaborative projects appears to have had limited impact on performance. Unless the realities of implementing and managing such joint endeavours are conceptualised and articulated in a manner that reflects the actual processes and patterns of behaviour, multi-disciplinary team working will remain a poorly understood working model.
The goal of this work was to develop a conceptual framework that visualises the real success factors of multi-disciplinary working so that practitioners can apply a new understanding of predictable processes and patterns of behaviours to improve collaborative project outcomes. To achieve this, the project started with an exploration of critical success factors in multi-disciplinary design projects, encompassing extensive interviewing, workshops and a survey followed by a grounded theory (GT) study of collaborative working in six multi-disciplinary design projects. The switch to GT methodology offered possibilities to further probe into the dynamics of multi-disciplinary team working from the perspective of the team members.
The findings show that team working in multi-disciplinary design projects can be explained through the social process of informalising. Informalising refers to the strategies practitioners use to cope with the multiple pressures and unforeseen demands that pervade the collaborative design environments. It portrays the relevance of managing of expectations and value-judging to remain effective and efficient in the face of change and uncertainty. These are critical factors that influence the project trajectory and experience of those involved. Alongside these results the work also demonstrates the importance of so called super soft factors such as shared values, creativity and innovation and passion and enthusiasm to achieve positive project outcomes.
Overall, recognising that the process of informalising forms an essential part of cultivating collaboration, and hence getting the work done, more attention should be given to understand such activity in today s turbulent and transient project organisations. Knowledge and understanding of this form of emergent and improvisational strategy may enable managers to predict and control patterns of behaviour inherent in the management of collaborative design projects, and positively influence project outcomes in terms of perceived value and profit.
A dissertation thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree Doctor of Engineering (EngD), at Loughborough University.