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  • ORGANISATIONAL LEARNING IN CONSTRUCTION:

    A FRAMEWORK FROM THE PROCESS IMPROVEMENT

    PERSPECTIVE

    Mohan Lasantha SIRIWARDENA

    Ph.D Thesis 2015

  • ORGANISATIONAL LEARNING IN CONSTRUCTION:

    A FRAMEWORK FROM THE PROCESS IMPROVEMENT

    PERSPECTIVE

    Mohan Lasantha SIRIWARDENA

    School of the Built Environment

    College of Science and Technology

    University of Salford, Salford, UK

    Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements of the Degree of

    Doctor of Philosophy, April 2015

  • Declaration

    The thesis builds on research conducted as part of the EPSRC funded SPICE

    project, a two year research programme that finished in 2005. The author was a

    research student on the project and was responsible for developing and testing the

    model through a series of case studies. The author was also involved in the

    EPSRC funded KIM research project which also investigated organisational

    knowledge and information management.

  • Dedicated to my beloved family

    for their unconditional love & patience

  • Organisational Learning in Construction: A Framework from the Process Improvement Perspective

    Abstract

    i

    Abstract

    The construction industry, one of the significant sectors of most regional and national

    economies, is being continuously urged to improve its performance at project and

    organisational level. The urgent need to improve the processes of construction

    projects and organisations has been highlighted in a number of industry reports. In

    this regard, organisational learning has been considered as essential to facilitate

    process improvement, innovation and sustaining the competitiveness of construction

    organisations, and also of the sector as a whole.

    Although there are a number of initiatives to facilitate organisational learning in

    construction contexts, literature reveals that the organisations are still finding it

    difficult to identify ways to effectively facilitate learning to improve their processes

    and performance. Therefore, this research aims to bridge the gap by developing a

    framework to facilitate organisational learning in construction contexts. In doing so,

    the process improvement perspective has been taken into consideration. Given the

    constructive nature of the research, design science was used as the overarching

    methodology. Within this overall approach, case studies were used to inform,

    develop and validate the research process and the outcomes. An extensive literature

    review, document analysis, workshops, participant observations are the key

    techniques used to achieve the research aim.

  • Organisational Learning in Construction: A Framework from the Process Improvement Perspective

    Abstract

    ii

    The main outcome of this research is the framework to facilitate organisational

    learning within construction context. The research further highlighted the complex

    adaptive nature of the construction contexts and processes, and it has been

    incorporated into the Procurer, Provider and User (PPU) framework. In addition, the

    integration of the role of process maturity and time dependent meta roles of

    stakeholders in the context of complex construction projects, to facilitate learning and

    improvement, is one the significant contributions to the body of knowledge. The

    developed framework could be adopted by any organisations, which are contracting,

    consultancy, client’s organisations and/or regulatory bodies when they seek to

    improve their processes while facilitating organisational learning. It is recommended

    that industry practitioners / strategic level decision makers take consider their time

    and stake dependent meta-role and the resultant information flows as a basis for

    evaluating and updating their current organisational processes.

    Keywords: Organisational Learning, Complex Adaptive Organisations, Process

    Improvement Framework, Construction Industry

  • Organisational Learning in Construction: A Framework from the Process Improvement Perspective

    Acknowledgements

    iii

    Acknowledgements

    I would like to express my very great appreciation to my supervisor Prof. Vian

    Ahmed, you have been a revered mentor for me. Thank you very much for all the

    encouragement, constructive suggestions, and insightful criticisms that guided this

    research.

    I offer my sincere thanks to Salford Centre for Research and Innovation (SCRI) and

    the research team for their tremendous support, friendship and the learning

    opportunities provided.

    I am most grateful to Prof. Lauri Koskela, Prof. Marjan Sharsha, Prof. Michail

    Kagioglou, Prof. Dilanthi Amaratunga, Prof. Richard Haigh, Dr. John Rooke and Prof.

    Ghassan Aouad for their generosity and encouragement.

    The advice offered by the academic staff and the friendship rendered by non-

    academic staff of the School of the Built Environment, and Postgraduate research

    office, University of Salford is also sincerely acknowledged.

    Very special thanks go out to all who helped me in numerous ways by giving

    permission to get access to confidential information of case studies that I used within

    this study.

    I would especially like to thank the Committee members of the Association of

    Professional Sri Lankans in the UK for their genuine support and encouragement.

  • Organisational Learning in Construction: A Framework from the Process Improvement Perspective

    Acknowledgements

    iv

    I owe my deepest gratitude to my family, beloved father, mother, and wife for their

    endless love, moral and emotional support.

    A very big thank you to all my colleagues who have always being there to support

    and encourage me.

    Last, but not least, I regret my inability to mention the names of many others who

    helped me to fulfil this effort.

    Thank you.

    Mohan Siriwardena

  • Organisational Learning in Construction: A Framework from the Process Improvement Perspective

    Table of Figures

    v

    Table of Contents

    Abstract ........................................................................................................................ i

    Acknowledgements .................................................................................................... iii

    Table of Contents ........................................................................................................ v

    Table of Figures .......................................................................................................... x

    List of Tables ............................................................................................................. xii

    Abbreviations ............................................................................................................ xiii

    Chapter One ................................................................................................................ 1

    1. INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................. 1

    1.1 Background and rationale ........................................................................... 1

    1.1.1 Need for industry improvement ............................................................ 2

    1.1.2 Need for process improvement in construction .................................... 4

    1.1.3 Importance of learning in construction organisations ........................... 4

    1.1.4 Complex adaptive nature of construction context ................................. 9

    1.2 Research Problem / gap in knowledge ..................................................... 11

    1.3 Aim and Objectives ................................................................................... 11

    1.4 Methodological steps ................................................................................ 12

    1.5 Scope and delimitation .............................................................................. 17

    1.6 Contribution to knowledge......................................................................... 17

    1.7 Structure of the thesis ............................................................................... 18

    Chapter Two .............................................................................................................. 20

    2. ORGANISATIONAL LEARNING .................................................................... 20

    2.1 Introduction to chapter two ........................................................................ 20

    2.2 Historical overview of learning in organisations ........................................ 20

  • Organisational Learning in Construction: A Framework from the Process Improvement Perspective

    Table of Figures

    vi

    2.3 Organisational learning ............................................................................. 28

    2.3.1 Technical perspectiv

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