managing change in construction projects: a knowledge-based approach
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This article was downloaded by: [University of Western Ontario]On: 03 June 2014, At: 02:47Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Construction Management and EconomicsPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcme20
Managing Change in Construction Projects: AKnowledge-based ApproachRussell Kenley aa Swinburne University of Technology , AustraliaPublished online: 28 Feb 2012.
To cite this article: Russell Kenley (2012) Managing Change in Construction Projects: A Knowledge-based Approach,Construction Management and Economics, 30:2, 179-180, DOI: 10.1080/01446193.2012.655751
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01446193.2012.655751
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Managing Change in Construction Projects: A
Sepani Senaratne and Martin Sexton, Wiley-Blackwell,
200 pp., ISBN 978 1 4443 3515 6, 74.99 (hb)
Managing Change in Construction Projects is a book that
seems not to know its purpose. It is a beautifully writ-
ten research publication, but one that presents in the
style of a PhD or major research project, and seems
well described by the abstract for the first authors
thesis, although no such acknowledgement or refer-
ence is given. Indeed, as an academic, I eventually
suspended my attempts to read it as a book and
instead read the work as a thesis. This indicates that
the audience is limited to those interested in highly
structured research publications. This is a shame,
because those who fail to persevere will miss out on a
great deal of valuable information. For the research
student, this will be a very useful reference and it can
provide the foundation for much subsequent research.
In contrast, this is not a book for practitioners.
The title of the book misled me; I inferred that the
book would be about change management: the pro-
cess of managing change in people and processes.
This reflects reader bias as much as imprecision in
the title. The book actually targets managing reactive
change in construction projects, as it discusses varia-
tions or change orders that occur during the construc-
tion phase of a project.
As a research publication the book is well struc-
tured, if concise. The chapters follow a structured
Key issues from the literature
Case study results
The work draws heavily on knowledge management
literature as it may be applied to change in construc-
tion projects and develops models for knowledge-
based reactive change management.
The short introduction rapidly builds a powerful
case for the investigation and leads directly into the
literature review. This is an exhaustive review of the
nature of construction, the nature of change, the nat-
ure of change in construction, knowledge manage-
ment and its role in reactive change processes. This
erudite chapter is well worth the time devoted. As a
reference, it will be both informative and interesting.
However, a dichotomy emerges which is never
The work discusses change from the premise of a
dictionary definition and draws upon organizational
change literature. However, as one is drawn through
the argument, it becomes apparent that the changes
included in the scope of the subsequent research are
much more limited: to reactive changes (variations or
change orders). One is left wondering at the connec-
tion between managing change in organizations and
managing reactive change events.
Further, the literature draws upon previous work
identifying the likely causes of reactive change, but
does not resolve the separation of client-driven change
and change required due to errors (whether design or
construction). As such, the fundamental premise
comes into question.
The work implies that knowledge management can
improve our capacity to manage or prevent change
events, although the mechanism is not clear. This is a
reasonable premise. Certainly one can see that knowl-
edge has a role in preventing errors. However, the
connection between knowledge management and pre-
venting a client from making design changes (request-
ing a variation to the design) is never established nor,
I suspect, can it be.
So the work must necessarily deal with changes
arising from mistakes. Chapter 4 discusses the meth-
odology for the investigation. This provides a fairly
typical case-based design. Surprisingly, however, the
design only includes three cases. Cases were supposed
to be theoretically significant cases such as represen-
tative, disconfirming and/or extreme cases. Here,
representative cases were chosen, but the selection is
not representative of reactive change, nor indeed par-
ticularly interesting. Certainly they were not cases
that, on the surface, would reveal any inherent truths
Construction Management and EconomicsISSN 0144-6193 print/ISSN 1466-433X online
Construction Management and Economics (February 2012) 30, 179187
about the role of knowledge management in managing
The cases were:
A change in floor specification required to preventoperational disruption to the owners businessanimpact of which the contractor had previouslyadvised the client, yet the advice (knowledge) wasignored until construction. This, as a client change,arose too late to prevent disruption.
Incorrect installation height of whiteboards due toa design change (client request) and failure of pro-cesses of documenting and following up the change(the change was neglected). This is a process error,where a design change failed to be activatedbecause a proper process was not followed.
Change in location of radiant panels due to adesign error. This is a change arising from identify-ing a design error during construction.
While each case is different, it is difficult to accept
that one case of each type is sufficient to draw conclu-
sions about that type of change. Further, while the
cases may be representative, they do not seem repre-
sentative of changes that would have benefited from
The results and cross-case analysis chapters make a
compelling and interesting case. The book benefits
from innovative cognitive maps illustrating the various
situations and strategies provided by the literature.
For those interested in detailed observations of knowl-
edge theory applied to cases of reactive change in
construction, this does not disappoint. The chapter
develops models of such issues as knowledge
properties during change, knowledge identification,
intra-project knowledge creation and inter-project
The book concludes with a summary of the
research propositions and models of knowledge flows
during reactive project change, enablers and barriers
in knowledge-based reactive change process and
draws the theory together in some really cool dia-
grams illustrating the prevalent reactive change pro-
cess and a knowledge-based reactive change process.
Overall I think the work has considerable merit and
is a sound use of theory and research method to
develop powerful models for knowledge-based reac-
tive change management. However, it fails to con-
vince in the sample size and in the range of change
contexts analysed. Furth