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The construction industry as a loosely coupled system: implications for productivity and innovation

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  • Anna Dubois
  • Lars-Erik Gadde

Abstract

Previous research suggests that the construction industry is characterized by (1) particular complexity factors owing to industry specific uncertainties and interdependences, and (2) inefficiency of operations. The aim of this study was to analyse the operations and behaviour of firms as a means of dealing with complexity. The observations made indicate that the industry as a whole is featured as a loosely coupled system. Taking this as a starting point, the couplings among activities, resources and actors were analysed in different dimensions. The pattern of couplings builds on two interdependent layers: tight couplings in individual projects and loose couplings based on collective adaptations in the permanent network. It is concluded that the pattern of couplings seems to favour short term productivity while hampering innovation and learning.

Suggested Citation

  • Anna Dubois & Lars-Erik Gadde, 2002. "The construction industry as a loosely coupled system: implications for productivity and innovation," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(7), pages 621-631.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:conmgt:v:20:y:2002:i:7:p:621-631
    DOI: 10.1080/01446190210163543
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Low Sui Pheng & Mok Sze Hui, 1999. "The application of JIT philosophy to construction: a case study in site layout," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(5), pages 657-668.
    2. Kreiner, Kristian, 1995. "In search of relevance: Project management in drifting environments," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 335-346, December.
    3. Mazin Shammas-Toma & David Seymour & Leslie Clark, 1998. "Obstacles to implementing total quality management in the UK construction industry," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(2), pages 177-192.
    4. Kadefors, Anna, 1995. "Institutions in building projects: Implications for flexibility and change," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 395-408, December.
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