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A critique of conceptions of design and management in construction projects


  • David Boyd
  • David Bentley


Construction is about changing the world in the future from our intentions. This involves organizing and manipulating the physical and social world through design, management and craft. These require thinking about the desired end product but also the means of achieving it. Thinking is set in social norms, here called pre-conceptualizations, which configure our conceptions and give them social validity, forming expectations of what can happen and how to improve it. The conventional pre-conceptualization of construction design and management is critiqued using a case study. This pre-conceptualization is shown to be backward looking where the future is assumed to be like the past and knowledge is ascribed to individuals. The causes of failure then appear evident and knowable inducing maladaptive management and blame of individuals. However, design/management is in reality forward looking; events cannot be seen with such significance looking into the future. Two alternative pre-conceptualizations are presented and their implications explored. The first acknowledges evolution, which works against intent, thus explaining deviations. The second involves complexity science where intentions are emergent phenomena and socially constituted, thus explaining improvisation and improvement. In conclusion, new pre-conceptualizations are required to avoid blame cultures, facilitate creative solutions and develop enduring improvements.

Suggested Citation

  • David Boyd & David Bentley, 2012. "A critique of conceptions of design and management in construction projects," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(6), pages 441-454, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:conmgt:v:30:y:2012:i:6:p:441-454
    DOI: 10.1080/01446193.2012.688136

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