Decision making in construction projects

Abstract: The thesis draws the focus to the construction project organization and the decisions that are taken to advance the project towards its purpose. Decisions are seen as thrusts towards the purpose, the client's peak in the fitness landscape, and they are taken to cross the chasm between the current and the goal state. Decisions take place in the system of the construction project, and are subject to the complexity of the system. The thesis sets out to find out what decision making in construction projects is and how decisions should be made in order to bring a construction project to its purpose effectively. The impact of complexity in construction projects is included in the study and seen as an important perspective for understanding real-life decision making in construction projects.  The thesis studies two sizeable construction projects, with the unit of analysis set on a decision and the unit of observation on the system. In order to study decision making the organization, meetings and complexity of the projects are mapped in addition to the decisions. The decisions are analysed using a categorization to three echelons, namely primary, key and operational decisions. Primary decisions are defined in the thesis as the "why" behind an endeavour, while key decisions direct how the project should be executed and operational decisions translate to what is done. The primary source of data is 15 open-ended interviews, but also observations and documentation are used extensively.  The thesis finds out that despite the differences in characteristics of the different echelons of decision making, five key aspects can be seen to underlie effective decision making: purpose, direction, integration, systems thinking and proficiency. The purpose of the client has to be present in the project, the direction of the project has to be communicated clearly to the project organization, and the project organization has to be integrated around the direction of the project and collaborate in order to hit the same, moving target. Proficiency of the actors is needed to execute the direction, and systems thinking capabilities of the project management team steer the project towards its purpose through the surrounding complexity.

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