Communication And Collaboration In Project Success Construction Essay

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Construction related projects have a complex and unique nature. This complexity comes from the participation of numerous team-players as well as the need to control and coordinate independent team efforts within limitations of time in order to achieve a common goal that is completing the project successfully. Executing a project successfully depends on all the players involved; if they effectively and efficiently communicate by exchanging information in a timely way only then projects can be successfully completed. Throughout all the steps of project execution important information is formed and disseminated. (Becerik, 2006). Mutual sharing and synchronization of information or knowledge exchange between different team-members call for extensive, readily available, and manageable 'project management and collaboration system' (PMCS). A PMCS that is web-based will present multiple benefits for projects due to their ability to transmit quick and reliable data. The PMCS' unique project management abilities allow organized storage and updating of information; additionally PMCS provides the sharing of vital and fragmented information, all in a very organized way. Why PMCS defined here and why use this one

Many issues affect the success of a project, yet there is sure proof of success based on efficient communication and cooperation and collaboration between team-members. Sending and receiving information is communication; this enables understanding of one another. Common definitions of communication given by Hoyland et al., 1953 and Ruesch and Bateson, 1961 quoted in Miller, 2004 gives that "communication is the process by which an individual transmits stimuli to modify the behavior of other individuals". Another definition states that, "Communication does not refer to verbal, explicit and intentional transmission of messages alone. The concept of communication would include all those processes by which people influence one another", Ruesch and Bateson, 2004.

The theory on communication defines three key elements of communication. These three elements have to be present for communication; these are the sender, the receiver, and the presence of a message. The message must be conveyed through a medium while the receiver must interpret the received message so as to understand its meaning. The medium used is important to communication since it affects the process of decoding. Decoding the message correctly is important since it stands to give the meaning as is intended by the sender. It is important to realize at this point that everyone is different with different perceptions and interpretations of situations (Miller, 2004).

Since people have different perceptions, team members of a project have diverse ways oral and written communication; team players also listen and comprehend situations in various ways, all leading to communication problems (Koskinen, 2004). Certain obstacles and filters may have key roles in comprehending the actual message. Barriers or obstacles usually root from the existing mind-state of the person receiving the message; these barriers to correct interpretation of the message might be biasness, prejudice or emotions, it may very well be the lack of technical and educational understanding needed (Thomas et al., 1998).

Eliminating all human and technical barriers or obstacles is rather impossible in order to have effective communication, but creating formal, systemized communication set-up can much enhance project performance. This will overall minimize or almost mitigate distortions in effective communication. Good collaboration is dependant on effective communication. Communication may be necessary for collaboration but the reverse is not necessarily true; communication still takes place in absence of collaboration between team members, this means collaboration advances to realize common goals through extra-durable relationships and in presence of complete commitment of team-members (Laepple, 2005). Collaboration can be lasting if specific issues exist as part of the relation. Laepple, 2005 quotes Lorenz et al and says that collaboration constitutes mainly the presence of a common goal or objective, a joint paradigm, the existence of respect among and across all members, and of course the major element that is effective communication to be present.

In regard to construction projects, common goal or purpose would be safe and timely execution of the project within the bounds of the given budget and quality. Collaboration means nothing without purpose. Joint paradigm, though points to the methods and practices generally acceptable to all teams and team-members trying to realize common goals. Here, it is noteworthy that everyone shares different values and these values must also be widely accepted within the working teams.

It is important that collaboration exists before the rise of disputes or disagreements and problems in a project; it should, therefore be the foundational element of a project so as to avoid the afore-mentioned issues or any others that may come up (Larson, 1997). For this to be done team-building processes that conjoin the associated parties so as to give a clear picture of both the communication strategies as well as collaboration strategies and to make clear ways in which conflicts and disputes can be avoided well before they arise (Larson, 1997). One more essential factor for successful collaboration is the attitude of the management when faced by serious problem(s) (Larson, 1997). The managements' attitude and behavior must be in conformance with the principles of collaboration, namely trust, openness and combined teamwork (Larson, 1997).

When productivity deficiencies occur, the first culprits are communication and collaboration (FMI, 2004). FMI conducts the CIPS-Construction Industry Productivity Survey which states communication and/or collaboration issues as major challenges for the improvement of levels of productivity. This paper uses Wideman's (1991) terminologies suggesting that 'buyer organization' corresponds to 'project sponsor', and 'seller/implementer organization' corresponds to 'project manager'. These terms will be synonymously used throughout the study, i.e. buyer/seller and project sponsor or manager.

The TCE theory centers around the degree of 'individual transaction' that translates 'input' to required 'output', for instance the establishment of an IT-based system for the improvement of an organization's internal efficiency. TCE roots in economics; it gives rationales on whether to 'make' a product or 'buy' it from the market. There are two situations whether either there is more control making a 'fit for purpose' in reducing unwanted costs associated to a product but having higher costs of management; or the other situation where prices are reduced by economies of scale as well as competing by price.

Transaction costs are minimized by handing over transactions (each with different attributes) to governance structures (each with different capacities and different costs) (Williamson 1985, p. 18). TCE suggests that firms adjust their governance structures in order to attain lowest possible transaction costs. Resistance in physical systems corresponds to transaction costs in economic context; Transaction costs arise from complexity of buyer-seller relationship and the impracticality of developing and agreeing on contracts that are well-detailed enough to aptly form this relationship. For reducing transaction costs, the TCE theory suggests a high degree of asset specificity, and further suggests that incomplete contracts direct towards 'make product' decisions, while lower degree of asset specificity direct towards 'buy product' decisions (Adler et al. 1998).

The construction business relies heavily on information. The information used can generally be categorized as structured data and unstructured data (Caldas et al., 2005). Database systems are used to generate structured data; the database system uses structures and formats that are predetermined (Caldas et al., 2005). Structured data brings about standardization while improving interoperability of computational systems (Caldas et al., 2005). PMCS-the Project Management and Collaboration Systems contain different modules which use both structured and unstructured data; structured data is present in the 'cost control module'. The PCMS users do not have much control of the system, though realistically, most documents generated by the system (for construction projects) can be classified as unstructured data based on text-documents like contracts, reports and amendment orders etc. (Froese, 2003). Although such documents are classified as unstructured data, but most PMCS that are web-based classify them as partially structured. Constructware, a web-based PMCS( Project Management Control Systems presents standard modules to create and track daily reports and change orders as well as RFIs.( Request for Information ) Through this team-members can see and edit a standard document, which allows for interoperability between different computers. Despite this, researchers disagree that it is only a reproduction of the text document on different computer systems and does not offer an actual solution to handle complex data (Maoa et al., 2006). A lot of studies have been conducted where common data models have been developed so as to regularize and form one universal methodology to handle structured as well as unstructured data within the construction industry. IFC, the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) has been developed by AII-the International Alliance for Interoperability (Froese, 2003). CAD drawings are present in AutoCAD format, these are used by widely in the construction industry; two kinds of informational documents are supported by such formats these are:

this is also a factor discouraging the invention of new technology and its adoption. Technology in-acceptance is mainly due to technological and financial risks felt by the employees who work in the construction industry (Tatum 1989). In-acceptance of technology construction companies poses a major threat to the construction industry. This is affecting productivity levels greatly and supporting the culture that is already change-resistant. A comparison of US and Korea in terms of information technology adoption is under-taken by Williams et al. (2007). These researchers reflect on how IT technologies are almost obsolete in over 150 US-based construction companies. Almost 50% or more have no usage of web conferencing or web portals. These companies have never used barcode scanning and do not have knowledge of e-learning or e-bid; similarly they have never used geographic information systems-GIS or geographic positioning systems-GPS.

An article named "Forces driving adoption of new information technologies" by Mitropoulos and Tatum written in the year 2000 aims at identifying and analyzing internal and external factors that affect technology adoption within the construction industry. Internal factors arise within the organization and external factors come from the project owner or arise from competition. They have studied eight different companies; three of those are mechanical contractors whereas two of them are general contractors. These companies are large with even larger revenues averaging over US$100M. Technologies chosen by the authors are the CAD and the EDI, Electronic Data Interchange technologies and Radio Frequency Identification( RFID cards are important requirements of warehouses so that the stores available for issue are automatically updated in project ) Mitropoulos and Tatum have defined four important triggers for adopting technology; these are:

Multiple studies have created frameworks to transfer knowledge, for learning and for diffusing new innovations into different areas of the construction industry (Egbu, 2005; Maqsood et al., 2007; Walker et al., 2004; Chinowsky et al., 2007; Anumba et al., 2005 Chinowsky and Carrillo, 2007;). Nonetheless, these frameworks are especially focused and set to a process lacking in consideration of their effect on project management and social relationships. An obstacle to knowledge transfer, its learning or innovations may be linked with certain characteristics of construction industry like short-term labor contracts; fragmentation of a project by functions; short-term coalitions of teams; contract arrangements; poor coordination between project partners; adversarial relationships etc. (Slaughter, 1998; DoreeandHolmen,2004; Dubois and Gadde, 2002;). Ling (2003) states four factors having vital effects on technological innovations in construction. They are:

Baiden et al. in 2006, defines project integration as, "different disciplines or organizations with different goals, needs and cultures merge into a single cohesive and mutually supporting unit with collaborative alignment of processes and cultures". Although integration, in the context of construction refers to, "collaborative working practices, methods and behaviors that promote an environment where information is freely exchanged among the various parties". An integrated team environment is one where different expertise and information are collectively shared; traditional obstacles or barriers that separate the design process and the construction activities from each other are removed in order to enhance project delivery (Baiden et al., 2003; Austin et al., 2002;). As within the context of this paper, a completely integrated team, aims towards the project with a single clear focus and objectives; there exist no boundaries or limits between team members and they aim to achieve mutual benefits through information sharing and collaboration. Integration is a means to provide a verifiable way to improve the effectivity in teamwork effectivity in performance of the project delivery team (Strategic Forum for Construction, 2003; Constructing Excellence, 2004b; Achieving Excellence in Construction, 2003; Egan, 2002; DBF, 2000; Payne et al., 2003;).

Due to the complicated nature of construction projects and the variety of skills that are used in a construction-related project require that members be teamed-up in order to carry out work successfully (Harris et al., 2006; Bower, 2003; Gould, 2002;). Team-work enables use of the pool of skills for achieving optimum levels productivity (Conti and Kleiner, 1997; Constructing Excellence, 2004b ;). Creating teams does not necessarily ensure work effectivity, neither does it ensure apt decision-making. Team-work does not always have to take effect when people are grouped together, but instead even two people simply comuunicating together is also a kind of team-work; this means for any kind of work to be carried out team-work is inevitable (Samuel, 1996). Based on the definition for teamwork, it stresses the need for coordination and cooperation by team-members working and directing efforts towards common goals and objectives (Dickinson and McIntyre, 1997; Conti and Kleiner, 1997; Scarnati, 2001). However, team-work usually is taken for granted since it is considered to be a core of forming teams (Scarnati, 2001; Hayes, 2002;). This concept effects the effectivity specifically within a multidisciplinary environment like construction; in the construction industry activities are carried out by individuals having a variety of skills in an organization where knowledge must be shared to make optimum decisions (Steward and Barrick, 2000; Baker and Salas, 1997;). Less focus is given to compatibility, because project teams are usually created keeping competition in mind (Luca & Tarricone 2002). Members of a team want to maximize profit for the organization, yet this will lead to conflicts within the team. This means that the significance of teamwork is ignored while teams carry out project objectives in order to maximize profits; also this promotes co-ordination, it leads to innovation, as well as providing a basis for horizontal communication with flexibility in all issues (Hayes, 2002; Ankrah et al., 2009; Gould, 2002). McIntyre & Dickinson-1997 have identified seven major elements for teamwork that are significant for improvement to take place in any context. These elements are: