Infrastructure System-of-Systems (I-SoS ) Research Group

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Conference Proceeding


Investigation of the performance of engineering project organizations is critical for understanding and eliminating inefficiencies in today’s dynamic global markets. The existing theoretical frameworks consider project organizations as monolithic systems and attribute the performance of project organizations to the characteristics of the constituents. However, project organizations consist of complex interdependent networks of agents, information, and resources whose interactions give rise to emergent properties that affect the overall performance of project organizations. Yet, our understanding of the emergent properties in project organizations and their impact on project performance is rather limited. This limitation is one of the major barriers towards creation of integrated theories of performance assessment in project organizations. The objective of this paper is to investigate the emergent properties that affect the ability of project organization to cope with uncertainty. Based on the theories of complex systems, we propose and test a novel framework in which the likelihood of performance variations in project organizations could be investigated based on the environment of uncertainty (i.e., static complexity, dynamic complexity, and external source of disruption) as well as the emergent properties (i.e., absorptive capacity, adaptive capacity, and restorative capacity) of project organizations. The existence and significance of different dimensions of the environment of uncertainty and emergent properties in the proposed framework are tested based on the analysis of the information collected from interviews with senior project managers in the construction industry. The outcomes of this study provide a novel theoretical lens for proactive bottom-up investigation of performance in project organizations at the interface of emergent properties and uncertainty



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