In order to manage project complexity and uncertainty, traditional project management literature has placed great emphasis on technical issues such as planning, scheduling, risk analysis and project management techniques, however, there is growing recognition of ‘self-organized’ and relational forms of governance in projects. Increasingly, contemporary management scholars are viewing the project coalition as a temporary (social) network involving a group of interdependent actors who interact and collaborate towards the delivery of the project objectives (Dubois and Gadde, 2000). These interactions often take place through non-contractual, multi-functional and self-organizing networks of individuals, organizations and supply chain actors temporarily brought together through project-related common tasks with flows of materials, information and financial resources.
Network theory (in a broad sense) is a dominant theoretical paradigm in management research and has contributed new insight to management culture and practice in various areas such as facilitating knowledge circulation and creation, improving firms’ governance, boosting individual careers; facilitating the success of entrepreneurial ventures and composing and managing teams. It offers a powerful analytical tool for capturing, analysing and visualising complex construction projects and their interacting individuals and organizations.
Having said that, studies adopting a network-analytical perspective remain scarce in the construction management domain (Hossain and Wu, 2009; Kratzer et al., 2010) compared to other management disciplines (Balkundi and Harrison, 2006). Therefore, the intention of this special issue is to continue the dialogue between the two fields of network theory and construction management with the aim of stimulating theory development and providing empirical insight on building effective project and supply chain networks.
Social networks in construction provide the overarching theme and empirical phenomena for this special issue and the context is effective project delivery. Network theory (including several perspectives such as social network approach, actor-network theory, industrial network approach, strategic networks, etc.) offer opportunities to develop and challenge many of the prevailing thinking related to projects and construction:
- A social network approach enables better understanding of the role and the importance of informal social structures that operate “behind the chart” in organizational contexts. The use of social network analysis (SNA) can reveal the formal and informal organisational structures and the communication patterns in projects.
- A social network approach enables better understanding of the role and the importance of informal social structures that operate “behind the chart” in organizational contexts. The use of social network analysis can reveal the formal and informal organisational structures and the communication patterns in projects.
- Collaboration often takes place through networks of informal relations rather than channels strictly dictated by formal contractual agreements or reporting structures.
- Dyadic contractual relationships established at tender stages makes an incomplete contribution to effective project delivery, particularly in complex projects. The social network structure can have a significant influence on substantive outcome and performance in construction projects.
- The transition from mobilised resources to successful project delivery teams dedicated to project function delivery is a complex transition.
Contributions are also invited that examine how the construction context can afford new insights into network theories. The complex project environment prevailing in construction provides the opportunity to study spatio-temporal effects in network topographical terms. Applications might include spatio-temporal studies relating to risk, the effective application of resources, and issues of coordination in design and project delivery. Temporal heterogeneity in construction projects and project event choreography have important spatio-temporal aspects that have yet to be explored but which have considerable potential through the application of SNA.
The work of Clegg and his colleagues (2006) on the agentic nature of networks has underlined the association between the organization of social relations in social networks and the implications for individual agency, with power conceived as the outcome of the organization of social relations. Agents are seen to retain power in so far as they are relationally constituted to do so. This raises questions as to what relational elements of social networks (e.g. relations of meaning and relations of production) are constituent of power in construction projects? How do these, or other elements, come together to create a ‘relational field of force’? What are broader power implications at social network levels? What is the empirical evidence for this? What are the implications for value creation and innovation, for example?
At the applied level, the relevance of network theory to construction management practice needs to be clearly articulated. Indeed, much of the recent literature on networks in the construction management literature fails to unpack the associated managerial and policy implications of taking a network-theoretic lens to the built environment and its transient intra and extra-project relationships. This Special Issue present opportunity to do so in the construction context.
A network view of projects provides the distinct focus for this Special Issue allowing authors a broad remit within this area. The proposed topics for substantive inclusion in the Special Issue could link social network concepts to issues and theories found in the construction management literature. Issues that contributors may wish to cover can include (but are not confined to):
- Knowledge, Learning and Innovation in Networks
- Social capital, Embeddedness and Influence in Networks
- Marketing and Business Development Networks.
- Networks and sustainable development in Construction.
- A social network approach to understanding stakeholders and their inter-relationships in projects.
- Networks of Risk Transfer and Value Creation.
- Organisation and Coordination Issues.
- Trading and Buyer-Seller Networks in Construction
- Game Theory, Asymmetric Information, Bargaining and Power in Networks
- Negative Relationships in Networks
- Network Evolution
Number of papers and types of contribution
The editors are seeking 12-18 papers for this Special Issue. The number accepted will be tempered to ensure high quality. Contributions may be papers, notes, letters, book reviews or obituaries, in order to provide a balanced and complete issue of the journal. As a guide we are seeking:
- 1 Editorial
- 2-3 Review papers
- 7-12 Research papers
- 1 Research note
It is not expected that any one author will have more than one paper accepted as sole or joint author. If there are exceptional circumstances, the papers would be treated exceptionally by being referred back to the journal editors.
Manuscripts should be in the range of 4,000-10,000 words. The call for abstracts is open and competitive, and all contributions will go through a double-blind peer review process. If you wish to submit a paper, please submit an abstract first, to the Guest Editors. Full papers are by invitation only. The Guest Editors for the special issue are happy to discuss ideas for papers:
- Stephen Pryke – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sulafa Badi – email@example.com
- Lena Bygballe – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call for abstracts: 1 Oct 2015
- Invitation to submit full papers: 31 Nov 2015
- First draft submissions (3 mths to prepare MS): 29 Feb 2016
- Decision with referee comments (3 mths): 31 May 2016
- Revised papers (2 mths): 30 Jun 2016
- Final submission and final edits (2 mths): 1 Oct 2016
- Publication: 1 Feb 2017
Balkundi, P. and Harrison, D.A. (2006) Ties, leaders, and time in teams: strong inference about network structure’s effects on team viability and performance. Academy of Management Journal 49(1), 49–68.
Clegg, S. R., Courpasson, D., & Phillips, N. (2006) Power and organizations. Sage publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
Dubois, A. and Gadde, L. E. (2002) The Construction Industry as a Loosely Coupled System: Implications for Productivity and Innovation, Construction Management and Economics, 20(7), 621-31.
Hossain, L. and Wu, A. (2009) Communications network centrality correlates to organisational coordination. International Journal of Project Management, 27(8), 795–811.
Kratzer, J., Leenders, R.T.A.J. and Van Engelen, J.M.L. (2010) The social network among engineering design teams and their creativity: a case study among teams in two product development programs. International Journal of Project Management, 28(5), 428–436.