Evidence versus Pragmatism: Unresolved Conflict between Two Construction Management Paradigms for Contingency Project Environments

Evidence versus Pragmatism: Unresolved Conflict between Two Construction Management Paradigms for Contingency Project Environments

Chi Iromuanya (Capella University, Minneapolis, MN, USA), Kathleen M. Hargiss (Capella University, Minneapolis, MN, USA) and Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, Oceanside, CA, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jsita.2013010103


This study explores two construction execution and management models for construction and infrastructure development in a new era of fiscal austerity in the face of unplanned, yet devastating natural or man-made disasters. One model explores the role and application of evidence-based construction management, while the other studies the role of the pragmatic approach to construction management in the context of existing cultures and emergent, or dynamic project circumstances. Responses from subject matter experts from two representative dynamic construction and infrastructure development areas (Nigeria and Afghanistan) are evaluated for insights. This research combined expert opinions with time-tested approaches for efficient infrastructure project, procurement, and execution in emergent circumstances of man-made or natural disaster management. While one of the two development strategies is based on performance criteria such as cost, quality and time efficiencies, the other is based on the utilitarian value of a pragmatic juxtaposition of driving social, political and environmental factors. The study is underscored by the notion that while numbers do not lie, they are by their very nature incapable of offering the whole truth.
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2. Background

For this study, dynamic project environment defines one in which project conditions are not predictable. Unpredictable project conditions may include unsteady legal and security conditions; a condition of political upheaval, natural or man-made disasters such as war; as well as conditions in which ethical and technological immaturities exist. Examples abound in many developing and emerging countries such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, South Africa, and Brazil. From a scholarly perspective, this inquiry comprises a dual Delphi study approach involving the conduct of independent concurrent and parallel qualitative studies in different cultural constructs, and bringing the results together to seek commonalities in responses from participants.

From a management perspective, these authors will seek to illustrate cross-cultural evidentiary and pragmatic factors necessary for attaining optimal project efficiencies. Project efficiency for the purpose of this study, is defined as the completion of construction projects and attaining primary sponsor mandates within their contracted budgets, contract periods of performance, and specified work scope, and quality. Due to a dearth of studies on the efficacy of evidence-based management (EBMgt) practice in the construction field, scholars and practitioners in the field often resort to quantitative-based studies and subjective management practices respectively. Briner et al. (2009) saw EBMgt as a practice conducted by practitioners, while explaining the role of scholars, is to provide critical infrastructure for its implementation. Briner et al. concur that though the term EBMgt is a new one, the notion of applying research evidence to aid organizational strategies in not. The authors position is similar to those of Reay, Berta and Kohn (2009, p.19) that EBMgt is a “family of practices, not a single rigid formulaic method of making organizational decisions.

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