Linking Communities of Practice and Project Teams in the Construction Industry

Linking Communities of Practice and Project Teams in the Construction Industry

Gillian Ragsdell (Loughborough University, UK) and Kaye Remington (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch057
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Continuing from Ragsdell’s (Article, The Contribution of Communities of Practice to Project Management) discussion highlighting potential synergy between project teams and CoPs, Remington and Ragsdell move into the practical arena. This article interrogates the usefulness of CoP in the construction industry and the challenges they pose for project management practice therein. Emphasis is on the role of CoPs in addressing the problem of project knowledge transfer within and between project teams. The concept of community of practice (CoP), defined initially by Lave and Wenger (1991) and later developed by Wenger (1998) and others (Barab & Duffy, 2000; Gherardi & Nicolini, 2002; Skyrme, 1999), has only recently received attention in the project management professional literature (Galarneau & Rose, 2002; Love, Huang, Edards, & Irani, 2005; Morris, 2002). This is perhaps a little surprising since, on initial analysis, the project environment would appear to comply with all three of Wenger’s three dimensions of a CoP (Wenger, 1998, pp. 72-85). There exists a level of mutual engagement in practice between parties who are involved in projects. A project is certainly a joint enterprise between a number of individuals who might come from a variety of organizations and backgrounds to achieve agreed goals. At the wider level, within the project management professional community, there is a shared interest in improving practice. At least among project management professionals, there is a shared repertoire of language, routines, stories, and cultural artifacts. However, the peculiar nature of the range of initiatives that are referred to under the generic name projects suggests a number of structural and organizational barriers to free exchange and development of knowledge within the CoP model described by Wenger and others. This article goes on to explore a number of characteristics, peculiar to construction projects, which might influence effective application of the CoP concept.

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