Value Management in Construction Projects Along the Belt and Road Regions
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
Related Research Unit(s)
|Award date||20 Oct 2021|
Since the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative was proposed in 2013, over 140 countries and 31 international institutions have joined this attractive strategy by 2021. It encourages international cooperation in building infrastructure projects in targeting regions, which creates a highly dynamic and competitive environment for their construction industries. It is not uncommon that various difficulties (e.g., unspecific clients’ expectations and project goals, poor team coordination, and destructive conflicts) occur in construction projects along the B&R regions due to different backgrounds of multiple stakeholders (both national and international). Illogical traditional team decision-making methodologies are hard to resolve those problems and consequently result in project failure (e.g., dissatisfaction and low project performance). Therefore, it is necessary to find out effective decision-making methodologies for managing construction projects along the B&R regions. Value management (VM) is an organized team decision-making methodology to achieve the best value of the project through a logical and step-by-step process. It has been used in several developed (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, etc.) and developing regions (Malaysia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) along the B&R. However, most countries along the B&R are still lacking VM applications due to various difficulties such as weak VM awareness, insufficient government support, dearth of VM experts, and so on. This study aims to find out the best VM practice for maximizing project outcomes in construction projects along the B&R regions.
Based on the triangulation methodology, both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to achieve the research aim, including literature review, focus group study, semi-structured interview, quantitative questionnaire survey, and case study. Initially, the conceptual model of this study with various hypotheses was developed by reviewing the literature on a wide range of relevant topics.
To explore the actual situation of VM/traditional team decision-making application in construction projects in different regions along the B&R and refine the conceptual model, 6 focus groups targeting 3 groups of regions (i.e., advanced VM developed regions, advanced VM developing regions, and unadvanced VM developing regions) were organized. Advanced VM developed regions (R1) involve developed countries and regions (Hong Kong, the Netherlands, etc.) where VM has been well embraced for decades with mature VM guidelines, influential institutions, and so on. Advanced VM developing regions (R2) represent developing countries (Malaysia, Iran, etc.) where applications of VM have been increasing in recent years. Unadvanced VM developing regions (R3) include developing countries (Sri Lanka, the Philippines, etc.) with few VM experts and applications. In total, 24 construction professionals from the three groups of regions joined the focus group discussions. To supplement the qualitative results of the focus group study, 11 semi-structured interviews were conducted with VM specialists from R1 and R2 and construction professionals from R3. According to the results of the focus group study and the semi-structured interviews, critical success factors for VM/traditional team decision-making in construction projects along the B&R regions were identified for building a comprehensive refined conceptual model.
A questionnaire survey was implemented to collect quantitative data from construction professionals in regions along the B&R. In total, 190 questionnaires were used for statistical analysis. Various statistical methods, including exploratory factor analysis, reliability test, one-way ANOVA, Pearson correlation analysis, multiple regression analysis, etc., were applied for analyzing quantitative data. The quantitative results explored interrelationships between research factors in VM in R1 and R2 and in traditional team decision-making in R3 separately.
After the questionnaire survey, actual cases were studied to cross-validate the relationships revealed by the quantitative results. Four representative construction projects in the 3 different groups of regions along the B&R (i.e., Hong Kong (R1), Malaysia (R2), Indonesia (R3), and Mainland China (R3)) were selected. In total, 24 semi-structured interviews were conducted with project practitioners of the selected cases. By combining the relationships confirmed by both the questionnaire survey (quantitative) and the case studies (qualitative), the final models of VM in R1 and R2 and traditional team decision-making in R3 were developed.
The final results of this study revealed that:
1. Traditional team decision-making process and outcomes in R3 are affected critically by all four cultural values factors, while VM process and outcomes in R1 and R2 are mainly influenced by long-term standardization and high-context communication;
2. In both VM in R1 and R2 and traditional team decision-making in R3, high-context communication moderates the impacts of logical decision-making process on team behaviors, while it also moderates the relationships between logical decision-making process and outcomes in VM in R1 and R2. On the other hand, in traditional team decision-making in R3, the moderating effects of power distance, collectivism, and long-term standardization on the relationships of logical decision-making process - team behaviors or logical decision-making process - outcomes are significant;
3. In both VM in R1 and R2 and traditional team decision-making in R3, preparation has impacts on logical team decision-making process, team behaviors, and outcomes;
4. The application of key logical decision-making phases highly follows a systematic and step-by-step process in VM in R1 and R2, but all decision-making steps are mixed together in traditional team decision-making in R3;
5. A logical and step-by-step procedure is essential for the application of key decision-making phases (i.e., the information, function analysis, creative, evaluation, development, and presentation phases) in both VM in R1 and R2 and traditional team decision-making in R3;
6. In both VM in R1 and R2 and traditional team decision-making in R3, logical decision-making process influences team behaviors and outcomes; and
7. Logical decision-making process of VM in R1 and R2 can affect final outcomes by improving goal-setting behaviors (e.g., specificity, conflict resolution, and transparency). However, the indirect relationships between logical decision-making process and outcomes in traditional team decision-making in R3 are mainly via relationship behaviors (e.g., participation, trust, and communication).
Based on the results, several recommendations were proposed for VM application in all the three groups of regions along the B&R, including clarifying participants’ responsibilities in invitations, conducting VM workshops for developing project briefing, and so on. Suggestions for better VM application in R1 and R2 included updating current VM standards regularly, arranging the presentation phase in a hybrid way (i.e., combining face-to-face and virtual modes), setting up awards for stakeholders who perform well in implementing VM outcomes, and so on. Recommendations for applying VM properly in R3 included employing qualified VM facilitators from R1 and R2, adopting mature international VM standards, using mild words and expressing opinions euphemistically when disagreeing with others’ ideas, etc. Finally, the limitations and further research were discussed. To reduce the possible bias of the results, several remedial actions were taken. The research findings provide valuable insights into applying VM properly in construction projects along the B&R regions to maximize project outcomes.