The Institutional Field of Learning from Project-Related Failures – Opportunities and Challenges

Danstan Chiponde*, Barry Gledson, David Greenwood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Learning from past project failures presents opportunities for firms working within the construction sector to ‘build back wiser’ because, if lessons from these experiences are absorbed, they offer benefits such as mitigation against future failures, and enable the development of resilient project teams. However, instead of using sector-wide perspectives for organisational learning, Project-Based Organisation (PBOs) typically implement internal technological and strategic mechanisms in both learning and project management. Additionally, little attention is given to the institutional context within the sector. Hence, this study focuses on how learning within a PBO is influenced by the external environment by adopting an Institutional theory perspective. Via exploratory research, data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 19 UK construction industry professionals and then analysed using thematic analysis. Findings reveal that there exists an institutional field of learning within which PBOs operate based on interactions with their external environment. These include: regulatory pillar-related organisations – such as government bodies, and regulatory bodies (e.g., the Health and Safety Executive); Normative pillar-related organisations (professional bodies such as APM and CIOB), and; cultural-cognitive pillar-related organisations (such as peer PBOs, suppliers and the wider supply chain). The study contends that each of these pillars offer lessons for the sector. Findings further reveal that cross organisational learning is hampered mostly by competition and fragmentation. Hence, to ‘build back wiser’ it is important that the sector brings together the identified institutional field members to better learn from project-related failures. Thus, PBOs need to build better institutional networks by viewing other organisations within the institutional field as sources of knowledge and embracing collaboration instead of competition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-181
Number of pages19
JournalConstruction Economics and Building
Issue number1/2
Early online date1 Jul 2024
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2024

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