Kithinji, NB.  1988.  Systems approach to building project management: experience from Kenya . Abstract

This report is an attempt to impress on managers of building projects the relevance and importance of the systems approach to management in their field. To achieve this aim the report has started by examining some common theoretical models of management and their inherent shortcomings in the management of complex problems such as building projects. The complexity of building projects is demonstrated throuqh a discussion of their resource markets which are found to be highly differentiated yet interdependent. The building process itself is made up of different activities which often require different skills, materials and facilities. As a consequence, a wide range of participants are involved in building projects. This raises the need to coordinate their inputs. The systems approach and its concepts which are most relevant to building project management is discussed. Its place in project management is illustrated with parallels drawn from districts which form the case studies for the research. ~. Among" the most important concepts discussed is the environment. It is the framework of forces within which construction activity takes place. The extent of the environment of a project depends on its resources requirements. Various aspects of the environment affect the execution of building projects. The environment is usually turbulent and projects are vulnerable to the turbulence. The functions of the managerial system of a project are considered in detail. They include the planning; securing and bringing together various inputs in amounts and modes which best suit the requirements of a project. It resolves disputes among project participants and controls the interaction between the project and its environment. In so doing the project is shielded from harmful environmental effects while the environment is protected from the harmful products of a project. Two case studies reveal that project management in districts is disjointed and suffers from technical, managerial, and logistic problems. There is poor coordination between and among participants and projects. Resources are not adequately planned and controlled. Procedures are constrained by bureaucracy and shortage of facilities. A major conclusion of the study is that the organization structure within which building projects are managed is not suitable for the tasks involved in building. The inappropriateness-is largely, the result of Iack of channels for speedy communciation within the structure and the rigidity of the structure especially with regard to the expenditure of authority. The recommendations that are given aim to make the authority structure more flexible to allow a faster rate of discharging duties while at the same time disallowing wasteful operations which result from poor planning and control.

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