Let’s figure it out together: Inter-organizational collaboration in the daily practices of complex construction projects

Anne Kokkonen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


In complex construction projects, an adequate combination of skills and knowledge is often achieved by involving multiple organizations. However, the execution of collaboration between these organizations has not always been efficient, and construction projects have recently explored methods to improve it. One key for to efficiency is to support learning between organizations. Research has approached collaboration using various definitions, which has led to a vague understanding of the phenomenon. This dissertation clarifies collaboration by exploring the practices that are situated in daily project life. The research objective is to examine how collaboration practices in construction projects support collective learning. The investigation begins by systematically reviewing the literature that addresses the practice approach to learning in construction projects. Then, the dissertation presents three empirical studies of two complex construction projects that were investigated qualitatively. The empirical data consists of interviews, observations, and documents that were analyzed concerning reflective learning, managing collaborative space, and participation practices. The findings conclude that: 1) studies have applied the practice approach to learning in five categories, for observing the informal practices in construction projects in particular; 2) individuals adapted to change in collaboration practices through reflective learning, in processes of deconstructing and reconstruction, 3) managers can actively shape collaborative space during the project by creating both physical and social affordances of the space, 4) participation practices in an integrated project supported the active involvement of individuals, which increases their impact on collective learning. The dissertation contributes to construction management research and organization studies. The practical implications of the dissertation indicate that, for collective learning, managers ought to ensure individuals' participation in collaboration practices. Managers should provide possibilities for reflection upon the changing practices. In the case of collaborative spaces, managers should consider both the physical design for the specific collaboration and as the desired social practices of collaboration in the space throughout the project. Overall, the dissertation highlights the individuals' daily collaboration practices as an essential part ofthe successful collaboration between companies in complex projects.
Translated title of the contributionSelvitetään yhdessä: Yritysten välinen yhteistyö kompleksisten rakennusprojektien pävittäisissä käytännöissä
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Smeds, Riitta, Supervising Professor
  • Alin, Pauli, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7850-2
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7851-9
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • inter-organizational collaboration
  • construction project
  • case studies
  • project practices
  • collaborative space
  • participation
  • practice-based learning

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