Hard Hats, Octopuses and Rubber Boots- Operational Managers in Building Processes

Christian Koch

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    This paper discusses Operation management (OM) in the production of buildings. It is initially contended that OM needs to be improved, from a theoretical and practical perspective. Departing from a criticism of present modeling and management of processes it is suggested to develop an understanding of the importance of human resources in tackling complexity, fragmentation and disturbances in the building industry. Theoretical models too often either rely on neat operational analysis models or refrain from such order by merely referring to the chaos of building processes. The paper seeks to place itself in between those extremes in twofold manner, first by conceptually arguing that building processes encompass requisite parallelism and fragmentation due to their predominantly quantitative complexity. Second by doing an exploratory field study, drawing a modified lean construction conceptualization of the steps and interdependencies in the process. The field study shows a vast amount of interruptions in operational managers work at the building site. The site managers studied typically worked with four main activities and were interrupted some 126 times during a workday. The prime reason for these disturbances was coordination problems, but generally most types of interdependencies proved problematic. The needed skills for the site managers thus become those of the octopus handling processes in parallel with the necessary equipment of hard hats and rubber boots.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationOperation Management as a Change Agent : Proceedings the 11th international Conference European Operations Management Association (EurOMA).
    Place of PublicationFontainebleau
    Publication date2004
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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