What tensions obstruct an alignment between project and environmental management practices?
Journal article, 2012
Using an activity theory lens, this paper aims to examine the interrelationships between project practice and environmental management. It also aims to focus on tensions that occur between human agents and material objects within a motivedirected, historicallysituated activity system, namely that of managing environmental issues in projects. Case studies of two large infrastructure projects were conducted 20032004 and 2008. The studies comprised onsite observations, text analyses, 20 semistructured interviews and one group interview. Time was spent on the construction site to become familiarized with the context and the practices of the project community. A total of 15 weekly environmental site inspections were monitored and photodocumented. The findings show how new and emergent environmental management practices and routines were inherently contradictory to the situated and established culture within the projects. In fact project practices seemed to amplify the contradictions between environmental management and project management rather than mitigating them. As a result project members and organization members strove toward different goals and foci. It is argued that management needs to create arenas where members from the two units can align practices and merge routines. Aligning the permanent structures of the organization with the temporary organizing of practices and operational activities in projects is a challenge for the construction industry. A prevalent lack of fit between the organization and its projects causes contradictions which negatively affect the way in which longterm environmental strategies and goals are understood and implemented in the project settings. The system theoretical lens adopted in this study enables a holistic interpretation of complex and dynamic activities and the linking of the micro, the individual, to the macro, the organizational structure. By indicating some inherent and emergent contradictions between project practice and corporate environmental management, this paper contributes to an emergent field of research that focuses on social practice in construction. © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited