Standardizing the free and independent professional: The case of construction site managers in Sweden
Journal article, 2020

Purpose Research concerned with standardization of the construction process has generally considered the challenges from only rational and instrumental perspectives. The purpose of this paper is to foreground a social perspective of this challenge. Specifically, the work of construction site managers is explored through a professional work lens in order to emphasize significant misalignments with the principles of standardized production in the construction industry. Design/methodology/approach Data are drawn from a longitudinal (2014-ongoing) case study of site managers' work in a large Swedish construction company. The research design is characterized by an explorative approach, altogether consisting of 44 in-depth interviews at the site manager level (28) and at other managerial levels (16). All the interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed particularly to highlight two contrasting dominant discourses: "standardized construction production" and "site manager work." Findings The findings show that site manager's work is enmeshed with a particular type of professional expertise and identity that is ideologically crafted around a proclivity for free and independent work. It is outlined in detail how these social dimensions of work are enacted to form an ongoing (and successful) resistance to organizational initiatives that are based on principles of standardization. Originality/value This study improves our understanding of an unresolved social challenge that impedes the transformation toward more standardized construction production. It adds new perspectives and value to current research by reminding that (and how) significant changes in production processes also seriously implicate professional work.

Construction site managers

Standardized construction production

Professional work

Professional identity


Social perspectives

Professional expertise


Martin Löwstedt

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Construction Management

Rikard Sandberg

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Construction Management

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

0969-9988 (ISSN) 1365-232X (eISSN)

Vol. 27 6 1337-1355

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Construction Management

Business Administration



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