Making sense of rework and its unintended consequence in projects: The emergence of uncomfortable knowledge

Peter E.D. Love*, Jim Smith, Fran Ackermann, Zahir Irani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


To make sense of the rework phenomena that plagues construction projects a longitudinal exploration and mixed-method approach was undertaken to understand its causal setting and why it remained an on-going issue for organizations contracted to deliver an asset. The research reveals that rework was an zemblanity (i.e., being an unpleasant un-surprise) that resulted in: (1) project managers ignoring established organization-wide procedures and, at their discretion, amend them to suit their own goals while denouncing the importance of recording and learning from non-conformances; (2) a deficiency of organizational controls and routines to contain and reduce rework; and (3) an absence of an organization-project dyad that supported and promoted an environment of psychological safety. A new theoretical conceptualization of error causation that is intricately linked to rework and safety incidents is presented. The research provides managers with “uncomfortable knowledge’, which is needed to provide insights into the determinants of rework that form part of their everyday practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-516
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Issue number3
Early online date9 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


Cite this