The empirical relationship between contractor success and project innovation

Craig Ashley Langston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Purpose: Innovation during project delivery is contested space. The aim in this research is to empirically explore the theory of this contested space and how project implementation can be optimized by the contractor to deliver better outcomes. It is hypothesized that project innovation has a proportional and measurable relationship to contractor success.

Design/methodology/approach: Based on a novel conceptual framework, this research applies a case study methodology to analyse 31 construction projects undertaken by a single Australian middle-tier contractor. Benefits from innovation are not often equitably shared. There are risks and rewards. The project innovation zone is defined as a combination of three key performance indicators – efficacy, efficiency and margin – merged into a single index that most likely shows evidence of “working smarter”. 

Findings: Client–contractor project innovation (c2pi) is demonstrated to be strongly correlated with head contractor success (HCS), yielding an r 2 value of 71%. Innovative projects mostly show positive change in efficacy, efficiency and margin when comparing “planned” and “actual” outcomes. Across the cases studied, 35% demonstrated likely evidence of innovative delivery and 52% demonstrated evidence of success from the construction contractor's perspective. 

Originality/value: These findings verify that, within the studied sample, the pursuit of innovation leads to projects that are likely to also have greater success for the head contractor, evidenced by the mix of five critical success factors: finishing on schedule, making profit, and having less defects, less accidents and higher quality workmanship. These outcomes arguably also apply to sub-contractors, where the head contractor assumes the role of “client”.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalEngineering, Construction and Architectural Management
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2022


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