Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Thesis successfully presented as part of the requirements for the award of PhD.


The construction sector plays a crucial role in the global economy, having critical importance to economic growth, social inclusion and employment. In Ireland, the sector generates a combined value of over €20 billion per annum, with 144,000 persons directly employed in the sector, which is forecasted to grow by 3.9% in 2019. The sector is also hugely complex due to the diverse range of output, from productive infrastructure (roads, railways etc.) to residential (both public and private) and the numerous stakeholders involved throughout its intricate supply chain. The sector is highly susceptible to cyclical economic patterns, making it more challenging to ascertain the specific characteristics of how firms make decisions within it. Despite going through a prolonged, deep recession, the Irish economy has returned to sustained growth, necessitating research into the strategic decision-making process within the construction sector to guard against future negative impacts of economic fluctuation. Strategy is a well-established management discipline; however, the nature of strategic decision-making process within highly knowledge-intensive Professional Service Firms (PSFs) has received little empirical attention, despite the firms comprising a sizable portion of those employed in the construction sector. This study bridges the perceptible gap in the strategic decision making process in construction PSF’s, who collaborate on complex projects but are not well understood on a strategic level. The study explores strategic decision-making across three key professions, with participation from members of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), the Association of Consulting Engineers Ireland (ACEI) and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) via a mixed methods study (Quantitative: 225 firms; Qualitative: 27 firms). The findings present, for the first time, a multidisciplinary insight into the strategic decision-making process and resulting strategic ii choices made by construction PSFs in Ireland. The central implication of the study is that it presents, for the first time, a strategy-as-practice based framework for strategic decision-making within construction PSFs, bridging the gap in knowledge about strategy formulation in practice within construction. The framework also acts as a guide for practitioners, guiding them to take into account individual organisational contexts in the strategic decision making process, adding to the conversation around collaboration within construction. Until organisational and profession specific contexts are understood, it will be hard to advance to measuring performance of strategic decisions in CPSFs, which is considered “hard to measure” due to intangibility of output, the amount of repeat business generated presents a veritable alternative for strategic decision quality measurement from an industry viewpoint. Lastly, the SAP framework presents an opportunity for the overall construction sector to explore the social dimensions of their decision making process. Practitioners within the sector can now identify the right questions to ask themselves when designing overall industry-wide strategy.