How practitioners make sense of risk and uncertainty: A Goffmanian study of two case studies of construction companies in the United Kingdom

  • Masoud Farrokhshad

Student thesis: Phd


Risk management (RM) is a longstanding matter of concern in the field of construction management research, which is considered fundamental to organisation performance and project performance. Past and extant research on risk management focused on formalised frameworks and models, while less attention has been given to risk management as a qualitatively dynamic process of what people actually do in everyday organisational practices. Notwithstanding the benefits of techno-rational approaches of RM, the extant literature provides an inconclusive answer to the development of any feasible approach for integrating different risk thinking and risk handling strategies. This thesis, therefore, aims to provide an empirical insight into the 'black box' of actuality of risk and uncertainty management, taking into consideration performances and encounters within two UK-based construction companies. Specifically, it seeks to elucidate a conceptual framework for making sense of risk and uncertainty management that identifies situated practices that construction companies can adapt and apply, evaluates their effectiveness on practitioners' and companies' performances, and explains the rationale behind them. To this end, the thesis employs three theoretical aspects, namely sensemaking, strategising, and dramaturgical lens to draw conclusions that provide an effective explanation of how construction companies manage and make sense of risk and uncertainty following the contemporary phenomenon of Brexit. This research followed a case study strategy and data were gathered through observations, interviews, and complementary data such as archival records, and exchanged emails within the two case study companies. The data were analysed using thematic analysis that constructed the emerged themes and the thematic network, after which conclusions were drawn. The main contributions of this thesis are (1) unfolding four underlying aspects, namely: conceptualisation of market, centralisation and decentralisation, and individual-collective agency, as the identified actual situated practices in managing and making sense of risks and uncertainties following the Brexit vote; (2) developing a conceptual framework to make sense of risk and uncertainty management that expresses how situated practices occur in construction companies; and (3) developing the dramaturgical examination, which reveals that sensemaking risk and uncertainty management is driven predominantly by three aspects: idealisation, detachment, and disengagement. These findings help to reduce the gap between the prescribed and techno-rational approaches of project risk management, and the actual practices involved in managing project risks in construction companies.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMohamed Abadi (Supervisor) & Richard Kirkham (Supervisor)

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