The definition of alliancing in construction as a Wittgenstein family-resemblance concept

John F.Y. Yeung, Ping Chuen Chan, Wai Ming Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There has been increasing interest in the concept of alliancing in construction stemming from the late 1990s. In spite of the fact that project partnering is a widely understood concept, the same is not true for alliancing. By using Nyström's similar approach to define construction partnering, this paper focuses on alliancing and family-resemblance and makes two contributions to the concept of alliancing in construction. The first one is to clearly distinguish amongst general prerequisites, hard (contractual) and soft (relationship-based) elements, and goals when discussing the concept. For the sake of thoroughly understanding what is specific about alliancing, the focus ought to be on the hard (contractual) and soft (relationship-based) elements, which are identified through a literature review. The second one is to make use of the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's idea of family-resemblance when defining the alliancing concept. His idea is that a complicated concept can be understood as a network of overlapping similarities. It is concluded, based on the literature review, that there are two necessary hard (contractual) elements - formal contract and real gain-share/pain-share arrangement, and three essential soft (relationship-based) elements, trust, long-term commitment, and cooperation and communication in construction alliancing, and that a number of different elements can be added to constitute a specific variant of alliancing. This provides an innovative and useful method to define the vague and versatile concept of alliancing in construction in a flexible and structured way. By doing so, industrial practitioners may find the alliancing sunflower model useful in the procurement phase of a building and construction project, particularly if needed, as a description of the concept and as a common starting point for discussions between a client and a contractor on how to procure a specific alliancing projects, thus avoiding any misinterpretations of what an alliancing project is.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-231
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Volume25
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2007

Keywords

  • Alliancing
  • Construction
  • Family-resemblance
  • Hard (contractual) and soft (relationship-based) elements
  • Wittgenstein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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