Research design and methods 3

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Title: Delay Management in a Construction Industry


Delays are a major problem facing the construction industry. The main aim of this proposal is to identify the causes of delays and determine the best strategies to counter delays in the construction industry. Timely completion of the project ensures that there are no cost overruns and the project objectives are met. Literature review identifies the causes of delays to be poor planning, lack of information, changes, inadequate funding and site disputes among others.

The proposed research is exploratory in nature and involves use of both qualitative and quantitative methods. The data will be collected from the industry stakeholders who include the contractors, clients, industry regulators and other player in construction sector. The methodology proposed for the research employs desk research, interviews and questionnaires. Through an in-depth research, the proposal will prove that it is possible to come up with appropriate strategies that can help in addressing delays in construction industry hence save costs, time and eliminate other negative impacts of delays.

Table of Contents


2Research problem

3Background and justification

4Research questions

4Literature review


9Research design


10Pilot study


12Population sampling

12Data collection and analysis procedures

13Methods for data analysis


Research problem

The predicament of delay in the construction industry is a worldwide occurrence hence there is no exemption. Projects are carried out with an aim of obtaining a timely delivery but delays makes it hard to attain it (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). Projects delays leads to high losses and risks. For a project to be considered as successful, it has to be completed based on the set deadline. Timely delivery of projects help in ensuring that the high costs of delays are avoided (Assaf and Al-Hejji, 2006). Project delay can be caused by a range of factors from poor management practices and unforeseen calamities such as bad weather. The fact that construction is made up of different activities which are interlinked makes it had to manage. Although it is hard to cater for all causes of delays, it is possible to manage some of the causes through appropriate management strategies (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). This study is aimed at showing means in which delays in the construction industry can be managed.

Background and justification

High loss due to construction projects delays

Delays in the construction projects are a major source of loss. Every late day implies that there are thousands of dollars lost. Estimates shows that 10% overrun in a sizeable project can lead to a $5M loss. Also, ability to finish the project in time acts as a bench mark in determining the project performance and the contractor effectiveness. In cases of project delays, the loss is high and the stakeholders suffer especially in a government project. In the case of a government project, the costs of delays are transferred to the citizens in form of taxes (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). Examples includes the US 281 project in San Antonio project which has a cost overshoot of over 1.5 million dollars due to delays (Edmondson, 2016). Delays are costly to the taxpayers and the governments as seen in the San Antonio project case. Delays are common in the countries which uses traditional contracts leading to loss of millions (Chidambaram, Narayanan and Idrus, 2012). A project which faces a delay has high chances of failure. It is essential to know the essential causes of delays that normally occur in a project. The identification of causes of delays helps in determining new ways to reduce delays. When a project is paused due to delays, there are high chances of labour and material costs rising (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). All these negative aspects of project delays call for a research to look into new ways of dealing with them. The paper aims at identifying strategies that minimise project delays and reduce costs incurred in the construction industry.

Research questions

  • How can the construction industry minimise delays and resultant costs?

  • How can the construction industry reduce wastage of time?

  • Which are the most effective strategies to minimise delays in the construction industry?

Literature review

Sensible time of construction is highly significant since it serves as a vital benchmark for examining the performance of the project and the effectiveness of the contractor (Bramble, 2012). For a construction project to be judged as successful, it has to meet the criteria based on cost, safety and time (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). In most cases, delays are project specific and are mostly caused by changes. Introduction of a change in the project complicate work and impacts the existing schedule (Sambasivan and Soon, 2007). This may lead to a delay in the whole project. This has been experienced in a lot of projects leading to problems.

In most countries, construction industry is a major contributor to the economy. The industry has the high value in most economies hence the need to reduce loss caused by the delays (Frimponget al., 2001). For example, Saudi Arabia construction industry contributes to 4.5% of the GDP. Saudi Arabia suffers a lot from delays in the construction industry with the industry losing US$146 in 2012(Alotaibi, Sutrisna and Chong, 2016). Based on reports, Australia construction industry had been playing a major part in the economy. Despite this, the industry has been facing challenges including delays which led to a reduction in output by 3.7% to 47.42 AUD billion in 2016 (Shokri-Ghasabeh et al., 2016). All these statistics show the importance of the construction industry to the economy.

According to Al-Momani, (2000), failure of project to start on time is a major threat and can lead to delays. The delay may be caused by poor planning, lack of information, poor funding and site disputes (Frimponget al., 2001). These factors may lead to the manager facing challenges of starting the project in time. The high costs of delays have been a bother to most countries. There has been a lot of research on causes of delays in different countries. The main causes of delays which have been identified are procurement issues, poor management, and failure of payments, changes and disputes. Delays can also be caused contractors or designs (Assaf and Al-Hejji, 2006).

According to Bramble (2012), it is clear that most of the tools used in the construction industry are process oriented and not activity oriented. This makes it hard to predict risks in the industry. Also, cases of time wastage are common in the industry which contributes to delays (Sambasivan and Soon, 2007). It has been proved that it is easy to reduce time wastage through use of tools such as critical path analysis and charts. These are tools that ensure the project is finished in the best time (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). The main drawback is the fact that all these methods are tool based and not activity oriented. Some of the studies points out to the contractors as a major cause of delays. Also, poor planning can lead to project delay (Ramachandra and Rotimi, 2012). Poor management of the equipments can contribute to losing vital time.

When a project faces a delay, there is time extension at an extra cost. Time wastage in the construction industry contributes highly to delays hence extra costs (Akhiret al., 2013). This is especially during the design and construction phases. Also, there are some activities which lead to time consumption but fail to add value to the final project (Ramachandra and Rotimi, 2012). Not all processes add value but some leads to wasting of time. There is also waiting time which is caused by poor synchronisation and pace of work by those involved in the project (Nazech, Zaldi and Trigunarsyah, 2008).

The basic concept used in lean techniques is eliminating sources of waste. Through this, it becomes possible to increase productivity and attain the project expectations (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). Waste is eliminated through a systematic approach which relates on effective communication and interrogation of teams. Through use of lean techniques, it has been proved that it is possible to reduce delays (Al-Momani, 2000). Lean techniques started with the manufacturing industry before being absorbed into the construction industry. This helps in streamlining the activities involved in the construction industry and reduce time wastage (Nazech, Zaldi and Trigunarsyah, 2008). Through use of lean techniques, it has been proved that it is possible to finish the project in time and eliminate time wastage.

Delays in the construction industry are categorised as either excusable or inexcusable. When the delay is excusable, the claimant can be given a time extension or gets compensation (Bramble, 2012). In non excusable delay, the party has to cater for liability and pay the damages (Nazech, Zaldi and Trigunarsyah, 2008). Research has found out that through allocating sufficient time and money in the project design phase, it is to eliminate delays. It is important to note that excusable delays are in most cases caused by factors beyond contractor control (Nazech, Zaldi and Trigunarsyah, 2008). Having competent project managers and competent team has also been identified as factors which can reduce delays. There is need to ensure that there is adequate and sufficient sources of revenue to cater for the whole project (Chan and Kumaraswamy, 1997). This also ensures that there are no cases of project delays either excusable or non excusable.

Research shows that mitigation measures can play a major role in minimising delays. This is through ensuring that the work is well sequenced and adequate manpower is available (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). There is also need to look at other projects and use them as case studies to reduce delays. The knowledge from other projects acts as a vital source of information on mitigation measures (Abedi, Fathi and Mohammad, 2011). Engineers and contractors should look for vital knowledge from earlier projects and apply it in new projects. At the moment, there are technologies which can help in storing knowledge from future projects. This includes the use of web based technologies and mapping (Alwi and Hampson, 2003).

When the project manager fails to apply managerial principals, there is high likelihood of delays. Odeh and Battaineh (2002), asserts that projects require having appropriate planning and organisation. Project management is a very vital during construction phase. This is due to fact that it is possible to address most of the causes to project delays (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). Lack of project management principles has been blamed to be a major cause of project delays. For most of the contactors, they lack adequate knowledge on project management (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). Through use of project management, it is possible to eliminate delays and hence save costs associated.

The construction industry has been facing major problems due to poor management skills and lack of qualifications among the contractors (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). Project management principles can helps a lot in reducing these challenges through use of assistive tools. There is need to ensure that those working in the industry have the right qualifications (Assaf and Al-Hejji, 2006). Research has also shown that industries which offer training for their staff are able to reduce cases of delays. In the recent years, the construction industry has been facing skills shortages (Adam, Josephson and Lindahl, 2015). This may calls for the industry to look for means of maintaining employees such as incentives and appraisals.

In a construction project, changes are common and frequent. Changes have varying consequences based on the phase of the project and can lead to negative impacts such as costs overruns and time delays (Arvan and Leite, 1990). This occurs in instances when there is either an addition or deletion to the initial project. It is common in the construction industry for the client to make changes. For the impacts of change to be addressed, there is need for change order being evaluated. This helps in determining the impacts of changes in time. Through this, research shows that unwanted delays can be reduced (Saeed, 2009). Through project management principles, it is possible to manage the change order. When there are changes in a project, having prompt approval is required. This is due to fact that timely approval reduces the impact of change on the deliverables (Abedi, Fathi and Mohammad, 2011). Having an experienced consultant can help a lot in change management through addressing the impacts of change. Through having an experienced consultant, time and resources wastages are well addressed. Despite this, it is important to have a consultant who is well versed with the project (Saeed, 2009).

Research in both developed and developing countries shows that project delays are caused by almost similar causes (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). Costs overruns in the construction projects are caused by lack of accuracy in materials, rising costs of materials and disputes. There are also cases of design changes and unreliable weather which can lead to costs overruns (Al-Momani, 2000). It is important to note that when the project costs are higher than planned target, there are high chances of client being unsatisfied. The construction industry is risky and determining the cause of cost overruns is in some cases hard. It becomes hard to determine the main cause of overruns and the stakeholder to carry the blame (Adam, Josephson and Lindahl, 2015).

From previous research, it is clear that project delays are caused by time wastage, lack of funding, inexperience, poor planning, changes and project scheduling among others (Assaf and Al-Hejji, 2006). It is also clear that it is possible to manage these causes of delays using project management principles. Also, use of team work is appropriate to ensure that delays in the construction industry (Saeed, 2009). Despite this, cases of delays are still common (Bramble, 2012). There is need for further research to identify means to conquer project delays and reduce costs.


Research design

Based on the methodologies that have been employed by most of the previous research, this study will use both qualitative and quantitative approach through a desk research, interviews and open ended questionnaires. The research that will be conducted in this study will be exploratory in nature. Both primary and secondary data will be used in this research (Creswell, 2013). To begin with, the literature review helped in identifying the main causes of delays. A questionnaire will be then developed with an aim of evaluating the impacts of these factors causing delays and means that are in use to address them.

A pilot study will be conducted first with an aim of determining whether the questions in use are relevant for the questionnaire. The pilot study will be conducted at the university and the questions discussed with the research supervisor and lecturers involved. The questionnaire which will also include a cover letter will then be sent to the industry practitioners, contractors and building consultants.


The questionnaire will be divided into three main parts. The first part will include areas to fill on the respondents’ details and their work organisations. This is aimed at giving details of the respondents and place of work. The second part is made up of factors which lead to delays in the construction industry while the last part is based on the means used to address delays. The questionnaire will use a Likert’s scale with five ordinal levels. Based on the Likert’s scale, it will show the lowest effect to highest effect (Jamieson, 2004). Causes for delays will be categorised into eight groups:

  • Client based factors

  • Contractor based factors

  • Consultant based factors

  • Material related factors

  • Labour related factors

  • Contractor based factors

  • Contract based factors

  • External factors

The respondents will be asked to give their recommendations to improve the construction industry and reduce delays. This is through the open ended questionnaire.

Pilot study

A pilot study helps in testing the questionnaire with a small group of people who acts as the representative of the target respondents. This is aimed at pointing out the mistakes that might be available in the questionnaire (Creswell, 2013). It will also ensure that the questionaries is clear and easily understood. The feedback from the pilot group will be used to modify and adjust the questionnaire.


The main objectives of these interviews are to gain a list of causes of delays in the construction industry and means used to address them. This research proposes to use semi-structured interviews with the experts in the industry. The experts will be critiqued on the causes of delays and the means used in preventing delays. Semi-structured interviews are used in this case due to fact that there is no other chance of meeting the interviewee. The method is also appropriate when several interviewees are sent to collect data (Vogt, Gardner and Haeffele, 2012). The interviews will be preceded with unstructured interviewing with an aim of gaining a deep understanding of the topic. There will be inclusion of the open ended questions aimed at enhancing the information obtained. Use of in-depth interviews will help the interviewee to delve deeply on the issue being asked (Bordens and Abbott, 2002).

The interview will use the Likert’s rating scale where scale of 1 will be low and 5 high (Jamieson, 2004). During the interview, the right atmosphere will be developed for the participating candidate. The candidates will be provided with a brief overview on the interview format as well as any special requirement. This includes telling the participant the type and number of questions that will be asked. At the end of the interview, the participants will be allowed to ask questions. There will be use of probes with an aim of gaining more information (Bordens and Abbott, 2002). The sample to be used will be fairly homogenous with some critical similarities such as having a relation to the construction industry. The interviews are expected to last to a maximum of 40 minutes to 1 hour based on the topics being generated.

Population sampling

Random sampling is a method where selection is done in a random manner (Bordens and Abbott, 2002). In this report, construction firms and survey participants will be selected in a random manner. Despite this, clients and the bodies in the industry will be selected using non-purposive sampling. Although non-purposive sampling is seen as non probability method, it is an important method that gives the researcher an opportunity to gain information from the sample which has knowledge on the subject being researched (Vogt, Gardner and Haeffele, 2012). A total of 100 construction professionals will be selected. This method has been preferred due to fact that it is hard to gain the required response when the sample has been selected randomly. The sampling methods in use will make it possible to attain a high number of questionnaires which will be completed in a quick and efficient manner while at the same time ensuring that it is economical (Bordens and Abbott, 2002). The population to be used in this sample will be obtained from the whole industry. This ranges from the government civil work departments, private construction companies and registered contractors.

Data collection and analysis procedures

In this study, a total of 100 questionaries will be distributed to the sample chosen. The questionnaires are expected to be filled based on the set of responses. The responses will be ranked based on the Likert’s scale as explained from 1 to 5. This indicates the importance from the least (1) to the extreme (5) (Jamieson, 2004). The researcher will personally deliver the questionnaires to the participants. The respondents will be given a period of 5 weeks to fill in the questionnaires.

The interviewers will be expected to take data and record during the interviews. Despite this, it is recommendable to record the interview so that the interviewer can listen and respond to the interviewee without disruptions. It is important to note that note taking may lead to bias where the interviewer records only comments which they perceive to be interesting. Through tape recording, it will be possible to capture the entire interview for analysis (Bordens and Abbott, 2002).

Methods for data analysis

The number of questions that will be asked during the interview are many and to a large group of people. This may call for use of SPSS or EPI-Info for statistical analysis. In this case, SPSS is highly recommendable since it is user friendly and readily available. The variables will be defined and the labels and values defined. The data will then be entered and checked for errors and consistency. This will be followed by contingency tables and cross tabulations with an aim of comparing the questions responses (Kamakura and Wedel, 1997).

Since it is a semi-structured interview, there will be data analysis using qualitative methods. All the interview transcripts will be examined. This will involve having all interview data being transcribed (Vogt, Gardner and Haeffele, 2012).This is due to fact that it is hard to carry out analysis based on the tapes without transcribing them. Through transcription, it will be possible to pick the details and the points which can be easily forgotten. After transcription, the next step will be content analysis. This is a systematic way in which the main concepts will be identified. It will help in developing and categorising the main themes (Bordens and Abbott, 2002).

Statistical techniques and indexes will be used for analysis of the data. There will be use of index Ipas the appropriate index used in analysing construction delays. Spearman rank correlation is the best to use in non-parametric test. Correlation will be used in measuring different parties, strength and direction of the relationship. This method will help in showing the degree of alignment between parties. The coefficient of correlation will vary between positive one to negative one (Kamakura and Wedel, 1997).

Coding of open ended questions

Comparing answers from open ended questions can be very difficult. This is especially if a large number of respondents were involved. Open ended questions answers tend to create a specific pattern (Marczyk, DeMatteo and Festinger, 2005). This is where certain answers appear more frequent than others. It is possible to come up with a coding frame which is capable of reflecting the frequent occurring answers and the most important answers. A five bar gate system will be used with an aim of recording the items which are frequently cited. This will allow each category to be assigned with a numerical value and answers given will then be coded.


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