Digital Construction

Why BIM requires Dynamic Capabilities

BIM is spearheading a revolution in the construction industry. Companies need to be responsive to change to maintain their competitive advantage

At Project Five our mission is to deliver a better construction sector by helping it to become more sustainable and efficient. And we’re nothing if not collaborative in our approach. We work closely with a range of project partners on a wide variety of projects. We are also committed to furthering the industry’s knowledge around the improvement agenda.

We are currently working on a collaborative project funded by the European Union with academic institutions and private sector companies around the world. Being Lean and Seen is about advancing project management knowledge to support more efficient project delivery. The project is taking a multi-disciplinary perspective encompassing project management, lean management, psycho-social aspects, innovation and change management.

Dynamic capabilities

The scope of the project is huge. But one of the themes that got me thinking about some of the work we do around BIM is the role of project management in achieving innovation and change. The hypothesis is that to adapt to dynamic environments and sustain competitive advantage in the long run companies need Dynamic Capabilities.

According to David Teece, who originally defined the concept, Dynamic Capability is “the firm’s ability to integrate, build, and reconfigure internal and external competences to address rapidly changing environments.” One of the most important factors driving change in the construction sector is BIM and digital construction. The pace of change as a result of BIM is increasing and it requires organisations to assess and adapt their existing business models. Ergo, in order to respond to the challenges of BIM, companies need Dynamic Capabilities.

Spinning Plates

But what does that mean in practice for companies in the construction sector? There are different Dynamic Capabilities, and specific challenges require tailored approaches. A specific Dynamic Capability we will look at as part of Being Lean and Seen is “ambidexterity“. This is the capability of an organisation to exploit its current knowledge and competencies and to simultaneously explore new ones.

At the same time as responding to the challenges of BIM through adopting new processes, systems and technology, training staff and developing approaches to collaboration, companies in the sector will also need to maintain existing approaches. As a result they will need to demonstrate ambidexterity. We can think of this as spinning plates.

In our experience, we have seen that companies can assume there is a conflict between exploiting existing approaches and exploring new activities. Exploitation can often be separated from exploration. However, project teams can link exploration and exploitation activities within organisations to enable ambidexterity. Using pilot projects for BIM can enhance organisational learning processes. This can support radical as well as incremental innovation. Involving people working in project teams with business units focused on exploitation or exploration can facilitate knowledge transfer. Internal collaboration and communication for want of a better description.

BIM and change management

As part of Being Lean and Seen we will be looking at the ways in which companies can mediate between exploration and exploitation activities. We will be evaluating how companies can develop ambidexterity to embrace the flexibility and agility required to manage change. I have written previously about the importance of managing change in the context of BIM. In particular, I will be focusing on the digital construction agenda in relation to this work. And reporting back as we develop our findings, of course.