Investigation Into the Delays in Major Infrastructure Projects

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 60
Words: 18056
Reading time:
68 min
Study level: College


In a large infrastructure construction project, chances of coordination failures are numerous because of the large number of stakeholders and project participants involved. Several other factors including peculiar site conditions and nature of construction activities add to events that might cause coordination failures. Project management cannot ignore the impact of coordination failures as they are most likely to result in delays in the completion of the project and resultant time and cost overruns. In this context, this study investigated the delays in major infrastructure projects because of coordination failures. To support the investigation, the research engaged qualitative methods of case study and interviews with construction professionals. The case of Yas Island, a major leisure infrastructure project carried out in Abu Dhabi, UAE was studied. The study concluded that frequent design changes lead to coordination failures. Based on extensive literature review, case study and interviews the study suggests the formation of a coordination team to oversee the deficiencies in coordination, especially in a large infrastructure project. The study also suggests the appointment of a coordination consultant in addition to the project consultant to offer expert suggestions for improving the coordination systems of the project.


Infrastructure spending has increased manifold in the recent times. The Economist Journal has reported that the project investment in infrastructure is expected to be close to $22 trillion in the next ten years, which makes the investment in infrastructure projects a significant phenomenon. In view of the large financial exposure, efficiently planning and execution of mega infrastructure projects becomes particularly important in the present day context. However, the private and public sector are unable to meet the cost and performance promises. Most of the projects tend to show a dismal record of their performance. Cost overruns and delayed delivery are common features of large infrastructure projects. Lack of coordination among various participants involved has also been found to be one of the factors causing delays in large infrastructure projects. Current political uncertainty in the region has also adversely affected the flow of investment in mega infrastructure projects.

In this context, this research focuses on exploring the causes for delays due to lack of coordination in large infrastructure projects, studying the cases of delays in infrastructure projects in Yas Island project, Emirates of Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Delays in Infrastructure Projects – an Overview

Bramble and Callahan (1987) have defined that; “a delay is the time during which some part of the construction project has been extended or not performed due to an unanticipated circumstance”. Delay can be further elucidated as the time lag between original date of completion and the actual date of completion. In a different context, delay is defined” to make something happen later than expected; to cause something to be performed later than planned; or to not act timely” (Trauner et al. 2009). Assaf & Al-Hejji, (2006) define delay as the time taken above the allotted time for completing the project or above the date, which the parties to the contract have agreed among themselves for completing the project. There could be more than one date or a set of completion dates agreed between the parties according to the priority or nature of the project. Delays with respect to construction projects are the time taken for completing them in excess of the scheduled completion time.

Many of the factors listed above at one time or other becomes the reason for cost overruns of infrastructure projects causing financial difficulties and other benefit shortfalls to stakeholders, apart from causing delays in completing the projects. Many reasons could be attributed for such delays. Systematic over-optimistic planning in the case of large projects as compared to smaller projects is one of the main reasons. The inaccurate planning leads to erroneous time forecasts. Project managers often attribute the reason unfair distribution of risks through contractual arrangements as one of the main cause for project uncertainties resulting in delays and poor outcome of the projects.

During project formulation, it is usual for project managements to systematically underestimate the changes in scope of risks, complexities involved in the project and geological factors affecting the project completion. Delusion and deception has been identified to be reason for more project failures. Both are the consequence of poor decision-making. “Planning fallacy” drives the project executives to take flawed decisions, which impede the timely completion of the projects. Under such circumstances managers base their decisions on delusional optimism rather than basing their decisions on considered assessment of probable gains or losses likely to be caused by factors external to the project. This leads to overestimation or underestimation of project costs and time of completion. Normally project managements overestimate the benefits and make underestimations of costs and time. The miscalculations of time required for taking up and completion of different activities of the project results in lack of coordination, which this research argues as one of the main reasons for delays in large infrastructural projects.

Several other factors cause coordination failures in projects. Factors such as (i) a high number of actors involved in developing the infrastructure project, (ii) extreme variations in approaches among the actors involved in the projects, (iii) lack of clarity on the gains arising from the cooperation among the stakeholders and actors, (iv) high level of transaction costs, (v) institutional and social norms, which tend to discourage free flow of information, active collaboration, unfair distribution of risks (vi) absence of regulations for mitigating risks involved and (vii) inadequate funding affect the success of large infrastructure projects greatly. In addition to these factors, lack of coordination among the participants and persons responsible for completion of the project also acts to impede the progress of the projects to large extent.

Yas Island – Abu Dhabi – an Overview

Developed by Aldar Properties, Yas Island is a mega infrastructure project involving an investment of $ 40 billion. With construction activities commenced from 2007, the project is expected to be fully completed by 2013.

This project considered as a prestigious infrastructure project for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has been subjected to several revisions of master plan and design changes. Design changes along with aggressive timeline disturbed the internal and external coordination system of various organizations, resulting in to rescheduling the procurement plans and sometimes cancellation of material orders which caused enormous delays in timely completion of project. Several other factors were responsible for the delays; lack of coordination is one delaying the completion of the project. Exploring the causes of delays due to lack of coordination in large infrastructure projects such as Yas Island is the central focus of this current research.

Yas Island Master Plan
Yas Island Master Plan

Aims and Objectives

Examining the affects resulted due to lack of coordination among various stakeholders contributing to delays in major infrastructure projects is the central aim of this study. This aim is achieved by undertaking a case study of the major infrastructure project of Yas Island in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, where delays occurred in completing the project because of lack of coordination among different stakeholders. In the process of achieving the central aim, the current research seeks to achieve the following objectives.

  • To study the impact of project delays and risks involved in completion of projects.
  • To explore the impact of lack of coordination on project progress and the consequent delay in executing the projects
  • To study the importance and consequences of lack of standard coordination system in large infrastructure projects
  • To suggest methods and best practices to improve the coordination among project stakeholders and avoid delays in project completion

The current research included an extensive review of the available literature to achieve the other objectives enumerated above. The study tested the following hypothesis:

Lack of coordination among different stakeholders of the project will lead to delays in completing the project.

Structure of the Dissertation

In order to present a meaningful and cohesive research report, this dissertation is structured to have seven chapters.

  1. Chapter one presents a background of the research along with the aims and objectives. This chapter also presented the research hypothesis and a brief overview of the project of Yas Island in Abu Dhabi being the case study under this research.
  2. Chapter Two presents a review of the literature covering the project risks and delays in general. This chapter meets the first objective by studying the impact of project delays and risks involved in completion of projects from the findings of various prior studies.
  3. Chapter Three contains review of relevant literature on the project delays because of coordination failures. This review is intended to meet the second objective of exploring the impact of lack of coordination on project progress and the consequent delay in executing the projects.
  4. Chapter Four presents a discussion on the effects of coordination failures and methods of mitigating the coordination failures. This chapter meets the part of the third objective and fourth objective of the study, by studying the importance and consequences of lack of standard coordination system in large infrastructure projects and suggesting methods and best practices to improve the coordination among project stakeholders and avoid delays in project completion.
  5. Chapter Five presents a brief description of the research methodology and data collection methods. Chapter Six studies the case of Yas Island, Abu Dhabi for investigating the impact of lack of coordination in delaying large infrastructure projects. The discussion on the results of the case study meets the third objective of the study. Chapter Seven is the concluding chapter presenting a summary of the results of the research and their implications for various stakeholders. This chapter suggests few areas for further research.

Literature Review – Project Delays

The purpose of this chapter is to review the available literature on delays in construction projects dealing with causes and effects of delays. The chapter reviews professional publications and peer-reviewed journals with the aim of adding to the existing knowledge on the impact of project delays and risks involved in completion of projects.

Project management is concerned with the direction and coordination of human and material resources. The coordination has to be extended all through the progress of a project. The direction and coordination can be achieved by using modern management tools. Such direction and coordination is required to achieve the project goals of timely and quality delivery of the project to the satisfaction of project stakeholders. For managing the construction projects efficiently, the project manager must have a detailed working knowledge about the design as well as the intricacies of construction work (Ward and Chapman, 2003). The infrastructure projects differ from other construction activities in that they are constrained by different project objectives and time frame for completion. Large infrastructure projects could be managed successfully only when they recruit and retain best available talents with extensive knowledge in design and the process of construction. The project must be controlled by an expert project team, which could integrate and coordinate all project-related activities efficiently so that the no time is lost in the process of construction.

A wide range of project considerations weighs with the selection of an appropriate project management structure or procurement route to distribute the risk and responsibilities e.g. size of the project, strategic importance of the project; complexities involved in the project and organizational environment. Elements like budget and time constraints that determine the size of the project team and duration of the project; and availability of resources are some of the considerations has to take into account while deciding on the project management structure or procurement route. Organizational culture is another important aspect which goes in the determination of the project management structure. This chapter reviews the available literature on project delays and occurrences


Unique organizational operational activities of a non repetitive nature, occurring only once, within a specified time frame are known a ‘Projects,’” (Russell et al., 2003). Managing such projects involves the development and implementation of an innovation or change in an existing operation. Thus project management encompasses planning the project and controlling the project activities, subject to resources and budget constraints, to keep the project on schedule and within budget. The nature of the global business environment is such that new machinery and equipment as well as new production processes and use of information technology are constantly evolving. As a result there is a definitively increasing trend that a larger proportion of organizational efforts are being directed towards project oriented activities. Consequently planning and managing projects have taken a crucial role in the overall management of industrial and commercial corporations.

Delays in Infrastructure Projects

Delays are common features in the context of construction projects. Several factors contribute to the delays in construction projects. For successful completion of a project, the project management must ensure that there are no delays in any of the project stages. When delay occurs in any of the stages, the project cannot be completed within the estimated time. This means that the owner and contractor would be put to unexpected financial problems which are difficult to handle. Various causes for delays in projects have been identified by the literature, which makes the task of construction project management difficult (Burati et al. 1992; Hsieh et al. 2004; Josephson et al. 2002). Delays have adverse impact on the project completion apart from being instrumental for the development of disputes among project stakeholders. Effective coordination in many instances can avoid possible delays.

Causes of Delays in Infrastructure Projects

Turner and Turner (1999) observe that when a contractor is confronted with a design that is ambiguous, the sequence of activities in the construction project is most likely to get delayed. This is because the contractor has to follow a definite sequence of activities as defined by the design specifications. Unless there are clear directions in the design the contractor may not be able to follow the sequence of activities clearly, which will lead to delays in completion. Diekman and Nelson (1985) found that 40% of the loss and expenses claims were on account of faulty designs. The following are the events that may be considered as giving rise to delays. Delays which are not because of the actions of the contractor entitles the contractor to claim from the owner the direct expenses and losses incurred by him for working extra time on the construction. In other words the contractor is entitled to monetary claims. The following situations of delays lead to monetary claims by the contractor caused by delays in the project execution.

“Delay in receipt of instructions, drawing details or levels from Engineer.
Opening for inspection and testing where materials are found to be in accordance with contract.
Delay in appointment of Engineer or Quantity Surveyor.
Discrepancy or divergence in conditions, drawings specifications or bills
Delays arising from nomination of subcontractors
Delay in receiving possession or access.
Contractor suspending work in accordance with provisions of contract
Not all grounds entitling Contractor to extension of time lead to automatic recovery of loss and expense” (Mbaya, 2008).

It may be noted that all these situations arise not because of the fault of the contractor and therefore he cannot have control on delays arising from these instances. Efficient coordination of project activities would help in eliminating some of these situations leading to delays and consequent claims. It is also to be noted that not all the situations will automatically give the chance to the contractor to make monetary claims from the owner, as in some of the instances the contractor may also be at fault by not bringing the issue to the notice of the consultant or the owner immediately.

Odeh and Battaineh (2002) have identified seven significant causes that affect the progress of the large construction projects in the Far East which may be considered as applicable mostly to the infrastructure projects in the other parts of the world. According to the authors, the causes are; (1) interference from the owners, (2) inexperience of the contractors, (3) risks relating to the financing of the projects and payments, (4) productivity of labor, (5) sluggishness in decision making, (6) poor planning of the construction process and (7) delays caused by the subcontractors. Efficient project management calls for avoidance of these causes giving rise to delays in the completion of the project. The contractor through appointing professional project managers can ensure that labor productivity is maintained and the construction process is well planned. Project managers can also improve their decision-making process by assimilating the information required in time. Above all effective coordination of the work of all project participants including the suppliers and subcontractors would help in avoiding such circumstances. Thus it becomes imperative that all the participants of the infrastructure project are trained to perform with the required speed and accuracy so that the delays in the completion of the projects can be controlled if not avoided.

Baloi and Price, (2003) based on an extensive study of the literature, have categorized the risks associated with the construction projects both as a list of risks as well as risks based on the impact. Mills, (2001) has identified the delays relating to the weather, labor and plant productivity and the quality of the materials being used in the construction are the most important occurrences associated with the infrastructure projects. These factors are to be considered important because they can potentially cause delays to the project completion. For instance poor quality materials may result in rework as not being up to the satisfaction of the owner/consultant. Similarly bad weather conditions are bound to delay the construction. It may be noted that all of these occurrences remain uncontrollable by the project management before the execution of the project.

Cohen and Palmer, (2004) pointed out that typically the likely delays in an infrastructure construction project are identified at the early stages of feasibility and planning, the impact of these risks are experienced only in the construction start-up phase.

  1. Changes in the scope of the project and project requirements,
  2. errors and omission in designs,
  3. ill-defined roles, and responsibilities of the project participants,
  4. inadequately skilled project staff,
  5. effect of force majeure, and
  6. absence of the user of new technology are the construction project risks identified by Cohen and Palmer (2004).

Proper project planning will greatly help in avoiding these causes for likely delays.

Dubois and Gadde (2001) identified the interdependence of tasks and uncertainty as the two sources which contribute to the complexity in the process of construction projects. The uncertainty in turn is caused by the unfamiliarity of the management with the local resources and the local environment, incomplete specification of activities to be carried out at the construction site, lack of uniformity of materials, work and project teams inappropriate with the time and pace of the contracts and the unpredictability relating to the contract environment.

It can be inferred from the list of delays and their categorizations presented that most of the delays relate to the effectiveness of network within the construction project. The delays that arise due to the actions or inactions of the people in the network may mostly relate to social risks or they might also be resulting from the personal chemistry of the participants involved (Dubois and Gadde 2001). Especially in the infrastructure projects all the participants are not controllable by a single person, while the behavior of the individuals is more uncertain which again leads to the complexity of the management of mega infrastructure projects. In some occasions the local conditions, political uncertainty may also cause delay in decision making and the resultant delay in the completion of the construction project. The prevailing uncertainty about the capabilities and intentions of other participants in the project may also lead to risks in the mega projects.

Important evidence from the theory discussed can be drawn that all the lists and categorizations base themselves on the assumption that the associated occurrences are mostly negative and have the tendency to threaten the success of the project itself. This view point is more particularly prevalent in the categorizations of delays relating to the large infrastructure projects than in the categorizations relating to the general projects. This is because of the large number of activities and stakeholders one could find in large projects. This phenomenon is frequently described with the terms ‘lack of’, ‘inefficiency’ and ‘errors’ which are more common and frequently used than others. There is rarely a mention of the opportunities, though it can be stated that quite obviously without business opportunities, business risks cannot be considered in isolation.

Delays in completion of the projects cause financial losses to the project owner. Because of the financial losses incurred by the project, the project owner may find it difficult to settle the payments to the suppliers as well as wages and salaries to the project team members. Consequent to the liquidity issues, the delayed completion of the project affects the economy of the country.

Most of the construction projects are delayed and are not completed within the allotted time (Assaf & Al-Hejji, 2005). Most of the time construction schedules have been revised due to various delay factors. “Completing projects on time is an indicator of efficiency, but the construction process is subject to many variables and unpredictable factors, which result from many sources,” (Assaf & Al-Hejji, 2005).

Aibinu and Jagboro (2002) studied the impact of delays on construction projects. The authors identified “time overrun, cost overrun, dispute, arbitration, total abandonment and litigation” as the effects of delay. According to Koushki and Kartam (2004) observed that material selection time and their availability in the local market would result in cost and time overrun. Delays in mega construction projects influence the performance of the contractors and lead to disputes among the parties, low productivity and increased construction costs.

Sambasivan and Soon (2007) observed that contractor-related and client-related factors such as lack of experience on the part of the contractor and interference of the owner would result in time overrun. Koushki et al (2005) found contractor-related issues, material-related issues and financial constraints as the main causes for cost overruns in construction projects. Wiguna and Scott (2005) increased material cost because of inflation, changes in design requested by client, defects in design, inclement weather conditions, delayed settlement of bills of contractors and quality issues in construction works lead to disputes and resultant delays in construction projects. Hegab et al (2005) found that when the start of construction is delayed, there is likely to be delays in completion of the project. Ebsworth and Ebsworth (2008) found that any misstatements in tenders will lead to delays and associated claims. Semple et al. (1994) observed that 37.5 % of the samples selected for their study cited weather conditions as a contributing factor for the delay.

Assaf et al. (2006) found delays in approval of drawings, changes in designs and conflicts in work schedules of sub contractors were the significant causes of delays in construction projects in Saudi Arabia. Delays become an inevitable element in construction projects (Ibbs et al. 2001). Arain and Pheng (2010) find that slow review of designs will result in delays and increase the cost of the project.

Design changes, which are the major source of variation orders, have been found to cause more than 52% of the delays (Burati et al. 1992). Variation orders requested because of many reasons cause delays in construction projects (Thomas et al. 2002). Harbans, (2003) point out that even if careful planning has been done in respect of a project, it is possible that some variations might become necessary as the construction progresses and these will cause delay in the completion of the projects.

Therefore, construction contracts provide for possible variations considering the nature of the works involved (Finsen, 2005). Variations can occur because of number of reasons including improvements in constructions or requirement by owner (Hanna et al., 2002). Most of the variation orders result in construction delays.

Project Risk Management

Successful completion of a construction project is largely dependent upon the efficiency of the project management. With efficient project management, the project manager will be able to identify the deficiencies and take appropriate actions for removing such deficiencies. This will help in avoiding the financial losses to the project stakeholders. Several operational risks affecting the smooth progress of the projects are likely to result from an ineffective coordination from the project management (Palmer, 1999).

Effective coordination in project management will enable the settlement of issues relating to design specifications even before the commencement of construction and this will reduce the number of potential risks affecting the projects. It is advisable that such risks are evaluated before the commencement of construction so that the owner and contractor can arrive at an amicable solution on the variations. Coordination by the project management is of immense help in achieving this. When the project management is able to identify the risks earlier, the risks can be handled effectively and with ease, which will ensure an effective coordination. By doing this the project management not only ensures the avoidance of risks and effective coordination, but also ensures smooth progress of the construction projects.

Risk factors that affect any construction project can be categorized into internal, external and managerial factors. Number of project stakeholders and the financial investment involved in the project lead to the internal risk factors. Other internal factors include the variations in the expectations of end users and variations in the construction sites requiring the use of different equipments and resources. In any large construction project, a long gestation period involving the sinking of huge capital investment in the form of materials, equipments and resources pave way for enlarged risk exposures. Project progress may also be affected by the negative impact of natural perils like flood and other such events beyond the control of the project management. Varying site conditions of the construction project determined by the soil conditions present some additional risk factors to the project. The degree of risk associated with a construction project increases because of the structures surrounding the location and pilferage of materials on site. Reduction in productivity due to war conditions, labor unrest and financial problems of the owner may also affect the progress of a construction project. The risks of a construction project escalate owing to some managerial aspects like non-fulfillment of contractual obligations by either party, disputes over cost and time elements.


The objective of this chapter was to present a review of the relevant literature focusing on the delays in the projects in general and the causes for such delays. Next chapter deals with coordination delays in project progress.

Project Delays Due to of Lack of Coordination


Factors or causes of delays are not cognate at every project but these vary from project to project according to the nature, location and complexity. Delays in the construction industry are common and one of the most important issues as seen in the previous chapter. The timely completion of a construction project right from inception has always has a great importance in the construction industry (Nkado).

As seen in the previous chapter, project delays result from the poor performance of parties connected with the project. For example, delay in supply of materials by the suppliers will lead to delay the project. Similarly non-availability of resources like men and materials at the required time will also impede the progress of the project. Environmental conditions affect the progress of the project and lead to delays in the completion. Above all, lack of coordination among project stakeholders including project managers and contractors is one of the main causes of delays in completing the mega infrastructure projects.

“An incident of delay can originate from within the contractor’s organization or from any of the other factors interfacing upon construction project,” (Tumi et al., 2009). Globalization, research and use of IT in production industry have reduced the risk of delay and providing variety of options to communicate and coordinate each other but construction industry due its volatile nature still suffers delays. The construction industry is multi-participant one, with each of the parties having their own priorities and coordinating the project participants is a difficult task, where the use of the computing and other technology may not be effective. Because each of the parties would have its own information systems and record keeping, which make communication and coordination difficult. In addition, because of long gestation period the economic changes affect the stakeholders differently and some of them may go out of business, with the need to find new participant. This makes the job of coordination more difficult.

These delays are normally related to the project planning, owner’s decision making (variations), manpower, supervision, late issue of drawing, slow decision making by government authorities and sometimes due to lack of coordination.

Addressing of each of these issues to avoid possible delays depend largely on the coordinating capabilities of the project management. Project planning is the important function of the project management and any inefficiency in project planning is most likely to result in project delays. At the planning stage the project manager must bring out all issues that are critical and are likely to obstruct the progress of the project, so that all the project participants understand the impact and take proactive steps to avoid the delays. This is possible only when the project manager communicates with all the project participants and coordinates their activities so that he can ensure the planning is done efficiently.

Owner’s decision making is another area where coordination can be helpful in improving the effectiveness and speed with which the owners could make the decisions. With a proper internal coordination, the project manager must be able to get information on issues where there is the need for owners’ decisions. He can bring these issues immediately to the attention of the owners and take their decisions. Especially in the context of Oman, the coordination for getting owners’ decisions is of great importance as the owners in the country are most likely to change their decisions suddenly.

Coordination by the project management to arrange for the necessary human resources is another area worth focusing by the project managers for better coordination. After all without the required manpower construction projects could not be completed within time and budget. Again in the context of Oman, where majority of manpower is to be organized from other countries (expatriates) the job of coordinating human resources assumes great significance.

Most construction projects are delayed or fail because of lack of effective supervision at every stage of the project. Delays, claims and variations are the result of ineffective supervision. It becomes important that the project management coordinates the supervision activities effectively so that the opportunities for claims and variations do not arise. By demanding information about the progress of each project activities and removing the bottlenecks the project management will be able to ensure smooth progress of the construction project. However, effective supervision over the activities would alone provide the required and updated information on the project activities. Therefore, coordination becomes the foundation for effective supervision.

Issue of drawings is one of the aspects which could be performed efficiently by effective coordination among the parties involved. When the project manager is able to coordinate the activities of the design team and construction team along with the presence of the owners and/or the consultant, the project manager must be able to achieve the issue of proper drawings at the required time. This will help the project manager the reasons for delays leading to claims and variations. However, this is the job of an effective coordination on the part of the project manager.

In the context of Omani construction industry, delays are most likely to occur because of the slow decision making of government authorities, as it is difficult to make the authorities understand the urgency of the decisions. Effective coordination by the project management will be able to make the authorities understand the need and urgency of their decisions and thus avoid delays.

The complexity of multidisciplinary construction projects makes it difficult for the planners and contract administrator to identify the real cause of delay, its magnitude of effect and the party liable for such delay, especially in case of major infrastructure projects. Identifying the main causes of delay in large construction projects is very difficult and often initiates disputes about responsibility for the delay (Kim et al., 2007).

In fast track construction environment of mega projects massive coordination is required among different stakeholders e.g. client, project manager, engineers, contractors and different local authorities. Due to contractual obligations usually contractors are responsible to coordinate with clients and local authorities to have timely approvals for different issues related to infrastructure works e.g. power supply works, sewerage network connections and other existing services coming under or within the infrastructure. The contractors undertake this responsibility so that there is no stoppage in the production for want of approvals. But now there is growing understanding that a specialized consultancy organization should be appointed to take care of such approvals. Consultants/Contractors have to get approvals first for the design, construction and then at testing and commissioning stage, all this should be adequately coordination to avoid delays.


Coordination can be defined as process of managing resources in an organized manner so that a higher degree of operational efficiency can be achieved for a given project” (Liaquat Hossain, 2009). Today’s construction project has become a very complex, high-risk, and multiparty endeavor. Construction projects are composed of many interrelated elements of labor, cost, material, schedule, other resources, which needed internal and external coordination during the execution to get desired aims and objectives. Therefore in mega construction projects “coordination among project participants has been recognized as an important ingredient for success” (K.N. Jha, K.C. Iyer, 2005).

In this context coordination in a mega construction project can be further elucidated as unifying, combining, synchronizing and integrating the activities of various participants (stakeholders) e.g. client, engineers, architect, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and relevant authorities in the pursuit of common goals and objectives i.e. quality, cost and timely completion of the project (adapted from

According to (Grigg NS, 1993) “coordination means unifying, harmonizing and integrating different agencies involved in any industry with multiple objectives”. In the context of large infrastructure projects project managers carry the responsibility of ensuring effective coordination through all the functions of management like, planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling. The responsibility of coordination involves motivating and communicating among the various participants and stakeholders of the infrastructure projects.

Mega infrastructure projects where hundreds of organizations involved in a fast track construction format coordinated efforts have much more importance than an ordinary construction project. These organizations may be working with different priorities and tasks but for common goals and objectives. These organizations may be working on set of interrelated completion dates. Coordination primarily can be divided in to two main categories, (i) internal coordination and (external coordination).

Internal coordination or in house coordination means synchronizing the activities of a single group or various sections of an organization e.g. coordination among the design, commercial and construction teams in site. This type of coordination has high importance when the work in site is being carried out on exceptionally on fast pace with frequent changes in design. Internal coordination could ensure the smooth flow of the construction project by bringing all the project participants to agreement on important issues that may arise during the course of the progress of the project. For example, design approval by construction team is a matter of internal coordination, as the constructability is an important element in the success of a project. As design well made may not be of use if it cannot be given the final finish by the construction team. Effective internal coordination would be able to take care of the agreement of all the project participants on the ways of addressing critical issues facing the construction project execution.

External coordination means synchronizing the activities of various groups or organizations working in same vicinity for common goals and objectives. If the activities of these organizations are not synchronized this may severely affect one more objectives of the project. Because the time for completion of various activities is interrelated in complex and multidisciplinary construction projects, slow productivity of one organization can affect the completion of many activities or entire project. External coordination involves organizing all the resources required for the proper execution of the project. For instance, in some cases the approvals of local authorities may be required to continue with the construction. The application for approval may have to follow certain specific procedures based on existing regulations. Getting the approval of the relevant authority is one of the tasks of external coordination and the project management must ensure that such approvals are obtained in time to avoid potential delays.

Causes for Lack of Coordination

Similar to causes of delay causes of lack of coordination are not akin to other construction projects but these vary from project to project. Lack of coordination in project-related works might result from the adoption of different construction designs originating from different countries having varied cultural backgrounds, lack of communication, either the parties involved in the project working with different priorities. Lack of coordination among project participants can result into cost and time overruns ((K.N. Jha, K.C. Iyer, 2005).

For example in the Chinese construction industry, because of lack of communication with outside world, creativity of Chinese architects was seriously affected. Although there were significant advantages resulted from the introduction of foreign designers in the Chinese construction industry by introducing diversified architectural style and modern engineering techniques but large projects suffered serious setbacks by causing serious coordination issues and consequent delays. These coordination problems would have been avoided if local firms were used or if foreign firms have employed locally coordinators to coordinate with the local authorities (Wang, 2000).

Similarly delays in large construction projects studied by Assaf et al. reveal that one of the most important reasons for the delays is the delay in approval of the drawings. Assaf et al identify other causes such as “design changes, conflicts in work schedules of subcontractors, slow decision-making and executive bureaucracy.” All these causes originate from a lack of coordination among the project team members and other participants involved in the project.

Kumaraswamy et al. (1998), “Surveyed the causes of construction delays in Hong Kong as seen by clients, contractors and consultants, and examined the factors affecting productivity. The survey revealed differences in perceptions of the relative significance of factors between the three groups, indicative of their experiences, possible prejudices and lack of effective communication,” (Tumi et al, 2009).

Study by Ogunlana et al (1996) found the causes of delays in large infrastructure projects in developing countries like Thailand. According to this study, the problems in construction industry in developing countries might be considered in three different layers. They are “

  1. problems of shortages or inadequacies in industry infrastructure, mainly supply of resources,
  2. problems caused by clients and consultants and
  3. problems caused by incompetence of the contractors,” (Odeh et al. 2002).

The results of this study offer valid support to the premise that lack of coordination is the one of the major causes for delay in large construction projects.

Coordination Issues because of Different Backgrounds

The different backgrounds make it difficult for a mega infrastructure project owner to appoint a foreign design (without adequate expertise of the local market) firm to coordinate a project team in which local firms participate. The first issue arises when the client selects a designer from a foreign country. Once the design firm is appointed, the project owner will have the tendency to assign the whole package of design tasks to the single to firm in order to avoid coordination difficulties. The client may not also consider the capacity of the partnering consultants. It may so happen the limited staff in the architectural office will not be able to complete hard design tasks (Wang, 2000).

Poor communication channels in mega construction project normally lead to lack of coordination among the project teams and member and participating firms. When it is possible to establish proper communication channels among different project teams, many of the problems that are likely to emerge during different phases of construction can be resolved without the involvement of client. In case, where the project coordination of a large infrastructure project is left to a foreign design and engineering firm, the feedbacks of the local contractors may not easily reach the design firm and the engineers in time. This will lead to coordination problems arising within the design team and those with contractors. “The architect’s organization competence will greatly impact the quality of design documents and their other services” (Wang, 2000).

Approval of drawings and estimation is another area which might give rise to coordination issues and consequent project delays. Coordination in the approval stage involves all the activities in ensuring the drawings are prepared in time and presented to the appropriate project stakeholder for approval. It is the responsibility of the project management to ensure that the approvals for drawings are available before the tasks are commenced. In fact this is the essence of coordination in approval stage. The project management must also ensure that drawings cover all the areas of construction activity.

In case of major infrastructure projects design development drawings need to be approved by regulatory authorities, the project management must ensure that there is proper coordination in respect of such approvals, so that there is no undue delay in getting the designs and estimates approved by the concerned authorities. In case the project employs foreign design firms, such firms might find it difficult to apply appropriate local design codes and standards necessary for getting the approval from local authorities. This may also lead to frequent changes in the design drawings and leading to delay the project. On the other hand, design drawings which might be considered detailed by the foreign design firm might not be detailed from the perspective of the local contractors. The local contractors might sometimes find it difficult to understand and assimilate the intentions of the designers before they could start their work.

Cost estimation may also pose significant coordination problems, as the client may not get the precise estimates of the cost of various materials when compiled by the foreign designer, because the foreign design firm might not have full knowledge of the features of the local market. On the other hand, if the client appoints local cost estimator estimation, he may not understand the cost of purchasing and installing the foreign equipments recommended in the design drawings. Thus, lack of coordination might be the result of proper understanding of the project requirements by the project management and timely arrangement of these requirements.

Coordination Issues Caused by Communication Impediments

Construction activity especially in major infrastructure projects depends on the coordination of the activities of different project team members. Communication in the construction industry has not been defined. However the general classification of communication includes communication between client and the consultants, communication in between the consultants, communication between the consultant and the contractor and the communication on site. Communication in the industry may be formal or informal. In some instances, the contract specifies the manner in which communication has to take place. Print, drawn materials, verbal communication, written communication, notice boards, models and samples and computers are some of the common media of communication in the construction industry.

Strong relationships between the design team members and other project participants have large influence on the timely completion of the project with the expected quality. These relationships are normally established through contractual arrangements at the early stages of the project initiation. Effective, clear and cohesive communication among the project team members act to nurture the relationships so established. However, ineffective communication and language barriers may impede proper communication leading to project delays.

It is essential that while managing a large infrastructure project, coordination site meetings should held periodically to assess the progress of the project and ease the flow of data and information. Participants need to familiarize themselves with the progress and problems in project construction. If the foreign firms (without local representation) are involved in the design and execution phases of the project, they might avoid frequent site visits due to time and cost constraints. Lot of information is exchanged between the project participants and distance may become an impediment to the exchange of the required information causing coordination issues.

Sometimes language becomes another issue, in mega infrastructure projects where the organizations and participants are involved from various parts of the word. It may so happen that the project participants misunderstand other’s viewpoints because of language barriers. Thus factors of long distance, insufficient communication technique and language hinder the normal communication between the project participants leading to delays in completing the project. It seems that local construction industry which mainly comprises on expatriates from various countries had assimilated this issue.

Coordination through Different Functions of Management

Coordination in major infrastructure projects imply unifying, combining, synchronizing and integrating the activities of various participants (stakeholders) e.g. client, engineers, architect, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and relevant authorities in the pursuit of common goals and objectives i.e. quality, cost and timely completion of the project.

Apart from the basic functions of management in general, coordination is to be regarded as one of the sensitive functions of management (Chitkara, 1998). Higgin and Jessop (1965) identify coordination as third function in construction management in addition to design and construction. Chitkara (1998) and Martin (1976) argue that project manager in order to coordinate has to carry out planning, organizing, staffing and controlling for the success of construction projects. Chitkara (1998) finds that coordination is a function that is common all the management functions. It is observed that most of the duties and responsibilities of a construction project manager is aimed at contributing towards achieving coordination (Forsberg et al. 1996; Walker, 1996; Ritz, 1994; Bent, 1989; Kerzner and Thamhain, 1986).

Successful coordination is at the root of successful collaboration in construction projects (Cummins & Kiesler, 2005; Sonnenwald, 2007). In construction project, it is important that the work demands right equipment carrying proper materials be available within a short period. Therefore, good communication and coordination are essential elements in improving project performance (Shohet and Frydman, 2003).

Better coordination has become one of the essential requirements of success in today’s large infrastructure projects, which involve multiple stakeholders. Literature on construction management has identified the need for understanding the complexity in construction projects. Because complexity involves uncertainties and interdependencies, need for coordination arises to remove inefficiencies in operations (Dubois and Gadde, 2002).

Better coordination is required not only with the internal project team members but also with local authorities as well. Lack of coordination is most likely to result in duplicity of work causing delays, eventually culminating claims. Similarly lack of coordination with local authorities will lead to lack of synchronization of different activities resulting in cost overruns. Lack of relevant information flow among project stakeholders may result in frequent instances of rework in different project works, reiterating the need for close coordination in construction projects. Crowston (1994) the coordination process in a construction project is dependent upon the techniques selected to control the interdependencies of the project activities and resources required for the project performance.

Coordination during Design Process

“Construction can be viewed as a process of putting together all the materials in an orderly and timely manner by utilizing relevant resources to complete a structure as per designed specifications and quality standards.” The process of construction requires a high level of coordination among all professionals and trade persons from design office to the construction site until the project is completed (Liaquat Hossain, 2008). Coordination during design phase of a construction project is another area which needs consideration to avoid delay and disputes. Baldwin et al (1999) describes building design process as “a multi-disciplinary process, performed in a series of iterative steps to conceive, describe and justify increasingly detailed solutions to meet the needs of the client.” From the definition it may be observed that the design process involves interactions among several key participants. The involvement of the participants would create difficulties in managing complex design activities. A number of processes are involved in the design process from the beginning until the completion of the project. “Coordination in the design process might be viewed as an activity to handle the uncertainty and to synchronize the flow of design information.” Coordination is implied to mean the process of collection, storage and transmission of information, which is essential for an effective design process (McGeorge, 1998).


This chapter sought to present a review of the prior literature on project delays due to lack of coordination. The definition of coordination in the context of construction projects was extensively discussed in the chapter followed by an elaborate discussion on the causes for lack of coordination. The focus of the chapter was to add to the existing knowledge on coordination issues because of different backgrounds. In this context, the chapter dealt with coordination issues in construction projects caused by communication impediments, which made the point that effective communication is at the root of effective coordination in large infrastructure projects. Coordination through different functions of management and during design process were the other issues dealt with by the chapter. This chapter reiterated that coordination during design process of a construction project is of paramount importance for the success of a project. The next chapter deals with the impact of coordination.

Impact of Coordination Failures and Measures for Mitigation


Efficiency of project management in mega construction projects is a process of coordinating and using the right information at right time required for maintaining the progress of the project (Winch, 2002). Project managers for an effective coordination require adequate skills that enable them to make robust decisions. As the construction project progresses through different phases of its lifecycle, more stakeholders will interact with the project management. For the purpose of coordination, project managers and other practitioners apply various project management tools and techniques in support of their efforts to coordinate. These tools and techniques help the manager in the “creation of project strategies, scheduling tasks and the organization of the project team and project resources” so that effective coordination could be achieved. With the project management tools and techniques available the project managers can integrate information available from various sources, which can be used to evaluate and analyze various scenarios and strategies to make effective decisions during the project lifecycle. Dubois and Gadde (2002) have identified two central features in the complexity of construction projects. According to Dubois and Gadde (2002), “construction is inherently a site-specific project-based activity and that is mainly about the coordination of specialized and differentiated tasks at the site level” (Zanen & Hartmann, 2010).

Coordination is the single most important factor in construction industry, when a large number of stakeholders are involved in a mega construction project carried out in fast track environment. Active synchronization of the activities of all the stakeholders and other participants will be able to reduce, predict and cure issues resulting from lead time in preparing construction designs, availability of materials, manpower and equipments. Where the project involves number of risks at different phases of its life cycle, lack of coordination will lead to delays and consequent variations and claims. Lack of coordination will also result in financial and reputational losses to the client as well as the contractor.

Coordination in Design Phase (Master Planning & Detailed Designing)

Uncertainty is bound to exist in the design process of a mega construction project. This calls for the coordination of multidisciplinary professions. These professions, activities and information are likely to be active during the design phase. In the construction projects, lack of coordination during the design phase is a major issue to be addressed (Hegazy et al. 2001). Lack of coordination during design process may result in lack of integration of design information, leading to variations and design changes at a later stage of the project (Andi and Minato, 2003). During the design phase it must be ensured that owners’ objectives are clearly documented and the design team develops a proper design description. The design must be prepared in such a way that it provides a clear operating perspective. The design must be capable of adequately commissioned. This calls for the combined inputs of owner, consultant, project management team, design team and contractor. The project management must ensure that all the participants meet at regular intervals to ensure the goals of the design phase are achieved; this is the focus of coordination at the design phase,

Daoud (1997) argues that lack of coordination during design may lead to higher design cost and time overruns because of reworks in designs. “Complete and accurate design information is crucial for the architects to produce complete and error-free drawings,” (Ali and Rahmat, 2009). These drawings should be immediately passed to execution team especially when the construction is carried out in fast track format.

Although the design team can identify issues with the constructability of the design, it is likely that many of the design issues may go unnoticed if there is no coordination. These design issues may become apparent and might lead to cost and time escalations. Fischer and Tatum (1997) observe constructability as an important objective for ensuing smooth flow of construction projects.

Type of procurement route adopted for a construction project affects the involvement and participation of different stakeholders during the design process. Different procurement routes follow different communication protocols and thereby affect the coordination among the project participants (Bowen et al. 1999).

Coordination in Project Planning and Scheduling

In any construction project the terms execution and planning have different scopes and are to be considered individually. Planning involves the process of drawing up the programs, preparing the schedule of activities and organizing the required resources to complete the project (Mawdesley et al 1996). Planning is only a general term to describe these processes. The objective of undertaking planning in the context of a construction project is to ensure that all the activities, which are required for the completion of the project, are arranged in the required sequence. By careful planning the project management can ensure that the resources required have been organized in an economical and acceptable way (Zanen & Hartmann, 2010). Baldwin et al (2008) define project scheduling differently to include “a set of sequenced construction activities.” Project plan differs and project schedule defer from each other. Project plan exhibits the activities connected with a project and their logic relationship. A schedule on the other hand contains temporal information, which defines the duration of the project. Successful delivery and execution of the project is determined by well-structured macro planning of the project (Waly & Thabet, 2002).

Thus, project scheduling becomes an integral part of project planning. In all types on contracts it’s mandatory to submit the detailed scheduling of activities. For example according to FIDIC 99 General Conditions of Contract Clause 8.3 contractor has to submit detailed time program. Because project scheduling places all the project tasks in a logical sequence, it is essential that all the project stakeholders extend their cooperation during the planning and scheduling phase. A typical project schedule contains the duration of individual tasks and their start and end dates, the interdependency of tasks and the type of dependency. Proper scheduling therefore requires the coordination of all project participants to ensure they highlight the potential issues connected with the individual tasks. While scheduling it is essential that resources required completing the tasks are identified. The availability and adequacy of the resources need to be considered in conjunction with the project scheduling. “The logic behind this is that the duration of the schedule and the structuring of its tasks have a direct relation with the amount and type of resources required,” (Zanen & Hartmann, 2010). The identification of the required resources and their availability requires the coordination of all project stakeholders.

Coordination while Organizing

Organizing means the planning of the resources required to complete the project in time and with the expected quality. Winch (2002) observes that organizing proper resources for smooth running of the project is an important requirement for the successful completion of a construction project. The resources required in the form of financial investments, material and equipments required and appropriate human resources. Among the various resources required to complete the project perhaps the efficient project team is the most critical resource, as the main task of the project team is to ensure that the required resources are organized and utilized properly. Lack of coordination among the project team for integrating the required knowledge and skills will lead to delays in project schedules apart from budget overruns resulting in inefficiency in the project completion. Furthermore, the involvement of project (execution) team members at the early stage of the project is most likely to add expertise and will also strengthen the commitment of the team members to the project (PMI, 2004).

The peculiarity in the nature of a project organization caused by complexity of the environment and temporary nature requires more efforts as compared to the organizations, which are not temporary (Lundin & Soderholm, 1995). These characteristics make it difficult to maintain control over the organization and consequently enhance the need for close coordination. “In the design and planning stages, the emphasis of the project team organization is more on specialties such as design, risk identification, and planning. In case of major infrastructure projects coordination of utility engineer, and cost estimator is extremely important. In later stages, the emphasis is more on specialties that deal with actualizing the project such as project management, construction crews, and project controllers” (Zanen & Hartmann, 2010). Because the project emphasis changes during the different lifecycles, it is essential that the project team members who took part in the early stages continue to play an effective role in the later stages of the project lifecycle. This emphasizes the coordination of the project team along the entire project lifecycle.

Coordination Cost Estimation (Budgetary)

Cost management is the most important and highly specialized area in the project management and the decisions in any other area of project management have financial implications. Project cost estimation has to take place at the early stage of the construction project and for effective cost estimation it is essential that the project scope is defined precisely and completely (Gibson & Wang, 2001). Poor definition of the project scope is most likely to result in project failure, which may adversely affect the financial feasibility of the project and completion within the estimated time. In order to prevent this, the project team has to undertake a proper pre-project planning involving all the project stakeholders (Waly & Thabet, 2002).

In mega construction projects multi party involvement and multi disciplinary procurement routes may give rise to additional complexity to the project realization and involves increased coordination among the project team members and stakeholders. With innovative construction contracts the time span within which the costs need to be estimated increases and it might also be necessary that the project team takes into consideration different options available for proper cost estimation. Especially in mega construction projects without the coordination of all the project team members and stakeholders, cost estimation would be difficult. For instance, the project may have to utilize cheaper construction materials, which will have a significant impact on the project cost estimates. At the same time, use of cheaper materials may increase the maintenance cost. Project team can acquire knowledge on these aspects only with proper and continuous coordination.

Especially in mega construction projects involving government and semi government authorities, the project team must consider the specific conditions & specifications for compliance. In mega construction projects, additional care must be taken to ensure the coordination with various government authorities as sometimes, not following the specifications may lead to adverse financial consequences, if not included in the original cost estimation. Changes because of this situation will lead to variation requests in cost estimates affecting the profitability of the project.

Coordination during Monitoring and Control

After the completion of the preparatory works in connection with a construction project, actual construction work begins. All the planning done at the earlier stage is executed for realizing the project goals. Despite the efforts of the project team to identify and mitigate the potential challenges to the smooth progress of the project and to align the available resources with the realization of the project goals, it is unlikely that the project will sail smoothly as planned (Laufer & Tucker, 1987). Therefore, it is the responsibility of the project management to ensure effective and continuous coordination among all stakeholders for maintaining tight control over the project progress. “Project control refers to the effort of keeping parameters that indicate a project’s performance close to predetermined target value or within the range of the target value” (Zanen & Hartmann, 2010).

Diekmann and Al-Tabatabi (1992) have identified four important elements of project control. They are (i) performance standards and plans devised from the project goals and strategies, (ii) tools and techniques to measure project performance, (iii) comparison of planned and actual performances and (iv) corrective action required to ensure the project goes on track. Observation of these elements indicates the necessity for thorough project planning and the controlled execution of the project tasks including proper coordination among project participants. “These elements emphasize the need for a solid project strategy that includes a consideration of scenarios in which the project deviates from the original plan and the corresponding corrective actions” (Zanen & Hartmann, 2010). According to PMI (2004), the project team can initiate preventive or reactive actions for maintaining a tighter control over project and these controls may relate to elements like cost, quality, schedule or other risk associated with the project. However, in order to establish control measures in respect of these aspects, the project management must know the extent to which the progress of the project has deviated from the planned. Establishment of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is one of the ways to assess the performance of the project (Cox et al. 2003). For determining the relevant KPIs and the boundaries within which the project has to operate, the project management requires the inputs and coordination from all the project participants.

Interoperability (Exchange of Data and Information) in Construction Projects

Exchange of data and information between among project team members and participants becomes essential for effective coordination and to facilitate smooth workflow. In the present day context, it cannot be guaranteed that the main contractor and the subcontractors working in a mega construction project would be using software packages compatible with each other. Therefore for achieving seamless interchange of data and to ensure proper coordination nowadays developers prefer to use latest information technology platform e.g. “aconex” for exchange of data and information related to the project. All participants in mega construction projects must ensure that the technology is being used by them are compatible with other stakeholders including suppliers and subcontractors. Second requirement for effective interoperability and resultant coordination, it is essential that the software being used should be compatible with the standards of various utility authorities otherwise it will be extremely difficult at the final stages of the project.

For smooth and faster exchange of data and information among the project stakeholders, the project management tools must be flexible enough to allow their use in different configurations (versions), based on the requirements of a specific project. Dubois & Gadde (2002) observe that because each construction project is unique, they may give rise to specific project requirements or such requirements may also emanate from the project participants. The project management tools must be adaptive to these requirements for promoting the exchange of data and information and buying the new software every time is difficult and increase the project cost.

Consequential effects of Poor Coordination (Time, cost, quality, budget, client’s experience and financial capabilities)

Lack of coordination may lead to frequent variation requests and time overruns in mega construction project. In the absence of proper coordination, the project participants may not have the opportunity to understand the project goals from the same perspective, which naturally will result in variations. Coordination becomes significant when there are a large number of shareholders are involved in the project. With due diligence in coordination, it is possible to manage the detrimental variations which the affect the projects adversely even at the early stages of the construction projects. Variations, disputes and claims in the projects may arise as consequential effects of lack of coordination. According to CII publication 6-10 (1990), the impacts of variations in construction contracts can be grouped under (i) direct cost impact, (ii) direct schedule impact and (iii) indirect or consequential impact. The direct cost effects are limited to the construction activities in which the variations are to be applied. The owner may experience a positive or negative impact of the change, which in turn will be the opposite for the contractor. In some instances, the changes may not have any effect for both the contractor and the owner. Direct cost impact comprises of two elements – labor cost and material cost. It is always easier to determine the material cost impact with certain level of accuracy. On the other hand, it is not easy to calculate the effect of labor charges precisely because of the impact of variations on labor productivity and the uncertainty on the scope of the changes on the works. Impact of labor cost may lead to degradation in productivity, delays in completion and demolition of already constructed portions and rework of them.

Direct impact of changes on the schedule of construction activity can be documented easily after the change is effected, because one could get all the necessary data for estimating the effect. However, such estimation is not possible before carrying out the variations because of unexpected changes in labor productivity, accessibility of required materials and schedule changes. When there is a penal provision in the contract, the loss on account of changes in schedule may become very expensive. Zeitoun and Oberlender (1993) report on the schedule changes at 9% of the contracted schedules covering 71 fixed price contracts, which were the subject of their study. Ibbs et al. (1998) remarked on the impact of changes requiring schedule acceleration as “a high level of fast tracking generally does not result in any more changes than non-fast tracking projects.” The study by Ibbs et al (1998) found that more variations in the activities tend to take place towards the completion of the project, which might lead to high labor intensity and more rushed finishing operations.

It is the normal tendency of the project stakeholders to overlook the indirect or consequential impacts of changes in construction contracts. Indirect or consequential impact may affect the progress of other associated works at a later stage and thus will lead to delay in the completion of the total project. Therefore, it becomes important that the owner and the contractor take into account the direct and indirect impact of variations, while incorporating a change clause in the construction contract.

Lack of coordination may lead to consequences that significantly affect the progress of different work packages and thus causing delay in the entire project. Client’s financial capabilities to finance the project and past experience have significant affect on the timely completion of the project. Client’s inability to finance the project or lack of expertise to coordinate with other participants may adversely affect the contractor’s performance and overall completion of the project.

Lack of coordination has been identified to be one of the important causes of variations in the construction contracts. Project management has a great responsibility in coordinating the activities of all the project participants even from the inception of the contract so that number of occasions giving rise to variations and consequent disputes among the parties could be avoided. Proper coordination will assist in reducing design discrepancies as with effective coordination, parties concerned will have the opportunity to review the contract documents and drawings for eliminating any misunderstanding and resultant variations.

Project Management Tools for aiding Coordination

Project planning and scheduling were the first activities that were formalized with the introduction of Gantt Chart introduced by Henry L. Gantt (Wilson, 2002). Gantt Chart represents an effective tool for project planning and control as it can analyze the overall project performance and the resources allocated for such performance. Computer based tools like MS Project and Primvera P3/P6 uses Gantt Charts. These tools can also apply Critical Path Method (CPM) and they have set an industry standard for the creation of project schedules, having a link to the project resources (Lu & Lam, 2008). Line-of-balancing is a resource-oriented scheduling tool, which is an activity-based scheduling tool, which can be used in projects having repetitive tasks (Suhail & Neale, 1994; Tokdemir et al., 2006).


The purpose of this chapter was to present a discussion on the impact of lack of coordination in each stage of the project such as designing, planning and scheduling, organizing, cost estimation and project control and monitoring. While lack of coordination could result in variations, disputes, claims, cost and time overrun at a later stage of the project, these elements by themselves will lead to direct and indirect consequences on the performance of a project. This chapter also elaborated on different project management tools and techniques that may be of help in ensuring effective coordination among project participants.

Research Methodology

The purpose of this chapter is to present a brief description of the research method used for conducting this research. Methods of data collection and the ways in which data is derived from the primary and secondary sources form part of this chapter. Issues of validity and reliability are also discussed within this section.


By adopting a framework the researcher will be able to pursue his plans in ideas which are backed by literature and recognized by knowledgeable audience. Generally, researchers adopt qualitative, quantitative or mixed method types of framework. The researcher has to have a framework for combining the elements of philosophical stances, research strategies and techniques pertaining to these three approaches (Zikmund, 2000). Fellow and Liu (2003) observe the recently increasing recognition for the suitability of qualitative studies for researches within the realms of management and engineering. Fellow and Liu (2003) argue that qualitative studies have the ability to get into details on the problems and issues, which could be studied using quantitative methods. For this reason qualitative methods of case study and semi-structured interviews were selected for conducting this study. The main benefit of using qualitative research method is that it uses interview method for the following purposes (i) diagnosing a situation, (ii) screening the available alternatives and (iii) the discovery of new ideas from others (Zikmund, 1997 quoted in Naoum, 2007).

Primary Research and Data Collection

Any research can be conducted using data collected from two sources – primary and secondary. The primary data represents data collected for specific use employing different research tools. Secondary data is collected from existing sources, where the data is collected by someone else for a different purpose (Proctor, 2005). The current study will collect primary data based on the responses for the survey questionnaire posted to the samples. Secondary sources comprise of information and data collected from prior research studies on the research topic, professional journals, and other data sources available on Internet. The secondary data will enable the researcher to collect volume of theoretical information on the research topic. This research uses case study method and interviews under qualitative research as the primary research method for data collection.

Case Study as a Qualitative Research

Denzin & Smith (1998) observe that “Qualitative research is multi-method in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter.” This implies that the qualitative researcher examine things in their natural settings. Case study has been used as a research tool by a number of researches. “Case study is an ideal methodology when a holistic, in-depth investigation is needed” (Feagin et al. 1991). Different exploratory studies in the discipline of social studies have made use of case study method for collecting relatable information about the topics researched. Following case study as the research tool facilitates the researcher to follow well -developed techniques to meet the requirements of data collection for any kind of investigation.

This research uses a Case Study in order to encourage in-depth investigation of particular instances. Naoum (2007) stated this approach is a qualitative research which is subjective in nature and consider meaning and experiences of the subject. Because of the author’s association with large scale infrastructure projects, the current research undertook the case study of Yas Island in Abu Dhabi to examine the role and impact of coordination delays in infrastructure projects.

Data Collection of Case Study

Yin (2009) observed that case study research can be undertaken based on six primary sources. The person doing the research has to possess varied capabilities for working with such resources. It is not necessary that all sources have to be used every case study; but multiple sources of data enhances the reliability of the study (Stake, 1995; Yin, 2007). Out of the six main sources recommended by Yin (2007), documentation and interviews will be utilized by this research. The following sections present a review of the two


Documents may take the form of any reports or other papers containing information which can be added to the database. “The validity of the documents should be carefully reviewed so as to avoid incorrect data being included in the data base. One of the most important uses of documents is to corroborate evidence gathered from other sources. The potential for over-reliance on document as evidence in case studies has been criticized” (Tellis, 1997).


Case study method of research is strengthened by interviews and interviews add to case study information. The interview for social research can be conducted in unstructured, structured or semi-structured forms. The research may call upon the use of a variety of the forms (Naoum, 2007). Interviews for the purpose of this research were conducted with seven professionals who worked in the project of Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which project is the focus of case study within this research. The researcher followed a set of standardized question for conducting the interviews. The purposes of the interview were:

  1. to examine the cause of lack of coordination in construction projects;
  2. to identify the causes of lack of coordination;
  3. to identify the impact of lack of coordination


In any social or educational research, the conclusions drawn from the analysis of the findings from the data gathered under the research can be accepted to the degree to which they are determined to be valid. The objective of testing the validity is to ensure whether the research has properly measured the criterion it planned to assess. Tests of validity are also used to estimate the truthfulness of the results of the survey approximately. Normally it is left to the researchers to specify their own definition of the extent of validity. In quantitative research, there are provisions for testing the validity and reliability of the results, while in qualitative research there are no such provisions. It is to be noted that, “to disregard validity is to put the trustworthiness of your work in question and to call into question others confidence in results.” (Tariq, 2009) Validity and reliability are at the root of making a good and bad research report. Thus, validity is to be construed as an important concept in establishing the credibility of the findings of the research. According to Avis, (2006), validity is an epistemological concept. The application of validity to any research findings depend on the fundamental positions taken about the nature of truth. The representation and the scientific methodology used in conducting the research also contribute and enhance the validity of the findings of a research.


The purpose of the chapter was to describe the research methodology that was used to complete the current study. The introductory section mentioned the research approaches, which are available to the researcher in the field of social science researches. The salience of primary research and data collection methods were explained in the next section. Case study being the research technique under qualitative study was the main focus of this chapter, which described the merits, demerits and criticisms of case study as a research method. The justification for using case study for the current research was also outlined in this chapter. The sources from which data for case study could be retrieved was mentioned. Discussion on interview method and validity of research findings formed part of this chapter. The next chapter presents the case study of Yas Island, Abu Dhabi and the findings from the interviews.

Case Study and Interview Findings and Discussion

The purpose of this chapter is to present the findings from the case study of Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The case study contains brief introduction on the infrastructure project and the difficulties faced by it which caused a delay in the execution. This research was supported by semi-structured interviews conducted with chosen professionals. This chapter also presents findings from the interviews conducted as a part of the research with construction professionals associated with the project of Yas Island. Appendix I shows the profile of the respondents to the interview. The respondents are in involved in the project and they have firsthand experience on the progress of the large infrastructure project of Yas Island. Appendix II exhibits the questions that were asked to the respondents to the interview. Appendix III shows the interview transcripts containing the responses of the participants to the interview questions.

Case Study

Abu Dhabi is the largest in seven emirates, with a land area of 67,000 square kilometer, 85% of the total land area of the country. Abu Dhabi Emirates possess 10% of the world’s oil reserves and producing 90% oil of the Country. In last decade Emirates has taken massive steps to diversify the oil propelled economy and to introduce him as major tourist and leisure destination

In 2006 Government of Abu Dhabi with a huge budget outlay planned to develop 2,500 hectares barren land of Yas Island into a lush green leisure and entertainment destination. Project was divided into three phases and 1,700 hectares area has been developed in Phase1. Yas Island is connected with Capital and main land by 10 lane freeway passing through Saadiyat Island. Yas Island’s major attractions are 5.8km Yas Marina Circuit and world’s largest indoor theme park “Ferrari Word Theme Park”. Elegantly designed and styled 5-star Yas Hotel is the first hotel ever built over a Formula One™ race circuit. Warner Bros. Movie Word and Water Park are being added as the future leisure and tourist destinations.

Yas Island Master Plan
Yas Island Master Plan
Ferrari Theme Park
Ferrari Theme Park

Island contains six marinas with 1400 berths and an under construction water park. World’s fastest roller coaster travelling up 240km per hour, located adjacent to the Ferrari Theme Park is already completed. The iconic Ferrari World project was named Overall GCC Project of the Year at the MEP Awards 2010.

Yas Marina Hotel and Marinas
Yas Marina Hotel and Marinas

The huge task to develop the Yas Island was awarded to Aldar Properties PJSC (Aldar) by the oil rich Abu Dhabi Emirates in 2006 part of its strategy for growth, Vision 2030. Aldar a semi government organization is the second-largest real estate company, in terms of total assets in the Gulf region.

Working in close relationship with the Government of Abu Dhabi, the Company creates world-class real estate developments for the nation whilst actively contributing to the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 (Aldar Properties, Annual Report & Accounts 2009).

Aldar launched Yas Island project, which has the distinction of being one of the largest real estate projects in the region, worth USD 40 billion on a total land area of 25 million sqm. (Ahmed Al Suwaidi, TAIB RESEARCH, 2008). A high risk was involved when developer decided to carry out such a multidisciplinary project on fast track construction format. Political support, high liquidity and engineering excellence made it possible that Etihad Formula One Grand Pre 2009 took place as scheduled.

Construction started in 2007 when the global construction industry was witnessing a boom. It was tremendously difficult for construction companies to find the locally experienced construction professionals. Developer faced tremendous difficulties to gather mammoth resources e.g. planners, designers, engineer, architects and contractor to complete the task. With all these risks and difficulties in sight planners announced the date for Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2009 immediately after the construction started.

The project management procurement route was adopted for most of the contracts so that design and construction could proceed simultaneously. In project management procurement route a construction manager is appointed on fee basis to advise the Client. “This gives the Client a closer involvement with the project throughout its whole life. Line of communication between the client and the specialized contractors carrying out the work packages are shorter than with other systems thus ensuring a faster response to decisions” (Derek Thomson, 2007).

Developer and project manager did massive manhunt around the world and hired professionals and services to meet challenging task. In a short period of time around one hundred highly professional and renowned companies including engineers, contractors and subcontractors were hired by the developer. Halcrow International Partnership (HIP) was chosen as lead consultant for the £23 billion first phase infrastructure works carried out in the island.

Along with 22.5km 5 lane X 2 Freeway 850,000.00m2 of asphaltic internal roads designed international standards and constructed in 18month time period. Since the island was unpopulated and no primary infrastructure was available existing except lonely 2 lanes Access Bridge. Therefore whole infrastructure was designed and built from scratch. Nearly 60,000m of various diameters ranging from 225mm to 2200mm storm water lines were laid in a short time.

A fully automated sewerage treatment plant with a capacity of 57,000cm/day along with 20,000m sewerage line also part of the phase 1 infrastructure projects. Supply of natural gas with 18,000m internal distribution lines with automated system were also laid for commercial and residential units. A fully integrated telecommunication network complying with the standards and requirements of local service providers was also installed.

Yas Island has independent irrigation system to irrigate the massive soft landscaping, to serve the purpose an irrigation tank having capacity of 10million gallons with 32,000m irrigation network was installed with aggressive timeline. Yas Island is hosting Region’s largest potable water tank with a total capacity of 20million gallons to serve the commercial and residential units. Water network comprises 28,000m distribution lines and a main line from mainland to the water tank.

A major initially faced by the organizers to lay this huge utility network prior to starting the construction of road works and massive soft landscaping. Construction of hotels, marinas, race track and utility network was started simultaneously. Smoothly mobilization of laborers, construction personals, construction material and equipment across the island without affecting the work has been a major task for planners and project managers.

One of the major challenges primarily faced by the developer was the single two Lane Bridge constructed for one of the UAE Armed Forces division. This access bridge was also used by as the only access for Saadiyat Island development too. At later some stage temporary bridge for light traffic was constructed to overcome this difficulty. Developer also spent huge money to construct high standard operative village for nearly fifty thousand workers on the island to avoid the traffic load the lone access bridge.

Another major challenge faced by the project managers and coordinators how to communicate between mammoth workforces in an organizationally complex situation. How to manage significant amount of data for long project duration divided in phases. ALDAR properties selected to use the Aconex is online collaboration system for documents and correspondence submission as official communication platform.

Approximately hundred above engineering were participating in constructing the phase one of Yas island project. The developer started various construction activities simultaneously i.e. hotels, Race Track Marina, Marinas, Enabling works, Infrastructure and Freeway crossing the Yas Island, which lead to multi organizational involvement in the same working vicinity. This multi organizational involvement and multi tasking environment intensified the requirement of an adequate coordination system.

Findings from Interviews

The questionnaire prepared for conducting the interviews with the participants were based on the objective of appraising the overall performance of the coordination system followed in the infrastructure projects in Yas Island Project.

Design of the Coordination System

The first question in the interview was to find out about the coordination system that was followed in the project as to whether the coordination system was designed specifically for the project or had it been modified from other systems used in similar projects. Out of the eight professionals interviewed, two of them had not responded to the question on the design of the coordination system. Overall from the responses of the participants, it could be observed that no specific design was formed to coordinate the project activities. At the same time the project has not also any systems from the earlier projects modified. In the words of David Connolly, one of the respondents

“The PM consultant sought to impose systems but with only limited success and over time the various systems in use by various parties evolved to an acceptable way of working. This was probably due itself to there being insufficient time for organisations to become familiar with the approaches that were different to those known to each organisation.”

Coordination with Government Authorities

The second question sought to find out the reasons for delays in getting approvals and clearance from relevant authorities while risks were allocated at the planning stage. The researcher intended to find out whether the installation of some special coordination system or strategy would have avoided the delays.

Some of the respondents were of the opinion that because the project was meant to be the private property of ALDAR, there were no many requirements for approval, as in the case of any other mega projects. However approval from the environment authority of UAE was necessary because of the size and dewatering system of the project. Ian Mitchel was of the opinion that “it is necessary for Client and their PMs to introduce relevant authorities to project at early stage, not almost at project completion as an afterthought.”

One of the respondents Andre Philip Holder expressed his opinion on the approvals of show drawings at the planning stage. He remarked “But the main issue in my opinion is that Authorities approved Shop Drawings from contractors and not design drawings from consultants. This is a major risk on fast track projects as by the time shop drawings are reviewed by Authorities its usually/expensive in time and money or too late to make changes. On fast track projects the designs have to be approved to ensure shop drawings are merely a formality. This is a very special strategy which is not implemented by consultants in the UAE who generally rely on the contractor to get final approvals from the authorities.”

One of the respondents is of the view that the processes of the authorities and the processes of the project must be agreed and simplified for efficient project performance.

Factors that affected Coordination

The next question was to find the opinion of the professionals about the most common and influential areas of lack of coordination in the Yas Island project. The participants were asked to comment on

  1. frequent design changes,
  2. drawings and instructions,
  3. scheduling the component of developments,
  4. implementation of scheduled activities on site.

All of the respondents indicated that although all the areas were common and influential, frequent design changes had more problems in coordinating the project for speedy completion. The respondents indicated other areas like lack of clarity of what is required, poor planning, under scope of work, delay in awarding the works and inadequate link between Client/PM construction supervision team and Client/Designer Master Planning team, which caused poor coordination and consequent delay.

Critical Stage in Procurement Route

The fourth question in the interview wanted to find the most critical state of coordination in the procurement route adopted for the development of Yas Island project. The respondents were indicated the possible areas as

  1. client – project management,
  2. project management – engineers (consultants),
  3. engineers – contractors,
  4. contractors – local authorities,
  5. contractors – contractors and
  6. engineers – engineers.

This question evoked mixed response from the participants. While many of them pointed out that coordination among all the parties is important George Ghanem was of the view that coordination among various contractors is important. In his words

“The coordination among all stakeholders of the project has its own importance and significance but in our opinion and according to the fast track nature of project, coordination among various contractors working in the same vicinity should have given more importance. This could have helped scheduling the activities even more efficiently between road and landscaping contractor working in parallel. Effective and efficient scheduling of activities could have minimized the delays in incidents of damages.”

David Connolly pointed out that coordination between project management – engineers (consultants) and engineers – contractors have never been a major issue. However he expressed the opinion that coordination between other stakeholders mentioned in the question becomes important in different circumstances. One of the respondents indicated that it is the responsibility of the client to ensure that all parties are focused on the correct project objectives.

Delay because of Lack of Coordination

The next question in the interview was asked to find out the opinion of the respondents as to whether lack of coordination was one of the major reasons for the occurrence of different events of delays in Yas Island project. Three out of eight participants confirmed that lack of coordination was one of the reasons that led to delays in the completion of the project. Andre Philip Holder was having a different opinion on the reason for delays. He remarked:

“No as the project had such impossible deadlines everybody focus was on delivery and coordination but the result was that limited coordination was done with the Authority consultants who in many instances were seen to be the cause of delay however in hindsight the handover over the projects after construction has suffered and if this project was done again much more attention should be given to involve the Authority Consultant as part of the delivery team and not have them watching from the sidelines.”

One of the participants was of the opinion that although the project delivery team did a good job, there was delay in handing over to the authorities.

Coordination System to avoid Misunderstandings

The next question contained in the semi-structured interview questions was to find whether the project implemented any special coordination system or strategy to avoid any misunderstandings causing delays at the stage of allocating risks and responsibilities.

All the participants were of the view that no special strategy or coordination system has been devised and implemented in the Yas Island project and lack of such special coordination system has led to major delays. In this context, Georges Ghanem made the remark that:

“Transitional approach from design to construction, ineffective scheduling of various activities has been undertaking at site and non supportive coordination system has resulted numerous delays. Frequent design changes and immovable time for completion has badly disturbed the internal and external coordination of many organizations.”

According to Ian Mitchell, one of the respondents, the client has not undertaken proper organizational approach. In the early stages of the project, the emphasis was on the design and at the later stage it was shifted to construction activities. However there was no interaction between these two areas.

Impact of different Cultural backgrounds on Project Coordination

The purpose of the next interview question was to find the experience of the participants in synchronizing the expatriate workers from different parts of the world speaking different languages, belonging to different religions and socio-economic backgrounds and the impact of such variations on the project progress.

The respondents have not found the demographic and socio-economic issues hindering the progress of the project. The professionals were of the view that with UAE labour laws governing the expatriate workers, the project did not have any major issues. The law in force forced the people to fit into the system, which made the planning and coordination easier. According to Kassad Hallak, one of the respondents to the interviews it was difficult to manage the large workforce; however there was good support from the authorities to help the project meet its schedule. David Connolly was of the view that while the project was not affected by the demographic factors, variations in skills/experience/knowledge of people from different national backgrounds were a serious issue affecting the quality of work. This got worsened when there was time pressure on the contractors.

Avoidance of Reworks

The next question was raised with the objective of finding the views of the participants about the possible impact of a proper coordination system to avoid the negative effects on the time, cost and quality of the reworks necessitated during the execution stage of the project.

All the participants agreed to the point that the incidents of damaging and reworking the works already completed were unavoidable. Some of the respondents were of the view that in a mega project like Yas Island; such types of incidents are unavoidable. However many of the respondents were of the view that these incidents could have been avoided by close coordination among the contractors and increased supervision by the engineer. For this question Paul Cartledge responded by saying “Allocation of risks and responsibilities is normally done at procurement stage. It would be sensible to include specific conditions about coordination and logistics into contracts, where it is expected that contractors will have to work side-by side.”

Delays in Handing Over and Delayed Reimbursement of Expenses

The next question was to find out the role of improved coordination system to improve the delays caused by difficulties of the parties to hand over the completed work to the users and authorities and consequent delay in reimbursing the expenses incurred by the clients. Most of the participants criticized the procedure of a developer delivering the infrastructure project to the authorities and the authorities were not ready to take over the project, which caused the delay. The property was first developed as a private property of ALDAR and later on it was ordered to be handed over to the authorities. Therefore the documents and drawings were not prepared in accordance with the requirements of authorities. The remark of Georges Ghanem is of relevance and is reproduced below.

“The early involvement of the authority representative could have minimized the delay but again it was not reasonably foreseen by the Client and Project Management and also if the parties involved abide by their contractual obligations. These contractual obligations should been clearly defined in the Contracts.”

Recommendations for Improving the Coordination System

The final question on the semi-structured interview was aimed at getting the suggestions/recommendations from the participants for improving the coordination system and avoiding/minimizing the delays due to lack of coordination.

Most of the participants to the interview were of the opinion that an exclusive coordination team must be appointed to mitigate the issues arising out of lack of coordination. The remarks of Andre Philip Holder in this context are reproduced below:

“I believe a team of people were needed that could stand back from the delivery targets of the project and overview the bigger picture I believe we were all to focused on delivery only in the instant of time that the overview which would have acted as a safety net to the project. The people in this team should not be involved in the delivery challenges but should be from technical and management to act as an efficient quick review panel to review design and decisions before being implemented and a team that was watching the end goal of quality and final product.”


Yas Island project was awarded to ALDAR Properties, a semi-government organization and the second largest real estate company by the Abu Dhabi government as a part of its strategy for growth. The project was undertaken on a fast track construction format. The construction of the project commenced in 2007, when the world was experiencing a construction boom. This created difficulties for the construction companies to mobilize the required qualified and experienced construction professionals such as planners, designers, architects and subcontractors to complete the task. Halcrow International Partnership was appointed as the lead consultant. Because the island was uninhabited, the whole infrastructure was to be build from the scratch. The developers have to spend largest sums of money in constructing a high standard operative village for housing more than fifty thousand workers on the island to avoid the traffic load on the only bridge available to reach the island. The project faced a major challenge in communicating and coordinating the activities of a large multi-lingual, multi-nationality workforce. Another major issue was managing the large amount of data generated during the progress of the project. Approximately more than one hundred engineering and construction companies were participating in the first phase of the project. Moreover, the property which was initiated as a private infrastructure project was instructed to be handed over to the government authorities. These factors have necessitated the requirement of an adequate coordination system.

With this background, the current research conducted a qualitative interview with construction professionals who worked for ALDAR as well as for Halcrow International Partnership, the lead consultants. The semi-structured interview was conducted based on the questionnaire prepared in advance. Ten questions contained in the questionnaire were formulated with the objective of appraising the overall performance of coordination system followed in the infrastructure projects in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

The findings from the interview reveal that the coordination systems instituted by the project management consultant organization met with only limited success because the participating organizations did not find enough time to become familiar with the approaches that were different from those within the knowledge of the organization. This implies that a large project preparation time would have enabled the organizations to coordinate with each other in a better way and resulted in lesser issues. Although efforts were taken in the form of using a project management consultant, use of Aconex information system and introduction of an integrated Project Delivery Team (PDT), the project did not develop a coordination system suited to the particular situation and modified to deal with new problems as and when they arose during the progress of the project. However the appointment of a single Engineer/Architect team appointed to oversee the development of the entire project helped largely in the collection and exchange of information and in managing different components of the project in an efficient manner. As pointed out by one of the respondents to the interview the following are some of the salient aspects of the coordination system followed by the Yas Island project, which helped the coordination in a mega project like Yas Island.

  1. Appointing of one Infrastructure consultant to design all the utility systems this ensured one party was responsible for designs and supervision reducing the need to coordinate between more than one consultant –
  2. Installation of outside utilities like District Cooling was coordinated through Aldar.
  3. The priority of installation of utilities and the order of the installation was coordinated through the Engineer and Project Delivery Team thus ensuring utilities were installed as per the need of the project and not as per the individual contractor requirements.
  4. The contracts where possible were categorized into areas in which the contractors arranged for the utilities rather than using different contractors.

The study found that because the infrastructure project was developed as the private initiative of ALDAR, there were no major issues concerning the approvals from authorities. It is observed from the interview that Environment authority of UAE was concerned about the magnitude of the project and dewatering system of the project. According to one of the respondents, in the matter of approvals Yas Island was unique. It was within the knowledge of the developers Aldar that if they had to follow the usual process, they might not be able to deliver the project on time. Therefore, Aldar took a decision to instruct its consultants to design ‘approvable’ products and then deal with obtaining the actual approvals later. This decision allowed the Phase 1 aspects of the project mostly to be delivered on time. However at a later stage some issues cropped up in obtaining third party approval for various reasons.

The study finds that because Yas Island was a fast track project, all the parties involved in the project including the client, consultant and the contractors have to take risks especially with the approval of authorities. This is more so when the construction was started before the completion of the design in full.

Based on the review of the literature and the interviews conducted as a part of the research, the research found that frequent design changes as the most common and influential areas of lack of coordination. Other areas like lack of clarity of direction, inadequate planning, lack of clarity in scope of work, delays in awarding works contracts, inflexible completion time and inadequate link between client and project management construction team and designer master planning team were also responsible for causing coordination issues and consequent delays in execution and delivery of the project. However frequent design changes had more serious impact as they forced the contractor to reschedule its procurement plans and order of material as well. Implementing and scheduling of these frequent design changes have made difficult to coordinate among other parties involved. This finding is in line with the theoretical observation from the review of the literature.

As observed by one of the participants to the interview, in Yas Island project, there was a General failure of co-ordination among the various stakeholders of the project which resulted due to shortage of material supply, magnitude and fast track nature of the project. The current research finds that the coordination among all stakeholders of the project has its own importance and significance but according to the fast track nature of project, coordination among various contractors working in the same vicinity should have been given more importance. This could have helped scheduling the activities even more efficiently between road and landscaping contractor working in parallel. Effective and efficient scheduling of activities could have minimized the delays in incidents of damages.

Conclusion and Recommendations


The current research has been undertaken to examine the impact of lack of coordination on large infrastructure projects. The research engaged qualitative research techniques of case study and interviews. As a case study the project coordination in the large infrastructure project of Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE, was undertaken. Interviews were conducted with construction professionals, who were working on these infrastructure projects, were a semi-structured questionnaire. Apart from the case study and the interviews, the research made extensive review of the relevant literature to add to the existing knowledge on project delays in general, project delays because of lack of coordination and the impact of coordination failures and the measures for mitigating the negative impact of coordination failures on the progress of the project.

Summary of Findings

The study concludes that frequent design changes have been one of the significant areas contributing to coordination failures in large infrastructure projects, especially those taken up for completion on fast track method. The study also concludes that the coordination between all the stakeholders like client, contractors, consultants, project management and engineers becomes important at different stages of the project and therefore it is for the owners to ensure that proper coordination exists among the different stakeholders at every stage of the project. In a large infrastructure project it is not possible to pinpoint that coordination of particular stakeholders is important and most critical. There must be an all round coordination and cooperation among all the project stakeholders.

Based on the review of the literature, case study and interviews, the study suggests the formation of a coordination team. This team must comprise people, who can stand back from the delivery targets of the project and overview the bigger picture to ensure smooth progress of the project towards completion. This overview must act as a safety net to the project and the team must consider every aspect of the project and not just focus on the delivery. It is essential that the members of this team should not be involved in the delivery challenges but should be from technical and management to act as an efficient quick review panel to review design and decisions before being implemented. The team must have the objective of watching the end goal of quality and final product delivered on schedule. The findings from the current research have large implications for project management, owners and contractors working on large infrastructure projects. Project managers of large infrastructure projects may employ consultants with very strong internal coordination since many problems of coordination result from this aspect rather than from organisation to organisation coordination. They may also set up consultancy and construction contracts to maximise the incentives to both to eliminate or at least minimise coordination issues and empower one of the parties to take decisions that all are required to adhere to when lack of coordination results in potential for cost or time overrun of parts or all of the project delivery. Especially in a large infrastructure project, where number of project activities take place simultaneously, there may be a specialist coordination consultant apart from the project management consultant to oversee the work of the coordination team and suggest suitable remedial measures to deal with complex coordination issues. Primarily, it is important that all parties must be given sufficient time to plan and execute the assigned task so that there will be no room for coordination issues.

Research Objectives

The current research seeks to achieve various objectives. The first objective was to study the impact of project delays and risks involved in completion of projects. The extensive review of the literature and findings of the interviews revealed that the projects suffer from cost and time overruns because of the impact of the delays and risks involved in the construction projects, which creates financial losses not only to the contractor but to all project stakeholders. The second objective was to explore the impact of lack of coordination on project progress and the consequent delay in executing the projects. Again the literature reviewed provided sufficient information on the impact of lack of coordination, especially during the design process. The findings of the interviews with the professionals from the construction industry corroborated the findings of the earlier researches in this respect. The third objective was to study the importance and consequences of lack of standard coordination system in large infrastructure projects. The case study of Yas Island met with this objective by presenting the consequences of lack of coordination in the project. Interviews with the professionals worked in this project gave a deep insight into the consequences of lack of coordination in large construction projects. The last objective was to suggest methods and best practices to improve the coordination among project stakeholders and avoid delays in project completion. The study suggested the adoption of several best practices for the project management, owners, consultants and contractors, apart from the formation of a coordination committee.


The current study based on the review of the literature, findings from the case study of Yas Island and interviews with construction professionals make the following recommendations for further research in the field.

  • A comparative study of the impact of lack of coordination in a large public infrastructure project and a private industrial project would help in identifying the deficiencies in coordination in public projects
  • A comparative study of the causes and impacts of lack of coordination in two different geographical locations would enhance the existing knowledge
  • An empirical study on the financial impacts of lack of coordination on the infrastructure project would add strength to the findings.


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Appendix I Profile of Respondents

Profile of Respondents to Interview

Respondent No Name Position Organization
1 Paul Cartledge Senior Infrastructure Manager ALDAR Properties
YAS Island Project
2 Medhat Sourial Resident Engineer (Contract 2 Roads and Utilities) Halcrow International Partnership
3 Kassad Hallak Resident Engineer (Contract 1 Roads and Utilities) Halcrow International Partnership
4 Ian Michel Senior Projects Director Nael Bin Harmal Hydroexport Est.
5 Georges Ghanem Senior Projects Director Al Jaber Transport and General Contracting Company LLC
6 David Connolly Land Development Group Leader Halcrow International Partnership
7 Andre Philip Holder Infrastructure Manager ALDAR Properties
YAS Island Project
8 Lee A Kandalaft Deputy Director – Infrastructure ALDAR Properties
YAS Island Project