Part 6-1. Features of Construction Industry explained in 5M
MT KAO (Blog: http://mtkaoforum31.blogspot.tw/) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(1) Power to drive Individuals and Organizations to achieve Business Goal
a. Nature of Power
Man loves power, unlike animal’s content with existence and reproduction; human desires are essentially boundless and incapable of complete satisfaction.
A large proportion of the human race is obliged to work so hard in obtaining necessaries that little energy is left over for other purposes; but those whose livelihood is assured do not cease to be active, they look to power and glory. So young people start to drift in the world will wonder why the needs of obtaining the two become imperative for those have something.
The easiest way to obtain glory is to obtain power; this is especially the case as regards the men who are active in relation to public events. The desire for glory, prompts the same actions by the desire for power, and the two motives may be regarded as one.
Power exhibits in many forms, such as wealth, civil authority, and influence on opinion. No one of these can be regarded as subordinate to any other, and there is no one form from which the others are derivative.
b. Power and the Organization
Among the phenomena featuring construction industry, "Man" is most relevant. Because people can't be alone to work out big and complicated structure and buildings, they have to be molded into "organizations", to synchronize different expertise and sized up strength, then are capable of serving the society as a meaningful member of construction industry.
To make them functional and contributive, organizations need to be given goals, compatible resource, and rules for participants accepting rewards and punishments as inducements. So, there must be leader, hierarchy, and systems in an organization; it means the engineers won't be immune from influence of power maneuver, which an innocent engineering debutant may hesitate to touch.
c. Organization and Leaders
However, in an organization where technology and experience are regarded as highly important, naked power manifested on the leader assigned not with assent of the members but through investment, heritance or tradition will have to share power with doyens of superior skill and knowledges. It's the same that commercial people will get their part of power apportioning when profitability is major concern.
When the organizations become big and complicated, power from creeds and over opinions of public will be another origin. As a result, the leaders or candidates for them will be restrained for the power, and the organizations' behavior will have to be institutionalized.
So, the entire system become more business-oriented at least in this part of capitalist world because we are sure that any organization, be public or private, shall perform according to the principle of utilitarianism that worth taxpayer, shareholders or expert's trust.
d. Power Distance between Levels of Employees
Although it takes on different guises from person to person, there's possibility that the leaders may pursue and profit from enacting their own agenda using their naked and traditional power, and it won't be conflicting that the follow employees who gains nothing will be cooperative as they seem to gain vicariously from the superficial achievements of the leaders.
It's fact that "genuinely cooperative enterprise" often appeared in Asian countries where "power distance" can be big between each layer of management and the young startups are always taught only to listen and learn. But the deliberation of power in an engineering organization will affect its benefit, loss, even survival. On the other hand, individuals always humbly don't like to touch non-technical issues and think by so they can be shielded from power manipulation of imperious person.
So, people shall care about the leadership and history of organizations he wants to join and make judgement whether or not it's an organization worth fighting with.
And it has to be noted, as organizations differ in size and type, common to them all is the tendency for inequality of power to increase as membership increases. It's a confusion to young people who may have justice and fraternity in mind and consider big company management rogue.
The general effect of an organization, is either to increase the well-being of persons, or to aid the survival of the organization itself, apart from those resulting from governmental self-preservation.
(2) Managerial cadre, Professional, Occupational.
a. Inflated Titles for Professionals
A successful engineering company requires good balance between managers, professionals and occupational. But the balance could only be achieved when number and quality of the "man" employed matched operational requirement.
Among all, loyalties to the company or the boss personally in an industry where small entrepreneurs are everywhere, are most important. It means steady employment that the "man" can be recruited and assigned to work places for required period under reasonable conditions. Qualification to fit the jobs is basic, and more than that, the hired must be trusted for many inter-person deeds taking places every day in construction industry.
In Taiwan, there're 2,845 Class A Contractors, 1243 Class B Contractors, 7,057 Class C Contractors, and 547 Specialty Contractors toward the end of 2019. Also not a smaller number of Consulting Firms, Architects and independent PE Offices have been registered. That it means thousands post of which qualification levels equal to general managers, managers and senior engineers are wanted in the industry. The side effects under the circumstance can be that the construction companies or consultants cannot hire managers or engineers experienced enough for their positions; and people also don't have opportunities to learn management or technical skills in their career.
b. Recruitment in Fragmented Construction Market
Under the circumstance, market fragmentation is ensured as many small companies or institutions in the industry struggle for survival. But people still cherish their titles such as vice presidents or directors of the companies even the jobs require them to do works of more occupational content than professional ones.
The situation further worsens when impatient authority tried to introduce project management system supposed compatible with international practice. The problem is unless there is an overhaul in construction related companies to stop the vicious cycle of professionalism tumbling, make it plain, the decimation of underperformed companies following the restructure of enduring ones should be required first to transform the disciplines, grade, and initiative of engineers, and then proceed to neat, clean and efficient 21st century construction
(3) Disciplines, expertise, project-based management, functional department-oriented management.
a. The Dwarfed General Contractor in Taiwan
As it evolves, emergence of the subcontractors to undertake the field work in lieu of the main contractor becomes a trend seeming irreversible. And when competition goes further, many of the main contractors withdraw to the point that they don't keep sufficient engineers to stay in lowest notch of expertise. The educated retained by the companies won't bear the works in line with disciplines, levels and grades truly demanded by the complicated system.
The recent project management system imposed by government to supervise public work has intention originally to assign more engineers for different discipline of work so as to developed expertise over the course. But the companies cannot follow the system because careful and elaborated division of works require more engineers to fit the jobs thus weaken related parties' competence if strictly enforced. Also It's a fact that there're more than10, 000 constructors, consultants and architects existing in a small market, making the recruitment seems difficult if not impossible.
To say it more candidly, most of the young engineers cannot learn proper construction knowledge throughout their careers because they're "generalist" under current practice. The problems come from, first, people are allured by the positions that a small organization will offer in their earlier days; and second, they're more than willing to stay near their hometown or municipality causing perfect match with highly localized companies who never hear of functional department-oriented management.
b. Diploma Over-Trump Proficiency
Conventionally, general public always consider diploma is equal to people's ability and it compels the authority to accept the idea that expertise can be tested through examination. So, for convenience the project owner and the party responsible for supervision wouldn’t look into the true curriculum of job candidate. The outcome that bureaucrats waive their power to judge the adequacy of proposed project staff, is that they have to use all the tools and weapon to safeguard the quality and progress of the works, but in vain.
c. Matrix Management Structure
Only a few companies in Taiwan have fortune to expand their organization into big, and sophisticated matrix structure, in which both project-based and functional department-oriented management co-existed and support each other.
As we show above, many entrepreneur-led companies with limited business volume have to adopt project-based management, of which, the practice is to assign people to site offices meeting minimum of client's requirement. The project offices are presumed to gain technical and management backup from knowledgeable engineers in each functional department, however, it couldn't be done as malign competition has hallowed head offices, and the veterans disappear in the long run.
Consequently, people are reduced only to work on projects of which the design and construction are general and routine because they don't hold engineers have or capable to develop know-hows of projects with posh nature. And in reality, the companies undertake the engineering or construction contracts have to be affordable to establish something similar to matrix organization embracing both project-base and functional department-oriented system.
(4) Personal and organizational behaviors, coordination and communication under high or low context culture.
a. Sizes does Matter for Company Culture
Personal behaviors are different from person to person, also in different time for the same person. When an organization is formed, it behaves as a person but like persons it will have different faces overtime. It depends on the leaders very much; especially the way he handles coordination and communication.
Organization mainly consist of engineers and ruled by them can be stiff and fastidious in giving orders and executing them. The reason and the result maybe it will avoid mistakes from happening and push things forward. But people with more liberal or creative thought may not appreciate, which is not good to the business development and technological innovation. To mitigate that coordination and communication in a big company with byzantine structure have to be improved.
b. High and Low Context Cultures
When organization is small, cultures can be defined as "high context”, more inclined toward relational and collectivist. Message can be spread effectively aiding by gestures, relations, body language, verbal messages, or non-verbal messages between individuals.
But when organization grow big, communication shall be more explicit, direct, and elaborate; because under the circumstance the individuals are not expected to have knowledge of each other's histories or background, and communication can't be shaped by long-standing relationships between speakers, they depend more on the words being spoken rather than on the interpretation of more subtle or unspoken cues. In such case, the organizations need low context culture.
"High" and "low" context cultures typically refer to language groups, nationalities, or regional communities. However, they have also been applied to corporations, professions and other cultural groups. Though not all individuals in a culture can be defined by cultural stereotypes, it can roughly classify:
-When we're in elementary school, classmates and teacher fixed in the same classroom all day will know more each other, it's high context; and in university, people come and go, with professors and classmates the communication is made in lower context.
-In smallest companies, boss know every employee, give orders and evaluate performance themselves, it's high context; in big companies, departments and levels are many, between them the communication needs to be made in meetings with minutes or written mails, power must be delegated and the bosses reduced to figurehead.
-The lawyers and accountants talk and writes to identify the truth must be precise in words and numbers, they're of the lower context; the engineers and businessman next, while the farmers deal with the same lands and climates for life can be higher context.
-In nations or societies where harmony and the well-being of the group is preferred over individual achievement, higher context cultures can be more prevailing in Asian countries, that many of them subsistent on peasantry economy historically. While European and North American countries long developed their industry, the culture can be lower context.
People grow up in different context of culture will have distinct response toward the organization which he is hired; however, he can judge how or whether he has to change himself in behavior if he knows more about the cultural group the organization belong to; people will have flexibility for change when he is young.
(5) Labor laws, quality, incentives, unions, big bosses.
a. Labor and Taxation Laws in Taiwan
Working at site as construction people or supervisors will have to follow the weather instead of the calendar for their agenda. There's considerable improvement for employees on the aspect as labor law and regulation interfere; but the employer especially the big companies may not be able to observe to the law completely. It's also one of the reasons that sub-contractors and work gangs are introduced to the project for execution as they may be more "flexible' to follow the law.
More than law abiding for overtime assignment, smaller company in Taiwan can pay corporation tax in deemed amount in exchange of lax scrutiny into their books. It means sometimes they can neglect or under report their employees' personal tax, retire fund or health care premium. And beyond monetary obligation evaded, they can be freer to recruit employees especially for blue collar people that many of them illegal foreign labors.
A well-organized company in construction industry will consider laws amended in favor of employees are draconian, and tend to be meticulous toward recruitment even for white collar professionals. So, when construction or design companies have to rely on dispatched people to fulfill minimum contract requirement, they actually leave the responsibility to lay off people to manpower dispatch agencies; which is big departure to the professionalism.
b. Docile Professionals
Professionals also have their problem to learn things needed to develop their expertise; first people are lack of patience in demanding titles and income, or they simply want to stay near municipality or hometown. And in Taiwan, many need to share with spouse for family chores and thus work on regular hours. When those to be hired demand something for little and the employers have to be compromising and the easiest way is to sacrifice the work quality propped by professionals.
Fortunately, in Taiwan, union or engineer's' association aren't so active; the management won't be much teased interacting with their own employees, those of subcontractors or of any third party. Furthermore, for an industry notorious for its connections with mafia or packs leaders, the annoyance wasn’t so disastrous thanks to the stricter law enforcement for the last decades.
Taiwanese engineers received fair education since young and they will have potential and chances to claim back their dominance on the realm with patience and time.