Managing knowledge in mega-infrastructure projects

Moloi, Bekezela Maria (2018-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : The thesis focuses on the knowledge management issues that typically arise in large infrastructure projects. Mega-infrastructure projects are complex because they are largescale and very costly (typically over US$ 1 billion); have more complex interfaces; usually involve a broad range of public and private stakeholders with conflicting interests often impacting many people; are more risky as scope changes are inevitable as they run over a longer time horizon spanning many years of development and construction. They also attract greater staffing challenges as they are resource intensive and the same participants are less likely to be present due to the long time-horizons. This complexity means that knowledge transfer and integration challenges are greater. Moreover, because the technology and designs are often non-standard for mega projects, these projects are considered to be once-off or unique undertakings in the minds of most of the participants and standard industry benchmarking is more difficult impeding learning from other projects. The question is how one can effectively manage knowledge in mega projects given the above challenges. In order to investigate this issue, two large infrastructure projects undertaken by Eskom, namely the development of the project Medupi and project Kusile coal-thermal power stations, were selected as case studies. The thesis starts out with a literature review on the general management challenges of mega-infrastructure development, followed by a chapter describing Boisot's social learning cycle in the i-Space to be used as the basis for analysis of the cases. Then an overview of the Eskom build program is provided before describing the two projects and the knowledge management programs for these projects. Interviews were conducted with key participants on the projects and the findings from the interviews are presented, discussed and interpreted in terms of Boisot's theory. The findings include that management failed to lay the foundation for embedding the social learning cycle in projects; that the knowledge management custodians did not provide effective systems support to ensure effective scanning, codifying and abstracting of knowledge assets in the Eskom i-Space; and that the project teams were not effective in carrying out knowledge management process diffusion, absorption and impacting of knowledge assets.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die tesis fokus op die kennisbestuurskwessies wat tipies in groot infrastruktuurprojekte ontstaan. Mega-infrastruktuurprojekte is kompleks omdat hulle op grootskaal uitgevoer word en tipies baie duur is (gewoonlik meer as US $ 1 miljard). Hulle het meer komplekse koppelvlakke, betrek gewoonlik 'n wye reeks openbare en private belanghebbendes met teenstrydige belange wat potensieël baie mense kan beïnvloed, is meer riskant aangesien omvangsveranderinge onvermydelik is omdat dit oor 'n langer tydshorison loop wat oor baie jare van ontwikkeling en konstruksie strek. Hulle bied ook groter personeeluitdagings aangesien hulle hulpbronintensief is en as gevolg van die lang tydhorisonte is dieselfde spanlede nie altyd oor die duur van die projek teenwoordig nie. Hierdie kompleksiteit beteken dat kennisoordrag en integrasie uitdagings groter is as vir ander projekte. Omdat die tegnologie en ontwerpe vir megaprojekte dikwels nie standard is nie, word hierdie projekte deur die deelnemers beskou as eenmalige of unieke ondernemings. Standardisering van die industrie is moeiliker end it belemmer die leer van ander projekte. Die vraag is hoe kennis in megaprojekte effektief bestuur kan word, gegewe die bogenoemde uitdagings. Ten einde hierdie kwessie te ondersoek, is twee groot infrastruktuurprojekte van Eskom, naamlik die ontwikkeling van die projek Medupi en projek Kusiele steenkool-termiese kragstasies, as gevallestudies gekies. Die tesis begin met 'n literatuuroorsig oor die algemene bestuursuitdagings van megainfrastruktuurontwikkeling, gevolg deur 'n hoofstuk wat Boisot se sosiale leersiklus in die i-Space beskryf as basis vir die analise van die gevalle. Dan word 'n oorsig van die Eskombouprogram verskaf voordat die twee projekte en die kennisbestuursprogramme vir hierdie projekte beskryf word. Onderhoude is uitgevoer met sleuteldeelnemers oor die projekte en die bevindinge uit die onderhoude word aangebied, bespreek en geïnterpreteer in terme van Boisot se teorie. Daar is bevind dat topbestuur nie die grondslag gelê het vir die sosiale leersiklus in projekte nie, dat die kennisbestuurbeamptes nie effektiewe stelsels ondersteun het om effektiewe skandering, kodifisering en abstraksie van kennisbates in die Eskom i-Space te verseker nie, en dat die projekspanne nie effektief was in die uitvoering van kennisbestuursprosesse van diffusie, absorpsie en impak van kennisbates nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105100
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