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Seeking evidence for the role of ontological assumptions in the thinking of managers and professional

By JA Rooke, LJ Koskela and D Seymour


Shingo's (1988) seminal innovation in the theory of production management can be seen as a re-conceptualization of production as flow rather than transformation (Koskela 1992). These alternatives can in turn be regarded as reflections of opposing ontological positions which have dominated Western philosophy, holding respectively that reality is constituted of either temporal process, or atemporal substance (Roochnik 2004). Koskela & Kagioglou (2005) suggest that lean production philosophy is based in a process ontology, radically different from the atemporal metaphysics underlying conventional methods and theories. Chi (1992) has argued that the disjunction between ontological categories such as 'substance' and 'process' can constitute a particularly acute barrier to understanding. Studies such as Itza-Ortiz, Rebello & Zollman (2003) have demonstrated the possibility of specifying and classifying learners' mental models as an aid to learning. We examine procedures typically adopted in Quantity Surveying, Structural Engineering Design and Project Planning, in order to specify the mental models involved. We find evidence of an underlying substance ontology. Methods of measurement used in Quantity Surveying are designed to account for physical, rather than temporal properties. In design, the emphasis is on representing the properties of the finished structure, rather than the processes by which it is constructed. More subtly, the temporal dimensions of the construction process are represented in project planning as 'lumps' of time, thus ignoring important facets of their nature as events. We conclude that attention to the role of ontological categories in industry thinking will facilitate the teaching of process oriented approaches to construction project management

Topics: HD00280070, other
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