Construction Management Theories

Abraham Harold Maslow was an American theorist who studied the needs of humans and how satisfying these needs can motivate people to work harder and be happy. He started his studies observing the behaviour of monkeys. Whilst researching the monkeys he realised that some needs took priority over others. He took these ideas and produced his famous hierarchy of needs.

At the bottom of this hierarchy were the physiological needs of the person. These needs included water, oxygen, heat, vitamin C, rest, avoiding pain and having sex. The lack of these physiological needs leads to the body craving for things that have satisfied these needs before.

Above the physiological needs are safety needs. When most of the physiological needs are met people start to worry about security. Things such as having a home in a safe area, savings for the future and job security all satisfy this need.

After the previous two areas are satisfied love and belonging needs set in. The need for friendship, a lover, children or just a sense of community are what the person desires at this stage.

At level four esteem needs are required to satisfy the persons happiness. Maslow split this into a lower and higher level of need. The lower is a need for respect, status, attention and recognition. The higher stage concerns self-respect and independence. These are valued as higher in the chart as they come from within the person and are harder to lose.

At the very top of the model is self-actualization. This stage is where a person has a constant aspiration to fulfil their potential. The need to feel complete and be all they can be. Maslow suggested that only two percent of the worlds’ population ever reach the self-actualization stage.

Clayton Alderfer further developed Maslow’s work. He suggested that the five stages identified by Maslow could be reduced to three areas. He called this his Existence, Relatedness and Growth theory. The physiological and safety stages in Maslow’s hierarchy became the existence category in Alderfer’s theory. The interpersonal love and esteem stages became the relatedness category and the self-esteem and self-actualization stages became he growth category. He also suggested that these categories all function simultaneously and the importance of each stage varied between people and even with their mood.

This theory can be applied in construction management by viewing the company as a whole and applying the stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to it. Stage one sees the project being undertaking as having resources, which are needed for it to begin. These may include tools, drawings and the relevant workers for the project. The company then needs financial backing or sufficient finances to begin the project, which relates to the security stage. They also need to have a feeling of security that they will be paid in full for the completed project.

Acceptance of the venture is what they would look for next. This could be acceptance from a planning department or from the surrounding community. The self-esteem stage would come into action when the project is well under way and the company can make sure that the development has been well planned and executed. The final stage of self-actualization can be reached by completing the project on time and to budget.

Taking this theory to an individual level in the construction industry is just as valid. Take a labourer for example: he needs tools and instructions to begin the process. He then needs to know that his job is secure otherwise he will not commit to the project. A sense of being accepted as part of the team would then satisfy the belonging need he has. The self-esteem stage can be achieved through praise and recognition for good work or the possibility of promotion. Self-actualization is very hard to achieve but it could be achieved through the job being completed to perfection.

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