This thesis aims to advance theory in design management within the built environment by answering the following research question. Why concepts from production project management do not work for managing multidisciplinary design in the built environment? The thesis seeks to answer the research question by investigating the process-level characteristics of design decomposition and the project-level characteristics of design integration. The answer to the question is therefore designed as a two-fold theoretical construct. The process-level answer to the research question elaborates task interdependence through a single case study and concludes that existing management frameworks do not take into account the specificities of design as a cognitive activity comprising problem-solving and interactive inquiry with the designed object. As a result task isolation is not possible in the way advocated by traditional project management. Instead, design should be viewed as a web of interdependence that needs to be managed using a mindset based on loops of cause and effect instead of hierarchical breakdown structures.
The thesis validates the process level management framework with data from an in-depth case study conducted on a large-scale infrastructure project.
Based on the process-level characteristics, the thesis then reviews macro-level theories in sociology and economics to identify project-level integration properties of design management. Based on these properties, the thesis proposes and initially validates a project-level design management framework based on the management of design expertise as a stream of knowledge transactions in the expertise market. The thesis advances theory and practice in several ways. Firstly, on the basis of the literature review from different design disciplines, the thesis identifies the need to establish a domain-independent theory of design management and the corresponding professional discipline.
Secondly, based on process-level interdependence in design, the thesis proposes to use a systems thinking based management mindset coupled with the corresponding methods, based on causal relationships. And thirdly, the thesis identifies the need to integrate design at the project level by using a flexible transaction-based representation of design, which also contributes to theory-building in the, thus far underrepresented, area of design economics. The nature of theory built in this thesis is thus mostly descriptive with the main aim to broaden the understanding of the design processes and their management within the built environment. The descriptive nature of the results is a consequence of the substantial lack of knowledge in the area of design management and the general misuse of production-based theory in the area of cognitive activity. This research therefore fulfills its main goal of providing a solid basis and a direction for further research and practice in the area of design management in the built environment.