American Society of Civil Engineers

Mobilizing Institutional Knowledge for International Projects

by Amy Javernick-Will, (corresponding author), (Assistant Professor, Dept. of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, ECOT 441, 428 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0428 E-mail: and Raymond E. Levitt, (Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford Univ., Y2E2 Building, 473 Via Ortega, Suite 245; Stanford, CA 94305-4020)

Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, Vol. 136, No. 4, April 2010, pp. 430-441, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Special Issue: Governance and Leadership Challenges of Global
Abstract: Multinational engineering consultants, contractors, and real estate developers work on projects in various countries, encountering many challenges that arise from cross-national differences. These projects frequently bring together diverse participants in an unfamiliar environment. In these situations, firms are exposed to different "institutions"—regulations, norms, and cognitive-cultural beliefs—that can increase misunderstandings, delays, and costs. Knowledge of these institutional elements is critical to create a project that is both locally sustainable and profitable for the firm. Departing from institutional theory and the knowledge-based view of the firm, we conduct exploratory research based on interviews from informants in 15 firms to identify the methods that multinational real estate developers, contractors, and engineers use to transfer and mobilize institutional knowledge for their global projects. We contribute to theory by adding to the developing literature that uses institutional theory to examine differences on global projects and by analyzing the specific methods firms use to transfer institutional knowledge internally, across projects and divisions. Ultimately, this research, combined with the work of others, can develop new processes for firms engaged in international projects to enhance their mobilization of institutional knowledge, and thereby improve the outcomes of international projects.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Business management
International factors
Knowledge-based systems

Author Keywords:
Institutional differences
Institutional knowledge
International business
Knowledge management