Compatibilities and impediments


to the applicability of agile project management

to the execution phase of construction:

Introducing a theoretical approach



By Stavros G. Barmpas

Thessaloniki, Greece


Agile project management has been developed in the early 00’s and has been implemented since then in the software development industry with great success. Very soon this success opened a discussion on whether agile project management can be applied to other non-IT sectors and in fact many sectors embraced such principles and continue to do so. In construction the specific subject is still debatable. There is a widespread view that agile project management can be applied to the pre-design and design phases of construction, but not to the actual execution phase, due to the unique nature of construction projects and the consequent existence of certain impediments. The existing literature has focused on the first two phases and the execution phase has only been superficially examined, if at all. It is considered a phase with traditional norms and procedures, which are very difficult to change. However, the problems observed in construction over the past years (low productivity, low profit margins for construction companies) call for a change. Since the execution phase is the core phase of construction, a possible adoption of a new, effective project management approach at this phase would be a positive step towards this direction. The specific paper analyses each agile project management principle and examines whether it is applicable to the execution phase of construction or not, identifying possible compatibilities and impediments. As far as the impediments are concerned, there are certain proposals for overcoming them in an attempt to develop a realistic approach for applying agile project management principles to the execution phase of construction. Finally, the paper analyses whether agile project management is eventually applicable to the execution phase of construction and on what conditions would this be possible. Through this analysis the approach of congile project management is introduced and explained.

Setting the scene

It seems that there is a general consensus among the researchers that applying agile project management to the execution phase of construction is particularly difficult. Depending on the nature of the research each researcher presents certain impediments. Owen et al. (2006) point out that while agile project management fits perfectly in pre-design and design phases, for managing the execution phase a great amount of effort would be needed, beginning with a cultural change within the sector particularly in terms of training and learning to achieve multi-skilled and self-managing teams. Straçusser (2015) focuses on the nature of construction projects stating that their sequential character make them very poor candidates for an agile approach, since changes become increasingly expensive as a project moves further down the lifecycle. Mohamed and Moselhi (2019) refer to the organisational structure of construction companies, arguing that the increased flexibility and informality associated with agile processes are not easily absorbed by larger more traditional organisations like the ones existing in the construction sector. Flexibility is also stated as an impediment by Demir et al. (2012), who claim that construction projects are not compatible with the degree of flexibility required for agile project management applicability and therefore agile project management can be implemented for managing specific phases, work packages and situations but not for managing the whole project. Ribeiro and Fernandes (2010) concentrate on cultural issues within the construction sector, which act as an impediment to agile project management applicability, such as the organisational structure of construction companies, the low degree of empowerment of people to operate at a higher level, the lack of communication and close cooperation with clients and suppliers at the development phases of the project and the emphasis that construction schedules put on contract dates allowing only minor margins for scope changes. Despite the impediments highlighted by researchers there is a general view that should these impediments be overcome, the implementation of agile project management principles would be beneficial for the construction sector. Towards this direction, a lot of researchers propose the development and implementation of hybrid models, which combine agile project management and traditional approaches.


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How to cite this paper: Barmpas, S.G. (2021). Compatibilities and impediments to the applicability of agile project management to the execution phase of construction: Introducing a theoretical approach; PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/pmwj106-Jun2021-Barmpas-compatibilities-and-impediments-to-agile-pm-in-construction-execution2.pdf


About the Author

Stavros G. Barmpas

Civil Engineer, BEng, MSc, MBA
Thessaloniki, Greece


Stavros G. Barmpas is a civil engineer with almost 15 years of working experience as a site engineer in big infrastructure construction projects. He has worked in highway, building and bridge construction projects and he currently works for one of the biggest Contractors in Greece. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree (BEng) in Civil Engineering from the University of Portsmouth (UK), an MSc in Civil Engineering from the same university, an MSc in Construction Economics and Management from University College London, (UCL, UK) and finally an Executive MBA from the International Hellenic University (Greece), graduating first in his class. He can be contacted at: staba3@hotmail.com.