An Investigation into Challenges facing Distributed Teams: Case of South Australian Construction Projects


Dr. Morteza Shokri-Ghasabeh
SA Health, Adelaide, South Australia

Reza Hosseini
Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria

Dr. Nicholas Chileshe
University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia

Dr. Bo Xia
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland



There is increasing momentum within the construction industry to deploy distributed teams on projects, yet the major challenges that companies face for managing teams in distributed arrangements has yet to be explored in the construction context. Driven by such need, this study is intended to present an account of the major challenges encountered throughout the life cycle of offshore outsourcing arrangements within the South Australian construction industry. To this end, the study describes the observations made within the natural contexts of one construction project in terms of the challenges to the success of deploying distributed teams for outsourcing of works. Discussions remain in dialogue with relevant theories and the pertinent literature to explain the interpretations and lessons learned and to underpin the conclusions made. It is contended that this study contributes to the field by providing an illuminating insight into potential challenges facing distributed teams being implemented in outsourcing tasks in construction projects. Discussions also offer practical guidelines for construction project managers and assist them in dealing with potential challenges of offshore outsourcing through the lenses of distributed team working principles.

Key words: Challenges, Distributed teams, Virtual teams, Construction industry, Project management

JEL code: O33


Construction project teams are increasingly utilising distributed teams for delivering projects (Henderson, 2008; Ramalingam et al., 2014) inasmuch as the construction industry is not a local industry anymore due to the pressure from globalisation. As such, a large number of construction firms specifically in developed countries are moving towards higher levels of internationalisation in order to benefit from the global opportunities. Consequently, construction companies in developed economies (e.g. Australia) are transferring their operations to the developing countries, with lower running costs and much more opportunities in terms of skills and talents (Horta et al., 2013). In essence, it is becoming imperative for construction organisations to adopt distributed teams in order to deal with the challenges of the contemporary business environment (Chen and Messner, 2010)

Given such growing prominence of distributed teams in construction projects, possessing the scientific know-how pertinent to implementation of distributed teams becomes very relevant as urged by Vorakulpipat et al. (2010). That is, for achieving the desirable outcomes out of deploying distributed teams organisations have to predict and overcome the challenges through implementing effective managerial strategies (Yen et al., 2002). On the other hand, implementing distributed teams successfully within the construction context requires an in-depth understanding of the unique challenges that are not necessarily akin to the challenges encountered in face-to-face teams (Hosseini and Chileshe, 2013).

Against this backdrop, construction litearture has been criticized for the scarcity of studies conducted about distributed teams (Chinowsky and Rojas, 2003; Hosseini and Chileshe, 2013). Moreover, practitioners cannot rely on the results of the studies from other sectors of the industry due to the obvious specific approach of the construction industry towards innovative methods (Love et al., 2001) such as distributed team working. This implies that knowledge on distributed teams should be created within the natural context of the construction industry. As a result, the constrcution industry has remained in need of creating knowledge to supply the industry with essential information of the challenges faced in deploying distributed teams on construction projects (Hosseini and Chileshe, 2013). This has been the driving force behind conducting this study as described next.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 4th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.



About the authors


pmwj38-Sep2015-Ghasabeh-AUTHOR1Dr. Morteza Shokri-Ghasabeh

SA Health, Adelaide, South Australia
University of South Australia
Federation University Australia



Dr. Morteza Shokri-Ghasabeh
is a Project Consultant to a variety of industrial projects in Construction, Infrastructure, Mining, Oil&Gas, IT and Health. He is also a casual lecturer and a student supervisor in Construction Management and Project Management at the University of South Australia (UniSA) and Federation University Australia. Morteza holds a PhD degree in Building from UniSA. He has also received a BSc in Civil Engineering and an MSc in Construction Management. Dr. Shokri-Ghasabeh is a member of PMI (MPMI) and a former Board Member of PMI South Australia. Morteza is also a Member of the Australian Institute of Project Management (MAIPM), a Member of the Australian Institute of Building (MAIB), a member of American Association of Cost Engineering International (MAACEI). His major research interests include Knowledge Management, Project Success, Project Selection, Project Controls, and Project Management. Morteza is keen to provide support to both academia and industry for future cooperation.

Dr. Morteza can be contacted via either [email protected] or [email protected].


pmwj38-Sep2015-Ghasabeh-AUTHOR2 HOSSEINIReza Hosseini

Deakin University, Australia



eza Hosseini is currently a lecturer in Construction Management at Deakin University. He is a Civil Engineer and has been active as the C.E.O of a construction company with practical experience of the construction industry for more than eleven years in the Middle East. In addition, he has been conducting many research projects for the Building Code Office of Iranian Ministry of Housing for five years, and has been the co-author of many published works including books, academic journals and conference papers. M. Reza has an MSc in Construction Management, and his main research fields are virtual design and construction, virtual team working, productivity and reverse logistics within the construction context. He has been a member of board of directors for Project Management Institute (PMI) Adelaide chapter and a member of Australian Institute of Building (AIB), Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) and building SMART Australia.

Reza can be contacted at [email protected], for information about M. Reza Hosseini, visit http://www.deakin.edu.au/profiles/reza-hosseini


pmwj38-Sep2015-Ghasabeh-AUTHOR3 CHILESHEDr. Nicholas Chileshe

University of South Australia




Nicholas Chileshe is a Senior Lecturer in construction and project management at School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia. His current research interests include total quality management, supply chain management, reverse logistics, sustainability, construction management, risk and value management, project management and project success. His research findings have been published in internationally-recognized journals and presented at important conferences, and received a number of awards such as the winner of outstanding reviewer award at the Literati Networks for Excellence (2008, 2010) for the Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, highly commended award paper at the Literati Networks for Excellence 2008 for the Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, and Outstanding Paper Award Winner (Jointly awarded with Dr Morteza Shorki-Ghasabeh) at the Literati Networks Awards for Excellence 2015 for Construction Innovation.

Currently, Dr Chileshe acts as the member of Editorial Boards for the Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, International Journal of Construction Supply Chain Management, Journal of Quantity Surveying and Construction Business, and member of Editorial Review Board for the International Journal of Construction and Project. He is also member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Engineering Project, Production Management (EPPM), the International Advisory Board member for the Lean Construction Unit at the Central University of Technology, South Africa, currently the Chair of Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Australasian Education Panel. He also regularly reviews proposal for the National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa, and the Higher Education Academy (United Kingdom [UK]).

Nicholas can be contacted at [email protected], for information about Dr Nicholas Chileshe, visit http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/staff/homepage.asp?name=nicholas.chileshe https://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/xiap/


pmwj38-Sep2015-Ghasabeh-AUTHOR4 XIADr. Bo Xia

Queensland University of Technology




Bo Xia is a Senior Lecturer in construction and project management at School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment, Queensland University of Technology. His research interests are in design-build, project delivery systems, construction management, and sustainable buildings (especially on sustainable housing for older people). His research findings have been published in internationally-recognized journals and presented at important conferences, and received a number of awards such as the winner of outstanding paper for 2011 in the Journal of Financial Management of Property and Construction and the winner of the Best Themed Paper Award, 37th Australasian Universities Building Educators Association (AUBEA), 4-6th July 2012, Sydney.

Currently, Dr Xia acts as the member of Editorial Boards for the Journal of Building Construction and Planning Research (JBCPR), and member of Editorial Review Board for the Built Environment Project and Asset Management. He is also member of International Council for Building Research Studies and Documentation (CIB), Chinese Research Institute of Construction Management (CRIOCM), and the international research member of the Research Centre of Sustainable Built Environment in Chongqing University, China.

Paul can be contacted at [email protected]. For information about Dr Bo Xia, visit https://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/xiap/