Effects of perceptual distance between clients and contractors on complex projects outcomes

PhD research by Christian van der Krift ( and Arjan van Weele (

Mirjam Kibbeling, PhD (2010)
Interested? Check this video

Why do many complex projects fail? Why are project managers in construction industry and IT not able to deliver projects within budget and within schedule, and more importantly, without complaints of users and other stakeholders?

Examples of failing projects in the Netherlands are abundant: the Amsterdam metro, the Fyra high-speed train, the Maasvlakte-Vaanplein, the Roertunnel, the Betuwe lijn. In all projects, professional organizations and people were employed, were guided by detailed project instructions and guidelines. Nevertheless, they failed to deliver due to a bad understanding and dysfunctional relationship between client and (sub)contractors!

These observations were the motivation to start this study. Today, projects are without exception executed with external contractors and service providers, who are connected and managed by clients using complex contracts. In case of difficulties, project parties review their contracts and check what has been agreed upon. Often, disputes arise that need to be settled before court.

Realizing complex projects requires a multidisciplinary approach, where many parties and disciplines need to work together. Apart from contractual governance, relational governance seems to be a crucial factor in accomplishing project results. Relational governance is all about how to foster trust, commitment and information exchange among parties. In order to solve issues of information asymmetry among parties, goal alignment and project identification needs to take place. 

This study is aimed at analyzing the effects of differences in perception between clients and their contractors on the relational governance and project outcomes. The research includes analyzing the perspectives of both project managers and their contractors in complex projects. For this project we have developed an advanced though straightforward instrument: the perceptionmeter.

Are you interested to participate in our research? 

Please take a look at the video (available in English and Dutch, see below), visit (Dutch) or (English) and if needed contact one of our researchers.

Video (English):

Video (Dutch):

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