University of Oulu

Sara Hajikazemi, Kirsi Aaltonen, Tuomas Ahola, Wenche Aarseth & Bjorn Andersen (2020) Normalising deviance in construction project organizations: a case study on the collapse of Carillion, Construction Management and Economics, 38:12, 1122-1138, DOI: 10.1080/01446193.2020.1804069

Normalising deviance in construction project organizations : a case study on the collapse of Carillion

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Author: Hajikazemi, Sara1; Aaltonen, Kirsi2; Ahola, Tuomas3;
Organizations: 1London South Bank Business School, London, UK
2University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
4Nord University Business School, Bodø/Stjørdal, Norway
5Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-08-09


In 2018, the Construction giant Carillion went into compulsory liquidation costing the UK taxpayers an estimated £148m. According to our analysis performed on the case, the demise of Carillion was the result of accumulation of failures and normalisation of deviations from good practice. The purpose of this study is to better understand how deviance can become the norm such that actors in the context of the construction organisations such as Carillion, come to adopt deviant practices rather than respecting their accepted industry codes and ethos. This study is based on an in-depth analysis of publicly available data on the case of Carillion. Our aim is to better understand the process of normalisation of deviance and its potential effect on organisations. Our analysis of the case revealed three specific types of normalised deviance: late payments to suppliers, aggressive accounting and payment of high dividends to shareholders despite the troubled financial status of the firm. The results of our work contribute to theory by showing that normalisation of deviance is a gradual process which can be influenced by actors both within the focal organisation as well as actors in its environment. The managerial implications highlight the need for all actors in the construction sector to become more aware of the normalising deviance process and its potential negative effects, which can be mitigated by stronger adherence to controls in the external environment in which the organisation operates.

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Series: Construction management and economics
ISSN: 0144-6193
ISSN-E: 1466-433X
ISSN-L: 0144-6193
Volume: 38
Issue: 12
Pages: 1122 - 1138
DOI: 10.1080/01446193.2020.1804069
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 222 Other engineering and technologies
Copyright information: © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Construction Management and Economics on 09 Aug 2020, available online: