Practical strategic thinking is critical for organizational success because it supports the development of vital plans that match firm objectives and maintain a competitive advantage. This paper will highlight the application of strategic thinking at the firm level in the Malaysian construction industry, identify various challenges facing the industry, and various applications of strategic thinking to deal with the issue. In the paper, the literature suggests that there is limited application of strategic thinking within firms despite the extensive growth in the area of strategic thinking. Notwithstanding, strategic thinking is crucial for maintaining firms’ successful functioning in the Malaysian construction industry through various avenues. The avenues discussed in the paper include total quality management, long-term planning for work safety, and practical and comprehensive management frameworks. This paper will consult various literature sources to provide an in-depth analysis of various challenges facing the Malaysian construction industry and their solutions.
Effective strategic thinking has proven time over time to be a vital tool for organizational success across all sectors. Strategic thinking alludes to the capacity to develop crucial plans that match organizational objectives in a certain economic setup, and this planning works in favor of firms to provide them with a competitive advantage in the current work environment. According to Kam et al. (2022), the Malaysian construction industry is deemed as the third-largest sector in the economy in the avenue of productivity ked by the agriculture and manufacturing sector. The industry is linked with other sectors in the economy, contributing to its success but also faces various challenges. Categorically, major players in the Malaysian construction industry, such as ABC Synergy Sdn. Bhd faces various challenges, such as workplace hazards that require the intervention of top leaders to plan ahead and prevent their reoccurrence (ABC Synergy, 2022). Managers have to rely on strategic thinking to deal with such challenges. In the Malaysian construction industry, strategists elicit unique abilities and skills to connect the past and the present in order to predict what may happen in the future. Notably, strategic thinking facilitates the review of issues and policies by organizational leaders and carries out long-term planning that allows goal setting and determination of priorities to optimally identify any potential risks and opportunities. Undoubtedly, strategic thinking functions as a tool for the formulation of strategy by managers, and their engagement in the process of strategic management helps the firm operate beyond any arising challenges. This exposition intends to discuss the criticality of strategic thinking and various challenges in the Malaysian construction industry.
2.0. Literature Review
Arayesh et al. (2017) contend that strategic thinking alludes to the strategic capacity that helps the top leadership in a corporation to understand their capabilities while making predictions, distinguishing them, and controlling future events. In the Malaysian construction industry, managers must firsts understand various issues facing the sector to engage in strategic thinking. The current Malaysian construction industry is faced with unprecedented risk and competition, resulting in issues surrounding its development, technology use, and budgeting (Omer, 2019). The high demand for the construction of facilities and infrastructure calls for the implementation of construction projects and maintenance of site management practices. Construction site management alludes to a special provision in contracts requiring managers to have control of construction activities and show proper management acumen to allow the smooth flow of construction activities via strategic thinking. Specifically, site management is always crucial for enabling the smooth flow of construction processes and all activities carried out at the construction site (Dixit et al., 2017). Therefore, through strategic thinking, site managers or organizational heads can engage in the process of making a progression of decisions regarding the actions the enterprise aims to take in order for it to be more successful. Thus, construction companies often undertake strategic planning processes several times and come up with documentation that works as guidebooks for the team in management to utilize later. Undoubtedly, firms should strive to make strategic thinking a continuous process that is ongoing, on a year-round status (Hill, 2022). Strictly speaking, the capacity to anticipate significant changes in the competitive marketplace of the construction industry and identify any emerging opportunities are at the heart of strategic thinking.
According to AlQershi (2021), strategic thinking encompasses the application of foresight, creativity, and insight. Categorically, foresight works by shadowing the future by foreseeing it and shaping it before it materializes, while insight acts as the perimeter pivot that works to uncover the approaches that give rise and sense to the future. For managers to think strategically, they have to conduct research, analysis, and fore thinking in order to develop a workable plan for how the organization will proceed as an entity. Thus, the capacity to think strategically offers multiple dimensions to the strategy-making process. It lays emphasis on the distinct nature of strategic thinking and planning and furthers their complementing thought processes and how they are interrelated (AlQershi, 2021).
Major activities under strategic planning and strategic thinking in the construction industry may include functions such as dealing with the construction schedules and construction materials and maintaining the health and welfare of workers. Recently, most site managers in Malaysia experienced issues ranging from waste disposal difficulties, failure to apply knowledge-based frameworks, derailed practices due to the pandemic, project delays, and budget overruns (Charles, 2021). Oftentimes, construction sites represent their own system embedded in a larger system to arrive at the primary objective of completion of a construction project. Thus, construction site managers rely on the success of the project management teams to maintain flow and the success of these work areas. Thus, construction site managers are expected to engage in strategic thinking and coordinate with the team to maintain success. Open communication regarding the project, any arising roadblocks, delays, or the potential progress of the practice. According to Ting et al. (2019), the construction industry in Malaysia is important to the growth of the country’s economy. Therefore, a need arises to develop a framework for sound site management and the performance of construction projects in Malaysia under strategic thinking to operate beyond these challenges. Cite managers can perform risk management practices to identify these issues to allow contractors and clients to use the best possible practices in construction. Goldman et al. (2017) contend that multiple scholars agree that while strategic thinking strives to come up with an organizational strategy crucial to attaining sustainability and profitability, it is often absent in multiple organizational setups and is lacking among corporate leaders.
3.0 Problem Statement
Managers in the Malaysian construction industry must engage in strategic thinking and planning to adopt risk management approaches to deal with challenging engineering and management problems like derailed practices and budget overruns on construction sites. Strictly speaking, effective and sound management practices in the construction process and site management can be achieved through total quality management. Undoubtedly, the construction site managers are responsible for controlling and directing all the activities that take place on construction sites. These activities take place within the limits of the organizational hierarchy, and the managers are expected to elicit the skills critical in providing the foundation for successful construction practices. Developing crucial plans that match organizational objectives in the current economic setup matches strategic thinking. Thus, Malaysian construction site managers should strive to maintain better cite management through total quality management to deal with the issues. Additionally, knowledge management under sound management practices may be useful in solving these challenges on construction sites.
The use of practical and very comprehensive management frameworks
Major firms in the Malaysian construction industry must apply strategic thinking and adopt proper management techniques to deal with existing challenges and or practical frameworks that will facilitate planning for the future. Oftentimes, construction functions represent their own systems embedded in a larger system to arrive at the primary objective of completion of a construction project. Thus, managers in construction projects rely on the success of the project management team to maintain flow and the success of these work areas (Meredith, 2017). Managers in construction sites are expected to coordinate with the team to maintain open communication regarding the project, any arising roadblocks, delays, or the potential progress of the practice. The most suitable practical framework is the application of total quality management by site managers to maintain the successful operation of construction sites. Demirkesen and Ozorhon (2017) point out that it is crucial that site managers develop a more comprehensive framework critical to improving construction projects and their success rates. These approaches will improve the functioning of projects and help the firm in question gain a competitive advantage.
According to Ting et al. (2019), the construction industry in Malaysia is important to the growth of the country’s economy, and it is riddled with issues ranging from poor publicity involving cost overruns, poor workmanship, workplace accidents, unrealistic and uncontrolled schedules, unfinished construction project and conflicts calling for these strategic thinking approaches. It has often been common to see toppling bridges in the region and collapsing structures pointing to the down pit situation of the Malaysian construction industry and its recent bad impression on the minds of the public. Most of these issues have been due to the poor site management practices adopted by contractors in the Malaysian construction industry. The issues associated with construction are rising by the day, and projects are more complicated nowadays because of the large capital investment, stringent demands on quality, tighter schedules, advancements in technologies, and escalating costs (Barbosa et al. 2017). Without any doubt, many organizations often manage many projects at the same time in an attempt to attain a competitive advantage. Thus, managers should consider practical and very comprehensive management frameworks that take into account the structural, personnel, practical, and cultural aspects of site management practices to deal with an issue facing the industry accordingly (Van Zyl et al., 2017). In the proposal, the practical framework for use in site management is the use of sound management approaches.
The use of total quality management
According to Coelho et al. (2022), many organizations have implemented total quality management (TQM) as a philosophy vital for endorsing the quality of output and enhancing their competitiveness. Adopting TQM is a critical part of effective strategic thinking as it can secure the future of construction industries through articular organizational elements like teamwork,
and customer satisfaction, or more intangible and technical aspects like culture via its successful implementation. Notably, total quality management intends to ensure that every employee on the construction site performs their duties diligently and according to set standards. It is the site manager’s role to maintain this quality high by practicing sound cite management practices. A common issue in the construction industry is the rigidness of control systems leading to a lack of flexibility and poor quality management. Specifically, managers often have the capacity to alter the individual parameters on a construction site in an attempt to reduce or increase the time available for project completion. This gives the site managers an opportunity to deal with any other arising issues, but the rigidness may result in the delay of other projects. The high reliance of the construction system on the resources of other systems to maintain this flow may be a significant cause of challenges to site managers. Various parts play different roles in construction, and the delay of one part may cause delays in the entire system as a whole due to poor management, poor planning, and lack of strategic thinking. For instance, the failure of a subcontractor to supply the right amount of materials at the right time may slow down the entire construction project, which may arise from poor planning (Effective construction site management, 2021).
Besides, the Covid-19 pandemic had also crippled the operation of the construction industry and its management efforts in Malaysia. This is another significant challenge that is still affecting the industry even after the easing of lockdown and restrictions. Specifically, the rampant spread of the virus and the rising caseloads raised a public health emergency which forced the Malaysian government to issue a public order (James, 2020). The movement control order of 2020 led to the closure of businesses, and pursuant to the PCID regulations of 2020, the construction industry did not fall within essential services and thus was impacted by the MCO. However, only construction works of critical services such as traffic control and repairs were exempted from the movement control order. An exemption was only given to work regarding maintenance and demanded the cessation of construction activities on Malaysian construction sites. The architecture or manager, at this point, was forced to issue instructions regarding vacating the work premise as ordered by the government and ministry of health requirements to curb the spread of the pandemic leading to the derailing of construction activities (Michael and Charles, 2017). The recent reopening of the economy calls for strategic planning, thinking, and complying with the procurement process to assist the construction industry’s recovery. The success of most construction projects relies on compliance and raising such issues at any point in the procurement process. The compliance issues may be legal, involving remuneration and eligibility to work for workers or industrial regarding imports and exports compliance. Thus, a sound procurement procedure with the help of competent management helps deal with discussed issues to allow smooth processes in construction sites. Categorically the highlighted role of site managers is stipulated within construction firms, and the use of total quality management tools will not only support recovery but maintain competitiveness and secure the industry’s future. Construction managers must have skills critical in offering the foundation for a successful construction process. Thus, the application of total quality management as the primary practical framework helps maintain just-in-time operations, re-engineer’s business processes along with certain business needs, and facilitates knowledge management within construction sites usable in solving the most critical issues (Karim and Qamruzzaman, 2020).
Long-term planning and its component within the avenue of workplace safety
Tool inventory management
Long-term planning is a critical part of strategic thinking that will help firms in the construction sector to be competitive and operate within set objectives. Tool inventory is carried out by managers to offer oversight and accountability to ensure the tracking and return of tools on construction sites. Undoubtedly, inventory management saves money via the reduction of tool hoarding and losses (Perry. 2018). It also makes issuing and returning equipment a quicker process to save time directed to other construction functions.
Tool scheduling involves keeping track of equipment across multiple construction locations to eliminate time consumption. Using tool scheduling facilitates checking out and efficient return of tools. Besides, billing clients for tool usage helps recapture the tool cost at the construction site and makes construction management easier.
Predictive tool maintenance
Predictive maintenance helps remove the uncertainty that is associated with preventative maintenance and efforts to optimize safety quality control of tools. Its primary benefits include enabling the completion of the routine calibration of tools on schedule by construction managers, the compliance by workers concerning tracking specific equipment and enabling regular maintenance to extend tool and equipment life (Perry, 2018).
Tool and equipment safety
Tool and equipment safety form a significant part of strategic thinking and sound planning to make sure that construction industries function smoothly. Over the years, site managers and employers have reported millions of workplace injuries on construction sites. Proper equipment and tool safety maintenance are primary components of site management practices. Strictly speaking, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) points out that the primary causes of industrial accidents and injuries on construction sites are the failure of equipment and misuse of tools (Sehsah et al., 2020). Thus, maintaining equipment and tool safety by construction site managers is crucial to minimize these atrocities. Construction site management efforts stipulate approaches directed toward tracking the repair and maintenance of industrial equipment by doing so within repair schedules (Perry, 2018). Arriving at this objective is critical to make sure that the recorded numbers of tool and equipment breakdowns are few, the sites experience higher tool life, and lower number of accidents by maintaining safety at construction sites. This serves as a critical source of success, quality functioning, and competitiveness of firms in the construction sector of Malaysia. Managers should plan within these avenues to maintain high-quality operations within construction sites.
This exposition highlighted the criticality of strategic thinking and various challenges in the Malaysian construction industry. Effective strategic thinking stresses the capacity to develop crucial plans that match organizational objectives by managers and leaders in a certain economic setup, and this planning works in favor of firms to provide them with a competitive advantage in their current work environment. From the report, the current Malaysian construction industry is faced with unprecedented risk and competition, resulting in issues surrounding its development, technology use, and budgeting. The high demand for the construction of facilities and infrastructure calls for the implementation of construction projects and maintenance of site management practices. This can only be achieved vii engaging in strategic thinking and planning by engaging in proper practices that support competition and the sound function of construction firms. Through strategic thinking, effective planning is vital in helping firms apply practical and comprehensive management frameworks, partake in total quality management, and adopt long-term planning and its components within the avenue of workplace safety. Adopting total quality management is an important part of effective strategic thinking as it can secure the future of construction industries through particular organizational elements like teamwork and customer satisfaction or more intangible and technical aspects like culture via its successful implementation. On the other hand, the practical framework for use in site management is the use of sound management approaches that will impact successful operations. However, enhancing the safety of tools and the workplace environment is vital in eliminating dangers in constructing workplaces and associating the environment with the effective use of tools to enhance competitiveness. Thus, it remains incumbent upon managers in Malaysian construction firms to adopt strategic thinking and planning via total quality management effects and sound management practices to solve any arising challenges on construction sites
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