The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


Castles in the Air? The management of the construction firm | Professor Hedley Smyth

22 May 2019, 6:30 pm–7:30 pm

Prof Hedley Smyth

Join us for this inaugural lecture with Prof Hedley Smyth as he explores the history of main contracting firms and the failed business model employed today.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management


Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre
Wilkins Building, Gower Street
United Kingdom

Castles in the Air? The management of the construction firm

Who is next? The current business model for main contracting firms is failing, demonstrated through the collapse of Carillion, and Interserve going into administration. 

There have been serial reports on the construction industry over the decades with the aim of improving operatives, yet the management of the firm as a major constraint to improvement has been overlooked. 

This inaugural lecture will focus on the modern history of main contracting firms in construction and how this has led to the failed business model employed today. It is a call to arms, as Prof Smyth asks, how should management respond? What needs to be done? And who is next? 

The lecture will begin at 18:30 and will be followed by a networking reception from 19:30. Please note that places at this event are limited and seating will be allocated on a first come first served basis. 

About our speaker

Hedley Smyth is Professor of Project Enterprises at The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, UCL. He has worked in both industry and academe. He has been a full-time staff member at UCL since 2001 and has led teaching and research in the School on project-based enterprises – how you manage the firms that manage projects. He has also worked extensively with industry, leading four knowledge transfer partnerships and undertaking consultancy-led research.

His research interests are organisational behaviour, especially regarding relationship management, value, and decision-making. The management of project-based firms, especially main construction contractors, provide his research focus. He is author of Castles in the air?: the evolution of British main contractors [pdf 477 KB] and more recently Occupational health, safety and wellbeing in construction: culture, systems and procedures in a changing environment [pdf 1.08MB], with occupational health, safety and wellbeing being his primary functional areas of research. He has published widely in academic journals, written book chapters, and sole authored books.

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