Since near their beginning of Lean Construction thinking Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell have made the case that construction ought not be treated as a combination of activities, but understood to be a production system. A Lean project is not simply the design of the building, but also the concurrent design of the delivery process. This is stark contrast to traditional approaches that make an inventory of expected activities and let them fall into a series of push sequences. The schedule (it would be reckless to call this a production system) is the result of an accident about which activities were inventoried and how a first planner decided they might be arranged. Clearly the Lean approach is much more intentional about how construction processes will produce the building.
There is a similar opportunity to be intentional about the relationships between project team members. Professional and personal relationships are usually accidental, much like the first planner’s schedule. Yes, there is a certain logic to how people work together based on understood roles and expectations. The Lean principle of Respect for People should prompt us to be more intentional about the nature of our relationships. We can, and must, start to deliberately design higher levels of trust, ambition and learning among project teams.
The Lean approach – design the product, production system, and the relationships important to creating value for all project stakeholders.