Lean Construction optimizes project performance. Traditional Design, Bid, Build rests on a crazy assumption; The least expensive project results from selecting the lowest bid from a general contractor, the one who has received the total lowest bids from subcontractors. But does optimizing the work of each trade really optimize the project? Probably not; Optimizing work of one trade almost certainly reduces the ability of others to maximize their performance. “Partnering,” an organizational approach, and Design-Build contracting both attempt to improve project performance. While they help in limited ways, they both fail to address the underlying problem. The leadership of each trade contractor still tries to optimize their performance while minimizing the impact on others.
By contrast, the principles and practices of Lean Construction, fully implemented, aim to optimize the project and not the piece. This is accomplished in part by improved cross-trade planning practices. Integrated Project Delivery creates bigger opportunities. Aligning interests, reducing uncertainty, moving money across traditional boundaries, opening the opportunity for modularization, and cross trade crews, reduce the waste created in traditional practice.
This doesn’t come easy. Shifting from traditional practice, integrating organizations to enable previously impossible collaboration between the owner, designer, and contractors is hard work. It requires new thinking, practice, learning and reflection. Breaking the dominant thinking and traditional practice is hard work and it requires investment. Start by reading academic papers, joining groups of like-minded revolutionaries, establishing internal study groups, talking to experienced Lean practitioners, visiting sites, and using consultants who have been there and done that. Interview for experience, perspective and ability to work with your team.
I’ve been fighting this fight for over two decades as a proponent of Lean Construction, as a founder of the Lean Construction Institute, and as a consultant for Lean Project Consulting . This has been both an intellectual and a practical on the ground adventure. As LeanProject moves forward, the opportunities are getting brighter, and the possibilities for company and industry change more powerful and apparent. My advice is, “Jump in!” Don’t stand on the sideline. Begin right now, there will never be a better time.