6 Critical Factors for Lean Construction Success

As a construction professional with 30+ years of experience, I have had the fortunate (and frequent) pleasure of talking to a variety of customers and construction industry experts. The more conversations I have, the more I realize there is a sizable knowledge gap when it comes to understanding the value of proper planning. In fact, many I speak to still view planning and scheduling as one-in-the-same, a misnomer I’d like to dispel here and now.

Lean Construction paper process.jpg
Lean Construction Planning - The Paper Way

Planning is certainly important to buttress the scheduling process but also bring significant value throughout the project. Understanding and implementing proper planning is the foundation for all activities on which project success is built. Every project workflow originates from this foundation, so if there are cracks, risk of failure is greatly increased.

Within the project lifecycle, there are 6 factors that are absolutely mission critical and can be significantly enhanced with proper planning:

#1 - Preconstruction

Minimize the amount of change between conceptual estimate and final budget by working closely with team members (owners, design team and strategic partners) to maintain the integrity of design during the development process. Plan segment reviews and collaboratively provide feedback.

#2 - Safety

Don’t focus on managing incidents. Instead, focus on the safety culture and participation. Allow for feedback from subcontractors on potential improvements. Share ownership and responsibility. Create safety “mock-ups” for training and understanding.

#3 - Schedule

While the goal is always to achieve the original substantial completion date, managing those expectations still remains as the biggest challenge. Forecasting the future is difficult, to say the least. I recommend using as many resources as you have (experience, subcontractor input, production data, etc..) to create a truly effective schedule. Keep it focused on the contract requirements and development at the milestone level. Plan frequently to break down into more manageable durations. Engage the project team in review process and provide feedback in forecast updates.

#4 - Change Management

Plan the way that change will be addressed as early as possible with all stakeholders. Agree on ground rules for resolution. Most importantly, stick to the plan and be transparent! Set a measured expectation for resolving change conditions -- less than or equal to 30 days from Relative Order of Magnitude (ROM) to resolution.

#5 - Quality

The best quality projects start with great quality planning. Define the quality of deliverables and create achievable goals for the team. Provide checklists for on-going inspections and examine leading indicators from these checklists to improve the quality throughout the project.

#6 - Close-out

In order to achieve success, teams must understand that fee erosion is a measurement that inevitably could compromise the perception of success. Nowhere is this more evident than close-out. A quick conclusion to site activities allows for final payment and teams to move to their next opportunity. Planning for turnover and setting goals for a short transition is a key indicator of success. Create an expectation for turnover as early in the process as possible, then get feedback from facility stakeholders and incorporate it in the plan.

Lean Construction Results BIM 360
Net profit of ongoing and completed projects beyond 150,000 euro for carpentry
division, courtesy of leanconstruction.dk

Proper (and effective) planning means that not only is there a process in place to ensure that the project team is quickly made aware of any issues that can compromise success, but also that there is a system in place to quickly resolve them. The ability for these processes and systems to identify and resolve issues must be continually measured and evaluated.

Providing the team with a clear picture of “what success looks like”, in the form of metrics and goals, is key to creating an environment of accountability and transparency. This will allow the team to thrive and continuously identify opportunities for improvement. In addition, fostering a culture of respectful and agile behavior allows for small course corrections during execution, rather than the sporadic firefighting that tends to take place on more traditional construction projects.

Planning, in an ideal sense, starts at the inception of the owner’s desire to build something. From that moment on, it is extremely important to develop strong team dynamics and an overall foundation of trust and collaboration – one that will inspire new stakeholders as they join the team throughout the planning process.

No matter the contracting method, using LEAN principles will help develop sound process fundamentals, logistics, and innovative technologies that support tangible success factors. This fact is further illustrated in “Experience and results from implementing LEAN construction in a large Danish contracting firm”, a study of projects employing these principles vs. projects that did not. The data generated from this study indicated substantial improvements in each success factor category.

Performance in these critical areas can be improved further by monitoring and improving attendance metrics. In “Accident rate down from 57 to 9 in five years”, a report compiled by Skanska specific to safety success, demonstrates that workers are actually more diligent about attendance when they feel accountable for the success of their teams.

Lean Construction Accident Rate Impact Safety study, courtesy of Skanska

The list of supporting documentation could easily continue. If you need more evidence, simply Google “lean construction success stories” and you’ll get plenty of results sure to convince you to adopt, in the very least, proper planning methods. Now you are armed with knowledge and can identify the 6 critical factors to focus on, so ultimate lean construction project success is closer than ever. You can even take it a step further and get started with BIM 360 Plan.

BIM 360 Plan Lean Construction Mobile Solution Lean Planning - The BIM 360 Plan Way


Download our free guide to learn more:

New Call-to-action "Getting started with lean construction: a guide for project teams"



Do you have Lean Construction questions or advice? Tell us about it in comments!