Lean Construction Advanced Project Delivery: Blinded by Convention

Delivery of capital programs involves a complex and dynamic integration of people, organizations, and systems. Breaking the silos that exist within projects and achieving a harmonious flow of work effort that exceeds value expectations (time, cost, quality, safety, functionality, form, and delivery experience) is a commonly sought desire.

Unfortunately, unintended consequences of conventional project management approaches are the development of silos and sub‐optimization of efforts that compromise delivering what customers and stakeholders originally wanted or needed.


The moment the contracts are signed, participants (owners, designers, engineers, general contractors, design/build contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and others) set in motion forces that lessen their influence and control of the project.

* Owners want the risk of project execution to be with their designers and contractors.

* Designers and contractors cannot or will not carry all of this risk, so they transfer as much of the risk as possible to their sub‐consultants, sub‐contractors, and suppliers; and where possible back to the owner.

* Project contracts then attempt to protect each organization’s risk exposure and seek to limit interactions between parties for fear of losing control or a perceived advantage.

* Project participants are reluctant to intervene or participate in the planning, control, and management of others’ work for fear of taking back responsibility for its outcome.

* Effective working relationships have become supplanted by contract‐defined points‐of‐contact, staffing, and reporting requirements.

* Layers of contracts isolate the project participants from where project execution decisions are made. As a result, decisions and actions that affect the project value are being made with minimal visibility and/or accountability.

The contractors’ and subcontractors’ control of projects are severely compromised, and owners’ or designers’ ability to intervene on their own behalf to resolve problems or pursue improvement opportunities is greatly diminished. Fragmented decision‐making, weak collaboration and isolation of the project participants are conditions that work against addressing the complexity of today’s projects.

Even the most skillful and conscientious project managers with the most sophisticated programming tools are challenged to understand the total project information and work flow.

Without effective real‐time information exchange and work planning collaboration, each organization focuses on meeting its contract obligations with the limited information available to it. Inefficiencies, sub‐optimization and lost opportunities result from working in isolation, embedding waste in all forms and at great expense to the project.

Costs do not exist to be calculated. Costs exist to be reduced.” ‐ Taiichi Ohno, creator of the Toyota Production System

Tweet: Costs do not exist to be calculated. Costs exist to be reduced – Taiichi Ohno | #AEC #LeanCon @3DSAEC @Dassault3DS http://ctt.ec/93wzN+

Click to tweet: “Costs do not exist to be calculated.
Costs exist to be reduced – Taiichi Ohno”

Current project management approaches and closed systems do not address these problems. Owners who have experienced their projects running behind schedule will recall the frustration of not knowing

the precise cause of the delay or what has to be done to resolve it. Too often project participants are given inadequate, misleading, or unintentionally false information about the causes of delays to projects. Recovery plans are usually based more on hope than on rigorous analysis founded on hard data.

Because of the complex and dynamic nature of projects, we tend to blindly accept that each organization is capable of planning and executing the work they are contracted for in the most efficient and effective manner for the project. The reality is that project entities essentially act independently of each other.

The barriers that have developed have greatly diminished the ability of the Owner to influence project execution; either to resolve issues or pursue opportunities. The Owner pays significantly for the cost of embedded inefficiencies, accepts the consequences of flaws in project delivery, and hopes that retained risk can at least be contained within bloated budgets and contingencies.

This state of construction delivery is not what any rational organization should ever want. Adopting and relentlessly pursuing Lean Project Delivery is a proven approach for organizations to achieve better project outcomes.

Fernando Espana, President, Corner Cube, Inc.

Fernando Espana, President, Corner Cube, Inc.

To learn more, read the full white paper “Lean Construction ‐ Advanced Project Delivery for the AEC Industry” from Dassault Systèmes’ Value Solution Business Partner CornerCube.

CornerCube is a Dassault Systèmes partner located in the San Francisco Bay area, offering Lean construction solutions, 3D technology solutions, and related technical services to the AEC industry.


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 Related Resources

 Lean Construction Industry Solution Experience

Lean Construction – Advanced project Delivery for the AEC Industry White Paper

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Interview with CornerCube







As head of global marketing for the AEC Industry at Dassault Systèmes, Mr. Moriwaki launches and promotes groundbreaking Industry Solution Experiences including "Optimized Construction," "Façade Design for Fabrication," and "Civil Design for Fabrication." He is a member of buildingSMART.