5 Questions About Lean Design and Construction: Implementation, Tools & Coaching

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Lean adoption is two times more likely to complete on time and three times more likely to be completed within budget. That is part of what is gaining attention for Lean, but it is also the commitment to respect for people that draws people to Lean.

Lean Coach Brian Winningham

Lean Design and Construction, according to the Lean Construction Institute, is a comprehensive system of processes and behaviors that re-integrates the siloed industry into high-performing success-oriented teams, committed to collaboration, innovation, knowledge-sharing, and interpersonal respect. Lean thinking and processes deliver better employee retention and quality of life, safer worksites, reduced project waste, and greater project value.  

Lean processes can minimize waste of time, materials, and efforts — producing the most value for the customer. Hoylu asked Lean Coach Brian Winningham to dig into the principles of Lean in this short Q&A. Winningham spent more than 20 years leading construction projects with PCL, Turner, Skanska, and SpawGlass. He’s passionate about sharing the many ways Lean can improve your work and also your life. He is a Lean Construction Institute (LCI) Approved Instructor and active in supporting LCI Communities of Practice all over the United States. 

Q: How does Lean differ from other forms of project management? 

Winningham: Lean focuses on people and not just data. People drive everything we do in our work and we sometimes forget that the data are actually people. Through its basic tenets of Respect for People and Continuous Improvement, Lean is more than a management system, it’s a system for living your best life. Research is proving over and over again that serving others is our best way to happiness. Respect for People will show us the best ways we can serve others. As to Continuous Improvement, what limits do we truly have if we were to actually get just a little better each and every day. These are some pretty simple ideals which are often difficult to put into practice. The best things in life are rarely easy but are always worth the effort. 

Q: What are some of the benefits of Lean and why have Lean principles gained more attention?  

Winningham: Lean can help us to see things differently and that is the key to improvement. Some of the immediate benefits of applying Lean on your projects are better collaboration, better quality, and happier and more productive teams. Happier teams lead to happier clients and happier trade partners. In construction, projects with high Lean adoption is two times more likely to complete on time and three times more likely to be completed within budget. That is part of what is gaining attention for Lean, but it is also the commitment to Respect for People that draws people to Lean. Everyone wants to matter, and if we are really and truly honest, we know everyone really does matter. None of us truly work alone, we are all interdependent upon each other to thrive and grow. Lean offers us some really great tools to maximize that potential for growth for everyone involved. 

Q: How should an organization go about implementing Lean? 

Winningham: You can learn a lot by reading and researching. I encourage you to go to local Lean events and national events if you are able. Find other people and companies who are implementing Lean and ask for their help. Even if they are your competitor, they will likely help you or point you to someone who can, because that is how Lean folks roll! A Lean Coach can help you learn about and implement these new ideas as well. 

There is one idea that is imperative for companies to be more successful in their Lean implementation. Lean is not just for the front line or for scheduling or even for production. Lean principles and tools help everyone in the organization. This is especially true at the top, where, without the leaders embracing these new ways of thinking, Lean likely won’t make it very far in your organization. 

Q: How do digital tools play a role in Lean? 

Winningham: Digital tools make a huge difference in Lean implementation. They level the playing field by allowing everyone access to the plan in real-time, all the time. By asking everyone to participate in creating the plan and making the plan visible to all, we are now adding all their collective knowledge and brainpower to solving any issues that arise in our execution. This will enhance team collaboration and speed our reaction times when things don’t go as expected. That is how a team practices continuous improvement. 

Q: What does a Lean Coach do and what are the benefits of working with a Lean Coach? 

Winningham: Lean Coaches are typically experts in our field. Many of us come from operations backgrounds either in the field directly and/or managing projects. That was my path anyway. I started in the field and then managed projects for the last 20 years of my career prior to becoming a coach. So, one obvious benefit is that you get an operations expert looking at your operations with an experienced eye. We are also experts on applying Lean tools in various situations. Many of us are also pretty handy at facilitating trainings and meetings.  

Typically, a Lean Coach gets engaged in any or all of three main ways:  

  • Providing Lean or other kinds of training or workshops for your company 
  • Working with your internal Lean champions group helping your company implement a Lean strategy throughout the organization 
  • Helping project teams with their continuous improvement journey  

The benefit of working with a Coach is their experience. They typically work with lots of companies and see lots of different situations, all of which can help you in your specific situations. A coach can help speed up your team’s transformation, by helping you avoid some of the pitfalls and traps that can derail your Lean journey. 

To learn more, connect with Winningham for individual or group coaching. And stay tuned to Hoylu’s Resource Center for more about Lean Construction and Design. Email us if you would like to contribute.  


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