Get in Touch with a Subject Matter Expert

Below are several of the topics within Lean Construction that new contractors struggle to put into practice. We've paired Subject Matter Experts to these areas in order to help provide insight and to more effectively incorporate the principals.

Target Value Delivery
Christian Pikel

Target Value Delivery is a holistic approach to project delivery that seeks to maximize customer value in the most efficient and effective manner throughout the life of the project. To succeed in target value delivery, some of the critical team features are some form of team integration and early builder and trade involvement, but not necessarily and integrated form of agreement, a clear understanding and alignment around the owner’s business case and value proposition and strong cost modeling and estimating team.

Properly implemented, TVD will:

  • Deeply focus on the team on delivering customer value within the project constraints and basing decision making on that value proposition
  • Reduce rework and increase project predictability through proactive evaluating value, cost, schedule, and constructability factors before committing to design options
  • Enhance collaboration and project knowledge through early engagement and transparency
  • When integrated with trades: reduce RFIs, Changes and Design Supplements required
  • Create a learning organization within projects and across projects
  • Create a more fun and cooperative project experience

We refer to it as Target Value Delivery because the process is intended to be applied throughout the life cycle of the project and value capture by the owner.

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Last Planning in Construction
Colin Milberg

The Last Planner(R) System is a system for project production planning and control designed to create reliable project workflow and project results. LPS (R) can be used to manage production at any phase of project delivery. LPS uses Pull as the primary method of project control. Pull-planning is a method used in various levels of the last planner system design production to flow.

LPS consists of 5 connected conversations:

  • Milestone Planning
  • Phase Pull Planning
  • Make-Ready Planning
  • Weekly Work Planning
  • Daily Commitment Management.

These conversations are connected by metrics and learning loops to support continuous improvement. LPS incorporates the Lean Construction Institutes six core tenets of: Respect for People, Removal of Waste, Focus on Process & Flow, Generation of Value, Continuous Improvement and Optimize the Whole.

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Problem Solving (A3, 5 Whys, Fishbone)
Nick Masci

Whether you’re tackling an inefficient process, a faulty product, or any other issue, you need to clearly define a problem before you put time and money into solving it. Lean problem-solving approaches — such as A3, the 5 Whys, and Fishbone diagramming — help you articulate your issue, identify precise trouble spots in your operations, and define your ideal state.

Here’s a high-level look each method:

A3 (a.k.a. 7-box, single-page problem solving)

  • Provide background information: what problem are you talking about and why?
  • Describe your current conditions: where do things stand now?
  • Specify what specific outcome(s) you require.
  • Perform a root cause analysis: why does the problem exist?
  • Develop recommendations that address root causes.
  • Create a plan to implement changes.
  • Create a plan to follow up: how will you ensure the plan is working? How will you share learnings with others?

Fishbone diagramming

  • Articulate your problem at the head of the fish.
  • Identify where your problem starts by listing out issues — or fishbones — in four categories along the body of the fish:
    • People
    • Information
    • Process
    • Systems

5 Whys

  • Start with your problem.
  • Then get to its root cause by asking “Why?” until you’ve exhausted all scenarios.

When guided through these approaches by a skilled practitioner, you can ensure that you solve the right problem and get your solution right the first time, minimizing wasted resources.

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5S: Stop Searching and START Working
Kenneth McBroom

Have you ever:

  • Spent more time looking for something, i.e. Tools, Material, Information, then the actual work?
  • Thought you had everything you needed only to discover someone else took it?
  • Kept more than you needed, even though it has been years, just because?

Then IMPROVE and start using 5S. 5S stands for:

  • Sort
  • Set
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

5S can be used on Construction sites, Office spaces and even your Home. Wasted time will be minimized, frustration will decrease, and Safety will improve. The effort to implement 5S will be offset almost immediately by the increase in productivity.

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E8 Wastes
Stephen Hall

Want to improve performance and have things flow more efficiently? Try the Lean strategy of eliminating the 8 Wastes. Wastes all around you, but most of the time it just becomes the normal course of business and you don’t realize how much is there. Once you learn about the 8 Wastes, you begin to see opportunities where you can make both big and little improvements. A great way to remember the 8 Wastes is by the acronym DOWNTIME 


Defects are costly! Extra material time, extra labour time, project delays, disruption in flow, frustrated parties, all creating waste. Develop a system with checks and balances to reduce the volume of defects. If you have a system and are still having defects, you need to revamp your system! 

Over Production 

Over production can be wasteful in a couple ways. By producing more than is necessary, you’re tying up capital that could be more appropriately used elsewhere. As well, these extra finished goods need to be housed and stored somewhere, again using cash or space. 


Waiting is a big problem and is caused by a disruption in flow. Someone finishes early, so there’s work waiting for workers. Or someone finishes late, so there’s workers waiting for work. Either way, this is wasteful and costly. Use pull planning strategies to better align hand-offs between trades. 

Not using Human Capital 

Your workers have lots of great ideas on how to improve things. The people in the field that are hands-on doing the work have valuable insights on how efficient processes and workflows are. The worst waste is not using all the talents and skills across your company, capitalize on this instead. 


Each time something needs to be transported or moved, it creates a cost. Moving something multiple times, incurs that cost multiple times. Equipment and manpower expense, diverting attention from the bigger task at hand. Proper planning, staging, and scheduling can reduce the amount of transport and save a considerable amount of waste. 


Having too much inventory on site can create housekeeping issues, usually requires to be moved multiple times, can become damaged, and more. Ordering material early also ties up capital earlier than necessary. Have material delivered at the most appropriate time to keep the waste at a minimum. 


Having extra motion is another waste that gets embedded without realizing it. You’re adding additional movement or steps that aren’t necessary. Process mapping is a great way to see what steps are necessary and what’s superfluous.  

Extra Processing 

This would entail continuing to work on something after the scope of work is complete. By eliminating this extra work, you bring down this additional waste. Ensure parties understand the expectations, what’s reasonable, and what’s far beyond necessary.  

Connect with Stephen Hall

Value Stream and Process Mapping
Stephen Dennis

A Value Stream Map (VSM) is a very powerful tool that helps you “see” the value being created throughout a process. It’s an end-to-end depiction of the flow of value to the Customer, important to creating a Lean process.

A well-completed VSM:

  • Is a graphical representation of a process flow that identifies the process steps
  • Shows the entire end-to-end process, from input to activities to output
  • Illustrates the workflow and interactions with other groups,
  • Exposes opportunities for quick improvement (rework loops, redundancies, unnecessary inspections/approvals, etc.)
  • Identifies current and potential measurement points for needed data collection

VSMs contain much more information and detail than other types of process flow charts:

  • Process Steps
  • Inputs, Outputs, Activities, Flow of Item/Value, Rework Loops
  • Value-Added Information
  • Process Cycle Times (overall and for each process step)
  • Process Cycle Efficiency (percent of time spent creating customer value)
  • Queues, Work-In-Progress, Defects
  • SOPs, Documents, Reports, Job Aids
  • Resources
  • Systems

Value Stream Maps can be used to diagnose an existing process to make it more efficient and effective, as well as mapping out a new or improved process to be efficient from the start. They can be created on a wall or long paper strips using sticky notes for the process steps and decision/routing points.

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Michelle Whiteside

Retrospectives are an effective tool that can be used to build great teams through learning, sharing, and improving. At their core, retrospectives encourage us to look back on past events or situations. In construction, and with teams, they are events intentionally set up to reflect on a particular milestone or process.

They are generally facilitated by a third party and focus on what went well, what can be improved upon, and what struggles and challenges the team encountered. Some traditional retrospectives include:

  • Post preconstruction pricing efforts
  • Major schedule milestones (e.g., structure complete, skin complete)
  • Mid-project and/or end of project updates
  • Overall team health (communication, meeting effectiveness, etc.)
  • Major events (e.g., a safety related incident or quality issue)

When facilitated properly, retrospectives allow teams to focus on where breakdowns in a process occurred. They illustrate lessons learned and identify where best practices can be implemented to benefit the team. There are many approaches to facilitating a retrospective, but a simple approach can be extremely effective. Using Post-it notes, an online platform, or a white board, ask teams to brainstorm on the following topics:

  • Keep Doing – Highlight what went well and things the team will continue to do.
  • Stop Doing – Identify what didn’t work and was ineffective to the process.
  • Start Doing – Find opportunities for improvement and practices that can be implemented going forward.
  • Puzzles/Challenges – Discuss hurdles the team didn’t have the resources or control to change at the time.

An effective retrospective will push your teams to grow and learn together. Sharing retrospective results across your organization will build a culture of learning and continuous improvement.

Connect with Michelle Whiteside

Scrum: STOP Struggling and START Delivering projects Easier, Better, and Faster
Felipe Engineer-Manriquez

Have you ever:

  • Felt overwhelmed by a never-ending list of tasks and project deliverables?
  • Had trouble staying on top of deadlines and juggling multiple priorities on complex projects?
  • Worked in silos with limited collaboration and communication with your team or project partners?

Then EMBRACE Scrum and start delivering better results. Scrum is a framework for:

  • Planning
  • Monitoring progress toward goals
  • Adapting to changes

Scrum is a powerful management set of practices that can help you finish your projects easier and better with less effort. Construction projects can be challenging and require significant effort to complete successfully. However, applying the Scrum framework can make the process effective and more efficient. Scrum is a framework designed to be adapted and used in a variety of construction projects. By using Scrum, teams can increase their agility, transparency, and overall performance. The investment in learning Scrum will pay off in the form of improved quality, reduced waste, and increased customer satisfaction.

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Takt Planning
Jason Schroeder

Have you ever:

  • Been frustrated by not being able to finish your overall project on time?
  • Had a difficult time getting your team to see the project plan?
  • Felt hopeless in trying to fix your project when it gets off schedule?

If you have, then you MUST re-establish flow on your project.

Flow happens when a group of crews (trade processes) in a phase of work that are:

  • Working toward the SAME long-term plan.
  • Going the SAME direction. Moving in the SAME sequence.
  • Providing the SAME amount of value (energy or effort) to each zone.
  • Receiving the SAME amount of work or value in each zone.
  • Going the SAME speed.
  • The SAME distance apart.
  • Receiving all needed resources to perform the work on time.
  • On the SAME team.
  • Working toward the SAME short interval plan.
  • Given the SAME level of respect and input.
  • Flowing without stops & restarts.

Takt planning & control designs these SAMEs into your project plan by breaking it up into zones, takt time, and trade processes.  It works on every type of building and is the best master schedule to use with Last Planner.  The Takt Production system is the construction equivalent of the Toyota Production System.  If you want a project that can be run with respect, stability, and flow, it is time for Takt.

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Conditions of Satisfaction
Tom Richert

An explicit description by a Customer of all the requirements that must be satisfied by a Performer for the Customer to assess that they received exactly what was agreed upon. Conditions of Satisfaction always have a time element as one of the requirements, defining a clear future state that must exist at that time.

For the Conditions of Satisfaction practice, a Customer is the person receiving the benefits provided by a Performer and not necessarily a customer in sense of a financial transaction. Work is understood to be a network of Customer-Performer commitments at various scales. As an example, at the micro scale, a Performer may hand a Customer a tool they request. That Customer then may become a Performer installing material requested by another person acting in the role of a Customer.

At the macro scale, key stakeholders on lean projects negotiate a set of Conditions of Satisfaction for the project. These conditions always include a completion date and often include milestone dates, cost targets, relationship goals, safety goals, and operational targets.

The concept of Conditions of Satisfaction was taken from the work of Fernando Flores and Terry Winograd in Language / Action Perspective, for understanding the importance of language in shaping the actions that produce outcomes.

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Respect for People
Jennifer Lacy

It’s no secret that construction suffers from an industry-wide labor shortage and that needed projects outpace the available workforce. There’s more work to be done to generate interest in construction careers, but the first step is retaining the workforce that we have, starting with respect.

While respect for people is providing a safe and inclusive work environment, it’s so much more than that. It’s taking time to understand their talent, challenging them to grow and giving them a platform to share their ideas – it’s providing an opportunity for them to make a difference. Creating a culture on your jobsite, or in your office, that is founded on respect for people will generate trust, boost productivity, and create a retention strategy that no perk could surpass.

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Contractor Type
Industry Priorities