On-Site Magazine

From the editor: More than common sense

By Corinne Lynds   

Construction Skills Development lean skills

Lean is far from the novel concept it was back in the ‘50s when Toyota first popularized it. Yet, here we are in 2017, and a new lean event, whitepaper, seminar, book, association, or video seems to pop up everyday.

Why is this?

It’s because the construction industry, as a whole, does not fully understand or respect the approach.

“How many times have you heard that lean is ‘just common sense?’” asks lean advisor Gregg Stocker. “Referring to lean as nothing more than common sense is often an excuse to ignore transformation and continue to do things in the same way.”


Seems a bit harsh, but he’s not wrong. When contractors categorize lean as “common sense”, it generalizes a strategy that is built on specific tools and principles that are designed to enhance value and uncover wasted resources — wasted time, wasted movement, and wasted human potential.

We’ve all heard the old adage “Measure twice, cut once.” It’s good common sense, reduces errors and improves efficiency. But, it’s not lean.

To fully embrace lean, an organization needs to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. It requires very specific and intentional training from the top down.

The Lean Construction Institute – Canada (LCI-C) was established two years ago as a special committee of the Canadian Construction Association to address this need. One of the LCI-C’s objectives is to deliver training to the construction industry. In February the Canadian Lean Construction Certificate Program was announced.

The program will have three levels of certification, each with its own education and/or experience requirements:

• Level One – Lean Project Delivery

• Level Two – Lean Project Coordinator

• Level Three – Lean Project Facilitator

LCI-C anticipates Level Two exams will be available to be written in late 2017. Level One exams will be available much sooner.

Lean projects are completed faster, on budget, and with fewer safety issues than most traditional projects. But, it’s not a matter of simply applying common sense. It is a detailed approach that is very different from what most contractors are used to.

“It’s basically thinking backwards from your outcome,” explains Art Winslow, director of lean and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) at Graham. “You establish what your outcome is, what your milestones need to be. Then you’re working to discover what needs to be done to meet each of the milestones. It’s 180 degrees from traditional planning.”

And, that right there is the biggest challenge. It requires change. In order for the construction industry to embrace lean thinking, it needs to stop saying lean is just “common sense” and get the necessary training to understand the concept fully.

Corinne Lynds / Editor



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