What are some misconceptions about Lean Construction that you would like to clear up? This is a question that I get a lot and knowing some of these misconceptions can save you years on your Lean Journey.

Misconception #1: Lean Construction is basically Lean manufacturing applied to the AEC industry.

This is incorrect. Lean Construction as a field developed independently from Lean manufacturing. The founders of Lean Construction (Glenn Ballard, Greg Howell, and Lauri Koskela) started investigating methods for making the construction projects more efficient in the early 1990s. They started the field by developing a theory of production for the construction industry. Unlike manufacturing where the production system is long-lasting, a construction project is by definition temporary. As a result, Lean Construction has its own methods and solutions for problems unique to the AEC industry. Although we do borrow some of the try and true methods from Toyota such as VSM, 5 Whys, etc., these are not the entirety of Lean Construction. The methods that are unique to Lean Construction include the Last Planner® System of Production Control, Target Value Delivery, Choosing By Advantages, and Location-based Planning.

Misconception #2: Lean Construction is about being more efficient.

The goal is to maximize stakeholder (owners, end user, architects, GC, trades, etc.) VALUE, not just be more EFFICIENT. Value is contextual and depends on the situation, stakeholders, etc.

The Lean methods, philosophy, and principles that we apply are geared towards increasing VALUE generation. In some cases, the value is clear and increasing production efficiency is the best way to deliver the intended VALUE. Although most people spend their time working on EFFICIENCY, it is a means to delivering VALUE, not the end goal. There is nothing more wasteful than being efficient at something that does not matter. When you start your project, you need to think about the customer and their value. Only once value is understood and well-defined you can work on efficiency.

Misconception #3: It takes many years of applying Lean Construction to get results.

This is FALSE. If you know what you are doing, you should be able to get results within the same day or same week. The only way to measure the effectiveness of your Lean implementation is to measure your PROGRESS. If you are not making PROGRESS then you are not doing it right.

Misconception #4: You can learn everything about Lean Construction in a few weeks or months.

Lean is a multi-year journey where there is no end. As you progress in your journey, you see more of the landscape, your team is generally more productive, and you realize how much more there is to learn. A Lean practitioner is by definition a continuous learner. There is always more to learn and more ways to do things better.

Misconception #5: Knowing the concepts and the terminology is enough.

Lean only works if you actively apply it. Think about eating healthy and exercising. Just because you know what to do and have the right knowledge; if you do not apply what you know, you will not get any results. If you want to gauge someone's Lean understanding, don't ask them what they know. Ask them what they have done. Only through real-world experience can you truly get the benefits of and know how to use Lean.

Misconception #6: A Lean Construction expert should know everything about the field.

Lean Construction as a field is very wide. It is impossible for a single person to know everything. Most Lean experts specialize in a few areas such Last Planner, Pull Planning, Takt-Time, Choosing By Advantages, Target Value Delivery, Lean in Design, etc. There are a handful of people that know the extended landscape and how to apply the full system. They are the exception and not the norm. When working with a Lean consultant, it is important to ask them how they learned what they are teaching, who they learned it from, and in which projects they have applied the concept before.

Misconception #7: Learning Lean Construction is purely about learning the tools and techniques.

To properly understand Lean Construction, you must know the philosophy, principles, and methods. The Lean Philosophy which is 'respect for people' and 'maximizing value delivery while minimizing waste' help create the purpose and objective. The principles are concepts that we have uncovered that allow us to achieve the objective of the Lean Philosophy. Some of these concepts include: pull, single-piece-flow, kanban, PPC, etc. And finally, the methods and tools are the physical implementation of the Lean Principles.

By knowing the Lean Principles, one can derive useful tools and methods. Likewise, by looking at existing tools, one can inquire about the Principles and concepts behind them. Progress in the field of Lean Construction is about developing, refining, and increasing our understanding of Lean Principles, methods, and tools.

By merely copying and pasting techniques and tools from other people, you will be missing out on the full benefits of the system. Your implementation will not fit the context of the problem and your results will be mixed. In some cases applying a Lean method in the wrong context can lead to waste and inefficiencies.

Misconception #8: If I search on Google the term "Lean Construction", I should be able to find accurate resources.

Unfortunately this is not the case. Lean Construction has been a victim of the latest craze of software companies, consultants, and construction companies that use the term to brand their product or company as new and innovative. These marketers write articles not to inform or teach the true essences of Lean Construction but rather to increase web traffic, attention, and conversion. Their articles are not very deep and are often written by people without any real-world experience. If you read these articles you will be confused or might unintentionally learn something that is wrong. It is much harder to unlearn something wrong then it is to take the time to properly learn it the first time.

Luckily there are a few online resources that have been dedicated to spreading the correct information in regards to Lean Construction. They include: The International Group for Lean Construction, Lean Construction Blog, and Lean Construction Institute.

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Doanh Do is graduate of UC Berkeley. He is a co-founder of Paramount Decisions, Inc. and The Lean Way, Inc. Through his research and software companies, Doanh's goal is to help the AEC industry be more innovative and lower the barrier to applying the best practices in Lean Construction. Paramount Decisions helps companies make better design decisions through Choosing By Advantages. The Lean Way helps companies start and sustain their lean and continuous improvement efforts.