Lean Project Delivery System and ISO 21500

Lean Project Delivery System (LPDS) is an organized implementation of the Lean Principles and Tools, combined to allow a team to operate in unison1. The LPDS was developed as a philosophy, a set of interdependent functions, rules for decision making, procedures for execution of functions, and as implementation aids and tools, including software when appropriate; the domain for the LPDS is defined by the intersection of projects and production systems2.

LPDS uses an approach to project delivery that works to analyze the interaction of design and construction in order to remove waste at each component3. LPDS consist of 13 modules, 9 organized in 4 interconnecting triads or phases extending from project definition to design to supply and assembly, plus the production control and the work structuring module, both conceived to extend through all project phases4. The production control module mostly refers to the Last Planner System and Target Value Delivery (TVD). The post-occupancy evaluation (learning loops) module links the end of one project to the beginning of the next4.

Figure 1: Lean Project Delivery System3

LPDS combines a new strategy applied to the Operating System that in turn calls for but does not require a different set of organizational communication and authority protocols and new forms of contract5.

“To implement LPDS successfully, collaboration, early-involvement, aligned incentives, and integration of the project stakeholders is required” [6]. Earlier blog posts have explained LPDS in more details6.


ISO 21500 provides guidance for project management and can be used by any type of organization, including public, private or community organizations, and for any type of project, regardless of complexity, size or duration. Its publication as an International Standard requires approval by at least 75% of the member bodies casting a vote7. Therefore, the majority consensus of this worldwide federation of national standards bodies is became part of the ISO. All member’s Projects Management Systems should be aligned to the ISO 21500.

The ISO 21500 points out that project management processes do not specify a chronological order to carry out the activities. Processes may be combined and arranged in sequences according to what the management system has anticipated7. This is very important when some of the processes involved interact and change their traditional order, as well as their cost and design, for example8.

On the other hand, the ISO 215000 wisely eliminates the processes’ tools and techniques, leaving the way open for specialists to combine and apply the tools and techniques that best suit the project, selecting them among the various management systems. This is especially useful in construction projects. When a specialist uses a system that has a guidebook or manual which recommends or suggests specific tools and techniques for processes, a barrier may be created to use one that is better than others; thus, the perspective of the great variety of innovating tools and techniques that exist —which are increasingly being generated worldwide— may be lost8. Moreover, the ISO 21500 does not describe the processes’ inputs and outputs, and does not mention the stages of a project; this increases the capacity to self-adapt to any management system, including those used in construction projects 8. Figure 2 shows Develop Project Charter’s primary inputs and outputs.

Figure 2: Develop project charter: primary inputs and outputs7


The ISO 21500 shows that project management processes do not specify a chronological order to carry out the activities. Processes may be combined and arranged in sequences according to what the management system has anticipated. It could include Learning Loops. On the other hand, “Lean cannot be reduced to a set of rules or tools. It must be approached as a system of thinking and behavior that is shared throughout the value stream. … If successfully applied, however, lean has the potential to improve the cost structure, value attitudes and delivery times of the construction industry” 9.

The freedom to choose tools and techniques, and the flexibility to specify the processes’ inputs and outputs help overcome the typical psychological barriers of specialists with deep-rooted preferences for a certain management system.

Synergy exists between the Lean Project Delivery System and ISO 21500. Both systems allow sequences and the adaptation of processes to be carried out in a flexible way. This flexibility in input, output, stages, tools, and techniques would allow the incorporation of other additional elements to those commonly used in the conversion of conventional processes. There are opportunities for further research in this area that should be developed as soon as possible.


1. Lean Construction Institute. (2015). ‘Lean Project Delivery Glossary’. Lean Construction Institute, available at: (January 14, 2015).

2. Ballard, G. (2000). ‘Lean Project Delivery System’, Lean Construction Institute. White Paper-8 (Revision 1). Lean Construction Institute.

3. Ballard, G. (2008). ‘The Lean Project Delivery System: An Update’. Lean Construction Journal, Issue (2008) 1-19.

4. Smith, R., Mossman, A. & Emmitt, S. (2011). ‘Lean and Integrated Project Delivery’. Lean Construction Journal, Issue (2011) 1-16.

5. Alarcón, L.F., Mesa, H. & Howell, G. (2013). 'Characterization of Lean Project Delivery' In:, Formoso, C.T. & Tzortzopoulos, P., 21th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Fortaleza, Brazil, 31-2 Aug 2013.

6. Schöttle, A. (2015). ‘What is the Lean Project Delivery System?’. Lean Construction Blog, available at: < http://leanconstructionblog.com/> (April 30, 2016).

7. International Standards Office. (2012). ‘ISO 21500:2012. Guidance on Project Management’. Geneva: ISO.

8. Brioso, X. (2015). ‘Integrating ISO 21500 Guidance on Project Management, Lean Construction and PMBOK’. Procedia Engineering, 123 (2015) 76 – 84.

9. Diekmann, J.E. et al. (2004). ‘Application of Lean Manufacturing Principles to Construction’, Construction Industry Institute - The University of Texas at Austin.

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