The Lean Construction in Action is a series that features Lean practitioners who are working in the field. In this series, Tim interviews lean leaders, superintendents, and foreman who are actively applying Lean Construction. The goal of this series is to connect people with the lean practices that they are currently using. We want to share stories about what they are learning and how they are improving their practice.

1. Where are you from and what is your current role?

I am from Oxford, Mississippi and I am currently in Oxford. Right now, we have projects all over North Mississippi and we’re probably going to start expanding out into Alabama and Tennessee and Louisiana in the next few years. Our company is about 9 years old. Before moving back to Oxford, I was all over the country. I used to work for Hoar Construction. I worked for them for about 12 years, anywhere from California to North Carolina, but mostly in Texas. I decided about 3 1/2 years ago to move my family back to Oxford for a more small town life and small town feel, and so it's been great. Currently, I am a senior Superintendent, so I'm running jobs, but I'm also kind of helping implement lean across all of our projects.

2. How were you first introduced to lean?

So at Hoar we talked about lean, probably starting about 10 years ago. It was actually one of the action items on our quarterly agendas. But that long ago, nobody really pushed it, thought about it or explained what it even was. So, we just thought it was, you know, another thing that we gotta do, right? I think it was in 2015 I was starting up a hospital in Houston and it was my general Superintendent at the time gave me a copy of The Goal. I read that and ate it up.

I was like, “man, if we could apply this to construction, that'd be cool”. And then my plumber foreman on that project, whose name is Adam, gave me a copy of Two Second Lean and I read that and I was like, “OK, so lean is not about doing more with less. It's not something to make your life worse. It's to make your life better”. So then I started applying it as much as I could. And then it was funny like maybe a month or two after that the company hired a lean consultant and then they came in and taught me how to do the Last Planner System and did a boot camp with all of the trades on that project. And then we're off to the races.

3. So, you say when you first heard about it early on in your days there, it wasn't something you immediately jumped to?

It was kind of one of those boxes you guys checked in a foreman’s meeting as you got together or superintendents group, you guys just checked the box. Like, yeah, we're putting lean into place.

4. What were some of those first steps you took towards lean implementation?

We started doing daily huddles which is a part of the Last Planner System. Just having those daily talks was our start. We also went to all stand up desks and the job trailer.

Again, it wasn't very long after I read those two books that we started doing actual Last Planner System, and we probably butchered it just to get started. It's funny how many people just call the last planner system pull planning. They think that pull planning is all there is to it. But we had a six week look ahead. We had our weekly work plans on movable whiteboards.

I would say we had success with it, but my inexperience and the fact that we approached it more as a stick and not a carrot. We started using the daily huddles and the weekly work plans to throw the contract at the trades which was not the right thing to do, and it didn't fall apart, but we could have had a lot better participation had we approached it with more of an idea of respect then. Then just trying to cram it down somebody's throat.

5. So you took some lessons from that, I'm sure you run your Last Planner System a lot differently than you did on that first hospital project back in the day?

It is all about respect now. Even in the phase pull that I participated in today, you know you’re trying to hit the date and you're trying to get a solid plan from all the trade partners to hit that date. And a lot of them are still trying to sandbag because they've been hit over the head by these other GC's that just hound them with the schedule.

I had to stop the meeting and say, “I want you to be aggressive, but if we are aggressive we can shrink this schedule and have a whole lot more accurate plan, nobody's gonna throw the contract at you. If you miss it by a day or two.”

6. What were some of the other lean tools you started to use or you currently use?

I guess about a year and a half ago, I started learning about takt planning. I know that's like the buzz right now, but man, it's been a game changer.

So, after I learned the Last Planner System, we were also using a scheduling system called Vico, which was a flow line scheduling. It's very similar to takt or you can actually do tact with it because it almost looks like a takt schedule. It looks very similar to the example from the Empire State Building where they basically takt out the steel. Anyway we were using that system, but then we had some superintendents who basically said, well, yeah, but that's not gonna work. You have to schedule it like this. All of a sudden, we were cutting ties and all these crew ties and basically turning it into a CPM schedule. So then it was just sure track or P6, right?

So I learned how to use that system and I'd also had the visual of using that system and saying if everything flowed in the same direction and if everything went the same speed the same distance apart, then why wouldn't this work? It actually kind of left my brain for a few years and then all of a sudden I read Jason and Spencer's book. And I'm like, well, yeah, this makes a lot more sense. I would say 100% of the schedules at ICM are now takt unless the owner forces us to use something different. We are not using CPM.

7. Why do you think lean construction practices make for a better project or a better workplace?

Well, I guess you gotta define what is a better project? If a better project means better schedule, better safety, or more on budget, then I would say lean definitely does that.

The benefit is, it's not necessarily faster, but more accurate. This leads to less wasted time of not having the right information sooner, if that makes sense. You're gonna have a safer project because I mean, naturally lean jobs are cleaner jobs, right? Also, there is just this air of how can we do things better? You're always looking for how to make things better and safer.

You're usually going to have a more accurate budget. Same principle as schedule, and then also the relationships on the job are just overall better because everybody is approaching it from a place of respect and not a place of legalities and attorneys.

8. Why do you think people in the construction industry have so much animosity towards lean. In other words, what would you say are the biggest hurdles to get in lean implemented on a project?

Probably one of the reasons that people have animosity towards it is they have experienced it, done wrong or they've experienced fake lean. Some boss somewhere told the project team that they're gonna do lean and so that project team said OK. The boss said we're going to go do lean and so we're gonna do it and so they go do it but they don't start with respect. There's still hard hat throwing and yelling and in the meetings and all that kind of stuff, that's probably one reason that people don't believe in it is because they haven't seen it for real.

9. What would you think is the number one trait that a lean builder can have?

So I’ve put some thought into this too. You know, you could say something like curiosity or perseverance, but really, you could probably wrap all that up together in a desire to learn. I think if you have a really strong desire to learn, even if you're just getting started or if you've been doing lean for a while, if you have that, you're going to keep progressing. Your heart has to be prepared to receive lean. You gotta be frustrated with the current situation and then find the cure.

10. What do you think the biggest misconception out in the world is about lean construction?

There's a few I think. I've already mentioned one - people hear lean and think “oh that means we have to do more work with less resources, right?” That's one. I think that's probably the biggest misconception out there. And then the whole thing about “Oh well lean is just pull planning” That's barely scratching the surface.

11. Why do you think more superintendents don't implement lean construction?

Some people have not recognized that there is a disease and that there needs to be a cure. There's a whole lot of people in this industry that say, well, that's the way we've been doing it for X amount of years, right? I've trained myself to where, if I ever hear somebody say that, it's a red flag.

Many people don’t have the desire to change. And then I would also say not a lot of awareness. I know a lot of superintendents that, until I met them, never had never heard the word lean.

12. Is there anything you wanted to share or touch on that we didn't touch on here or any parting words you wanna give the audience?

I would say if you were just learning about lean or just getting started, don't get overwhelmed with trying to get it perfect. Just get started and then learn from there and then improve from there and then just keep on going and keep on improving. That's the only way you're gonna get started.

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Tim is a Superintendent for CRB Group. His construction experience focuses heavily on the biotech and life science industry. Tim is an advocate for incorporating lean construction techniques into all aspects of a project lifecycle.

Boone graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2008 and went on to work for Hoar Construction, LLC as an assistant superintendent where he had the opportunity to work on several different types and sizes of projects all over the country and gained a well-rounded knowledge base of building. Boone’s career was forever changed in 2015 when he was introduced to Lean after reading The Goal and 2 Second Lean. Shortly after that, he learned The Last Planner System and helped implement it on several projects. From that, Boone’s heart was changed in a way that drives him to find better ways to build projects with respect for people.