What is the Lean Project Delivery System?

The Lean Project Delivery System (LPDS) was first introduced by Glenn Ballard in 20001. LPDS is a philosophy1, but also a delivery system2 in which the project team help customers to decide what they want3, not only realize decisions and perform activities. Ballard3 described LPDS also as “project-based production system” because it is a temporary production system4. In contrast to traditional project delivery systems, LPDS questions what needs to be done and who is responsible for the task at the very beginning of the project.

Therefore, the following points are key characteristics of LPDS1:
  • Project is structured and managed as a value generating process
  • Early involvement of downstream stakeholders to plan and design the project steps through cross functional teams
  • Pull techniques are used to manage the information and material flow between stakeholders
  • Buffers are used to absorb variabilities in the production system through global optimization

Figure 1: Lean Project Delivery System3

Each phase contains three project steps. Each triangle represents a project phase which overlap, and some steps are part of two phases due to the inter-connectedness of project delivery. Thus, each project phase has an impact on the following phase and is influenced by the previous phase. Decisions, which are made in one phase, affect the other phases. Compared to traditionally project delivery, LPDS explicitly shows the relations and dependencies between the different phases, which are often ignored.

The aim of the first phase, Project Definition, is to get a better understanding for the project. Therefore, the ends (what’s wanted), the means (what has to be provided), and the constraints (location, time, cost, regulations) are clarified through conversation3. The step ‘design concept’ aligns the interests of the stakeholder through values, concepts, criteria, and specifications and connects the first two phases of the LPDS as it is the end of the first phase and the beginning of the second phases. The second phase, Lean Design, continues with the conversations between the stakeholder to develop the process and product design together based on the conceptual design. In order to have the most information and therefore the best knowledge about alternatives, decisions are made at the ‘last responsible moment’ and with the focus on maximizing customer value and minimizing waste. If new opportunities occur during conversation the project can go back to Project Definition. The Lean Design phase transitioned into Lean Supply. Based on the product design, detailed engineering will be done to fabricate and deliver the components and material. This phase involves a logistic concept to minimize the inventory and reduce lead time.

Lean Assembly continues with the delivery of the information, components, and materials as well as tools, machines, and labors for installation. During this phase, construction activities are performed at the ‘last responsible moment’ to avoid change orders and rework. After installation the phase ends with the commissioning and use of the facility and transitions into Lean Use1,5. The last phase consist of end-user values. Information about operation, maintenance, alteration, and decommissioning have to be considered from the beginning of the project in order to deliver end-user value and a lower Total Cost of Ownership. Therefore, to maximize the value of the asset it is very important to take this phase into account and continue after the Lean Assembly phase. In traditional project delivery this phase is often not part of the process and regularly leads to unsatisfied end-users.

Every project phase involves Work Structuring and Production Control. Work Structuring has the purpose to obtain a reliable work flow by breaking work into smaller parts. Production Control focuses on workflow and production units, and uses lookahead processes to manage them4. The aim of Production Control is to govern the execution of plans rather than variance detection1. LPDS integrates a Learning Loop to learn and adjust the system at every step and phase, whenever it is necessary.

The Last Planner® System (LPS), Target Value Design (TVD) and Set-based design (SBD) are methods that are part of the LPDS2,5. For example LPS is used as production control in LPDS1. TVD ensures that the project is being delivered within the conditions of satisfaction and constraint of the end customer. SBD helps the project team avoid unnecessary negative iteration. To implement LPDS successfully, collaboration, early-involvement, aligned incentives, and integration of the project stakeholders is required.

Future posts will explain each phase of the LPDS, together with the steps and methods in more detail.


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

2. 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. pp 247-255.

3. Ballard, G., 2008, ‘The Lean Project Delivery System: An Update’, Lean Construction Journal.

4. Tsao, C.Y. 2005, Use of Work Structuring to Increase Performance of Project-Based Production Systems. PhD Thesis. University of California, Berkeley.

5. Ballard, G. and Howell, G.A. 2003, ‘Lean project management’, Building Research & Information, 31(1), pp. 1-15.

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