A response to critics of lean construction

Glenn Ballard, Lauri Koskela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To reply to criticisms of lean construction made by Graham Winch in the 2nd edition of his Managing Construction Projects. Method: Reasoned argumentation from published statements. Findings: Winch’s criticisms of lean construction are based on misunderstandings. Limitations: Other papers will continue the debate regarding the appropriate conceptualization of projects in relation to production, including the question whether organization design is part of production system design. Implications: Regarding the mainstream construction management community, we respectfully propose that it should get rid of certain temporal myopia. Two central concepts of lean construction are production, as a starting point for managing and organizing, and waste, as a focus of improvement. Winch denies the role of production in management and fails to recognize the importance of waste: it is not in the index of his book, although lean production and lean construction is discussed. This is fully aligned to other current literature in management, which – through silence - denies the role of production and waste. However, these concepts were present in the management literature preceding the two influential books on business education in 1959 (Gordon & Howell 1959, Pierson 1959). Lean construction represents a continuation of the discussion in the first half of the 20th century, which seems to have become opportune again as a result of the massive criticism on the lack of relevance of management science since the 1980’s. Value for Practitioners: To invert a well-known saying: ‘There is nothing so impractical as a poor theory.’

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-22
Number of pages10
JournalLean Construction Journal
Issue numberSpecial Issue
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


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