Social construction: Understanding construction in a human context

Christine A. Slivon, Gregory A. Howell, Lauri Koskela, John Rooke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Research Question: Is the context of a natural science, e. g. physics, sufficient to explain the phenomena of a construction project, or is a broader context needed, one which would account for human behavior in terms of linguistic action as well as physical activity? Such an explanation is needed to improve our ability to manage construction projects. Purpose: To show that the broader framework of human concerns is a necessary context for understanding construction and that linguistic actions are a key distinction for observing the process in a way that makes sense. This perspective explains the success of the Last Planner ® System (LPS) and the Integrated Form of Agreement, which are the major innovations underlying the success of Lean Construction. Research Method: Conceptual analysis and our collective experience with LPS as an example of the appearance of our findings in real world situations. Findings: 1: The linguistic action of a “request” brings about subsequent physical activity. Commitment provides the initiative for material flows. 2: Collaborative planning is more effective than planning done in isolation by a single person. 3: Making promises in public provides an incentive for people to keep them, out of a concern for their reputation in the community, resulting in higher levels of reliability. 4: Trust can grow out of the repeated, reliable fulfillment of promises. 5: Higher levels of trust and reliability among the members of a project team enable them to improve their effectiveness by reducing the cost and duration of projects. Limitations: This paper does not address issues of power nor of bad faith nor of agency. Implications: Methods and approaches for assessing trust could be developed and tested. Value for practitioners: Practitioners can use the linguistic actions of requests and promises to have more effective project conversations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-75
Number of pages10
JournalLean Construction Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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