Towards an Operational Definition of Lean Construction Onsite

Michelle Sjögren Leong1, Steve Ward2 & Lauri Koskela3

1Director, 6ix Consulting Ltd., Bristol, United Kingdom, +44 7935 312214,
2Managing Director, 6ix Consulting Ltd., Bristol, United Kingdom, +44 7917 104399,
3Professor, University of Huddersfield, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Huddersfield, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 1484 472892,


Through literature review and drawing from a combined professional experience of over 20 years of lean construction implementation, this paper investigates the key success factor for the automotive industry’s uptake of lean production to see what the construction industry can derive from it. The paper concludes that there exist a variety of definitions of lean, but no existing definition is yet satisfactory to describe lean construction in a rigorously testable method. This is a major obstacle to the successful deployment of lean construction especially when the industry does not have a standard benchmark of “what a lean site looks like”. It recommends a small-scale replication of the International Motor Vehicle Programme (IMVP) led International Automotive Plant Study (IAPS) in construction. This will be in aid of developing an operational definition of lean construction, in line with Deming’s understanding, in the form of a lean site assessment tool contributing to a Lean Index. A statistical study is also suggested to establish correlation between the degrees of lean application (Lean Index) and project performance.


Lean construction, waste, continuous improvement, operational definition, lean construction assessment



Leong, M.S. , Ward, S. & Koskela, L. 2015, 'Towards an Operational Definition of Lean Construction Onsite ' In:, Seppänen, O., González, V.A. & Arroyo, P., 23rd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Perth, Australia, 29-31 Jul 2015. pp 507-516

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