The Toyota Production System (TPS) is the powerful engine that has rocketed the Toyota Motor Company from a backwater operation in a war-torn country to the largest automobile manufacturer in the world. Lean thinking (as TPS has come to be known outside of Toyota) has been successfully applied to industries from across the spectrum of products and services, from technology start-ups to healthcare providers. The construction industry has also been lured in by the siren song of the benefits of a successful Lean implementation: more satisfied customers, greater profitability, and improved metrics across the board. But as the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC) celebrates its 24th annual conference and declares the field to be "on the brink of revolution," the question arises: has the promise of Lean Construction been fully realized? Toyota has long stressed that TPS stands on two pillars: Continuous Improvement, and Respect for People. The former brings with it the hoped-for results, but it is the latter that makes the former possible. Their motto is: "We make people before we make cars." Companies that have successfully implemented Lean consistently state that their achievements would not have been possible without sustained employee engagement and support at all levels of the organization. Have Lean Construction enthusiasts grasped the importance of the Respect for People principle? Have they recognized the crucial nature of employee engagement? Based on the literature, the answer is no. In this paper, I examine the dearth of focus on this topic in the field, examine case studies from other industries, and discuss what "Respect for People" could look like in light of the peculiarities of how Lean construction is currently practiced.
Respect for people, Toyota Production System (TPS), Lean Construction shortcomings, construction peculiarities, IGLC, literature review