Priority Conversations: A Case Study on Priority Walls

Mikati Samir O.1, Timothy G. Roller2, Iris D. Tommelein3 & Atul Khanzode4

1Undergraduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA,
2Undergraduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA,
3Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and Director, Project Production Systems Laboratory,, 215-A McLaughlin Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1712, Phone +1 (510) 643-8678, FAX +1 (510) 643-8919,
4Business Analyst, DPR Construction, Inc., 1450 Veterans Blvd., Redwood City, CA 94063, and Graduate Student, Civil and Envir. Engineering Department, Stanford University, Stanford CA,


This paper presents and analyzes work structuring and collaboration efforts of the general contractor and specialty contractors working together as a team to implement lean practices during construction of a medical facility. We describe the team’s focus specifically on ‘priority walls’ as a driver for coordinating work among contractors. We then elaborate on the tools the team used to support their language (“priority conversations”) and action, as well as on the successes and failures of their approach. Success of this effort stems from the team’s willingness to experiment, collaborate, and learn; use of an owner-provided incentive sharing plan; and other lean practices including use of the ‘big room’ (‘oba’ or ‘oobeya’ in Japanese), development of a Building Information Model (BIM) that allowed for integration and coordination of trade-specific design details, promotion of reliable planning, as well as use of standardization combined with offsite fabrication and assembly. The paper illustrates how this combination of lean practices changed the nature of the conversation specialists have in the course of development of a project and yielded value to all project participants as well as to the project as a whole.




Samir O., M. , Roller, T.G. , Tommelein, I.D. & Khanzode, A. 2007, 'Priority Conversations: A Case Study on Priority Walls' In:, Pasquire, C.L, C.L. & Tzortzopoulos, P., 15th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. East Lansing, Michigan, USA, 18-20 Jul 2007.

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