An Analysis of Decision-Making Theories Applied to Lean Construction

Bolivar A. Senior1

1Associate Professor, Department of Construction Management, Colorado State University. 102 Guggenheim Hall, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1584, USA. Phone +1 (970) 491-7337.


A critical review of decision making theory aspects of relevance to Lean Construction is presented in this study. It hypothesizes that decision making processes have substantial implications to the development and implementation of Lean Construction. Specifically, this study has the objective of identifying the natural human tendencies concerning decision making that can distort rational outcomes of relevance to Lean construction and the Lean Construction features that could be impacted by these biases. It is concluded that Lean Construction can be described as an enriched option, with more salient features relative to traditional management approaches. Enriched options lead to stronger reactions of adoption and rejection depending on the framing used for their discussion. Lean Construction techniques such as phasing scheduling in the Last Planner Systemâ„¢ can be impacted by the brainstormed number and order of ideas. The human tendency to defer decisions when many similar options are available could lead to a delay in the perceived last responsible moment to make a decision under such conditions. An alternative can be rejected when it contains features perceived as not adding value to current needs, even if the features do not carry any cost. This could point to the need for a gradual introduction of the possibilities offered by Lean Construction at the initial stages of an individual implementation. The role of psychology in the creation, management and even manipulation of value in a Lean Construction context needs further consideration. The findings of this study are interpretations and extrapolations from areas other than construction management and Lean Construction. They need to be validated by further research.


Theory, Lean Construction, Decision Making, Language / linguistic action



Senior, B.A. 2012, 'An Analysis of Decision-Making Theories Applied to Lean Construction' In:, Tommelein, I.D. & Pasquire, C.L., 20th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. San Diego, USA, 18-20 Jul 2012.

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