Believing Is Seeing: Paradigms as a Focal Point in the Lean Discourse

Samuel Korb1 & H. Glenn Ballard2

1PhD Student, Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, [email protected]
2Research Director, Project Production Systems Laboratory, University of California Berkeley, mailto:[email protected]


In many ways, the transition from traditional modes of management thinking and behavior to Lean approaches is what Kuhn referred to as a “paradigm shift”. Not only surface artifacts like behavior are different in a Lean organization – the most basic assumptions and patterns of thought are fundamentally different than those that have guided organizations for decades. The resulting paradigm gap between traditional thinkers and Lean thinkers may help to explain the conceptual disconnect between the two groups; the two have no common assumptions on which to base a productive dialogue about what degree of organizational excellence is possible. In this paper, we explain what paradigms are and why Lean management represents a paradigm shift. We then apply lessons learned from successful paradigm shifts in other fields to suggest what the Lean Construction community can do to nurture an industry-wide paradigm shift to Lean. By discussing this topic, we hope to bring the concept of paradigms to a position of greater prominence in the Lean discourse, in part helping Lean enthusiasts to understand why those mired in the traditional management paradigm just can’t seem to “get it” no matter how hard the latter group tries to explain.


Lean construction, Lean management, paradigms, paradigm shift



Korb, S. & Ballard, H. G. 2018, 'Believing Is Seeing: Paradigms as a Focal Point in the Lean Discourse' In:, 26th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Chennai, India, 18-20 Jul 2018. pp 177-186

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