A Response to Critics of Lean Construction

Glenn Ballard1 & Lauri Koskela2

1Research Director, Project Production Systems Laboratory (p2sl.berkeley.edu), 215-B McLaughlin Hall, Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1712, USA, Phone +1 415/710-5531, [email protected]
2Professor, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, Maxwell 412a, Crescent, Salford, [email protected]


Lean construction advocates criticized the first edition of Graham Winch’s Managing Construction Projects. In the 2 nd edition, Winch responds and adds his own criticisms of lean construction. The purpose of this paper is to reply to Winch’s criticisms of lean construction. Other papers will continue the debate regarding the appropriate conceptualization of projects in relation to production, including the question whether organization design is part of production system design. Regarding the mainstream construction management community, we respectfully propose that it should get rid of certain temporal myopia. Two central concepts of lean construction are production, as a starting point for managing and organizing, and waste, as a focus of improvement. Winch denies the role of production in management and fails to recognize the importance of waste: it is not in the index of his book, although lean production and lean construction is discussed. This is fully aligned to other current literature in management, which – through silence - denies the role of production and waste. However, these concepts were present in the management literature preceding the two influential books on business education in 1959 (Gordon & Howell 1959, Pierson 1959). Lean construction represents a continuation of the discussion in the first half of the 20th century, which seems to have become opportune again as a result of the massive criticism on the lack of relevance of management science since the 1980’s.


Construction management, lean construction, theory



Ballard, G. & Koskela, L. 2011. A Response to Critics of Lean Construction, 19th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , -. doi.org/

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