Where Rhetoric and Lean Meet

Lauri Koskela1

1Professor of Construction and Project Management, School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Huddersfield,[email protected]. Also at Aalto University, School of Engineering, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering.


This paper aims at an initial analysis and explanation of lean through the lens of the discipline of rhetoric. First, the ancient origin, central ideas, subsequent history and current interpretations of rhetoric are outlined. Then, the overall meeting points of rhetoric and lean are discussed. At the outset, it is contended that certain arguments that can be used as a justification in rhetoric seem fertile for understanding the difference between lean and conventional management. Then, persuasion towards compliance in production is discussed. The field of visual management is argued to have an implicit foundation in rhetoric. The existence of a common ground of values, facts and presumptions between the speaker and the audience is emphasized in rhetoric; it is contended that lean construction in many ways endeavours to create such a common ground among the project participants. Regarding deliberation, the rhetorical dimensions in the methods of A3 and Choosing by Advantages are discussed. Further, Target Value Design is identified as based, for their part, on rhetorical ideas. In conclusion, it is contended that many aspects of lean, which as such may seem odd and perhaps perip


Lean construction, lean production, rhetoric.



Koskela, L. 2015. Where Rhetoric and Lean Meet, 23rd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 527-535. doi.org/

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