Lean Construction: Towards an Agenda for Research Into Systems and Organisation

David Seymour1

1School of Civil Engrg., University of Birmingham, UK, [email protected]


The first part of the paper presents a draft proposal for research intended to find out what is needed at the levels of systems and organisation to facilitate the implementation of Lean Construction (LC). The ethnographic study of ‘specification’— to refer to the way organisational concerns and features are represented— is taken to be the key theme of the research. The second part raises the question of what any findings may look like. It is argued that they will not look like what conventional organisation theory in the rationalist tradition has sought to provide. They will look more like those from the political tradition, insofar as a major concern there has been with how action is controlled in the way it is symbolically represented. Accepting a practical implication from this latter body of work, the need to recognise the constraining effects of the ‘old’ epistemology and the need to gain acceptance of a new one is highlighted. In recognition of having to work within the existing situation, thorough understanding is needed of how it is constituted through the methods used to describe it— documentation, charts, maps and other kinds of representation. It is argued that care must be taken not to confuse descriptive and prescriptive purposes. It is suggested that attention to specification provides a promising conceptual link between tasks, systems and organisation.


Lean Construction, theory, organisation, specification, ethnography



Seymour, D. 1999. Lean Construction: Towards an Agenda for Research Into Systems and Organisation, 7th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 381-398. doi.org/

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