Developing Lean Thinking in Construction: A Naturalistic Enquiry

Naomi A. Garnett1

1Postgraduate Researcher, Dept of Construction Management & Engineering, The University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO BOX 219, Reading, RG6 2BU, United Kingdom, [email protected]


The purpose of this paper is to describe a research methodology and interim findings concerning the investigation, through ethnographic case-based research, of the impact within a construction project of the partial implementation of a value stream approach. It is intended that by undertaking research of this nature, a contribution can be made to the understanding of the cultural aspects of both lean construction and associated construction process theory. The research was undertaken within the wider context of the Movement for Innovation in the UK and in particular as one of a number of demonstration project trialling the ideas expressed by the Construction Industry Task Force in 1998 (DETR 1998). It traces the development of a model for identifying and implementing the value stream approach during project implementation, mapping planned construction processes and subsequently comparing planned with actual for the purposes of developing a target baseline for continuous process improvement. Through a pilot study to test the model, a qualitative analysis methodology is used and some propositions put forward relating to culture, the value stream framework and process mapping. It is intended to develop these through a major ethnographic case study.


Value stream, process mapping, culture, social constructivism, qualitative analysis



Garnett, N. A. 1999. Developing Lean Thinking in Construction: A Naturalistic Enquiry, 7th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 423-432.

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