Partnering, Lean Production and the High Performance Workplace

James Barlow1

1School of Construction, Housing and Surveying, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS UK. Tel. 0171-911 5879. E-mail [email protected]


Undoubtedly, more attention is being paid in the British construction industry to the lessons that can be learnt from manufacturing for improving its production processes. These include such lean production concerns as teamwork, customer focus, quality control, JIT production and continuous improvement. Arguably, though, it is the ‘softer’, ‘cultural’ areas relating to inter-organisational collaboration that have become a particular focus of attention in the 1990s. The paper, based on research being carried out for the ESRC Innovation Programme, argues that ‘partnering’ has to be seen in a context of the search for new organisational practices covering a range of related issues. These include human resource management, information management and collaborative working practices. Underlying many of these are notions of ‘high-performance’ work systems emphasising the management of employees as away of improving performance. High-performance systems involve the devolution of responsibility for decision making to smaller business units, and teams within those units, in order to create a more flexible, customer-focused organisation. Using case studies of five partnering relationships, involving some 40 companies, the research explores the way the organisational changes arising from partnering are related to wider concerns, some of which draw on notions of lean and other high performance production systems.


Partnering, Construction, High-performance production systems, Managerial practices



Barlow, J. 1996. Partnering, Lean Production and the High Performance Workplace, 4th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , -.

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