Approaches to Managing Complexity in Project Production

Sven Bertelsen1 & Lauri Koskela2

1Roennebaervej 10, lejl. 108, DK 2840 Holte, Denmark. [email protected]
2The University of Salford, School of Construction & Property Management, Salford M7 1NU, United Kingdom. [email protected]


Since the seminal contribution by Shewhart, the dominating approach to production is to minimize all variation in order to get the productive activities into control. Thus, the goal is to avoid all such complexity and uncertainty which could disturb this tight control. This approach is applied in lean production,which is considered to be the superior production template of today.It has to be noted that usually our concepts, for example “waste”, are based on this understanding of production. However, there are production situations with inherent complexity and unpredictability not least in project production. The primary goal of the paper is to chart and analyze the different approaches available for coping with these situations. Four different strategies are identified and discussed: reducing complexity, codifying procedures, learning to improvise and buffering. A secondary goal of the paper is to discuss whether and how the conceptual framework in production management should be further developed for taking these different approaches to project complexity into account.


Complexity; Project production; Project management; Waste



Bertelsen, S. & Koskela, L. 2005. Approaches to Managing Complexity in Project Production, 13th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 65-71.

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