Lean Leadership in Construction

Cameron Orr1

1Cameron Orr MEng, Senior Lean Specialist, RWD Technologies, Birmingham, UK, Tel +44 121 770 1011, Fax +44 121 329 0834, [email protected]


Lean leadership is the missing link between theoretical solutions and application in practice. This is the difference between superficial attempts at implementing Lean, where the tools and techniques are evident, but the behaviors haven’t changed, and the results are disappointing or not sustained beyond a few brief weeks of enthusiasm. The key to understanding how to implement Lean successfully is to realize that Lean leadership is an integral part of the Toyota Production System (TPS), not an afterthought. The principles of Lean leadership are summarized in construction, which bring the ‘Lean toolbox’ to life and realize the benefits predicted by the academic models. The principles are then developed into practical behaviors that can be demonstrated, understood and replicated using rapid learning techniques, with particular focus on team leadership. The critical success factor for accelerating the take up of Lean construction is contractor leadership. The reason why the contractor’s role is key in leading the other stakeholders in the value stream is examined, and comparisons are made to leadership in the TPS. Contractors have many opportunities to embark on the Lean journey, yet the claimed benefits often lack credibility. This often leads to the danger that a “Lean” façade is bolted onto their existing operations to attempt to convince their demanding clients that they are forward thinking organizations, and that their apparent skills in Lean will earn them another “tick in the box”. This paper outlines the practical benefits of embracing Lean to fundamentally change the construction value stream, the contractor’s business, to astonish their clients, and to deliver lasting tangible benefits.


Lean leadership behavior, Vision, Change management, Human centered focus, Process



Orr, C. 2005. Lean Leadership in Construction, 13th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 345-351. doi.org/

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