Promise-Based Management as an Enabling Factor in Lean Construction – Towards a Clarification

Martin Cleary1, Robert Owen2 & Lauri Koskela3

1PhD Candidate, Salford Centre for Research and Innovation (SCRI) in the built and human environment, University of Salford, Maxwell Building, The Crescent, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 4WT, UK Fax +44 161 2954587
2Senior Research Fellow, Phone +44 161 2954143, Email [email protected]
3Professor, Phone +44 161 2956378, Email [email protected]


The question of who we are in the world and how that question impacts on all discussion, or perhaps the ontological situation, is the starting point of the issues to be addressed in this paper. The width and the scope of the issues are so vast as to invite mistaken or unsatisfactory outcomes; however, the nature of construction, which might be described as the most concrete of real world situations, demands study in order to better understand what must be done to produce successful projects. From a survey of ideas found in post-enlightenment philosophy, we propose to explore some ideas found in the work of Fernando Flores and others, and to form a foundation from which we can address the question of how the structure of business communication can be clearly applied to that of construction. It is not so much that a specific philosophy or even philosophical approach should be applied to construction, as providing “useful ideas for practice” as suggested by Charles Spinosa These ideas can be gleaned from various sources both ancient and modern: from Aristotle’s metaphysics, to Charles Taylor and his championing of Herder’s expressivism as an antidote to Cartesian rationalist designative theory. The luxury we have, which shouldn’t be underestimated, is the ability to be eclectic and if an idea will function then we can own it for our specific problems and issues, as addressed in Lean Construction. This paper will draw on papers delivered at previous Lean Construction Conferences by Howell, Macomber, Senior and others and merge their contributions to overlay them onto a new philosophical perspective.


construction, management, lean, philosophy



Cleary, M. , Owen, R. & Koskela, L. 2008. Promise-Based Management as an Enabling Factor in Lean Construction – Towards a Clarification, 16th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 83-93.

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