Lean Construction Philosophy and Individual Freedom

Pim Polesie1

1Division of Construction Management, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Chalmers University of Technology, SE-412 96 Gothenburg Sweden, Phone +46(0)70-989 04 47, [email protected]


Lean construction may increase efficiency, effectiveness and productivity in construction projects by minimising non-value adding activities to maximise the value added from each individual. To identify non-value adding activities, lean principles advocate increased controllability and transparency. This may limit the individuals feeling of freedom, creativity and willingness to suggest changes that lead to continuous improvement. Therefore, limiting individual freedom, ―unused creativity‖ may increase. The purpose of this paper is to challenge lean construction philosophy with focus on what individuals from the construction industry have identified as freedom. The theory of lean construction principles have been identified and evaluated in a literature review. The analysis of practice is based on 20 open-ended qualitative interviews with production managers from construction-related companies with focus on their perception of freedom and motivation. The study has led to a better understanding of practice and its relation to theoretical assumptions. It distinguishes between what is assumed and what is known. By minimizing waste through focus on principles that do not limit what individuals‘ perceive as freedom, acceptance of lean construction philosophy can be furthered at construction sites.


Lean construction philosophy, Lean principles, People, Freedom, Culture, Waste, Change.



Polesie, P. 2010. Lean Construction Philosophy and Individual Freedom, 18th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 376-385. doi.org/

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