Developing and Maintaining Employee Commitment and Involvement in Lean Construction

Michael Coffey1

1Senior Lecturer, School of Land & Construction Management, University of Greenwich, Oakfield Lane, Dartford, Kent, DA1 2SZ, U.K. +44 (0)20-8331-9327, [email protected]


The principles of lean production are currently being broadly adopted by firms right across the construction industry. As yet the implementation of lean construction is in its early days, with only a limited number of accounts of its operation and success emerging so far. Of these accounts few have addressed the human resource aspects of lean construction. Yet lean construction depends heavily upon the potential and abilities of employees in order to successfully perform many of its functions and achieve its potential. Two particular aspects of human resource management, upon which lean construction is dependent, are the commitment and involvement of workers, both essential contributors to many of the functions of lean construction. These aspects produce a crucial consideration for all organisations seeking to implement lean construction, that of whether they will be able to attain the necessary commitment and involvement of their employees. The issue is especially difficult, having regard to the previous record and patterns of employment in the construction industry. The paper considers the human resource requirements for the implementation of lean construction into the UK construction industry, specifically with regard to whether worker involvement and commitment can be developed and maintained. The paper draws upon the experience of organisations operating lean production in other industries, together with the results from earlier research that sought to determine the potential of workers with respect to their involvement and participation at work. The relationship between commitment and involvement is established. The role and significance of involvement in the various constituent aspects of lean production are identified and considered, together with the employee characteristics that must be developed and maintained in order to achieve the required level of employee involvement. Finally, ‘survivor syndrome’ is considered as a potential major impediment to involvement as a result of the radical change induced by the introduction of lean production and the trauma generated. Survivor syndrome is the psychological state that occurs in individuals who have survived a traumatic event but cannot rationalise the reasons for their survival.


Employee involvement, commitment, participation, HRM



Coffey, M. 2000. Developing and Maintaining Employee Commitment and Involvement in Lean Construction, 8th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , -.

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