Using a Lean Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) approach as a construction delivery strategy can result in significant cost savings by targeting inefficiencies and waste in project delivery — but it also represents a complete shift in both culture and thought away from more traditional delivery methods.

Owners looking to embrace the strategy’s significant advantages need to understand that making the switch is a journey that will take time, requiring active owner involvement.

Lean IPD relies on a culture of trust and transparency — not only between owners and suppliers but also among all key players within a project, including engineering, construction, trades and project vendors.

That culture of trust takes time to establish, particularly if it goes against previously held internal processes or governance built around a more traditional delivery model.

Fully realizing the benefits of this method — up to 20 percent reduced cost and 30 percent reduced schedule — is an evolution. You can't throw a football team together and expect to win the Super Bowl in the first year. This same philosophy holds true in the transition from traditional construction methods to Lean IPD, and owners need to be able to manage their expectations upfront and understand it is a process that will likely include a learning curve.

Owners also need to consider whether Lean IPD — and the high level of collaboration it requires — fits with their company culture. There may be some companies that the strategy just doesn't work well for — organizations that struggle with change or have deeply embedded traditional project delivery processes may not be able to successfully make the transition.

Partner selection is also a critical aspect of achieving the desired outcome. In Lean IPD, owners will need to rethink how they select partners: While price remains a factor in the selection process, the focus shifts to behavioral attributes that contribute to the culture of collaboration, innovation and learning that effective Lean IPD teams exhibit. They'll need to align forces with companies that have experience, talent, a similar culture and an aptitude for innovation.

Finally, Lean IPD is a “contact sport” that requires the owner to play a much more integral role throughout the life of the project, both as an advocate and as an active participant in the process. The owner will set the tone for how well the process and culture is adapting by others in the company, so it must be a philosophy and idea that an owner is committed to taking all the way down the field.

Significant organizational hurdles must be overcome if a company plans to transition from traditional delivery methods to Lean IPD. But for those organizations that do adapt to the culture and new way of thinking, there can also be significant benefits.


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Mike Glenn has more than 35 years of experience in the consulting, engineering and construction industries. In his role at Burns & McDonnell, he works to help clients find new ways to approach projects, saving them both time and money.