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The Last Mile Lean Learning from the Project Site

The last mile in traditional project delivery is the longest and hardest.

This distance to the finish line usually starts with Interim Occupancy and a list - perhaps lengthy - of deficiencies. The punch list. Most of the project workers have left and gone on to other work.

The owner is anxious to move in and occupy the new or renovated facility. The project is most likely over schedule. The Facility Management staff are curious to understand what impact this new building will have on their operations and maintenance work and budgets:

  • Where are the “As-Built” drawings?

  • Where are the Maintenance Manuals?

  • How does the security system work – or does it?

  • Where are the certification documents for the LEED achievement promised by the project design architect & engineers?

Facility Management staff have had a cursory orientation to the project – if any.

These problems and others are typical at project close. They can and do persist for months and sometimes longer. From Owner organization to Owner organization, a consistent complaint from the Facility Management staff is their lack of involvement in the planning and design of a new facility. Yet, they are the folks charged with operating and maintaining the new facility for its service life.

What are the lessons learned? How can this project frustration be addressed?

The Owner of a project holds the key to change. Start with the end in mind. Typically, the Owner engages a Commissioning Agent to review the new building systems layout, operation and test performance in the latter stages of construction or prior to handover.

With the Owner taking a Lean mindset in project delivery, the Commissioning Agent is engaged much earlier in a project and becomes part of the project Team, contributing input during the Target Value Delivery [1] stage. This is particularly useful on projects with higher energy performance targets. Lean Commissioning CX.

Likewise, facility staff become part of the Owner’s team that is invited to contribute input during the Target Value Delivery stage. With this expertise on the project team as active contributors rather than reviewers of drawings and construction, the project benefits from a ‘systems’ approach rather than the linear approach typical in traditional project delivery. Less rework waste from changes occurs in both design and construction activities. The project delivers more value rather than cutting costs with lower quality building elements specified to cut construction costs; while shifting the burden of cost to the building operations and maintenance by shortening service life.

Getting to ‘Done is Done’! The last mile becomes shorter and less arduous.

Lean project delivery takes a learning perspective using a Plus/Delta retrospective – (Plus) what worked well, and (Delta) what can we do better next time. This is an ongoing practice throughout the duration of a project, from planning to design to construction. Problems are corrected immediately. Improvements and learning applied immediately.

Unlike lessons learned at the end of a project when everyone has gone on to other pursuits and if documented, get filed away where they are rarely seen again. Plus/Delta retrospectives build immediate learning into a project.

Lean learning from the project site.

  • Get the right players on the Team early,

  • Build continuous learning into your project through Plus/Delta retrospectives.

Stay curious. Stay tuned …


[1] Target Value Delivery is a Lean Project Delivery methodology prominent in Lean projects.

About the Author:

Kathleen Lausman is a Principal at Shift2Lean and building industry professional with a background in architecture and business. Her experience is that of the Public Owner and buyer of design & construction expertise. She is a former Deputy Minister for the Nunavut Government and former Co-Chair and forming member of LCI-C. She started her Lean journey sixteen years ago and is still learning.

#leancommissioning #TargetValueDelivery #Plusdelta #LessonsLearned

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