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3 Key Elements for WOW Projects

This week we want to EXPLORE what really drives us to deliver a WOW project?

Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money. That is a mistake, says Daniel Pink the author of two of my top shelf books, “A Whole New Mind” and “Drive” 

The secret to performance and satisfaction at work is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. In Drive we learn the three elements of true motivation autonomy, mastery and purpose. In this article we investigate how Lean Project practices fit with what drives us to deliver a WOW project.


Early pioneers in lean construction Greg Howell and Glenn Ballard determined that the main source of inefficiency in the construction industry is workers waiting for work and work waiting for workers. When compared to manufacturing that converts 60% of worker effort into value, construction is at a pathetic 10%.

Howell and Ballard decided to solve this major problem by turning construction planning upside down and give the construction workers actually doing the work, autonomy in planning the work. They called these autonomous planners working from the bottom up Last Planners and invented a system called the Last Planner System (LPS). 

The system involves planning the work by the people doing the work and establishing a disciplined system of coordination and accountability for getting work done. It involves establishing a network of commitments that enable work to flow and managing the hand offs so that work is completed reliably and to the expectations of the next customer in line for the work. This autonomy in planning one’s work unleashes inner motivations to improve the process that fuels a high level of worker engagement in getting work done.


LPS has been successful that it has started a revolution in construction that is still building and demonstrated that we can deliver projects at less cost in less time and with must higher levels of worker satisfaction.


 When I think of Mastery, the picture that jumps into my head is in the movie Karate Kid. A movie about a Sensei named Miyagi that takes a kid Daniel that is being bullied under his tutelage to train him how to protect himself by developing Karate skills. Miyagi immediately puts Daniel to work painting the fence, sanding the floors and waxing the car to build foundational skills, but does not tell him WHY. 

In the epic AHA moment scene, Daniel blows up and accuses Miyagi of being a child slave driver and is about to walk away in frustration. In the next scene we witness Miyagi putting Daniel Son to the test with his hidden newly developed moves that have miraculously been ingrained in Daniel’s karate toolbox, though repeated practice of basic foundational moves. Daniel rises to the challenge and discovers that the Sensei has helped him develop foundational moves that will enable him to begin his journey and pursue eventual mastery in Karate. This scene in the 1984 movie helped earned Miyagi (Pat Morita) an Oscar for Best Actor is a Supporting Role.

For those of us not wanting to pursue a career in Karate, we might find more appropriate practices (Katas) in The Pocket Sensei. Sensei Hal Macomber shares with us leadership skills needed to build a foundation to deliver much better projects. We need to practice on how to give new IDEAS a chance and to never accept the status quo as we know that with continuous improvement that there is always a better way.

We also need to spend time each week learning new ways from Masters to improve performance and share what we have learned with others. We also need to focus on our efforts to get important work completed so that it can become accepted practice. Finally, we need to embrace contradictions and have any tough conversations that are needed to move an import IDEA forward.


This gets us to an important IDEA and INITIATIVE that is for the higher purpose of helping to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change. For those of you that have been following me, I can hear the “On No, not another lecture on NetZero Buildings” so I will save you from hearing more about that cause.

Rather I would like to discuss the higher purpose briefly touched above respecting the worker giving them autonomy in planning and delivering the work. This key concept is for me a high enough purpose as to why we need to transform the Construction industry and deliver WOW on every project. 

Good luck playing the project delivery game

Murray Guy


1.    A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink

2.    Drive, Daniel Pink

3.    The Pocket SenSei, Hal MaComber

4.    The Last Planner System, Greg Howell & Glenn Ballard

5.    Karate Kid, written by Robert Mark Kaman

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