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Embracing Failure as a Driver for Change

When we understand why we failed, we can change the process to address the problem.




In our Shift2Lean workshops we start by asking the question, WHY do projects fail? and What are the Pain Points?


It is interesting to learn about "the pain" from different perspectives.


  • Our procurement policy won't allow for a Lean Project Delivery

  • We often don't have a clear definition of the project requirements.

  • Poor design documentation and it's becoming worse instead of better

  • We used up all of our profit, chasing the controls contractor around to get the project completed.

  • The project wasn't commissioning properly and we didn't get the performance we thought we paid for?

  • The design team took way to long on the front end of the project and squeezed construction into a shorter time frame.

  • Unreal exceptions for the schedule.

  • There was lack of people, time and commitment from key players on our team

We will address the first three pain points in this blog.


Oh No, Not the Perceived Lean Team Procurement Policy Barrier

In a recent memo to Lean Construction Company, I dealt with the Procurement Issue on a project we are working on together that is at the 50% design stage and considering Lean Project Delivery.


To put this into context, we are often our own worst enemy assuming that there are real barriers to meeting procurement policy requirments. Request for Proposals that include a design assist fee and open book pricing is a TENDERING approach that will meet the requirements of most procurement policies. See the Oh No, Not the Perceived Lean Team Procurement Barrier


How we failed at setting Realistic Expectations

On the Richardson College for the Environment project, three department and the University of Winnipeg were told to dream big, but failed to recognize that their budget for the first new building project in eighteen years would accommodate a $38.5 project and not the $50M dollar dream.


Fortunately we were able fix the project requirments, but it was a hard and painful process. The lessons learned from this failure in setting realistic expectation for success is that we need to collaboratively develop clearly defined project requirements that are prioritize into NEEDS, WANTS, and NICE TO HAVES so the team project has flexibility to chose the best basket of value options for the cost.


This is what the Target Value Delivery process is all about. The failure was not setting realistic expectations at the front end so that there was so much waste in cutting the requirements that we could not afford.


For our 3rd & Final Failure, Poor Quality Design Documents

As a commissioning company involved in design reviews, let's just say there is lots of room for improvement when it comes to the comes to coordinating silos of work and ensuring there is a fully integrated set of project drawings.


The beauty of the LPD process is that by bringing the major sub-trades on early there are opportunities to turn the design process on it's head. We need the "design to be the shop drawings" as opposed to the "design to protect your ass tender documents" and for the design and costing to proceed in the proper sequence to enable an early construction start.


On a recent trip to Toronto, I discovered a mechanical contractor with a BIM factory, Prefab shop and standardized processes that takes design to build to a whole new level. With an openness to new methods and technologies, and exacting standards for their work, this EMBRACE BIM Mechanical Construction Company recognizes that productivity on the prefab shop floor is hard to beat, so they have developed standardized designs using 3D modeling to enable prefabrication of 60% of there work.


Successful prefab installations are contingent upon full coordination of all trades and sequencing of work, that is achievable with the Last Planner System, JIT delivery and TAKT time planning to properly sequence the work.

BIM Mechanical is way ahead of the game and would love to work with them on a project!


Embracing Failure enables Positive Change

When we stop to recognize that there is PAIN and FAILURE in the building industry, it provides opportunities to develop and implement new process to improve project success.

In the first story we explored the failure the building industry to recognize that using an RFP for selecting trades is a competitive process and that there are no real barriers to adopting Lean Project Delivery. Take a this the new best practice attitude, why would we do it the old broken way? Just do it!


The second failure we recognized was not realistic expectations which causes waste in rework and the time needed to manage a very disappointed client group. Why not start with a collaborative process that engages with clients to set realistic expectations? Make sure to remember to prioritize needs, wants, nice to haves so the team has flexibility to design to the target cost.


Finally we can do much better on the quality of design document when we engage with the right people doing the right work for the right purpose. When we use Lean Project Delivery, we need to design to shop drawings and the best people to do that are the contractors doing the work. We need to get away from custom design and develop more standardized practice that enable prefabrication.


Murray Guy

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