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So...What is a Big Room?

Big Room planning

When you hear the term ‘Big Room’, what image does that conjure up? Are you thinking a large, open space where a big group of people can congregate? Within the realm of Lean Project Delivery, at the very basic level, you would be correct. The Big Room is a space where the project team can meet to bring the project design to life through Target Value Delivery and create a plan to deliver the project with the Last Planner System®.

However, the purpose of the Big Room goes well beyond that of being a meeting place. It is a place where teams are formed, expected behaviours are defined, and conditions of satisfaction are what drives collaborative decision making. It is a place where commitments are made and trust is built through the delivery of promises. The Big Room environment fosters behaviours that lead to high levels of collaboration, where the goals of the project become paramount to the team involved. The Big Room is where the culture of a successful project is nurtured and all involved grow into a cohesive, high performing team.

The key elements to creating an effective Big Room are:

  • Ensuring that expected behaviours are clearly defined,

  • As a team, developing the ‘Conditions of Satisfaction’, a set of criteria that define success for the project and that will guide decision making,

  • Creating an environment where ‘Respect for People’ is the paramount mindset,

  • Work happens in an atmosphere of open and transparent discussion, not in silos,

  • Commitments are made and kept, based on what is best for the project and not individuals or companies,

  • Problems are addressed proactively, in a collaborative manner, with the goal to understand why (root cause) and implement corrective measures to minimize recurrence,

  • Breakdowns are declared, with no blame or finger pointing, when issues arise that threaten the principles of the project

Of course, as the name implies, the Big Room is a physical space that, when planned effectively, fosters the culture that creates high performing teams. The physical aspects of an effective Big Room are:

  • Open space large enough to comfortably house the project team,

  • Large wall spaces that can be used to visually display current project information such as design elements, pull plans, constrain logs, performance metrics, etc.

  • Technology, such as internet/wifi, video conferencing and project software that will enhance collaboration and decision making,

  • Washrooms and a kitchenette area to allow for refuelling

  • Break out room(s) to allow for private conversations

Big Rooms can also be ‘virtual’ or a combination of both physical & virtual – particularly during the planning and Target Value Delivery efforts. Frequently design consultants and key supply chain contributors are located elsewhere but come together to input and collaborate on the project in the virtual Big Room. In both physical & virtual Big Rooms, technology is key, including common platforms.

The benefits of establishing an effective Big Room are:

  • Creation of a trust based, high performing team focused on the goals of the client and the project

  • Working in a collaborative, transparent environment focused on improving flow and reducing waste

  • Improved communications leading to the right decisions being made at the right time

  • Commitments are made and kept based on visual, fact based information

  • Problems are solved in a proactive manner with a commitment to continual improvement

  • Performance metrics are kept and displayed for visual management

As you can see, the Big Room is about much more than just a place to meet. When set up and implemented properly, the Big Room creates the environment to allow those on your project team to deliver their best effort for your project, creating maximum value for clients.

Shifting the Building Industry, One Team at a Time

About the author

Ron Cruikshank is a Principal at Shift2Lean with extensive experience in delivering capital building projects. His experience as an owner, owner’s rep, contractor and subcontractor provides him with a unique perspective of the interactions and challenges within the building industry. Through the implementation of LPD strategies, Ron understands that projects can be delivered to provide value to the owner through engaging consultants and contractors in a collaborative team environment to improve workflow and reduce waste.

This article was first published on the Lean Construction Blog, Nov 5, 2019.

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