It’s no secret that construction work is inherently risky. And as the industry has embraced a faster delivery model, resulting in projects being turned over months—if not years—earlier than once thought possible, our potential risks are greater than ever. But at Balfour Beatty, we believe we have the opportunity to address those risks in a way that makes us stronger and more reliable builders.
That’s where Lean comes into play. It’s widely understood that this philosophy focuses on maximizing customer value while minimizing waste, but at its heart, it’s really all about people. This is especially true when it comes to project planning. All too often, general contractors have operated under an “I Said” mentality that siloed subcontractors in their individual scopes with minimal knowledge of the overall strategy. This top-down approach poses incredible risks. Isolated teams often (unknowingly) make uncertain delivery commitments, which lead to delays, disputes—and worse. On a personal level, there’s also no basis of trust.
Across our U.S. business, we’ve recognized the importance of creating a “We Said” project culture that treats subcontractors as partners—not commodities. It’s a theme woven throughout a Lean and relationship-driven planning standard Balfour Beatty is implementing in 2017. Through a highly visual, transparent and trade-integrated planning process, our project teams will be empowered to build quality products more effectively and safely.
But don’t just take our word that Lean practices are effective. Dodge Data & Analytics found that projects which adopted Lean methods were statistically three times more likely to complete ahead of schedule and two times more likely to complete under budget. Our experience has taught us that there’s a very relational explanation for this. When decision-makers from every trade are invited to identify handoffs, validate their sequences and establish milestones together, it creates accountability and a 10,000-foot view of the project. In turn, Balfour Beatty’s field leaders can devote their time to spotting and resolving potential pitfalls.
It’s an exciting era in the construction industry, with the days of dictating decisions and communicating at arm’s length in our rear-view mirrors. It may seem like an insignificant shift, but in many ways, it’s seismic—dissolving hierarchies to build teams where trust is a value as prized as technique. Call it Lean, call it practical, call it progressive. We know it’s simply allowing our people and partners to do what they do best: lead.