Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Committee Chair(s)

Edward Reeve


Edward Reeve


Gary Stewardson


David Williams


Karina Hauser


Wade Goodridge


Lean construction is considered a valuable solution for the declining productivity of the construction industry. This study seeks to answer the general research question: What does it take to become lean? The research explored the possible paths to becoming lean by examining the journeys of three successful lean construction firms in the U.S. The results are intended to assist other construction firms with their own transformations. This study is especially useful to executives and management because it describes the cultural transformation process of each participating company, the expectations of company employees, and the best practices that each company employed.

A qualitative, multiple-case study methodology was used to find common patterns among all three firms as well as unique attributes. Eight research themes shaped the interview dialog that probed the participants’ experiences and insights regarding lean— from the companies’ initial discovery of lean to their implementation of tools and trainings. The themes further prompted responses regarding the roles that were critical to successful lean implementation as well as the barriers that inhibited lean adoption. Finally, interviews also sought out strategies to successfully promote and implement lean into the future.

The research discusses the assertions and conclusions that emerged from the findings, which identify several successful paths to becoming lean. Findings show how people, the environment, and actions positively or negatively influence the adoption of a lean culture. The study concludes with recommendations for future firms regarding lean planning to transform the organization into a successful, top-performing, lean construction company. It emphasizes personalized application for each employee to create a positive environment for the new culture to develop. The conclusions also include five phases of lean saturation: discovery and learning, commitment, strategic planning, implementation, and training company partners in lean.