Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

Committee Chair(s)

Edward Reeve


Edward Reeve


Gary Stewardson


David Williams


Karina Hauser


Wade Goodridge


Lean construction is defined as the continuous process of eliminating waste, with the goal of increasing value on construction projects to the owner and to all stakeholders of a project. It has gained considerable momentum since the early 2000s because of its potential for problem-solving and increased productivity, especially as many construction firms still struggle to adapt to an ever-changing industry. This study was designed to assist construction companies, especially company executives and managers, to better understand the requirements of a lean transformation by describing the paths of three highly successful lean construction firms from the U.S.

Nine lean advocates, three from each lean construction firm, answered interview questions about their personal journeys as well as their organizations’ journeys. They offered insights into the lean adoption process, including the initial discovery, key employee roles, implementation efforts such as tools and training, as well as barriers and failures experienced along the way. From the participants’ insights and experiences, the study identifies common strategies that led their organizations to success. This includes the role of executives as well as regular employees, the effects of company cultures and organizational structure, common barriers to lean, and the effects of lean trainings.

The study concludes by summarizing the role of people, the environment, and lean actions in becoming lean in today’s construction industry. It also offers several recommendations for planning such an important culture change. Recommendations emphasize personalized learning for each employee to create a positive learning environment for the new culture to thrive. The conclusions also include five phases of lean saturation: discovery and learning, commitment, strategic planning, implementation, and training company partners in lean. In short, this study helps construction firms understand what they might do to become lean.