For the past decade every construction company has been hyper focused on one word, LEAN. It was sold as an end all be all solution for trimming waste and increasing profit margins. By implementing lean processes, companies can complete projects on time and under budget. While we certainly don’t dispute the benefits of lean construction, we do feel that the focus has become a bit distorted over the years. There are two primary examples of this distortion- waste and tools.


A huge misconception about lean construction is that it’s all about eliminating waste. Going lean will absolutely trim the fat, but approaching the problem with the goal of cutting out waste is a backward approach. Instead of focusing on eliminating waste, focus on understanding the value.

If you don’t really understand the value on a project it will be impossible to understand where the waste is. When we look for ways to increase the value we bring to our clients, we’ve always found new ways to get rid of waste.


The tools are only as good as the hands they are in. This age old saying is true of power tools and the conceptual tools used for lean construction. Tools like Last Planner, A3 Reporting, and Pull Planning are valuable because they create certain behaviors that are advantageous for lean construction.

If you only focus on the tool itself and ignore the behavior the tool should be creating, you’ll miss the bigger picture. Anytime we implement a new tool or technique our goal is to create the right behavior that will in turn eliminate waste and increase productivity.


Keeping the focus on the right thing is critical for proper lean construction implementation. At Cowen Construction we always strive to create processes and techniques that keep the focus on building value and promoting the right behavior. This mindset has been vital to the success of past projects, and will continue to be part of our philosophy for years to come.