Why has the subcontractor not put in the manpower for the work? Why has the material not arrived in the right sequence? Why hasn’t the consultant approved my drawing in the last few occasions? Why cannot my engineer remember the grid lines or know where the location of the work at the site without having to refer to a drawing, mid-way in the project? Why is my subcontractor not completing as I expect him to? Why should I focus on this work and not something else? Why should my team focus on solving the most critical work for the week? Why should we improve the alignment and cross coordination between my engineers? Why this small delay can cause a major disruption after a few weeks? Why should I, the main contractor control the lifting plan and not allow my subcontractor to dictate it to me?
This list is just a small list from a larger list of questions that we are forcing the team to ask to deeply understand the interoperability of the various variables in the project. ‘Why’ leads to details, ‘why’ often leads to more questions and a whole lot of uncertainty gets resolved while seeking answers to them. This forms the basis for Lean construction.
Lean construction is lot more about a tool or a process, its a way of thinking and a culture. Lean PlanDo cultivates the team to develop this as a culture among its teams. The key aspect of LEAN thinking is to break down the activity into as much detail as possible — arriving at the sequence of steps, while addressing the logic of construction. “What,Where, When, Who, How and How long followed by What next” goes the thought process. Further, what affects my steps a.k.a., constraints affecting any of the steps is to be identified, the thought process focusses on “What, How, by When and Who is responsible”. It’s rare that these teams ask “Why”, Why is this necessary, or why it isn’t? –This forms the basic construct of logical reasoning that any basic engineer is expected to have developed before he is on a site. However, either the team draws the reasoning from the norm or worse, fails to stop and question the norm.
While we are looking for a productive revolution ahead, a small change is needed in ourselves to accept that change is a constant and to embrace it than resist it. In parallel, it is highly critical for each of us to question the norm — and use “Why” more often to bring out the best of everyone and in invest in collective wisdom. Thus we will experience productivity.