Revealing Cultures and Sub-Cultures During the Implementation of Lean Construction

Bo Jorgensen1, Stephen Emmitt2 & Sten Bonke3

1MSc., PhD student, Technical University of Denmark - Department of Civil Engineering, DTU building 1151104, DK-2800 Lyngby, DK Denmark, tel. +45 45 25 51 49, [email protected]
2Professor, Technical University of Denmark- Department of Civil Engineering
3Associate Professor, Technical University of Denmark- Department of Civil Engineering


Over the last decade the construction business has been subject to increased pressure to change its production systems towards more efficient and effective methods. Movements advocating lean construction and other initiatives based on improving production and cooperation have gained momentum, allied with broad support for closer and less rigid working relationships. This is set against dominating subcultures anchored within individual trades and professions that appear to constitute a barrier to the adoption of process-orientated forms of cooperation. Observation and analysis of the implementation of a lean process model on a large construction project in Denmark helps to illustrate the disparity between intention, current norms and culture. Despite broad understanding, and support, of the new production and cooperation principles, the members of the project organisation failed to make full use of the techniques: this appeared to be the result of a mismatch between intentions and interpretation of the procedures. The ethnographic research used was useful in identifying some of the softer issues in relation to the implementation of lean tools and methods. Questions concerning how process innovations are introduced and facilitated as well as some reflections on cultural norms and their position in the 'lean' debate are also discussed in the paper.


Communication, cooperation, culture and subculture, lean construction, social systems, process facilitation.



Jorgensen, B. , Emmitt, S. & Bonke, S. 2004, 'Revealing Cultures and Sub-Cultures During the Implementation of Lean Construction' In:, Bertelsen, S. & Formoso, C. T., 12th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Helsingør, Denmark, 3-5 Aug 2004.

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