Lean construction: Arenas of enactment, models of diffusion and the meaning of 'leanness'
Green, S. D. and May, S. C. (2005) Lean construction: Arenas of enactment, models of diffusion and the meaning of 'leanness'. Building Research and Information, 33 (6). pp. 498-511. ISSN 0961-3218
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/09613210500285106
The existing literature on lean construction is overwhelmingly prescriptive with little recognition of the social and politicised nature of the diffusion process. The prevailing production-engineering perspective too often assumes that organizations are unitary entities where all parties strive for the common goal of 'improved performance'. An alternative perspective is developed that considers the diffusion of lean construction across contested pluralistic arenas. Different actors mobilize different storylines to suit their own localized political agendas. Multiple storylines of lean construction continuously compete for attention with other management fashions. The conceptualization and enactment of lean construction therefore differs across contexts, often taking on different manifestations from those envisaged. However, such localized enactments of lean construction are patterned and conditioned by pre-existing social and economic structures over which individual managers have limited influence. Taking a broader view, 'leanness' can be conceptualized in terms of a quest for structural flexibility involving restructuring, downsizing and outsourcing. From this perspective, the UK construction industry can be seen to have embarked upon leaner ways of working in the mid-1970s, long before the terminology of lean thinking came into vogue. Semi-structured interviews with construction sector policy-makers provide empirical support for the view that lean construction is a multifaceted concept that defies universal definition.