Is lean construction better?

RICHARD F. REZNICEK SR. PROJECT MANAGER H.T. LYONS INC. ALLENTOWN, PA. Thanks much to H. Kent Craig for the reply to my letter which appeared in the April issue of CONTRACTOR ("End PM's 'hired gun' mentality," pg. 35). I guess the reason that I responded initially to Kent's column that appeared in the February issue ("Don't become a statistic when projects fail," pg. 36) is because I knew that he

RICHARD F. REZNICEK SR.
PROJECT MANAGER
H.T. LYONS INC.

ALLENTOWN, PA. — Thanks much to H. Kent Craig for the reply to my letter which appeared in the April issue of CONTRACTOR ("End PM's 'hired gun' mentality," pg. 35).

I guess the reason that I responded initially to Kent's column that appeared in the February issue ("Don't become a statistic when projects fail," pg. 36) is because I knew that he did understand "the new reality that our profession is shifting away from actual project management to one of process, not project, shepherdship," and although "this call-to-awareness is much forward-looking for/to our industry," his advice to his readership only furthers the death spiral we're already in. This is a shortsighted (although necessary) answer.

It is this man's belief, that the last thing our industry needs to learn is how to become a better paper pusher! The construction manager degrees have cornered this market. We don't need to learn how to "out CM" our clients; we need to learn how to be better builders. I realize that Kent's efforts are well intentioned, but they only exacerbate an already catastrophic problem.

I was asked recently to bid a small $70k project by a national CM. Along with the drawings, I received 1 /2 in. of specifications and 1 1 /2 in. of boilerplate! My reply to the PM on this job was that if we can't agree to the scope of work and schedule within a couple pages, we already have a problem. Thanks, but no thanks!

What needs to happen is that we need to teach our clients that better models exist. Has Kent looked at "lean construction"? If so, what are his thoughts?

H. Kent Craig replies: Yes, I'm familiar with the concept of lean construction, but that usually requires levels of trust on, by and for all parties that normally don't exist in this very litigious and fluid age. When owners truly don't care about anything other than the absolute aggregated bottom line, getting it done as cheaply as possible as quickly as possible since they have to pay for it all anyway, it makes it almost impossible to rely on what amounts to a temporarily assembled team of total strangers to trust — even a tiny bit — one another. And where there is not trust, there are tons of cover-your-assets boilerplate and paperwork.