Bringing Lean Project Management to the Middle East

Bob Cooper
The US has embraced Lean Project Management in its construction industry to good effect, and there is scope for the Middle East to score similar benefits.

What is lean project management?

Lean project management is a production based approach to project delivery - a new way to design and build buildings. Lean methodology changes the way work is executed throughout the delivery process.

Lean project management shares a common heritage with other lean concepts, but its key principle is delivering more value with less waste in a project context.

Key factors

  • The building and its delivery process are designed together to reveal and support the client purposes.
  • Positive iteration within the process is supported and negative iteration reduced.
  • Work is structured throughout the process to maximize value and to reduce waste at all project delivery levels.
  • Efforts to manage and improve performance are aimed at improving the total project performance, as this is more important than reducing the cost or increasing the speed of any single activity.
  • "Control" is redefined from "monitoring results" to "making things happen."


Lean project management encompasses many techniques that can be applied to projects and one of its main methods is standardisation. Not just standardisation of materials, but also the supply chain, managerial chain, communications and administration. This drives efficiencies and cost/time savings into the project delivery.

Benefits of Lean Project Management

  • The performance of the planning and control systems is measured and improved.
  • Timely release of work between specialists in design, supply and assembly assures value is delivered to the client and waste is reduced.
  • Lean Project Management is particularly useful on complex, uncertain and fast projects. It challenges the belief that there must always be a trade between time, cost, and quality

It’s early days for this new approach in the Middle East, but architects and engineers are starting to embrace the idea. Several examples of this type of approach exist to varying degrees of success and include Etihad Rail and Al Falah Housing in Abu Dhabi UAE, as well as lean project management technique courses now taking place in Dubai.