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Well as you said I’m an architect. I went the route of getting a master’s degree in architecture. I had worked before I went back for graduate school. It was a history degree in my undergrad studies and have worked for the last 17 years for a firm here in the states that does work on health care facilities. I’ve been very passionate about that. I come from a family of doctors, nurses, etc. So, it’s my own imprint on that legacy without being in the medical profession per say.


I’ve been on a Lean journey since 2004. I was lucky enough to have Sutter Health a large hospital system in Northern California as one of my first clients. They began a building effort that was centered around upgrade work for the Senate bill in California that required a seismic retrofit of facilities and their massive capital program in the six or seven billion dollar range. They found out about lean construction and they figured that if they could save even a small increment of that amount of money it would allow them to reinvest. To great effect. And I was lucky enough to be on their pilot project using Last Planner® system which is you know one of the fundamental pieces of lean construction. From that time in 2004 until now, it’s been just a wonderful thing for me that I’ve very much enjoyed. We went from being willing participants on project work to bringing principles into our own firm. At this point we have many elements of a lean operating system that we use in our day to day operations. I’ve also had the opportunity as a practitioner to move from health care work into consulting. I was invited to do some work with a couple of Fortune 500 companies as a design integrator focusing on my own skills with trying to bring lean thinking into an architecture firm and how that translates to the design phase of a project.


I live in Colorado now. I’ve lived all over the country and I have a wife and a son, and they are a big part of my life despite the fact that I don’t see them as much as I’d like. I do enjoy traveling and then going to meet people around the country and trying to bring the lean message to them.






Who is architect named Romano Nickerson?
  • He is an architect who has worked for 17 years in the healthcare sector.
  • Romano started his lean journey in 2004 with Sutter Health where he learned about the Last Planner® system.
  • He has adopted the Lean principles into his own company and consults with others to do the same.

My origin story really started with a leveling exercise. I was at a point in my career where I was managing as many as 20 projects at one point and of course scrambling and firefighting to do the work that needed to be done. I met with a coach who said to me, “Well let’s put everything down in a gantt chart and see where everything is”. We found a particularly congested week and he asked me straight up, “How successful do you think that week is going to be”? I told him honestly that I thought it would be really rough and probably there would be failure in there. I guess I’d always thought that you could just find ways to move things back if the owner granted you that grace. But he said Well what about doing things early and that’s where it clicked for me.


So, to me it’s really been about the leveling of the load and the idea that within construction we focus on the network of commitments. That’s part of the legacy from Sutter Health. It’s the idea of seeing projects as networks of commitments and we need to have reliable exchange of information. That for me has also been a really important part of my own development. I find that if I have a system that works for me and I optimize the system so that I can be reliable, I found that all the stress that I used to have about meeting deadlines just fades away and so that that’s probably been the most important piece. Then I’ve enjoyed bringing a number of the tools home like choosing by advantages or some of the other sorts of analytical pieces to help in our family life to decide whether we should move somewhere or not. Or to take a job or not. And having that bit of science to back up what would often be an intuition or kind of gut based decision has been impactful for us.






How did you start getting Lean into your life?
  • For Romano it started with a leveling exercise and looking forward and predicting a rough week ahead.
  • Projects are networks of commitments, so why not keep the commitment and do things early?
  • The key is to have a system that works for you so that the stress of meeting deadlines fades away.

The question to me is more about whether it is appropriate to do the work. If you have the ability to do value add work and if you’re not pulling others out of sequence, then it’s OK to do the work. We do find that there are kind of two major classes of work. One, being things that generate the critical path, and not to say that there is a need for critical path as a scheduling methodology. That’s certainly always going to be true that there is going to be one sequence that will culminate in the delivery or not delivery of a particular body of work. But around that are make ready activities that can be done at a point where it’s appropriate to begin that work.


The phrase that we use is do “work at the last responsible moment”. There are times where the last responsible moment is earlier and that part of the ability to level the load relies on being able to move things to be earlier. If it doesn’t have a downstream negative impact.






Isn’t doing things sooner that needed classified as the waste of overproduction?
  • If you are not pulling others out of sequence, then it’s OK to do the work sooner.
  • A good phrase to remember is, “do work at the last responsible moment.”

My first and probably still the one that I’m most proud of, was a partnership that we have with a medical group in northern California and they have basically had construction projects continuously. We were with them through an effort of consolidation where they had acquired a number doctor practices and we’re consolidating into larger care centers. They had individual projects that would be budgeted and designed and built and there never really was an effort to bring thinking from one project to the next. We had several mistakes that we made where we had learned something on one project and then created that same problem on another project because there were a number of us managing that work. We didn’t even coordinate and neither did they.


So, we declared a breakdown and then worked to develop what came to be called best practices as a project and they gave us a project number to charge work to which was a unique and wonderful thing. It wasn’t tied to a specific capital project. It was tied to improvement and so being on that journey with them and helping them refine a process where we would do a validation study and then be able to take that to their finance board for approval of the project before beginning all of the project activities and then having a lessons learned aspect to it and the ability to manage it as a building program instead of individual one offs. That was a fantastic effort that I’m still proud of to this day. That was that was almost 15 years ago now. It’s great to know that we did something worthwhile very early on.


I then had an opportunity on a project that just opened recently. A hospital project in San Francisco where we were brought in because of our expertise to help integrate that design team and had all kinds of things that we were able to do. Still of all projects that I’ve ever done it has the highest percentage checklist of all the things you could do within the current suite of tools and methods that have been developed within lean construction. So that’s one that I’m also very proud of.






What Lean construction project are you proud of and why?
  • He is most proud of a group of independent projects where they started sharing knowledge between them.
  • They were given a project number for charging this type of improvement work to.
  • He is also proud of a hospital project in San Francisco that attained the most of it’s wish list items.

I would say that it’s because rather than have it be confined to capital project work they were willing to pay for trying to improve process and to think about ways to make it better and have it be exploratory and iterative. It included things like going to visit other care centers around the country. It had to do with developing higher environmental sustainability standards. It had to do with all kinds of things that were more things that an owner would do typically internally rather than an integrated team of designer and builder and an owner together. To me that represented real intent on their part to take the process seriously and to try to improve.


And believe me not all clients are interested in improving. It’s not a universal trait by any means.






Why was it smart to charge improvement work to a best-practice project account?
  • It meant that they were willing to pay for trying to improve
  • It included visiting other healthcare facilities around the country and developing higher standards.
  • This mean that there was real intent to try and improve.

The thing that I see more than anything else, and it’s touted all the time, is that construction has not seen the gains in productivity that other industries have seen since World War 2. That’s probably the most common one that people hear. I challenge that because it’s a qualified statement. There have been tremendous innovative efforts within specific trades that fall apart when multiple trades are expected to come together and collaborate to deliver a building. You see people in their shops figuring out ways to put together assemblies and sub-assemblies to be able to bring to the field and that’s how their business model works. However, the problem is when you have 10 different trades trying to get into one single spot and that part suffers. Each time a project comes together it’s a temporary assembly of people organizations and processes. So, the opportunity that I see is really around the behavioral thinking that goes into the way that projects are put together from the human perspective. We need to have better thinking about how to innovate. We need to have the network of commitments made visible that I mentioned earlier. We need to have people understanding and taking accountability and responsibility for the actions of people that are outside of their company. We need to have that temporary organization be strong and to have speed to trust at its most maximum impact.






What construction-industry problems are we facing that might be solved by applying Lean?
  • The most common problem we hear is that the industry has not seen any productivity gains since WWII.
  • The problem arises when ten different trades are trying to do work in the same spot.
  • Having a better thinking about how to innovate and making commitments visible is a great start.
  • That temporary organization must be strong and develop a speed to trust.

Well for our company, we need to be leaders. Our psyche is one of perhaps being too humble. We aren’t as good at going out and talking about ourselves as often as our competitors are. So, where we find that we can make the most impact is to act and lead by example. We work very hard to be integrators and to be strong supporters of collaboration and innovation on all of our projects. And then when we come to places like the lean congress or the lean design forum, we try to tell our story as honestly as we can. I think that transparency is something that’s incredibly important to share, along with the pieces of both success and failure so that the whole industry can see and try to benefit from that.


From a personal perspective I just don’t want to work a different way. I do everything I can both in my business development activities, and in my efforts to train other people within our firm and certainly in the evangelizing that I do on behalf of the Lean Construction Institute. That’s just something that I feel like I need to give if I want something different in the industry.


I need to help change it. So, I’m prepared to be that change agent and I’m willing to go tell my story wherever I need to go.


Well the heroic architect is absolutely the firefighting example from design. Or it could be the heroic engineer, although honestly they tend to have their act together better than many designers. What ends up happening, for example, you generate a sketch for layouts or for a facade or something like that, and the thing that can sometimes happen is that you take it in front of the client and despite your best efforts they just simply say no. What ends up happening then is that people use that as an excuse to not plan their work, and to not bring that work further forward and start on it sooner because they figure that it could all fall apart therefore it can’t be planned, or it can’t be optimized. So, what I try to help people focus on is that positive iteration is a wonderful tool and that you can create better results with better design inputs and typically people tend to understand that and to get on board with that and that means is that if you’re gonna have more higher quality inputs, you can’t wait until the last night and then do your own work late at night and then show up and be the hero because other people don’t have time to respond to that and you don’t have time to iterate.


So, from the perspective of firefighting, that’s our firefighting. It is the tendency to go off and do this creative work, in a tortured soul kind of manner. We need to bring that into the light of day, and we need to open that up and that can truly be scary. People are very reluctant to put forth personal work to critique because that takes a level of confidence and assurance that not everybody has all the time.






Is there such a thing as a firefighter in your world, can you give examples?
  • Yes, and the customer may not accept the design, so they use that as an excuse not to plan their work.
  • It’s best to focus on positive iteration as a tool and know that you can create better results with better inputs.
  • Firefighting for a designer is the tendency to do the creative work in a vacuum, it should be made visible for criticism.
We hide behind the fact that there are designers who are better at design than others because they just have an affinity for it. But the truth is, in design school you have pinups, you have critiques because you must learn to take outside feedback or criticism of your designs. So, it’s the kind of thing that rather than defaulting to “oh I just don’t have the talent for that” or “I just don’t have that special ability”, it is something that over the course of the arc of your career that you can improve, but the only way to do it is to just practice doing it. The same way that with public speaking the whole premise of Toastmasters is that you can improve that by just having more repetitions.





How does someone develop this kind of confidence in their designs?
  • You must learn to take outside feedback or criticism of your designs.
  • You can improve this over the course of your career by practicing it.

Well I think it’s true. I’ve had some recent discussions and I’ve been privileged in the last year and a half to two years to spend some time as an architect supporting my team as they go into manufacturing plants and into hospital operations settings. What I take from that and try to bring back to the construction industry is that we really don’t do enough to learn from the people who are, in some cases, two to three decades ahead of where we are. So, things like cell design and manufacturing don’t have very good equivalents in construction and certainly don’t in design. I think there is tremendous opportunity at the craft level to really understand how assemblies work but not necessarily at individual trades as much as shared assemblies that include multiple trades like a shared racks in a hallway being probably the most common current example. That’s just entry level thinking of what could be put together and assembled in a more integrated fashion and with design. We build the building in the computer before it goes out to the field and yet we don’t structure our work to the benefit of that process. We don’t have the tight integration and we rely on coordination, which is a form of checking. It’s the exact opposite of built in quality. So why aren’t we building integrated assemblies in the way that we model in the virtual environment. That’s really the type of thing that I see as being probably the next thing we really ought to be working on.






Lean construction started from the lean manufacturing movement; can we learn more from manufacturing?
  • Yes, we don’t learn enough from those that are 3 decades ahead of us on the Lean journey.
  • We can learn much more by studying the needs of the many multiple trades.
  • In design, the work is not necessarily structured to the benefit of the build process.

I’m very optimistic and I feel that it comes to the character of the people that work on the challenges that lie in front of us. When I look for someone on my team or when I look to see who I might invest my coaching or mentoring efforts with, the thing I look for is curiosity. You can learn all kinds of skills. You can be trained on things. People will evolve over the course of their life. However, if they aren’t curious, they’re not necessarily going to be all that interested in innovation because innovation relies on curiosity. Innovation is a response to wanting to improve. Wanting to make a situation that’s poor into something that’s first tolerable, and then excellent and wonderful. For that to happen, you must be willing to look around a corner. You must be willing to cast your eyes up instead of down. For me, it really is that simple. Most would say “simple” and “easy” are interchangeable linguistically, but they are not the same. Most simple things are hard. They truly are.


I think that if there are creative people and people who are curious and people who ask not “why” but “why not”, then I think we’ll be OK. It’s just a matter of pointing them in the right direction and getting them to dream big enough that amazing things happen.






How optimistic are you that Lean will continue to spread what is needed for this to happen?
  • I’m very optimistic, and what I look for in a student of Lean is curiosity.
  • Innovation is a response to curiosity.
  • It’s that simple, but simple is not necessarily easy.

I think there are precious few examples across the industry and I look perhaps to the one good example that I can think of and it’s a rare one. I’m talking about the California guide to integrated project delivery that was written several years ago that is kind of by default become a national standard. I think that there needs to be much more of that, and I think it needs to get into things that I talked about before, like work structuring. Things that show up in the modeling that we do. Why do we have to have all kinds of variation in model elements that we use, doors or partitions or whatever those may be, because the truth is we spend tremendous amounts of time trying to standardize that with them in our own organizations and then it’s not something that other firms can benefit from and really it’s not even value added work. And the truth too is that other than the craft worker in the field, swinging the hammer or using the torch, all the rest of us are non-value add from the perspective of the owner. So, I don’t think we take that very seriously as an industry and certainly not in the design portion of the industry. We look for buildings to be monuments to our own design skills and that’s not necessarily a value to the owner. In fact, frequently it’s not at all. And so, I think that’s a realignment of value versus waste that we need to discuss. Then I think within our own firms we have to be looking for those opportunities constantly to root out the work that can be done one time and then sustained as a standard and then leave time for things like research and design innovation and search for sustainability or whatever other kind of responsibility based thinking we want to advocate to our owners. Really there’s not a lot of good examples in my mind right now and there’s a lot of work to do.






Standardizing can eliminate a lot of waste in our industry, can you share some examples where it has?
  • There are precious few examples, but one of those is the California Guide to Integrated Project Delivery.
  • There should be many more examples like this, and they should include work structuring and standard parts.
  • Rooting out the work that can be done one time and sustained as a standard will leave us all more time.
Shared accountability is probably the biggest one.


I know that if I can get a team in place where they are thinking about helping each other succeed as people, as humans, as opposed to trying to fulfill their own internal needs for profits or some other target or delivering a set of drawings or whatever. That’s a powerful position to be in. That’s the thing that we really try to work quickly to understand and I think another value is just the frequent sharing of incomplete information. I think that’s absolutely critical. And that goes to the whole kind of combating of silo thinking. We want to show things even if it’s not ready for prime time. We need to get it out there so that other people can comment because there are all kinds of well-intended wastes that occur on the typical project where people do work that they think others might want instead of reacting to a pull from that other party.


So, I think that that again speaks to just the clear communication and then really seeing following that up execution wise with seeing projects as networks of commitments.






What shared values should all participants on a Lean construction project have?
  • Having a share accountability where people help each other succeed is number one.
  • Another value is the sharing of incomplete information, this may prevent unnecessary work from being done.
  • This supports clear communication and execution that sees a project as a network of commitments.

Let’s get into the mindset of handing over our facility at the end of a successful project. When we think of that that first patient or that go live, that’s our first phase and so we want to think about what is required for the fit up and the successful handoff of a facility. Then as we move upstream from there we go into production or as we know it’s gonna be called construction, but really this is where we implement the design vision. We put work in place, and we prepare for the downstream activity of handing off that building to our client. Before that we need to do all of our planning and that planning takes the form of preconstruction activities and of the design of the facility itself including in design the successful handoff of a permitted set of drawings. Anything with the authorities having jurisdiction over a project is going to be included here. Prior to that, we need to move into an early concept phase. It really has to do with an owner identifying what they need to continue their operations. We have an initial concept and then we have a validation to see if we can make that project work.


As I think about concept and validation one of the best recommendations better practices that I’ve seen is bringing the thinking that occurs in the design phase from the designers and the builders into this to really help the owner. I’ve seen so many projects that have failed where projects are based on budget assumptions that are out of alignment with what’s best practice within the industry or what is current pricing of a particular elements. Then we also struggle with ways of actually conceiving how a project might work and often find that we don’t have the pieces that are needed to eventually pay back the building itself. Do we even have a business plan that can afford to build?


I’m going to list a couple of things here that need to be part of that.


We have Design which is the first physical pass at what the building might be. How big is it? How tall is it? Where’s it located? Do we have a site for it?


Schedule. How long is this thing going to actually take? That’s important because we need to know how much we can afford and when we’re gonna start making money on this thing to funnel back into the repayment of that capital investment.


Two parts here. The Estimate comes from the builder and it can’t function without being able to plug back into the Proforma. When we have the Proforma and Estimate together, this is where the magic happens. All these four things need to move through rapid iterative cycles rather than having one big loop. We need to have small looping iterations where we try something in the design. We check its cost and its schedule implications and then we move into putting it into the Proforma to see if the business case will support it.


Simple concept. Very difficult to do at times and the way that this really works at best effect is hey let’s say we’re designing a hospital. We initially started with an idea of five Ors. Well what if we do six ORs. It’s going to cost X amount more. It’s going to take a little longer to build. Here are the design implications of test fitting it onto a floor of a building. But hey if we have that Proforma and we can do that many more cases in that sixth ORs, we can accelerate our ROI on the facility. It’s that type of discussion, that type of iteration that we need to have. Because then at the end of it all of this comes together in an intelligent package that can then be brought through the funding mechanism of the owner. What ends up happening here, and we have several industry examples, is that the money that gets put forward and allocated to the project, the project can actually be built under those constraints. So, with that we shift into with a clear concept into the design phase.






What are the inputs of the concept validation phase and how should things work?
  • Design is the first physical pass. How big is it? How tall is it? Where is it located? Do we have a site for it?
  • There are two parts that go hand in hand. The Estimate and the Proforma.
  • The magic happens when these 4 things move through rapid iterative cycles rather than one big loop.
  • In the end this all comes together and represents an intelligent package that will meet the owners needs.

Now we have design and precon. What we really have here are two activities that are occurring concurrently and there are some things that occur in the middle of the Venn diagram here that are collaborative efforts. Then there are pieces on the design side and the build side that occur as their own sort of independent activities. This is basically production from a design perspective. We need to figure out how to translate the program into the built environment. How to take the test fits that we’ve developed and make them into actual construction documents.


So, we have we have the typical development of, drawings, spec, any other things that we need. That’s going to include exhibits for planning review. It’s going to include documents that the owner needs to be able to promote this within their own organization. Really anything that a designer would typically produce.


What we benefit from in this middle portion is means and methods. Because if we understand how the how the builder is going to put the work in place they then have the opportunity to influence the way that assemblies are put together in the drawing package. That allows us to optimize, and not to just put forth generic details or generic approaches, but to actually dial things in in the way that the builder would actually prefer to build them. So, what that implies and what the previous phase implied as well is that we need participation from those trades and from the general contractor to really leverage this approach.


We also use target value design. We take the estimate that’s been published as part of the validation. We divide it into scope buckets. By that I mean exterior skin, interior fit out, building systems, any way that you want to slice the project. We allocate the amount of money that those folks have, then we set a target that’s lower than the budgeted amount and we challenged the team to try to achieve that. What that does is it takes this early involvement and turns it into a value add. It’s not enough to do constructability reviews. It’s not enough to provide pricing. We need to have actionable work done around how the building is gonna be put together so we can properly incorporate that into the design process.






Describe the design-precon phase and what is mean by target value design?
  • Two activities occur concurrently and with some collaboration between them – Design and Preconstruction.
  • The benefits of collaboration come from the builder’s influence on how the work packages are put together.
  • Target Value Design happens by organizing the work into scope buckets and challenging each team to beat the estimate.

Production is one of trying to execute what we have planned. We’ve spent so much time with heavy investment of having people involved in the project to really think about how they want to put that work in place. And now it’s time to put the rubber to the pavement so to speak.


I’ve put build, but rather than build, in simply a put the work in place, we really want to be executing plans and what we have is the work that’s been done in design and pre construction and now it’s a matter of organizing the work in such a way that we try to seek flow. Flow would allow us to have one trade after another moving through areas of work without having to do rework and to just have one step follow the next. Always mindful of the next person who will come into the space and leaving that space for them in a way that they can take up their work and do their best work in that. With this we also focus on rigorous change management. We want to understand why. If something doesn’t go according to plan we want to learn from that planning cycle and then find a better way to continue planning.


The last pieces is that we also look at ways of trying to take the target value design and transition to a mode of target value production. TVP. What that means is that as an integrated team we are all invested in how long it takes to put the work in place. We’ve defined the physical scope. But the last thing that we can influence that helps us with the beneficial outcome, is how long it takes and how many people it takes to put that work in place. And so, we have a very deliberate attempt on a weekly basis on some projects monthly to monitor how much work it’s taking to put that work in place in the field.


With that we then start our planning in production and construction, to be able to perform a successful fit up and handoff to our client.






What is the production phase and what is meant by target value production?
  • Production is about trying to execute what we have planned.
  • At this stage it is about organizing the work in a way to seek flow.
  • Through feedback cycles we find what did not go as planned so we can find better ways next time.
  • Target Value Production is the very deliberate attempt to understand what it took to perform the work.

With fit-up, what we want to be focused on is helping the client be organized in a way enables them to bring in their owner supplied materials.


So, we need to have sufficient planning to give them the time they need. We need to help use our skills. I mean we build every day. they build, sometimes only once a generation. So, any opportunity that we can take to help them with their logistics with their supply chain, we have those scheduling tools, we need to help them.


that’s the fit-up phase. Then with handoff, what we want is to help with owner fit-up. Then we want to look at all the opportunities, o and m, operations and maintenance. We want to successfully hand off every piece of equipment or give folks everything they need to successfully use the building that we’ve designed for them. Some owners are not as sophisticated as others in being able to hand that off. So, it really needs to be a focus on what we do.


Then the last piece that I would add in here is from the design side and PDCA (a plan do check adjust) is we need to have a post occupancy evaluation (POE) and typically that’s at one year and that tends to coincide with the expiration of the maintenance contracts or the warranty contracts on the equipment that’s been installed. That is something that we ought to group together and have as more of a kind of organized thoughtful event for the owner.


So that’s the full list here of the construction process, at the very highest level. But I hope it gives you an indication of where we could start to do some things differently.






What is involved in the fit-up and handoff phase?
  • Fit up is about helping the owner by supporting their logistics, supply chain, and providing the time they need.
  • Handoff is about transferring every piece of equipment so the owner can successfully use the building that was designed for them.
  • The Post Occupancy Evaluation typically happens at one year at expiration of the maintenance and warranty contracts.

It’s not normal because it’s an implementation method that is still not as common as we wish it were. Typically, you would have this occurring with the owner by themselves in their own shop. Then they would put out a request for proposal here and then a designer, not precon, would respond to that proposal and then they would issue a bid set and then pre con would start for the winning builder and then they would execute and then fit up.


There’s not as much of a change here other than typically you wouldn’t have as much help for the owner in terms of helping them get up to speed to take occupancy of their building. This is a pretty pure high level method and I would say that this is in the 5 to 10 percent range of use within the commercial building sector of construction. I’m going to separate out heavy industry and other pieces like that. I would say that then if you were to take this and do half of it there’s probably another 15 to 20 percent who could be said to do what we call IPD lite or lean light meaning that they put in place the tools that they can and they have more successful outcomes than the traditional bid build process. But right now as maybe as much as a third of construction has elements of this on that scale that I just described.






Is this what a normal project looks like?
  • No, typically the owner would complete the concept phase independently and put out an RFP.
  • The designer would respond by issuing a bid set, and the winning builder would then start Precon.
  • Only 5% of the commercial building sector currently do work according to this method.
  • Another 15% would be considered doing a Lean lite version by including elements of this.

So, to recap here we have activities of design led by designers and we have activities of preconstruction led by builders. Then the area in the middle is where they are expected to collaborate. Examples here would be the development of the design itself. Whether it’s bringing in an expert, a mechanical trade partner for instance, to help design the system for cooling in a building or to help define the zones. To not have that be a design engineer making that judgment but rather the builder who will put that work in place. That obviously does require an investment. That is one of the challenges. Owners can see this. The pre con and design costing as much as twice as much as it would on a typical delivery project. The big secret is though that when you get here to production, because you’ve been designing how to put that work in place, not designing the building, but designing how to put the building in place, you save money on change orders like nobody’s business and you tend to also shorten the duration.


So, the contingency doesn’t get spent on extended schedule, rework or other things that all of us have struggled with on various projects. The challenges are to get people to open up and be willing to do this. It can be very difficult, if you’ve had a successful career, to be called in and to say hey you know the way you’ve done it that’s been successful that’s paid for vacations and it’s sending kids to college, you know we want you to do something different. That can be really hard. And the truth is not everybody can immediately jump in with both feet here and be able to do this successfully. So that’s definitely a challenge, that people management. What we also find on the on the build side is that a lot of builders have no idea how hard it is to get an owner to come to consensus around a design. And so, they often end up being a bit wide eyed about how hard it can be not knowing what architects have typically gone through and the iteration and just kind of getting beat up around things before you finally find the right thing. So, we need to focus so much on the people aspect of getting people to trust each other and be willing to put forth work and to be vulnerable and then to finally be rewarded for that.






What are the challenges with the target value design process?
  • One of the challenges is doing Target Value Design is that there is an investment up front.
  • The benefit happens later in the production phase where changes are minimized, and duration is decreased.
  • The final challenge centers on the people management to build trust needed for this kind of success.

A successful team would achieve savings of 5 to 7 percent. An exceptional team would achieve savings of 10 to 12 percent. What that means is that they have together found more efficient ways of designing to the intent that was agreed upon in the earlier validation. That relies on the trade partners bringing best practice from industry into that process because they’re the ones who know the best way to build it. They know what they can get more cheaply, more efficiently in their supply chain. That’s usually information that even the best engineers do not have and certainly the architects don’t have. Also, the ability in terms of means and methods to really start planning the sequencing of the work so that crews can get in do their work get out have a place prepared for the next group to come in and do their work. That’s really what we want to try to do in target value design and target value production. I only split them up here because they’re on two separate sheets but they’re really the same process. One is carried into design and one carries them into construction.






What does success look like if this is done well?
  • An exceptional team would achieve savings of ten percent.
  • This relies on trade partners bringing forth best practices from industry.
  • It also relies on crews sequencing their work with no interruptions to other crews.

I’ve had IPD projects that have had one owner generated change order. That’s it. Normally you have change orders RFI’s, etc. that just overwhelm, but it is it’s not unreasonable to think that you can take all of that work and have it be executed, not flawlessly, but at a much higher level than we’re used to. It kind of turns the revenue model for trade partners on its head because they’re used to generating change orders and marking them up as part of how they bid the job. They may low bid something knowing that they’ll make it up on the back end because of poor design. All that goes away in this process.


Hey folks, it’s Romano Nickerson again. I just wanted to share a little bit more of my journey. I’m an architect and I love lean construction and so I wanted to tell you my origin story of how I got to be where I am. I was living in Sacramento and I worked for a company that does health care and that is a big provider of health care services in Northern California, Sutter Health. They started me on a Lean journey and as I learned about those things other folks became interested too. I went to a job interview for our office in Colorado try to help win some work there and I was charged with trying to come up with a plan to bring lean thinking to a place that hadn’t been experienced with that yet. Suffice it to say we did not get the job. In fact, it was rather disappointing. We met the CEO at the start of our interview. He got up five minutes in and left, and it was clear from that point on that we weren’t even in the running. So, I was on the plane on the ride home pretty bummed out and I started thinking, you know I’ve written and talked and thought about all these kinds of things for this other team to do and yet I’m not practicing them myself. And I “Golly, Romano, you’re such a hypocrite”. So that very Monday I went into my project team, had six folks working for me. All of them were young. Twenty three to twenty eight years old. So, they needed help with development personally as well as trying to put them in a situation where they could learn and improve their work. And so, I started them with work planning and within a few weeks we had had a massive transformation with my little team.


We had been in this terrible habit, since we were so busy at the time of just working and working all of this overtime. And as we started to think more deliberately about all this we found out that people had just kind of defaulted to that and had accepted that as the way that things were going to be in their life, in their own vocational journey. I had one young woman who just did had the most amazing insight and she said to me “You know I used to do this stuff and I’d be sitting there on a Thursday and I would have something that I needed to do and I would just think to myself ‘Oh I’m not even going to try’. It’s too stressful. I’ll just come in on the weekend and do it”. That kind of broke my heart. But then she said “but now I realized that as I plan my work and as I think about it and I put together my week I can actually get that stuff done I think hey you know what if I do this now and do this next thing after that and then go home I won’t even have to come in this weekend”. That was a seminal moment for us. It’s been very important for me since then to try to bring that level of thinking throughout my firm. What really helped was that we weren’t trying to solve the world’s problems. We were just trying to help people get home sooner and not have to be away from home as much. And so, the rest of our firm saw that heard those stories and it was a great advancement for all of us.


The way that we got to that point was that we had to create a space where people could be safe. It’s so hard for so many people because they can’t even wrap their heads around all of the work that they have to do. It’s this elephant in the room. The promise that I made to my team was that hey if you can find a way to make the list as scary as it is of everything you need to do. I swear to you that we will put together resources as a team together we will find a way to get everybody’s work done. Fortunately, they believe me and then all of a sudden it wasn’t scary because the fear came from being unknown. It didn’t come from the quality or the nature of the work that had to be done. It was the fact that people couldn’t even wrap their heads around all of it because they were so afraid to look.


So that’s something I would recommend to everybody is that you have to have a real, yet very safe and supporting discussion about what actually needs to be done. Then from there are all kinds of other tools available within the sort of the curriculum of the lean industry that can help you advance. But if you don’t have people enlisted at that very human level at the beginning trying to solve something that they need help with, you’re going to struggle. So, for me the thing that I also have found is that if you are the person who is trying to instigate this change it can be a very lonely position. And that’s true. You know the stories that come from senior leaders within various organizations is that the higher you climb the lonelier it gets.


So, I advocate for finding someone who can be your creative partner. That might be a mentor, but might be someone that reports to you, but that you hope someday can take on a larger role or responsibility and be part of what you’re doing as an organization. It could just be somebody that you click with, that you’re able to talk to because there’s such value in saying something out loud and then to have feedback from that other person direct. So, I’ll tell you if you start with these things, keep it basic, keep it human, keep it simple. I think you’re on the road to success. So, thanks very much look forward to talking to you guys again.






Who is the architect named Romano Nickerson and what is his origin story?
  • Romano was charged to win some work by applying Lean thinking
  • Romano started with work planning and applying Lean with his team.
  • They were not trying to solve the world’s problems, they were trying to get people home sooner.
  • Romano recommends a real, yet safe and supporting discussion with everybody on what must be done.

If folks just wanted to talk with you a little bit about improvement that comes by way of reflection. We talk a lot about the Deming cycle PDCA plan to check adjust and find that that last bit of checking and adjusting is the least leveraged and yet the highest opportunity part of that cycle. And as a designer I’m an architect. It’s something that we use. And let me just tell you that if an architect could do it I don’t see why any builder can’t do it too. Since we you know our work is in our minds and on paper. But for people that put work in place in the field this is easier. Easier to see and do. So there are a couple of things I want to share and my favorite story around all of this has to do with my first reading of the Toyota way when I first learned about Honda say and if you haven’t read it there’s a brief sequence in there where they talk about in Japanese culture how a child that’s misbehaving will be directed by their parents. You must go sit in the corner and you must perform the hand say. And that means reflection. And it means something that we’re familiar with which is to think about what we’ve done. But it adds a key element of thinking well what could I do to improve and do better the next time because there is a deep cultural need for that in Japan that we would do well to emulate. For us on our projects we use of a formal process of that in our week to week planning. We have a section where we review the work that we did. We find out of the things that we promised.


How many of the things we completed and for the things that we didn’t complete. We ask why we do root cause for that variance from the plan and that includes just an open discussion about well that didn’t happen. Why was that using five wise to drill down and what ends up happening is that it’s not meant to embarrass people it’s not meant to make them feel bad. Other than wanting to obviously be more reliable as they go forward. But what it does is it opens up opportunities for the rest of the team to support that individual. So if I’m a team leader and I have a relationship with say a consultant and that consultant didn’t get a promise fulfilled didn’t get the drawings that that my team member needed. I can help them say well was it because you didn’t ask him time. No no I asked him time. They just didn’t get it for me. OK well do I need to intervene. Well you know I’ve. This is the third time it’s happened in the last month. Well then that’s my job as a project manager as a leader to be able to call that consultant and to say as I try to build our supply chain. Hey you know what. This is critical. What’s going on. And it will find something typically on their end that they can fix and correct. And then the whole team benefits and is able to move forward. So that’s something that happens on a weekly basis. We go even finer granular granularity with that on a day to day basis when we have our daily huddles because they’re we’re able to make fine tune adjustments. We set a plan for the week but plan is a verb.


It’s not a noun. And so things happen quickly and shift in design. And so what we need to do is be touching base every day and there’s often an element of reflection. Oh I’m struggling with this particular thing or this went really well. How can we sustain the things that are going well. How can we improve the things that could have gone better. And then it’s also important to take a deliberate step backwards at the end of milestones and do a full on on say or a reflection. And we spend a significant amount of time doing this. We asked people to prepare for a week or two in advance to really think about what happened in that particular phase in the project and then be prepared to come and talk about it and not for 20 minutes but for as long as a half a day at times to cover six eight weeks of work. That is how you learn from what has happened both from the mistakes and the successes. And that helps you sustain improvement as a cultural part of your company.






What further opportunities are we missing as relates to Lean construction?
  • Know that if an architect can apply Lean, any builder can apply Lean too.
  • Hansel is not just reflection, it should also focus on answering the question, “what we can do better next time?”
  • By asking why? We drill down until we get to the root causes. This is done weekly and daily.
  • A reflection is done again at the end of milestones so the learning continues for the next phase of work.

Hey folks it’s Romano again and I have a message for the lean construction leaders those who are reading the book and hopefully enjoying as they consume it. I’m going to say something that is heretical for all designers. I’m going to tell you that we as a group have things wrong. We think that we are the end all be all of what needs to happen as we produce our work. We think that it’s about design and we think that it’s about the way that we’re creating space and we think that it’s about other things other than beside the other than the building that needs to occur downstream. And I’m telling you that it’s wrong. We have a problem that happened long ago. It used to be that the architect and the builder were one person the master builder. And we’re no longer that. We’ve been fractured and split off. And unfortunately, that’s the current state of the industry. However, there is hope. And I’m a believer that we need to think about our downstream customers meaning the builders the craft workers who will put work in place as our customers. I personally have tremendous respect for the people who labor in the field and put in place the things that I draw on a piece of paper because you do work that’s much harder. And the truth is if you think about the entire value stream of delivering a project to an owner the only people who add value are the people who are putting work in place. I am as efficient as I can be. I try to drive out whatever waste I can. But I am a non-value adding entity that’s required under the current paradigm to produce the building projects that you guys put in place.


So I’m here to say that this can change. It needs to change. And I look forward to the day when all of us are aligned together in this vision of having the right understanding of value and being able to be true partners as we collaborate.






What secrets can you share with the readers of our book, Lean Construction Leaders?
  • Designers may think it’s about what they do to make a building project successful – and that’s wrong.
  • The way to view things in design is to think of the builders as the customers of the architect.
  • The only people who ad value – to the owner – are the people who put work in place.

Hey guys welcome back. I’m Romano Nickerson an architect with Boulder Associates. Want to talk to you a little bit about what you could call alphabet soup. If you’ve been around lean construction you’ve either heard stuff that’s Japanese or you probably heard things that are acronyms for things and maybe one of the first ones you’ve heard is IPD which means integrated project delivery integrated project delivery is an attempt by the industry to create a methodology for applying Lean Thinking as a contracting method and in a project approach to try to solve the problems that we all try to confront of difficulties with quality schedule budget etc. basically trying to help improve the likelihood of project success within the industry. Another thing that you might have heard is LP s which means last planner system last planner system is a system of production planning and control and it was developed to try to get more reliable results from teams as they work directly on projects. It originally started with work in oil refineries and then has been adopted within project teams first starting in the construction end of things and then finally migrating its way up into design and it’s characterized by basically trying to plan your work and find out how good you are at being reliable and delivering your promises and ultimately trying to be better at planning far enough ahead. And that goes to the Theory of Constraints. The longer that you have to try to solve a problem the more likely you are to solve it. And what we want to do is identify those things long before they’re in the current week that levels the load and it reduces burden. So, we want to have that. You might have also heard of TV deals or TV.


DP or TVP all of those are target value design production or project delivery and what you want to have in those cases is a much more intentional approach to having the full value criteria i.e. the estimate the schedule the scope the procurement part of the design process. So rather than having the designer’s architects or engineers off in a room somewhere designing based on the best of their knowledge and then handing it off to a builder to try to understand how to procure it build it. Stage it all of those things we want to bring folks into that process. And then on the owner’s behalf and really on the behalf of the team we want to give them a target. That’s where the target piece comes from. We divide an estimate into scope buckets and then each scope team is responsible for finding ways to innovate their work and bring the project in under that target cost. So those are some of the acronyms that you might have come across. Urge you to look for some of the gloss trees that are available online but don’t be afraid of Japanese words and don’t be afraid of acronyms. It’s all about trying to improve.






What is alphabet soup?
  • IPD is an acronym for Integrated Project Delivery.
  • LPS is an acronym for Last Planner® system.
  • TVDP stands for Target Value Design and Production
  • Don’t be afraid of the acronyms or alphabet soup.

Guys it’s Romano again and I’d like to share a little bit of my vision for the future. When I look out 10 15 20 years I have some thoughts that drive me and that honestly in some ways keep me awake at night. What I see around me in a number of industries and construction and health care other places is that I think we have things backwards in a lot of ways. And as a as an architect I’m part of the construction industry I depend on owners needing to build and what ends up happening is that so many times they build because they have to adapt their process to something new that has come along. And to me that’s an unsustainable position. What ends up happening is that you wait until a capital project comes around and then you make adjustments and then you end up having to wait again until another capital project comes because people are stuck. They don’t improve what they do on a day to day basis. What I think needs to happen and what I’m going to be driving my team toward in the next decade or two is that we need to put operations first. We think about design we think about construction. We think about building every day even on the weekends. Our owners do not think that much about it. Even their facilities people have other things on their mind and certainly have accountability to people who are not thinking about construction. Their job is to think about the mission of their organization. What are they trying to bring? What are they trying to develop? What are they trying to do as an organization within their community within their sector? So, I think what we have to do is bust the paradigm.


If you think about it there was a long time where we thought the sun orbited around the Earth. We thought that we were the center of everything. As we’ve learned over and over again we couldn’t change our thinking and tell the Galileo thinking toppled the Copernican model and all of a sudden we’re revolving around the sun. We need something that different that violent to take place because we have it exactly backwards right now. And so I’m going to be challenging my team to be first spreading that vision and then trying to provide the tools in a thoughtful sensible way as advisers to our clients. And I’d love to be in a position where I can say you know what cancel that capital project. We can help you improve in your existing space. I would love to have that type of inversion where we are doing that high level value work for them that they can do more with what they have. Because I believe ultimately in the end what that will let them do is to be lethal be competitive in their sector and after they’ve optimized all of their existing facilities then because of market growth market share that they’ve accrued then they’ll come back to us and ask us to help them build. That’s when we should build when we have the opportunity to help somebody grow not to help them adapt.






What vision drives you as a leader in the construction industry?
  • Romano thinks that things are backwards in many ways.
  • Owners build because they have to adapt their process to something new that comes along.
  • Romano feels that operations should come first.
  • He will do this by spread that vision and providing the tools as advisors to his clients.
  • Helping the owners do more with what they have can be a lethally competitive weapon in their business.