BSA Lifestructures

Using the ABCs of Lean to Learn and Change

Chase Miller and Andrea SponselOctober 26, 2020

BSA LifeStuructures has been on a Lean journey for more than 10 years, beginning with the introduction to Lean thinking as a team member on the first Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) [1] project with an Integrated Form of Agreement (IFoA) [2] contract in Indiana.  There are many lessons we have learned over the last decade as we implement Lean in our daily work and continuously improve the way we manage and deliver projects.

As Lean Innovators and Early Adopters on the change curve, learning about the Lean tools is natural for us, but learning how to effectively implement them within a firm or project team is not.  As the ambassadors and teachers of new techniques and thought processes, we need to consider the best approach.  Adult learners respond to new ideas and education differently.  Approaching change and education without a lesson plan can lead to anarchy in the classroom.  Developing a thoughtful plan can help not only the students but the teachers too.  Understanding how the people on your team prefer to learn and where they are on the change curve (see Rogers Adoption Curve below) [3] is the first step in developing an education plan.  This is the difference between successfully getting across the chasm or falling into the pit of failure and despair.










Our lessons in Lean led BSA to develop a proprietary project management process, PM7. The 7 must haves of Project Management:

  1. Workplan – proper staffing with the right people, right skills and value-added time
  2. Kick Off – project alignment – what/why/who, schedule, success measures
  3. Schedule – a collaborative schedule with reliable promises and an understanding of commitments
  4. Weekly Work Session – talk often to meet less with a focus on handoffs and minimizing constraints
  5. Project Documentation – capture the decision and the why behind it
  6. Quality Management – monitor project progress, development of the design and implementation process
  7. Debrief: provide feedback at the end of a meeting, phase or milestone as part of the continuous improvement cycle

What was thought to be a no-brainer progression in our processes has been met with resistance and setbacks, but setbacks aren’t always a bad thing.  We see them as opportunities for adjusting, improving, and moving forward with a stronger approach.  Our resistance and setbacks came in many forms.

“What’s wrong with the way we’ve managed work for the last 40 years?”   /   “Where does design fit into this process?”   /   “What if my project isn’t IPD?”

 We realized we needed to start over with some of the ABCs of Lean:

  • A: Show a Genuine Respect for People.  Involve a diverse group of stakeholders in the development of a change.  Think about the whole (in this case design + project management) and not just a piece.  Deeply listen to feedback and adjust what isn’t working.
  • B: Maximize Value and Minimize Waste. Spend time setting the goals and values needed for success. Investigate and uncover the waste in the work and streamline the process.
  • C: Create Standard Work.  A visual guide and a framework that’s scalable to fit varying project needs. This framework and guide are not a mandate; it’s a baseline for future improvements

We are still on our journey, and the education plan is continuing to evolve to capture everyone’s support and create true transformational improvement.  It’s not perfect, but we’re working towards perfection every day – we are building on our successes and learning from our setbacks.



  1. Definition of IPD
  2. Definition of IFoA
  3. Rogers Adoption Curve – First developed by Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers at Iowa State University, in 1957. Everett Rogers applied their theory to new ideas in his book, Diffusion of Innovations (first published in 1962).