In three steps: Construction project management demand-driven & goal-oriented

Construction Project Management

Needs-based & goal-oriented in 3 steps.

Two weeks ago we started a new project. Together with a property developer, the neighbourhood development is being implemented with an IPD project setup and Application of Lean optimized. This is intended to increase the efficiency of the planning phase and accelerate the execution through the seamless project structure.

In this blog we would like to report on methods, progress and experiences with this innovative form of processing and provide deep insights over the next few months throughout the entire project.

In the last post "Lean. Digital. IPD" I talked about the basic ideas and methods of optimized project development, this part is about project initiation and the exact determination of objectives.

Designing is problem solving

The project is currently in the process of initiating the project at the transition to project conception. First business cases are outlined, from which project goals can be derived.

But stop! No waterfall type project development is intended! Concepts and planning should not be based on fuzzy target definitions, which are successively sharpened in the course of the project. This has the consequence that in each phase a proliferation of new variants arises, which must be coordinated again and again. Planning is a circular process. There is a problem which should be solved by planning. The project team takes on this task and presents the solution. Usually it is then discovered that the problem has not been fully penetrated or is not the most urgent at the moment. This creates a circling inefficient planning. Much of the time is spent on partial solutions and provisional solutions without actually penetrating the overall problem. Coupled with the necessary decision-making processes, this creates an extremely absurd process monster. One quasi makes a PDCA cycle without a real problem.

The design process is used to identify and accurately describe the problem or objectives. Only afterwards does the solution finding process play a role. In principle, this is the right approach, but it is neither particularly effective nor efficient.


My mentor once said to me: "Designing is problem solving". All activities, starting with project initiation and project conception up to realization and operation serve the goal to solve a problem. The more precisely and practically this problem is formulated, the easier, faster and more successful the solution will be. The solution is the project, the problem lies in the deviation of the ideal target state from the actual state. This is normally defined and determined purely by the client, the planning team interprets this and develops the area in between.

Let's take a quick look at psychology. For his book "Flow: the psychology of optimal experience"Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi examined how the performed activity affects the emotional state of his subjects over a long period of time. For this purpose, the emotional state and the activity just carried out were recorded at various random points in time.

The results from all this data are simply impressive. Test persons who rated themselves as the happiest worked on tasks with clearly defined goals and gradually approached them. The important thing is that the goals seem to be achievable with their current abilities, but are still not too easy. Challenging, but not too challenging. With a clearly defined goal, on which you were able to work in a focused way without outside influence.

Mihaly calls this state "the Zone". The Zone is a state with highest focus but at the same time highest creativity and on top of that you feel really good and productive. You are completely absorbed in your activity. As a competitive swimmer I have often experienced this in my youth. Pain, effort and exhaustion gave way to focused work towards a goal.

This also explains why some projects make you feel so frustrated, unproductive, depressed or sometimes awkward. You don't know what you want, what is required of you and you are nowhere near "the Zone". And this is perfectly logical, because the (project) goals are neither your own nor the right ones for every project member, silently they are within your own sphere of influence.

I was in the most diverse projects, in the most diverse meetings. This frustration can be experienced in almost every meeting, regardless of hierarchy or project status. I don't mean by that the delay of the discussion to the personal level. It is already expressed in the small things. How often are no clear, factual questions asked, but rather stories told that end with an uncertain or fake indignation "what should I think of this now? Or instead of a goal-oriented question, everything is directly topped off with a statement.

Get in the ZONE

This is exactly what we want to avoid in the project. So the question is, how do we and our project teams get into "the Zone". There are three important factors. These must be a common thread running through all activities.

  1. Define goals and problems
  2. Align processes
  3. transfer them to the team.

As mentioned above, the first factor is the foundation of the whole project and also of the other factors. Therefore, I would like to focus on the first one today.

Factor 1 Define goals

Basically, there are 2 types of objectives in projects. Those of the entire team (and possibly also the company) and those of the individual team members. Each goal level is important to make the project successful. The goals of the team members are based on the overall team goals. To get into "the Zone", however, the personal ones are the decisive ones.

In order to find the right project goals, the problem must first be defined and the associated information that is essential for decision-making must be collected. In this way, the team receives a maxim for action, which everyone can use as a guideline and derive their own goals. An ideal prerequisite for a smooth planning process with few iteration loops.

It defines the starting point of the planning, where the client formulates exactly which business case is to be achieved and which parameters and added values are to be achieved. From this, the planning task and what the client actually wants to build can be deduced per se. Planning requirements and the boundary conditions are thus formulated even before the project starts.

DIN 18205: Demand planning in the building industry provides an indication of the necessary information. Although it is already around 20 years old, its checklists and appendices provide a good overview of the subject areas and decisive points despite its shadowy existence. The DIN 18205 : Demand planning contains the wishes of the building owner, from the existing financial framework to external framework conditions such as the property, including aspects of building law, to physical aspects of the building (e.g. spatial structure, static system, type of facade ...). By dealing with the questions, definitions are then made which enable the start of a targeted project planning in accordance with the service profile of the HOAI.

Client or team?

Sure, actually, you can sit back. This is a clear client task and is often referred to as work phase 0, i.e. the phase which must be processed before the HOAI phase 1 basic determination of the object planners. On closer inspection, however, services from LP 1,2 and possibly even 3 are anticipated. Cost estimates (DIN 18205: Requirement planning in the building industry), a definition which is not regulated per se (DIN 276 does not know this term), can actually only be made soundly based on the preliminary draft. The determination of objectives is therefore not as simple as expected!

In order to achieve this nevertheless, the general conditions and most elementary basics from the project initiation and project conception are first compiled and analysed together with the client team. Subsequently, these are further specified and detailed with the key trades in order to ultimately enable each project participant to find their own goals and maxims for action. Sounds abstract, but has a simple implementation "Design Thinking"!

The Implementation - Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a transparent and structured approach to systematically identify and specify problems. This should lead to their solution and the development of new ideas. Hypotheses and approaches are generated in several steps and selected according to their persuasive power. Core topics of Design Thinking are on the one hand the generation of creative ideas, which are often "outside the box", and the cooperation of the participants. The idea of productive collaboration can also be found in the philosophy of Lean, as it promotes collaborative work.

The process behind Design Thinking is divided into 6 phases. These must be run through at least once to achieve the desired success. In practice, however, it is usually the case that individual phases are run through several times, as design Thinking is user-centred and tailored to the needs of the user, and comments are gradually incorporated. At the beginning of every goal-finding process is first of all understanding, because if the problem and the journey to the goal are not clearly defined and understandable for everyone, everyone usually runs in different directions.

Information procurement

If all parties involved have now understood the problem, the required information must be obtained in the 2nd phase. For our construction projects this means: What are the basic conditions and what do we want to achieve with the project? What benefit should it have? In order to obtain this information, it makes sense in the construction industry to ask the various stakeholders and "affected parties" directly. What are the concerns of local residents? What does the target group of the construction project want? What are the city's concerns or requirements? These aspects should all be considered and, above all, taken into account during the observation phase of Design Thinking in order not to work in the wrong direction.

After this admittedly often large amount of information has been collected and compiled and discussed with the team, the 3rd phase, the synthesis, is about filtering and sorting the most important information on which the project should be based.


The next phase is the idea generation. In practice, this means that the most important goals are defined here, taking into account the comments made in the observation phase and summarized in the synthesis, in order to satisfy as many, and ideally all, stakeholders as possible. Once the project team has defined objectives for the construction project, it is of course necessary to check whether these objectives correspond to the ideas of the groups of people affected by the construction project, or whether it is necessary to start rethinking the initial situation and assumptions. For this purpose, first rudimentary "prototypes" should be made, these can be simple drawings, elaborated concepts or even image presentations/films that make the idea visually imaginable. Based on the feedback received, further changes can then be made in the next steps until a clear goal has been defined which will be approached.

This structured and transparent approach makes it possible to define the concrete direction of the project before LPH 1. This should actually be the rule, but as I mentioned earlier: The clear project goal is usually not the rule in the construction industry!

Collaborative projects with Lean Construction and the Last Planner System

Collaborative projects with Lean Construction and the Last Planner System


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