While at a recent Project Management Institute (PMI) event, the question came up of whether you could use agile techniques in Construction Project Management (after all, not all PMI members are IT Project Managers). Earlier in my career I worked for some electrical contractors, and thus have some first-hand experience in the Construction industry.

My first inclination was that agile would not be a good fit; but after doing some research, it turns out there are some examples of the application of agile and Lean principles to Construction (see also sources below). After all, software development is often contrasted with construction.

In general, agile is more applicable to the execution portion of a construction project, as there still has to be some fairly serious upfront planning. Major changes late in a construction project are generally hard to do efficiently. Also, the key principle of incremental delivery of value in the form of working software does not translate well to construction.  However, agile concepts such as customer collaboration and responsiveness to change have a place in a construction project. Lean methods applied to construction are beneficial in regards to creating material and information flows, maximizing value generation, and the use of plan-execute-and-control paradigms.

Once the overall design and master schedule for the project has been created, then a method known as the Last Planner System can take that master schedule and provide a process for breaking work down into smaller units that can be executed more iteratively:


Last Planner Image

Source:  Agile and Lean Applied to Construction

At a more tactical level, here is one way that typical Agile terms could be translated for use in Construction:

Agile Construction Terms

Source:  Agile and Lean Applied to Construction

In his post, “An Agile Construction Project,” Chris Klein has some ideas on how agile roles would be represented on a construction site. For instance, the Superintendent could be the ScrumMaster, as s/he would be responsible for running the various meetings and coordinating work on the site. The Project Engineer or Project Manager could fulfill the Product Owner role, as s/he would be responsible for maintaining various project artifacts, make decisions on various questions around interpreting design specifications, and could represent other stakeholders to the project team similar to a Scrum Product Owner or Product Manager.

Chris also talks about how the various meetings and ceremonies of agile and Scrum might look in a construction setting. The Daily Standup would be more of a Daily Status Meeting where the various trades would coordinate their efforts and the Superintendent coordinates to remove impediments. Once an iteration cadence is established (how Sprints would work in a construction setting would vary project to project) there could be planning meetings and reviews associated with those iterations that would support collaboratively planning and reviewing work found in agile. There could even be sessions to review the processes being followed on the job site that would look much like a Sprint Retrospective. After all, both agile and Lean are all about continuous improvement, and Agile Construction Management would want to reap the benefits of this practice as well.

This is still an emerging concept in application of agile methodologies, but may have more relevance as the prospect of large infrastructure projects such as an expansion of broadband Internet and the creation of a Smart Electrical Grid could stretch the capabilities for existing construction project management methods.

Below is a list of the key references that I used in putting together this post. These provide a good starting point if you would like to learn more about Agile Construction Management. There will also be a post in the VersionOne Product Blog that will give an example of how these concepts might be implemented in VersionOne.

Thanks for reading; please share with us your comments and questions below.


An Agile Construction Project by Chris Klein:   http://chrisklein.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/an-agile-construction-project/

Agile and Lean Applied to Construction by Adrian Smith: http://ennova.com.au/blog/2011/09/agile-lean-compared-applied-construction

Agile Construction Projects by Brian Doll: http://emphaticsolutions.com/2011/04/23/agile-construction-projects.html

Lean Agile in Construction Projects – 9/11/11 – 10 Years Later (Agilescout): http://agilescout.com/lean-agile-in-construction-projects-91111-10-years-later

Join the Discussion

    • Nadine

      I have worked a PM in construction for many years now and have always worked with a more interractive flow with my Supers. I am now conteplating taking a Agile course to familisarise myself with the thinking. Thanks you your post. You are right that Agile can work in construction.

    • Brandon

      Great forward thinking concept, as a contractor today I need to ready myself for the future and this is where things are headed.

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    • Jordan

      Interesting thoughts. It is definitely looking ahead to what companies need to start doing. Thanks for the post!

    • YAD Consulting

      This is very nice and amazing post, This article is very informative! Great!

    • Aslam Hameed

      A good insight; not too deep but has substantial information to think over.
      I feel the Agile would be much appealing if the construction project has too many unknowns/un-certainties or customer has no clear requirements. I wish to have your expert opinion on that.

      • Dave Gunther

        Good point, Aslam, in that a benefit of an Agile mindset, is that we can react better to changes vs. “following a plan.” This added flexibility is beneficial, even if the intent is to not change the requirements nor the more rigid plan. I would be surprised if there were a construction project that would not benefit from the flexibility to pivot as needed, within certain constraints. Cheers, Dave (V1)

    • Nicholas

      Awesome blog! You are right after the digitization now ages turning towards mobile everything mobility involves in every organization that bring number of profit in the business. Your blog is simply amazing I like to read whole blog thank you for sharing your knowledge

    • Mark

      Thanks for this post. I learned a lot. Surely will take these as reminders for my works in the future.

    • Nguzo

      Thanks for this post, it is very informative. Agile is simple responding to change with speed and accuracy. It’s time for the construction industry to be flexible in responding to client’s requirements. Agile is a welcome concept in construction.

    • Renovize

      Thanks for this post , I have learn lot of things from this post, related construction . Such a nice Post .

    • Adam Lovelace


      I agree some parts of the construction project can be done in agile. For agile projects in general, we do planning up front, especially when the teams aren’t familiar with Agile.

      My question would be “Can you manage a construction project in an Agile PM tool?” Without the presence of dependencies, how are you going to make sure the electrical rough-ins are done before the wall is finished?

      I am looking for a project/portfolio management tool that manages both Agile and Waterfall projects. This is one of the big show-stoppers for me.


      • Dave

        Good thoughts…while construction works best when there aren’t any dependencies, it is rare to not have any. Same with software development, unfortunately. VersionOne, for example, allows you to identify and track dependencies between backlog items. Warnings appear if items are scheduled in the wrong order, there are dependency reports, and the newer program board allows for pre-planning and tracking dependencies across teams and across sprints as part of delivery planning. Then again, I always argue that the “wiring rough-in” should be a story that is higher on the backlog than “painting the wall” in terms of rank to ensure they are planned and delivered in the right order. Simplistic, I know, but very consistent with managing Agile delivery against a prioritized backlog.

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