AWP Is Lacking Respect – How AWP Stacks Up Against Lean

There were a few key learnings from the excellent AWP + Lean Virtual Summit, hosted by Group ASI this week.

By Andrew Foy, Director of AWP & Construction Excellence
O3 Solutions

There were a few key learnings from the excellent AWP + Lean Virtual Summit, hosted by Group ASI this week. The first is that, for all of the differences, Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) and Lean have more in common than most people thought possible. For those willing to approach the AWP and Lean m with an open mind, there are aspects of each program that can augment and add value to your current practices. No longer should they be viewed with the defensive air of apathy and indifference: “If you aren’t doing it my way, you’re wrong” – it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

The other key learning for me, and one of the aspects that I really liked about Lean, was a focus on respect, and the human elements of the program.

Any AWP 101 presentation will typically involve discussions about the importance of the Path of Construction, and the ubiquitous picture of the ‘surfboard’ (a visual diagram that explains how AWP supports a project). By contrast, the very first word that was heard from almost all of the excellent presenters on the Lean methodology was Respectrespect. They hold that concept very dear, and it seems to guide everything they do.

Where AWP focuses heavily on the process, Lean spends more time and energy assessing the people’s perspective. Some examples of the different approaches taken by AWP and Lean included:

Getting people, especially construction personnel, onto the project early is a central tenet of the AWP structure. Making sure those people are included in discussions, allowed to express their opinions, and respected for what they bring to the team is the focus for Lean.

Standard hierarchical organization charts, where AWP looks to make sure that Workface Planners and AWP personnel are included, are flipped on their head with Lean, where the idea is that the person in charge is there to ensure that the people below them (or in this inverted model, above them) can do their jobs effectively. They become facilitators and enablers, rather than managers.

Schedules (especially the unwieldy, 100-page P6 schedules that are all too common on a lot of projects), hold less value with Lean, and are superseded by short-term planning for realistic, achievable goals.

To attain these short-term goals, and to keep the project on track, AWP likes to consider the structure, the granularity, the packages, the constraints, and the logistics. Lean, by comparison, look to the people, who are asked to make personal commitments and be accountable for delivering on those promises.

Key performance indicators for AWP are focused on packages, on EWPs Engineering Work Packages (EWPs) delivered on time, on Installation Work Package (IWP) manhour backlogs. The first, and most oft-repeated of the Lean KPIs were promises kept – how many of the commitments that we made are being delivered.

And some of it just boils down to names. For AWP, the daily planning is done at the site, – where supervisors are brought together to discuss what has been done and what will be done tomorrow, – is often referred to as a War Room (or sometimes a Battle Board). For Lean, they call it a Big Room, which is a wonderfully self-explanatory title. It also steers away from the hostility of the AWP naming convention, which is why we at O3 typically prefer to call these Planning Rooms.

So, does all this mean that I am a Lean convert, and will be dropping AWP like a hot stone? No, of course not. AWP is an excellent project delivery system with a proven history. It was very encouraging to hear all of the Lean presenters talking about the areas of AWP that they admire, and will be starting to use now that they understand them. We saw a two-way street is laid between the two groups/programs, which will hopefully foster continued collaboration and sharing of ideas.

Lean can adopt the best of what AWP brings, and AWP can do the same with Lean. No seismic shifts. No sudden changes of direction. Just a realization that we are all learning, and that there are people out there with excellent ideas, which, if we are prepared to listen, can help us improve.

My thanks to the team at Group ASI for hosting the event, and for all the hard work that went into the numerous presentations and working sessions.

If there is anyone in the Lean community who would like to know more about AWP or is interested in the technology behind managing AWP on a project, please reach out to us at any time.