Future University – Edge Zones
February 5, 2013 – 6:47 pm | Comments Off on Future University – Edge Zones

I’ve been thinking a bit about the future of the university, and it seems to me that a new model may be emerging, one that has something of the traditional sanctuary of a place of learning, but that innovatively engages communities, both local and international. There will, of course, have to be those preserves where students and teachers can contemplate their experience and learn together, but there must also be what, for the moment, one might think of as an edge zone where interactions of many kinds might take place.

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Home » Headline, Lean-Design

Five Whys – A Lean Design Approach to Reducing Waste

Submitted by on March 9, 2011 – 9:18 pm5 Comments

by Dan Anderson

“There is nothing more wasteful than becoming highly efficient at doing all the wrong things” Peter Drucker

Those of us who work in the areas of planning, design and construction unfortunately find waste on a far too regular basis. The degree of waste is high, some estimate at thirty percent on a typical project. This isn’t just waste in the literal sense of scrap materials or lost time. In keeping with a Lean Design approach; we define waste as anything that does not add value to the customer.

Lean Design solutions target the reduction of waste in the design process in order to better respond to client needs and deliver higher value. The first step, learning to identify waste, is a relatively easy. A closer look at the design process from a Lean Design perspective helps identify different types of waste:

  1. Design progress in advance of information
  2. Design in more detail than required by current phase
  3. Rework of design and documents
  4. Unnecessary design iterations
  5. Excessive drawing and documentation detail
  6. Wait time
  7. Unnecessary travel

A deeper dive into each type of waste is required to find root causes and creatively find solutions. We use ‘Five Whys’ as part of a continuous improvement approach to address the underlying causes of waste and identify effective solutions. Often these solutions are within our individual capabilities but sometimes they require the reworking of larger processes and cut across business units, practice disciplines and even organizations.

In this light, failures to stem waste occur in large degree to a breakdown in communication. This may be internal to a project team or due to the separation of work and project roles across practices that are traditionally partitioned off from each other; design (architect) decision-making (client) and implementation (building contractor/trades.) Other root causes of waste are embedded in the procedures and work practices of our organizations where waste often occurs despite our best professional intentions and efforts to the contrary.

Lean Design grows out of the idea that a collaborative and shared risk and reward approach is a more effective way of addressing, managing and reducing waste throughout the entire design and construction process. The desired end result is to deliver a higher quality design product that more directly responds to client needs.

  • Patrick

    Great Post! Thanks for your thoughts

  • Lloydrt

    It is good that a designed can actually consider efficency of use as I have had to explian to architects that the location of a cash register would create 8km of addtional walking per day per employee. costing 25% of the wage bill.
    This can be scaled to cities where the average commute if costed in labour only would buy for another house over a working life. You are right is that most of the inefficiency is embedded in infrastructure.

  • http://www.leanproject.com Hal

    Nice reworking of Ohno’s 7 wastes to fit design. Also, our work on projects matches your experience in identifying the why we struggle to stem the wastes. Poor communication, particularly involving coordination of work, is the number one culprit. Getting good at everyday commitment conversations — making requests and promises — and adopting practices for being reliable with our promises dramatically reduces the design wastes. Some firms who’ve been at this awhile report they can grow their as-sold margins rather than the usual margin erosion we find in many situations.

    You might also want to look at putting even more attention on 5 Whys. In a conversation I had with Gary Convis, former North American President of Toyota Motors Manufacturing, i learned that over 80% of all improvements Toyota makes each year “start and finish with a good 5 why.” They don’t need the advanced problem-solving tools and skills to get the bulk of over 25 adopted improvements/person/year. Imagine how much less waste we would have in design if we could get that kind of attention to the everyday sources of variation in our work! That conversation with Gary inspired me to experiment with the 5 Why approach. Those experiments led me to develop the approach I named “Good 5-Why™”. Our clients are getting 10 or more improvements from each Good 5-Why they are doing.

    Hal Macomber

  • http://christianpaulsen62.wordpress.com/ Christian Paulsen


    Interesting post. I don’t have much design experience but can see that parallels between these 7 wastes and the classic 7 wastes of Lean. Some people tack on an 8th waste which is unused people’s creativity. It seems like that one would apply as is.

    The 5-Why root cause analysis technique is a great tool for reducing waste by addressing root causes. Here is an article on the 7 Steps to do a 5 Why: http://wp.me/pZiRD-j2

    Thanks for sharing,

  • Pooja Goud

    Dear Dan,

    Interesting Post!

    I absolutely agree with this .I believe that the design stage is the heart of any construction project accompanied by various other important factors.Most of the waste in the project life cycle is contributed by the design phase.Those seven listed major and typical wastes listed above have been a concern almost in all the projects in a case study of a company that I have recently done.Lean approach of Five Why’s is definitely helpful for projects and companies to reduce waste in their design process.”Revisiting and reworking on the work process has become a major issue for the companies because of the fragmented nature of the industry” is the answer I got from all the stakeholders I met for this case study.Can you please comment something on this front??