Lean or AWP? How Advanced Work Packaging is Reshaping Capital Projects

The move away from Lean and toward construction-driven Advanced Work Packaging is changing the way we execute capital projects. Why?

Whether I’m speaking or consulting, I can always guarantee that someone will ask me some variation of the question: “Lean or AWP?” Leaders and practitioners alike want to know if Lean and AWP are mutually exclusive, or if they can be applied to a project together, and if so, how. My thinking on this has changed over the past few years, and today I would tell you that AWP is the best choice for capital projects, hands down.

Why? Because the reality is that we have been applying Lean principles to capital projects for the past two decades, and we can see from our outcomes that Lean thinking alone is not effective in delivering on-time, on-budget capital projects. Lean construction principles are important and beneficial, and we can apply them alongside Advanced Work Packaging, but Lean alone is not the answer. 

Here are three reasons I believe that AWP is capturing the sector.


1 | Rigorous, Disciplined, Integrated Planning

The Path of Construction (PoC) is a game-changing deliverable unique to the Advanced Work Packaging method. It is a step-by-step construction strategy that explains exactly how you are going to build your capital project in the field. It is the product of an integrated, rigorous, disciplined planning process that takes into account the needs of all stakeholders. On most modern capital projects, there’s nothing like it.

In my experience, the quality of a project’s Path of Construction is highly correlated with project predictability. This is because the PoC curates and distills all the best thinking from across the entire project team. It reflects the cumulative intelligence and experience of the engineering, procurement and construction teams; the human resources, contracting and leadership teams; plus the history and characteristics of the site, such as weather and politics. The PoC is unique to AWP — unlike a critical path, it is mandatory, collaborative, and comprehensive.


2 | A Critical Focus on the Workface

Planning is not a waste. On the contrary, planning is a critical, core component of a project execution system that delivers on-time and on-budget. Construction-driven projects that use the AWP method use Workface Planning (WFP) to deliver predictable results. WFP is the organization of field execution around the creation of fully resourced packages of work that can be executed by a single construction crew in five to 10 days, or around 1,000 hours. 

On a construction site, Workface Planners give their full attention to the creation and management of detailed Installation Work Packages (IWPs). These IWPs are broken down by discipline and delivered to the construction manager and foreman fully resourced and ready to execute. This means the Workface Planner has put all the labor, materials, tools, drawings and other project requirements in place so the construction leaders can focus on execution. Done consistently, this helps to improve safety, maximize tool time and reduce resource-related delays. 

Planning is not a waste. On the contrary, planning is a critical, core component of a project execution system that delivers on-time and on-budget.

While construction leaders can learn much from Lean thinking, it was not created for construction. AWP, by contrast, is a system designed by construction leaders, for construction projects. Workface Planning acknowledges the reality that capital project construction requires people, technology, tools and resources — a complex and highly variable array of inputs that cannot be automated (not yet, at least). This level of on-site planning is key to delivering on-time, on-budget — two things that clients truly value.


3 | Standardized Language for Construction Projects

I’ve worked on capital projects in North America, Europe and the Middle East, and so I can say with confidence that one of the most formidable impediments to predictable capital projects is the absence of a standardized language to discuss them. From minor inefficiencies to major crises, many — if not most — of the problems we encounter boil down to miscommunication. Standardized language can go a long way toward remedying that. 

The critical need to standardize capital project language is one of the key reasons we sought ISO9001 certification for Concord®’s Advanced Work Packaging Fundamentals Certification course. It’s also why I published my book, Advanced Work Packaging: Guide for Life Cycle Implementation.  Standardizing the language we use to talk about capital construction projects fosters clear, accurate communication, and it’s one of the reasons that AWP has been able to accomplish in a few years what Lean has been unable to accomplish in decades.



I studied Lean when I was in university, I recognize that it has been spectacularly successful in the manufacturing sector, and I do think it brings value to the capital project sector. That said, I no longer believe that capital project leaders need both AWP and Lean to succeed. I now believe that AWP is perfectly effective on its own. Lean is a valuable addition, but it’s not essential. 

I’m not alone. The speed with which AWP is being adopted across the capital projects sector is a testament to the value that leaders and practitioners are finding in a construction-driven approach to capital projects. While Lean thinking will always be a tool in our execution toolbox, AWP is providing the structural reform our industry so desperately needs.

If you’re ready to get on board with the changes transforming our industry, the Concord® team is standing by to help. Contact us today.

Share This Post