The University of Minnesota recently published a research report confirming the benefits of Integrated Project Delivery ("IPD") and Lean practices. The study, an in-depth evaluation of 10 projects built in North America, provides significant validation of both the processes and the results.

The report primarily focuses on how and why IPD and Lean are so effective. An important finding was the complementary nature of the IPD delivery model with Lean practices. It is the combination of the two, in particular, that supported project success. IPD provided the contractual basis for collaboration. It accomplished this through the sharing of risk and reward, early involvement of key participants, trust, a commitment to shared goals and limitation on liability. Lean provided the means for teams to collaborate effectively on cost, schedule and other goals.

The study found that the teams demonstrated a “project first approach” that allowed them to more effectively tackle complex issues and to recover from unexpected setbacks. The study also found that the collaboration trait was established at team formation. An early emphasis on motivation, alignment and mentoring created a culture that facilitated high-performing team behaviors. As one participant characterized it, IPD and Lean are “always a carrot and never a stick.”

One payoff was the finding that champions came from all levels and areas of expertise as innovation was prized and hierarchy disregarded. In effect, the IPD/Lean culture removed traditional roadblocks and permitted outsized contributions from unexpected sources.

The most significant finding was that “the[se] teams were effective in making sense of the owners’ goals and translating this understanding into action, even in cases where the goals were not completely clear or there were changes over time.” This study represents a major step toward empirical validation of IPD and Lean practices. It is a significant benefit to advocates who have previously had to rely on anecdotal evidence for support. For the right projects, it should always be considered.