The integrated project delivery (IPD) method encourages all involved trade partners to share the risk and success of a project. While this ensures that team members are entering the project with the same mentality and goals, mistakes are still likely to be made. Not all IPD projects are the same, but there are common mistakes made that can make or break a project. Being aware of the possible mistakes, and how to overcome them on your next IPD project can help to alleviate potential issues. Be on the lookout for these top six commonly made mistakes on IPD projects:

1. Lack of clear expectations set by the team
The first step to starting an IPD project is fully understanding what the owner expects from his/her team, and the conditions of satisfaction. When these expectations are not clear, the confusion continues to run downhill and begins to impact the teams at all levels. A potential solution may be something as simple as establishing the rules of engagement or as complex as mitigating conflicts. Regardless of how simple or complex it may be, it is imperative that clear expectations and directions are given. Otherwise, the project will suffer and never gain traction.

2. Poor collaboration from general contractors and trade partners
Nothing says “lack of team” like poor collaboration from the players that are supposed to be working together. This is probably one of the largest areas of waste often seen on projects. It can entail mishandled requests for information (RFI’s), an unclear hand-off process, or worse, trade partners arguing in the field instead of installing scheduled work. Poor collaboration destroys morale, creates conflicts, instigates trade damage, and promotes an unhealthy “us versus them” type of environment.

3. Lack of buy-in to the IPD process
Teams that fail to buy-in or are not given the opportunity to do so can only lead to disaster. Complete buy-in requires a little more time upfront. When leadership makes every effort to obtain buy-in from the major stakeholders at every level, it allows all relevant parties to play a part in the project and feel accountable. To allow members to feel like an equal contributor, it’s important to give time to ask questions or get opinions from key project leaders with IPD experience. Taking the time to do so can be the difference between success and failure.

4. A belief that an IPD project is a magic pill or easy
Anyone that has been on an IPD project realizes that the process requires hard work, discipline, and a continuous commitment to improving. Unfortunately, if the team or any main players are not prepared for that commitment, the process will ultimately fail. The discipline needed to stay the course is often harder than returning to a traditional methodology. As the popularity and encouragement of utilizing lean processes continues to grow, it may appear as if anyone could do it by taking a class, utilizing sheer will power, or simply hiring a consultant. This mentality can lead to many frustrating days and months if the team is not prepared to work together, engage regularly, and manage the process from start to completion.

5. Misusing lean tools
Being part of a traditionally ran project can be much more manageable than a project misusing tools designed to help. Misusing tools can end up hurting the team’s performance due to misunderstanding their optimal purpose. Often times when lean tools are misused, the team is left with a poor image of what lean tools are designed to do. Nothing is ever perfect, but when the team authentically tries to implement lean processes, it can work. Half-stepping towards the goal will prove to be a recipe for disaster and promote a disdain for the cause overall.

6. Visual aids (charts & graphs, etc.) that fail to depict the project’s real story
There have been countless discussions with lean leaders that fight over pretty pictures and graphs instead of recognizing the actual work being performed in the field or not. Work can never be replaced with graphs or stories, especially if they do not reflect what is actually taking place on the project. Although a measure of both components play a major role in the process, the work being performed in the field should always take precedence over charts and graphs placed on the wall of the project office. While visual aids help to tell the story happening, it is just as important to ensure that what is being posted aligns with what is actually occurring.

There will always be room for improvement. It is often said, “if you’re not making mistakes you’re probably not doing anything.” In reality, the key is to not to make the same ones over and over.

IPD projects can be exciting, fun, and challenging, while simultaneously offering an opportunity for like-minded people to come together and build awesome projects. Traditional projects can stifle the diversity of thought, creative thinking, and complex ideas that bring value to customers. With all this brain power in one place, mistakes and multiple opinions are bound to happen, but more can be accomplished with a team trying to improve, rather than go solo and not accomplish as much.

What other mistakes do you think are common on IPD projects? Let us know in the comments!


  • Henry Nutt

    Sheet Metal General Superintendent

    As Sheet Metal General Superintendent for Southland’s Northern California Division, Henry Nutt is responsible for managing shop and field staff, assisting with project scheduling, personnel assignments and training, managing tools and equipment and project safety, as well as interfacing with the unions. He is directly involved with Southland’s lean construction delivery method, also is an instructor and frequent participant at the Lean Construction Institute’s quarterly trainings and an instructor at the annual LCI Congress seminar.  Mr. Nutt sits on the Lean Task Force for both SMACNA and the Association of General Contractors (AGC).   He has several published articles written on the topic of construction innovation.  As a mentor for students, Mr. Nutt is also very involved with CityBuild, a non-profit organization that prepares underprivileged San Francisco residents for employment in the trades.

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