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Lean Design Management: Applications to Natural Resource Management

Lean Design Management
is a design management process that is applied most often within the construction sector. Its applicability to natural resources management is evident through the similarities between construction management and natural resources management.

Historically and philosophically, lean design management is based on lean thinking. Lean thinking’s focus is on decreasing production time and inventory, while increasing market share. This is similar to just-in-time production whose precursor is the Toyota Production System. The Toyota Production System was developed and implemented between 1950 and 1975 in Japan. It is was a way for Toyota to maximize car production and economic rents, while minimizing waste during production and non-performing end-product, which is also another form of waste.

Why does this matter to natural resource managers?

It matters because natural resource managers often face making long-term decisions early within a design and implementation process so as to control cost, manage time commitments, and mitigate risks. While, at the same time, due to the iteration and adaptive management required for effective natural resource management, these same natural resource managers may also be pushed to wait till as late as possible to make key decisions. This way they can keep doors open to natural resource management options as long as possible.

There are similar constraints and processes within construction management, as illustrated by Lean Design Management.

So if the natural resource manager makes early decisions these decisions may hamper their capacity to be iterative. While if they wait to make decisions late within a process, these same natural resource managers may experience cost overruns.

So again, why does this matter to natural resource managers?

The key design and implementation tenants within Lean Design Management are layered design processes; layered design implementation; and encouraging adaptive management and iteration. These four themes are key hindrances to effective land-use carbon sequestration activities.

We all agree that climate change is occurring, and most of us agree that land-use carbon sequestration activities (regardless if these activities include direct market or non-market tools) are key to climate change mitigation.

Where we can make an immediate impact as natural resource managers is learning from Lean Design Management processes so that our land-use carbon sequestration activities exhibit:

Obviously, engaging in a discussion of effective land-use management for carbon sequestration and related biodiversity and socio-economic co-benefits where we apply business management tools is filled with suspicion. This too must be acknowledged and plainly discussed. We need to consider that roughly 80% of a car is recycled, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. This means we may wish to open up dialogue with Lean Design Management specialists to learn from their successes and failures whether there are key applications to mitigating climate change with land-based carbon sequestration.

If we can apply these tools effectively to the complicated processes within construction management, we certainly may be able to more effectively and in a more timely fashion manage our land for carbon sequestration.

How to order:

Lean Design Management

Publisher: Taylor & Francis

Editors: Stephen Emmitt

ISBN: 978-1-84971-431-0

This book was originally published as a special issue of Architectural Engineering and Design Management.

Gabriel Thoumi, CFA, LEED AP, is a natural resource scientist and financial consultant.

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