Solving design management problems using lean design management : the role of trust

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Purpose: Although prior studies have noted the importance of trust for project performance, research remains scant on describing the role of trust when using lean design management (LDM) in projects. This study explores the connection between LDM and interpersonal trust in solving construction projects’ design management problems.

Design: A qualitative study was conducted that included 29 trust- and LDM-themed semi-structured interviews in the United States (California), Brazil and Finland; 11 focus group discussions were also organized to validate the interview findings.

Findings: The study reveals how LDM contributes to solving design management problems through two distinct but interconnected mechanisms: 1) improved information flow and 2) improved trust among project team members. A conceptual framework was crafted to illustrate the mechanisms in building trust by means of the social domain of LDM concepts.

Research limitations: The conceptual framework requires testing through an international survey or through multiple case studies.

Practical implications: The results indicate that design management would benefit from trustful environments and that trust may be the catalyst for actors’ engagement with LDM. Managers in charge of design within projects can use the conceptual framework when selecting the appropriate LDM tools, which should include both the social and technical domains.

Originality: The study emphasizes the importance of the social domain of LDM concepts. Previous studies have focussed on information flow aspects of LDM but have overlooked the value of interpersonal trust in solving design management problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1387-1405
Number of pages19
JournalEngineering, Construction and Architectural Management
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • trust
  • lean design management (LDM))
  • collaboration
  • information flow
  • construction project
  • communication
  • design management


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