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I am a Post Graduate student in Infrastructure Engineering and Management. I want to do a project regarding Agile Project Management.

My questions are:

Is the Agile approach successful in construction?

If I do a Project on the topic "Agile Project Management in Construction" will I be able to get relevant data from construction companies?

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I don't know much about construction, but it seems to me that it's more suited to Agile than software. :-)

The steps to be taken are clearly defined, as the length of time each step takes is also well known, usually.

So it boils down to planning it all carefully so that the right people and items are present at the correct time, and then dealing with delays.

You can probably get relevant data of the internet if you dig deep enough. If not, go to a construction site and buy the headman a pint of beer, and get all the info you need.

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Is the Agile approach successful in construction?

I don't know, but I doubt it would be successful. One of the core ideas behind Agile development is "Responding to change" and I can't see how that would work for a construction project. In construction, you can't afford to have someone say "I don't like that wall there. Move it over 6 inches.", but that's very inexpensive to do in software. Also, the parts of a building must be built sequentially. You have to pour the foundation, then frame it, then the roof, then finish the inside. You've got to line up all those men and materials up months in advance in order for things to go smoothly. Lastly, construction is usually done by many specialized teams, rather than a single cross functional one. I don't want a plumber nailing shingles down.

That said, one area of construction work where I think Agile development might work is in Architecture. I can easily envision a team of architects using Scrum to design a building or bridge. Note the parallels to software:

  1. It's knowledge/design work. The finished product is simply a blue print for mass producing the real product.
  2. Change is easy and cheap. "Can we change that? click click, tappy tap Done."
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Never heard of it, except a KanBan in supply management. But I have a story for you.

I have an uncle. He strongly believed that man should be able to build a house on his own, with family help of course. He still working on it, as there is no limit to perfection. When I first found the Agile approach for product development, I was surprised how close it was for uncles building approach.

Development was organized in timeboxed releases called seasons, and monthlong sprints. Basically, he built it from May to September each year, and gathered feedback from family and friends from October to April. There was an undocumented backlog of features, that was constantly prioritized, and estimated in relative size. Family picked up features from this verbal list to the "sprint backlog" prior the start of a season based on what they have managed to finish last season.

He started for building the MVP, that was garage dug in the hillside, to have a temporary shelter and a simple toilet and shower to make stay a bit more comfortable. It allowed the family to stay there during the season, without the need to return to their apartments in the city.

Next season family decided to connect their homestead to the centralized power grid and water supply, to make the stay more comfortable and also he built terraces on the hillside to reinforce the hill and divide it into areas, so he can develop areas separately.

Next season they planted a garden, and added basement to store the goods from garden and annex to store the tools, spare parts for a car, materials.

Next season they finished ground floor, with the electric network.

Season after they finished interior design, added windows.

Season after they have planted the vineyard to protect house from sun and create dinner zone outdoors in the shadow of it.

Next season they built one more floor and an attic to host friends and family. Installed solid fuel boiler and heating system.

Next season they have rebuilt balcony into a kitchen and added the indoor shower and toilet, with sewerage, outdoor toilet and shower now used as a shed for garden tools.

Next seasons they have made a pond for a swimming, and fishing. Dug out the weels to get clear water, added climate control, the internet and the satellite TV, plant spruce in front for Christmas and a new year, installed energy saving upgrades, basen, teeterboard, veranda, automated irrigation system, car repair shop e.t.c.

They strongly followed lean principles, without even knowing what it is. They had a strong definition of done, they always had a "sitdowns" on morning and evening, where they have discussed progress, plans, and issues.

As the result, they have the best custom tailored house in the area, they started to live there before any other neighbour. Total product cost is significantly less than in big bang house of neighbors, as they bought materials on sales, and discounts, on low market seasons. Each and every detail is thought through after using a house for years, I have never seen such comfortable house ever after in 13 countries I have visited. The vision of the house shifted through years and the current house version was far from original design. A lot's of typical mistakes of generic house projects was avoided, due to an iterative approach, and early problem detection, maintenance cost a very low, because the house was built to stand there for ages, and still the design has a potential to add more rooms at low cost. The difference between the generic houses around and uncle house is dramatic despite superior annual family incomes of the neighbours.

You possibly can't go that way if you build generic, fire and forget, big plan up front, strict budget houses for sale, but agile is a weapon of choice if your intention to build maximum comfort environment for your family, at low price.

Recommended reading:

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