Framework for the implementation of lean construction strategies using the interpretive structural modelling (ISM) technique: a case of the Saudi construction industry

Jamil Ghazi Sarhan*, Bo Xia, Azharul Karim, Ayokunle Olubunmi Olanipekun, Vaughan Coffey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework for implementing lean construction and consequently to improve performance levels in the construction industry in the context of Saudi Arabia. There is currently no framework for implementing lean construction specifically tailored to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) construction industry. Existing lean construction frameworks are focussed on other countries and are less applicable in the KSA due to differences in socio-cultural and operational contexts.

Design/methodology/approach: This study employs the interpretive structural modelling (ISM) technique for data collection and analysis. First, following a survey of 282 construction professionals, 12 critical success factors (CSFs) for implementing lean construction in the KSA construction industry were identified by Sarhan et al. (2016). Second, 16 of these professionals who have 15 years or more experience were exclusively selected to examine the contextual relationship among the 12 CSFs. A row and column questionnaire was used for a pairwise comparison of the CSFs. A matrix of cross-impact multiplications (MICMAC) was applied to analyse the questionnaire data to develop an ISM model that can serve as a framework for implementing lean construction. Third, the framework was subjected to further validation by interviewing five experts to check for conceptual inconsistencies and to confirm the applicability of the framework in the context of the KSA construction industry.

Findings: The findings reveal that the CSFs are divided into four clusters: autonomous, linkage, dependent and driving clusters. Additionally, the findings reveal seven hierarchies of inter-relationships among the CSFs. The order of practical application of the CSFs descends from the seventh hierarchy to the first hierarchy.

Originality/value: The new framework is a significant advancement over existing lean construction frameworks as it employs an ISM technique to specify the hierarchical relationships among the different factors that contribute to the successful implementation of lean construction. The primary value of this study is the development of a new framework that reflects the socio-cultural and operational contexts in the KSA construction industry and can guide the successful implementation of lean construction. Therefore, construction industry operators such as contractors, consultants, government departments and professionals can rely on the framework to implement lean construction more effectively and successfully.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalEngineering, Construction and Architectural Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2019


  • construction
  • engineering
  • management
  • project management
  • construction site

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