Eliminating Invisible Waste in Construction Projects
by Michael Ward

Introducing Michael Ward

Michael WardAs a management consultant specialising in the construction industry Michael Ward undertook the Graduate Diploma of Ontological Coaching because he could see that an ontological approach to construction projects could offer significant benefits. He had been aware for many years of the significant waste that occurred in billion dollar projects, however this waste was not always recognised.

Michael emphasises that unrecognised waste is invisible waste. Utilising his learning in the Graduate Diploma of the indispensable importance of effectively making and managing of commitments for organisational performance and workplace morale, Michael has very successfully supported project teams with the Commitments Wall process.

Invisible Waste

Waste is so common in construction projects that it can be invisible to the participants. Some examples of common occurrences of waste are:

Unfortunately, on a day-to-day basis these common occurrences are accepted as ‘normal’, rendering the waste invisible and frequent occurrences do not trigger remedial actions. The measurement to identify the value being lost is not in place. This may limit the response to local efforts or resignation by those directly affected that remedies are organisational and beyond their capacity to rectify.

Collaboration, coordination and trust are essential if projects are to be completed on time within budget. This necessitates high quality conversations and the successful making and managing of commitments, which include the essential conversational practices of:

The Commitments Wall

The Commitments Wall is a process that builds performance-based reliability through:

From our attendance at the regular weekly progress meeting following the initial presentation and discussion around the Commitments Wall process the following has consistently been observed:

The Commitments Wall in action

The Commitments Wall provides the common reference point for all team meetings. The photograph provides an example of a Commitments Wall in action, with different groups within the project posting the various tasks they are involved in and when they commit to complete their tasks. This ensures all aspects of the project are visible to the entire project team, providing the opportunity for clarification and discussion about the progress of different components of the project and the project overall. This includes conversations about commitments that have not been met and are past their deadline for completion.

Commitments Wall


The Commitments Wall allows for structured conversations. Leadership is crucial to ensure that moods remain positive, that constructive conversations for performance and clarifying different understandings occur on a regular basis and that meetings are well conducted.

The Commitments Wall meeting structure is pivotal to the success of the project and this is outlined below:

Step 1. Review last week’s commitments

Step 2. Metrics

Step 3. Next week

Step 4. Meeting leader

Meeting leader leads discussion in relation to the tasks posted to confirm:

Closing comments

There are significant cost savings on offer for project teams who introduce processes and measurements to improve the reliability of workflow through enhanced communication, planning and focus. Measuring the cost of waste caused by breakdowns in reliability may provide the motivation. Some basic tips to ensure the success of the Commitments Wall process are:

Michael Ward works with Alchimie as a consultant and executive coach and he can be contacted at

© Newfield Institute



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