Action Research


Several types of research are carried out at P2SL, but the dominant form is action research.

What is Action Research?

In traditional laboratory experiments, the ideal is zero interaction between what is being observed and the researcher observing. Action research is almost the exact opposite. Suppose a group of industry practitioners were to ask the Laboratory to help them understand and develop target costing or some other management practice such as Last Planner, reducing assignment setup time, designing operations, etc. The Laboratory would scan the world to find what others have said and done on ‘target costing’, communicate that to the team of practitioners with whom they’re doing the research, then together researchers and practitioners would design and execute an experiment. For example, they might decide to try value workshops in the planning phase of a project, bringing downstream players upstream to help clients better understand the consequences of their desires and alternative ways of achieving their purposes, or they might decide to try cost modeling to provide rapid feedback to designers, as an alternative to traditional estimating. The researchers become part of the project team, performing the role of data collectors while participating in the execution of the experiment and helping make in-flight adjustments.

Theory informs practice and practice informs theory. Physicists are trying to understand what’s true about the world that we humans cannot change. We (designers, engineers, builders, ….) want to change the world. Action research is our way of learning through informed experience what works and what doesn’t work; what we humans can do in the world to realize our purposes.

Ongoing and Past Research Initiatives

  • Industrialized Construction
  • Safety and Psychological Safety
  • Conceptual Estimating and Cost Modeling
  • Last Planner(R) System and Takt Planning
  • Big Data and Digital Twins, Virtual Design and Construction, Building Information Modeling (BIM)
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Target Value Design (TVD)
  • Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)
  • Lean in Public Sector Construction (LIPS)
  • Collaborative Decisionmaking, Choosing By Advantages (CBA)