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Karel Kalis, new director of the Global Master’s in Construction Project Management at Zigurat


Karel Kalis is the new academic director of the Global Master’s in Construction Project Management, the next edition of which will start in November 2021. Karel’s specialty in the Construction Sector is the Lean Methodology, and he is currently holding the category of "Head of Lean and Process Value Creation" at Janssen de Jong Groep (The Netherlands). In this line, he likes to describe himself as a “firestarter”. His passion, in his words, is to think how to approach projects differently and inspire the teams involved. Karel Kalis, from The Netherlands, is a Construction Engineer who has worked his way up through the ranks to leadership positions. In recent years, he has held Project Manager positions in several restoration, renovation and maintenance projects. In the latter field, he has led several complex projects on monumental buildings in crowded city centers, like the Rijksmuseum or the Theater Carré in Amsterdam. All this, with an extra difficulty: the ‘in use’ status of these buildings: “In these projects there is no room for error, for quality deficits and not even for a construction site. I managed to empower people to divide the project into small pieces and execute them one by one in a one-piece-flow with matching just-in-time logistics. This way the visitors of these buildings had no nuisance, and shows and exhibitions could continue as usual. We completed the projects sooner than planned for a lower budget and a higher profit,” explains Karel. From this Project Manager Position, he explains, he was responsible for the budget, the project, the customer satisfaction and for the team, which gave him many possibilities to implement and evolve Lean Methodologies. Working with teams, collaborating and chasing common goals brought him so much joy that he decided to bet on this innovative methodology and become Head of Lean Management. “I know what it takes to engage and empower teams in a construction project on all levels, to think differently and organize the order, routing, logistics, continuous delivery and continuous improvement in a project from a value adding and waste eliminating standpoint.” Karel summarizes in the previous quote the basis of Lean Management, which he assures, is a methodology that brings benefits for all stakeholders: it makes work more enjoyable and productive for people involved, but it also helps customers with shorter lead times. As a manager, he explains, the key to success is feeling where everybody's value is and how everybody can contribute at the same time together for the common goal. And that is why Karel insists on the need to put people at the center of the projects. “No matter how detailed your offers are, or your budget is, or your plan of action is. In the end, if people are not lined up for the same goal as a team, you will never receive a good end result. As they say, the chain is as strong as the weakest link. So it's very important to have everybody on board.” Neurolinguistics is about how the brain is programmed, and about how it is activated through language. Karel explains us more in a simple way: “If somebody tells you something, you have your own experiences and filters that make that message put you in a certain mood.” He decided to specialize in this discipline after his first Lean sessions, when he discovered that methodologies were not so important than people involved in the projects: “Lean is not about putting cards on the wall, making your planning or your schedule. It is not about the outcome. It is about the process, and the process is about people. And people are about their beliefs, their experiences and their fears. Maybe some things that are not said out loud, but are of influence getting the team lined up.” For Karel, being the new Academic Director of the Global Master’s in Construction Project Management is a way to gain more knowledge and skills in his profession. It is also a way to be challenged by others, and to get a better understanding of the cultural differences in the construction sector worldwide. It is, also, a way to contribute to the construction sector’s change: “I believe that it is important to educate people about the possibilities of Lean in project management. These ideas are a game changer for the greater good. I feel the need to contribute in spreading the word as an academic director.” The new challenge starts for Karel next November, but it can also start for you. Remember that you can still enroll in our Global Master’s in Construction Project Management, which Karel will head as academic director.