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Readers may recall a study I did a few years ago attempting to identify the most reliable predictor of future new home sales activity.  The closest predictor turned out to be the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Study (MCSS).  The trick was that you had to adjust the MCSS data six months FORWARD to match new home sales.  In other words, six months after MCSS started to improve, new home buyers feel confident enough to buy a new home.
After last weeks blog  about the great match up of Lean and custom homes I received the following inspiring "boots on the ground" letter from reader and fellow Leanista Roger Bess: Todd,
The 5th article in my series on Quality Management was just published by Professional Builder Magazine and appears concurrently on www.HousingZone.com. It is titled “10 Steps to Mastering Field Quality” and at the end of the piece I offered a PDF with all 5 of the articles in a single document. I have since been deluged with more than 30 requests sitting in my mailbox just this morning. In my 15 years writing monthly for the building industry, this is the most requested article or series I have ever done with more than 100 requests to date.
Yes we are making lists again! Make two lists. In one list the elements of company cultures that you have experienced and liked. In the other list elements of company cultures that you experienced and did not like. So you may not have liked the bureaucratic approach in one organization, in another you valued their focus on training and development for example. When you are done, circle those issues in BOTH lists that you feel honestly reflect YOUR company culture now!
“It is leadership, that recognizes that structure and goals are not effective without the corresponding tactics and that neither will generate strong and positive business results without effective implementation.” Armand V Feigenbaum & Donald S Feigenbaum The Power of Management Capital 2003
Forming, storming, norming and performing are the four key stages in team formation. Forming: This is a short lived period when the team initially gets together. The members get to know each other and why the team has been formed.  The team leader is strongly in control at this point.
I'm a sucker for a good love story. I get emotional at the end of Pretty Woman, and will watch Can't Buy Me Love over and over again. However, one story that really gets me misty is the love story between custom home clients and Lean Design. It's allure is based on the fact that the pairing of the two is just so rare. It is every bit as rare as the hapless geeky guy getting the prom queen, or the doe eyed working girl (with the heart of gold) ending up with the billionaire corporate raider.
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Tony Fadell. But I would bet a very large sum of money (okay, $100) that you’ve heard of his most notable creation. As a young computer science engineer out of the University of Michigan in the 1990s, Fadell was instrumental in the design and development of half a dozen consumer electronic products, including early versions of the tablet computer and PDAs.
Some customers can be “impossible to please” (IP), but keep in mind, when open to the public, a home building company is exposed to all personalities within the public.  After all, that idiot that cut you off on the highway this morning lives somewhere!  This means, on rare occasions you will sell a home to one of these IP customers.  A home builder that builds 20 homes per year statistically should experience an IP once every 2-3 years.  A home builder building 300 homes per year will likely see 8-10 IP customers per year.  The question is: What should be the strat
“Management has to give direction to the institution it manages. It has to think through the institution’s mission, has to set its objectives and has to organize resources for the results the institution has to contribute.” Peter F Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practice, 1973 The National Housing Quality Award, Criteria for Performance Excellence, provides an infrastructure to support exactly that!
While both open cell and closed cell spray foam insulation are proven and effective commercial solutions, each product has its own unique set of qualities and is more ideal for certain applications. Armed with this knowledge, specifiers can make better educated decisions when it comes to product selection.
One of Demings ‘Seven Deadly Diseases’ is ‘The Emphasis on Short-Term Profits’ and therefore on short term thinking. Despite the lessons of the recession, so much of corporate thinking is still driven by the short term view.
Here is a simple exercise to help you reflect on your leadership. Make two lists.  One is headed, ‘leadership I respected and valued’, the other will have the heading of ‘poor leadership’. Under ‘leadership I respected and valued’ list examples you have experienced.  To do this think about someone in your career that you respected and valued, this might be someone that was a mentor (whether they knew it or not) a great boss, you father, a team lead that you really enjoyed working with. What are the things that inspired you.
Many experts have said that it is unreasonable for a company’s leadership to expect their employees to take better care of their customers, than the company does for the employees.  There is a lot of truth in this reasoning, but in addition to customer satisfaction implications there are business operations to consider too.When the industry tanked, most home building companies felt that if an employee still had a job, they darn well should be satisfied!  The drastic market decline forced builders to 1) reduce staff, 2) eliminate bonuses, 3) trim benefits and even 4) reduce
“The overall purpose of a site visit is to reveal the truth about the organization and provide a thorough assessment.” Brown, Baldrige Award Winning Quality, 2005. You too can have such an impartial evaluation of your business by applying for the National Housing Quality Award. Take a look at the criteria and use it to evaluate your business, consider where you can improve your bottomline. http://www.housingzone.com/sites/default/files/FinalNHQApplication.pdf
Professional Builder recently held a survey, and to quote Editor-in-Chief Dave Barista: "When it comes to selecting exterior design features and materials for their new homes, buyers are most concerned with the overall curb appeal of the home's exterior ... More than three-quarters of builder respondents (76.6 percent) said 'great design/curb appeal' was an important issue among their buyers."
The ACORN test is an easy to remember way to evaluate the charter of an improvement project. A  Accomplishment. Does the goal actually focus on results? C  Control.  Does the team have control of what is needed to implement and complete the project? O  Objective. Is the objective the ultimate achievement of the project or is it actually a sub goal? R  Reconciliation.  No other improvement teams have the same goals as your team and so there re no conflicts.
We can all relate to great leaders, but we may fail to note what makes them so.  Harry Truman is quoted as saying, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  Such is the case with last year’s Professional Builder Magazine’s Builder of the Year, DSLD Homes and their leader Saun Sullivan who is a prolific reader.  His reading titles could be classified as the home building industry’s must read list, and he shares these gems with many (thanks Saun!).
“The stories, apocryphal or not, that circulate in an organization reveal its devotion (or lack of it) to quality, and serve to inspire its people to live (or not live) the quality message.” What stories are being told in your company? Tom Peters & Nancy Austin, A Passion for Excellence: The Leadership Difference, 1985
I have spoken at PCBC, the big West Coast building conference most of the past 15 years and I always enjoy it. The event has been very well-run, quality of programming is excellent, the staff is great and you can do a lot worse than hang out in downtown San Francisco for a few days. I have been there so many times that I know all of the streets and how to get around, walking or driving. I even have my favorite hotel and off-the-beaten-path restaurants. Yet as PCBC begins later this month, I will be on the other side of the country.

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