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November is World Quality Month and November 10th is World Quality Day !  This can be a great opportunity to leverage local and regional events. Perhaps a chance to tour a manufacturing facility, attend a presentation on quality improvement and get to see how other industries are using quality. A great chance to pick up on new ideas right on your doorstep! ASQ and other quality organizations around the world are celebrating this event.
Not a day goes by that I don’t experience multiple builders telling me why improvement in their business won’t happen. The economy, the lack of traffic, the longer cycle times, the bigger builder cost advantage, the lack of commitment from employees, the lack of subcontractors performance, etc…… I certainly know that we all have suffered greatly through this housing depression. I am not suggesting we ignore the obvious obstacles, just not let them be the bane of our existence.
Our lives are busy and getting busier. Some of the most popular new design trends focus on making life a bit easier. Simplifying access and flow to perform every day tasks is a hot topic in today's market. The photos below illustrate two trends that are rapidly becoming very popular:  
The accompanying picture was used recently with what was an otherwise good article on how to create profitable design. That article is much bigger in scope than simply the design of the house itself but still, the irony is palpable. What’s your first impression? Give it a good examination before you go on, in fact, gather some of your people around the monitor or print it out and ask if this is an intelligent, cost-effective design? Looks pretty good? Not if you have spent the past 5 years or perhaps just the past 5 weeks really dissecting plans and elevations from a Lean perspective.
In this economy these builders are growing sales, expanding into new markets and achieving 100% customer satisfaction! They are building production and custom homes, within communities and build on your lot. The homes range in price from $100k to over $1million and the market ranges from a focus on a single state to covering 14 states. Whatever market, climate or home type your business focuses on there are lessons to be learnt here about improving your bottom-line. This years winners of the National Housing Quality Award are:
The vast majority of what is written about management and business is about excellence, those people and organizations that excel. Little is written about the dysfunctional side, which frankly we see so much of in our daily work lives. A great reflection of this is the reason why Dilbert, the cult classic Office Space, The Office and the latest in the genre Horrible Bosses are so popular.
"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."--W. Edwards Deming    
Using Lean concepts can be very powerful; the trick is using them correctly. In an earlier blog I discussed ‘Lean and Six Sigma in Construction’ (available at the following link) where I described the different types of waste and key elements to focus on when using lean. http://www.housingzone.com/blog/lean-six-sigma-construction
Recently I was asked to present to a group of purchasing managers for a Top 20 builder, led by a Corporate VP who truly gets it when it comes to Lean. That is encouraging in itself, because what I see from so many of the Top 20 is either more of the same old “beat the snot out of the suppliers and trades” or misguided strategies under the name of Supply Chain Management and regrettably, even Lean. This VP and the Directors of Purchasing had no stars in their eyes, but were resolved to keep an open mind and find good ideas whatever the source.
"Baby step onto the elevator... baby step into the elevator... I'm in the elevator." If you have not seen Bill Murray in "What about Bob," make some time for it — very funny movie. Murray plays a whacky character (big stretch) named Bob who has difficulty doing even the smallest of tasks. The humor appears in the way he handles it: he breaks everything down into baby steps to make the tasks easier. This week I am going to look at baby steps toward advanced framing.
Building a home made entirely from American made products from the nails to the bathtub was achieved by Bozeman, Montana builder Anders Lewendal. There are more than 120 products from 33 states. Anders believes that if every builder bought just 5% more American materials this could create 220,000 jobs.  He does acknowledge that using American products can be more expensive, however, only 1 to 2 percent more than a foreign-sourced house. This link will take you to an ABC News video on the home
Henry Ford was a genius and if not father of the automobile per se, he was arguably father of the automotive industry. As usually accompanies genius, Ford was a little wacky in some regards and some of his beliefs about ethnic groups and how to control the behavior of workers not just on, but off the job, certainly give one pause.
Imagine yourself walking into McDonalds and ordering lunch (if you are anything like me this would probably not be a huge stretch). You walk up to the counter and ask the cashier for a Big Mac. During your order you ask her to hold the two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions. She looks at you like you are some kind of freak and hands you a sesame seed bun.
I recently saw the movie "MoneyBall" with Brad Pitt as the lead playing a GM of the Oakland A’s baseball team. For the readers who have not seen the film, I won’t give away the major plot and ruin your experience. The film had many correlations to our leadership options in homebuilding. This is what struck me as being very relevant to our decisions as leaders today.
Are you curious? Sometimes I wonder just how curious people really are. For example do you talking to those next to you at conferences?  I don’t mean about where they are from or other generalities about their company, but rather to find out how and where they can help you improve in your business.  I am always surprised to find people attending conferences that listen intently to the speakers but somehow don’t think about talking with fellow, attendees despite the fact that they are also at that event with the aim to learn new ideas and improve.
Big Q and little q is a term coined by Dr Juran and is key in fully understanding quality. It contrasts the difference between managing for quality in all aspects of business process, products and services which is Big Q.  While little q relates to a much more limited capacity. For example not taking the larger picture into consideration but rather just focusing on a product itself. Big Q is about a broad, strategic and complex perspective and little q is about a micro aspect an operational issue such as quality control.
Yes believe it or not we can learn a lot from the simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While this is very simple it is also a low cost, fun and engaging way that you can tap into a whole range of issues. This is an ideal approach for those new to quality as a method of introduction, but even for those that have been involved with process improvement this can be a fun workshop to help refocus. It can also be conducted as a small breakout session lasting just a few minutes or as a long workshop. The issues this can address include:
If there’s one theme that runs through this year’s Professional Remodeler Design Awards, presented this month, it’s practical. After years of seeing over-the-top remodels that, frankly, didn’t always make a lot of sense (does anyone really need a $250,000 bathroom?), it’s a refreshing change.
Look ma! The war cry for young show offs world wide. I’m sure you have had a “look ma” moment or two in your life. I don’t know about you but mine typically ended with skinned knees and tears.
In the past month I have had the opportunity to present to and spend time with two different groups of 25 successful, independent lumber & material dealers. These suppliers have weathered the storm and although bruised and battered are still alive. In each one of their markets, significant competitors have been fed through the proverbial chipper and are no more. These survivors are smart, savvy business people. I was impressed by their dedication and knowledge, both of their operations and about how builders work.

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