Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award.
Wisdom is timeless, which is why two Harvard Business Review articles published in 2001 and 2008 are still as valid and thought provoking today as when they were published. (The references to the papers are listed at the end of this blog.)
In an economic crisis and industry downturn Rigby considers that there are three phases and critical dos and don’ts to be aware of in each stage.
Reflect on how you reacted in phases 1 & 2 and how you plan to react as phase 3 emerges.
1. Storm clouds gather.
Don’t act as if the storm will blow over.
What are the risks for your business. Where are your weak points? Obviously safety is a key issue, but what about warranty, defects and other issues?
Specific risk sources in construction projects include:
BIM is technology which can be of enormous help. It can of course be a great tool to help us integrate for example design and estimating. It should also become a critical tool for communication with the client, engineering consultants and trade partners and in this way help to create an integrated project. BUT let us not forget the construction team! If the construction team is not involved then the critical opportunity to better connect Design – Construction or rather Design-Build is lost.
So often I hear builders say that quality may work in manufacturing plants, but not out here building homes. Well of course it does work, but hearing that from a successful builder is ideal. Here is a link to a short video featuring Gary Zajicek, VP of Construction and Customer Relations at Veridian Homes in Madison WI. Gary talks about the impact of using Quality Management Systems, in this case the NAHB Research Centers, National Housing Quality Certification program for Builders and Trades which is based on ISO9001.
While dining at a restaurant recently I was asked by the waiter how my meal was and if there was anything that could be improved. The meal and service were wonderful and I had only one minor suggestion. But I did end by thanking them for asking! When was the last time you were asked by a business how they could improve?
While all builders are trying to become leaner, more innovative and customer focused to impact the bottom line, we should not forget about reaching out to our trades. Our partners are crucial and remember they are the experts in their specific area of the business.
Measure twice and cut once. I think that is probably the first thing I ever learnt in construction and I learnt it as a kid listening to my Dad and Uncle while they reviewed plans in the evening and worked on site each day. You can’t get a more fundamental quality management concept than that and it’s a phrase we use so often in the industry. The concept of course applies to all aspects of design and construction. We can consider it when drafting a home plan, estimating, material storage, construction and customer service.
In the wake of Steve Jobs retirement announcement as CEO, Apple shares fell by 5%. For most people Apple is Steve Jobs, so that’s not a surprise. He is staying on in a leadership role, can you imagine the fall if he had stepped away entirely? Jobs created, then saved and kept Apple as one of the world’s most valuable and innovative organizations. But it wasn’t just vision and inspiration. He created new and must have products during a recession!
From Cargill to Caterpillar, from Motorola and Boeing to Ritz Carlton they all use the Baldrige Criteria to successfully drive performance excellence at a world class level. They are not alone, healthcare, education, non-profits and small business organizations also use the criteria all over the world. The National Housing Quality Award is based on the Baldrige criteria and our industry has also found the criteria a powerful way to drive improvement and increase profits.
A hotspot is a recurring problem, by focusing on the top ranking hotspot with corrective and preventive action they can be reduced or eliminated allowing you to move to addressing the next ranking issue. These might be the top issues of customer complaints or top construction defects for example. The only way to know where your problems lie is to establish metrics to monitor your key processes. When you have a problem don’t just put a band aid on it, it will come back!