TrueNorth Development
President

Scott Sedam, president of TrueNorth Development (www.truen.com), spends most of his time working in the trenches with builders, suppliers and trade contractors. His Lean Builder blog appears weekly at HousingZone.com. He welcomes your feedback at scott@truen.com.

How do you lead a leader? Looking for some answers!

My December column just came out on HousingZone.com and you can read it here: http://www.housingzone.com/scott-sedam-how-do-you-lead-leader or in the Professional Builder magazine.

I hope you will give it a quick review (it is a short one) and offer some feedback, ideas, successes, and failures – whatever you have experienced on the topic. The issue is how to get the president, owner, senior partner or whatever you call him or her to do what you want them to do. In the article, I present some rather conflicting case studies about the times where the bottom line seems to be the only motivator – yet at other times, even in the face of tremendous financial returns, the money seems insufficient.

I cite the case of one rather desperate mid-level manager who contacted me recently, but I get these calls and emails at least a couple of times each month. How do you open up the senior officer? Get her to listen? Get him out of his comfort zone? Consider a different approach? Understand the impact of current policy? Feel the impact of current systems? These are tough questions for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that the most senior officers virtually always believes they understand fully. From my post as outside third-party who often gets to view things very close to the core, I can tell you the reality is that they rarely do understand.

This is a conundrum of the first order and I am not expecting easy answers or one-size-fits-all solutions. My personal experience of 40 years tells me that about half the time, putting any change or proposed solution in financial terms with strong evidence works. Who doesn’t want to be stronger financially? At TrueNorth we have implemented over the past 6 years more than 100 lean processes with more than 70 builders in 30 states and 4 countries, with all of them showing tremendous financial return, averaging better than 20 to 1 ROI. Given that, how can we not have builders lined up outside our door, waiting months and years if necessary to work with us? We have averaged more than 15 projects a year during the worst housing recession in 80 years, so on one hand, we have done well. On the other hand, we have the capacity to do about twice that. Know any other investment that pays and average of 20 to 1 with a written guarantee of at least a strong multiple? This is proof that money alone is often not enough.

I have a lot of thoughts and observations on what else it takes, but I’d rather hear from you, both as the president of a company and as one who tries to influence other presidents. The follow-up piece to December article for PB/HZ is due in about 2 weeks to get in published in February. So, please give me your thoughts and experience. What has worked to convince the boss – and what has not? And I especially look forward to hearing from the bosses. What has worked on you? When have you surprised yourself and made a significant change or moved in a new direction that you had not previously been willing to consider? What did someone who works for you or perhaps someone from the outside say to you, show you, demonstrate or involve you in that precipitated your change?

These are not easy questions, but with a little help, we might all learn from this. Posting here or over on our LeanBuiliding Forum on LinkedIn.com could launch a very interesting discussion. If you are more comfortable emailing me directly, that is fine as well. Please let me know if I may quote you or if you’d rather remain anonymous. Stay tuned for the February article and see what we find out.  scott@truen.com

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