David Barista is Editor of Professional Builder, Custom Builder and HousingZone.com, properties that combined reach more than 200,000 residential design and construction professionals. David has covered the U.S. construction industry for more than a decade and has won numerous editorial awards, including two Jesse H. Neal Awards.

Lessons from one builder’s ‘quality journey’

This year marks the 19th edition of the National Housing Quality Awards, the industry’s only recognition program dedicated to helping builders grow their businesses and become more profitable. During the past two decades, NHQ judges have evaluated and honored more than 100 builders and trade contractors for their quality management excellence. Of all the firms to win an NHQ Award over the years, only a handful have achieved every level of distinction (Gold, Silver, and Bronze), completing what the judges call the “quality journey.”

This year, Lancaster, Pa.-based Charter Homes & Neighborhoods joins that elite club, capping off their Bronze and Silver medals in 2010 and 2011 with a Gold award. Charter founder and CEO Rob Bowman says going through the entire, three-year process was instrumental in being able to create a culture of quality and operational excellence at every level of the organization. This, in turn, has led to healthy increases in customer satisfaction scores and steady financial results in a very difficult market.

Charter’s quality journey taught the team many lessons, says Bowman. He points out a few key lessons:

Trades are a vital part of the team — “This market helped us see that we have a shared interest in sharing our expertise, in being mutually successful, and in being open about challenges and working together to resolve them.”

Always be improving — “The rigor of the NHQ Awards process made us realize that operational excellence requires that everyone on the team have a personal belief that we can always do better, individually and collectively, resulting in a more secure future and opportunity for all.”

Focus on root cause — “Often times, we move too quickly to solve a problem or improve a process without really understanding why something doesn’t go according to plan. We now remind ourselves to ask ‘why’ five times before acting to improve.”

Key on process, not people — “When things don’t work, we focus on fixing the process first, not blaming people. This dramatically increases the odds of long-term improvement.”

If you’re like Charter and are ready to take your home-building company to the next level, I strongly urge you to consider embarking on your quality journey by entering the 2014 NHQ Awards. For more information, email me.

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