Blogs



My son Tyler (second of 4 children), age 29, is taking a new position with a homebuilder after having two good building industry jobs in the past, both of which vanished in the housing recession. Despite the previous disappointments, he sees this as a great opportunity with a real chance to grow with a good company. It got me thinking about all the work I have done in my career, where I did well, where I screwed up, who I have hired, who I have fired, and all the people I have watched soar and those I have seen flame out.
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a tool that can assist in identifying where your areas of risk lie and helps structure solutions.
Better bust out the Grey Poupon for this one. Turrets, steep roof, stone and stucco will drive up the cost per square foot a bit on this design. However, as I have mentioned in the past, Lean Design is not about cost, it is about value. Lean Design focuses on eliminating waste and providing maximum value for the customer through collaborative design. In a custom home scenario like this one, the collaboration happens with the customer, building team, architect and key trades and suppliers. Let's take a closer look:
Years ago, well after the huge productivity gains of the industrial revolution, employers still sought productivity improvement.  In an effort to find these productivity gains, many studies were conducted to find causes and effects of higher productivity.The most popular study was done at Hawthorne Works between 1924-32, where researchers tinkered with many variables, then measured worker output to see if their tinkering had the desired effect.  The most famous experiment involved slowly increasing the lighting – which resulted in higher output, however, this higher output
In 1989 Warren Bennis published ‘On Becoming a Leader’ which became a key leadership book. He stated that leaders “know who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how to fully deploy their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.” The key of course is compensating for weaknesses, not ignoring them. The honest study of the strengths and weaknesses of an organization should also be studied and again, the weaknesses compensated for, but not ignored.
A recent experience got me thinking about how companies all-too-often fall back on financial incentives when dealing with an unhappy customer, yet totally miss the point and fail to solve the problem. Allow me to explain: I’m a long-time reader of the Chicago Tribune, but a series of delivery problems from the paper never showing up to arriving hours after I left for work lead me to first cancel the daily paper, then, finally, to recently give up the ghost and cancel the Sunday as well.
The Belbin team roles are used to help create effective and balanced teams.  Few individuals are strong in all of these roles, so ensuring you have a good mix on a team can make a real difference. It also needs to be noted that each role has its own strengths and weakness.
The Brady Bunch is a font of life lessons from the importance of compromise to why you should never lie to your parents to ... uh ... never walk out in the backyard without keeping an eye out for a football. So once again I find myself turning to The Brady Bunch when it comes to dealing with the challenges of selling projects under the Lead Repair & Painting Program rule.
“Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it's tuna, but it says 'Chicken by the Sea.'" We can thank Jessica Simpson for addressing that puzzling situation. A bit trickier, however, is the mystery centered around Lean design. Let me help clear it up. Lean design is an optimization of materials and processes achieved by high-level trade/supplier collaboration. Lean design focuses on the elimination of waste and is viable at ANY price point. A $5 million home can be just as Lean as an $85,000 home.
Every builder wants to have outstanding customer satisfaction, right?  Our research shows that to accomplish the highest customer satisfaction builders must think outside the box, and I don’t mean the proverbial “creative box,” I mean literally outside the house box!In our role as the “Voice of the Customer” partner for many of the nation’s leading home builders, we read and analyze thousands of customer surveys.  This extensive multi-market, multi-builder research allows us to  pattern and identify the industry's most frequent customer
During an orientation recently with a room full of suppliers and trades for one of our “LeanPlan Workout” implementations, I was interrupted by a woman who clearly did not appreciate my message. Despite my saying it 6 different ways and illustrating with numerous pictures, she was not buying my story that Lean is not about “dumbing down” the houses.
The Lean Enterprise Institute surveys show that 36% of companies attempting lean give up the efforts. Customer Relationship Magazine cites 60% of six sigma programs fail to give desired results. The problem is not the tools it is the approach that has caused the problems and frankly the approach would cause any project to fail.
They say a writer never “makes it” until he gets hate mail. In at least four blog posts this year, I have expressed my frustrations with architects and engineers in this country and those posts have invited a few terse replies, one of which appears below. My rant is that either through lack of care, concern, understanding or education, these professionals rarely recognize the critical link between their work and a builder’s ability to produce a high quality house at any price point in the most efficient, cost-effective, value-producing manner. And that costs us all.
A key aspect of quality management is the importance we place on employees, valuing people. We spend a significant amount of time and money officially sending this message to our team, espousing this pillar of quality. Yet, while doing this, we often directly contradict this by sending a clearer and longer lasting message. Let me give you a few examples.
For the last couple of years I've been speaking to groups of remodelers about crafting a social media strategy for their firms and one of the things I always say to do is to create a social media policy for your employees. One thing I didn't know about until this last weekend was that you need to be careful your social media policy doesn't violate labor laws. (thanks to attorney Jeremy Lewin, who shared this info at the NARI House of Delegates meeting Saturday.)
Home building is an extremely complicated business and as such requires very intelligent people and systems.  Think about it for a second.  To build a home, over 400,000 pieces/parts and 2,000 people must be precisely coordinated to bring these pieces, parts, and labor all together at the right time in the right sequence – and often at a remote address that may not have even existed 2 months earlier, WOW!  It takes very dedicated, intelligent people and solid, well planned, processes to pull that off!While the home building industry is blessed with people of abov
With Costco, Sam's Club and all the other "buy in bulk" stores out there today pantries are becoming larger and larger. Builders are finding it tough to compete if they are offering standard cabinet pantries (even in smaller homes). The answer to this is to provide a corner pantry. It takes up relatively little real estate and eliminates a blind corner.
The 100 Best Kitchens & Dining Rooms This new book from Beta-Plus is a nice collection of design ideas, but definitely more of the coffee table variety than for the pro. That said, it could definitely be a source of inspiration for you or your clients. There's a nice mix of contemporary and traditional designs, but to be clear this is a book of European homes. Not surprising, as it is from a European publisher, although the book is being marketed here in the U.S.
Being creative and innovative is something that is widely touted, but how do we actually do it? This may be needed for a particular issue during land development, most certainly necessary during design and of course during construction.  In todays economy cutting costs is a constant factor and to do this whether you are using lean, value engineering etc etc at the core is being creative and innovative. While there are a range of issues that go into making a company or team creative including culture, here is one structured approach to creativity, PISA.

Pages