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The NAHB in conjunction with Professional Builder Magazine launched the National Housing Quality Award (NHQA) in 1993 to encourage and recognize best practices and best builders in the continual improvement of product and process. Modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, over time the NHQA has become the gold standard of awards in homebuilding.
Flat, team based and empowered organizations have the potential to out-perform tall hierarchical organizations in most every competitive industry and that includes home building! I have always enjoyed conversations on business improvement with Tom Gillespie, a NHQ Award winning builder, NHQA Judge and consultant. In this blog Tom engages us in a conversation regarding the importance and impact of flat, empowered organizations.
Why bother naming your houses? It would be a whole lot easier and more efficient to identify your homes by their square footage. It could be argued that the Saddlebrook should be called the 2429 plan. It makes perfect sense, the plan is 2429 square feet, so let's call it what it is. The purchasing manager, field supervisor, estimator and trades would love it. A simple designation for the plan that is clearly communicated and understood by all.
Process improvement can often be received with impatience and inflated expectations of its impact. One of the regular problems is that a particular piece of the organizations process is asked to be improved in isolation. This is a little like trying to change a wheel while the car speeds along the interstate! The one minor fix is still influenced by the wider system. It can take several improvements to elements of a process to see an impact overall. It needs to be realized that an entire process needs to be improved not just one element in isolation.
Let me be straight - I am anti-Net Promoting Index (NPI) in the home building industry and this is why...When I was a manager/leader/owner of a homebuilding company there was a recurring problem that I often saw (and personally committed).  Too often, we would manage our company by average numbers.  For example, let's say our Willingness to Refer (WTR) declined 5 points from 95% to 90%.  We would become upset and meet with the Sales Team and Builders to tell them "we are better than this!"  We were managing the company and staff by the average number. 
Everybody loves a little extra Garage space. Custom home clients are requesting anywhere from three to six car Garages on a fairly regular basis. Having this many spaces can create challenges however; the extra spaces must look great, function properly and fit on the site. We took a unique approach to solving those issues on this “tight lot” custom home. Let’s take a closer look:
Often managers set goals for employees such as a minimum number of units to be produced each week and once this is achieved on a regular basis, then the minimum number is raised and so it continues. This is because of learning curve and assured by a time study.  Sure, however, you are also establishing a never ending game with your staff. Management will always set a goal thinking that it’s one that will stretch us, they will always assume employees will try to play the game and work slower during work studies and so the cycle of gamesmanship continues. This really is about trust.
For the second week in a row I am featuring a skinny plan. What gives? Well I suppose as spring is approaching I am thinking of my own skinny plan; to be able to fit into my summer clothes. The fact that my wife just bought one of those torturous infomercial workout things makes matters even more pressing. Shedding a few pounds for the summer is nothing special but today’s featured skinny plan is. Let’s take a closer look:
Looking at this topic, I am reminded of my days as a security system salesperson.  The sales pitch for a door-to-door salesperson is safety and security.  If you had our system installed, you were assured that if someone tried to break into your home, the system would notify police and and bring help quickly.  Knocking doors in the south, I quickly learned that the NRA sticker in the front window meant two things to me.
Checklists and audits may be one of the most basic approaches to quality but they frequently lead to problems of accurate data collection. A common issue that arises is not recording errors or defects in the field. Many trades that find an error when using checklists to review their work will correct a problem they find and not record it. They will say, yes BUT I found it, it was my fault and I corrected it, so it’s not an error!
I often wondered why a consulting friend of mine wrote of his miserable air travel experiences, and now I get it.   The airline industry, with its product and personnel scenarios are a reasonable proxy for the homebuilding industry.  How?  Read on.As a Platinum level patron, I am often “upgraded” to first class.  It is amazing how different the first class experience can be on the same airline, aircraft, and route.  All else being equal, what is the determining factor?  It is the personnel, of course! Take for instance
NHQ Award winning builder, NHQA Judge and consultant Tom Gillespie has developed a set of process diagrams that provide an overview of the intent behind each NHQA category and how it flows through each of the requirements. These outstanding process models help in the thought and decision process for performance excellence from strategic planning (see diagram for one example) to business results. Here Tom discusses how they work.
Our business picked up in late 2011, started the New Year off well, and we were deluged at the IBS show, beginning with a standing-room-only presentation on Lean Design. Our first quarter is strong and 2nd quarter looks even better. Builders seem to now have sufficient confidence that they want to get their processes “Leaned-up” to meet current and projected growth. We have a long list of clients who are reporting sales being up way above the  national average of 8% reported for January and on into February. Yet the question persists … is this recovery for real?
Each week as I think about this weekly blog, I try to find a topic that is not only green, but a universal opportunity.  What I mean is no matter how important green is to your company, market or consumers, these green tips should help you save money whether you want to be green or not.  One aspect of green is finding ways to avoid cost increases. 
Recently I’ve seen a financial company misplace $30k, a health care organization twice have a patient end up back in ER and a manufacturer face a class action lawsuit. These are all the sorts of things that risk management and quality management tools and techniques are used to mitigate and avoid. However, each of these cases didn’t need such tools; they just needed to listen to the customer or rather not ignore them.
Recently while out to dinner my wife Katie talked me into ordering a skinny long island iced tea. It was actually pretty good. Nice taste, low calories, plenty of punch - what's not to like? Well there is one thing: I would never order a skinny anything in front of my buddies - that's just begging for trouble.
Peter Senge wrote one of the best business books of the 1990’s, The Learning Organization. It is one of those on my list to pull off the shelf and read again, if I ever catch up with the stack of unread volumes on my credenza now. I even attended his 4-day workshop in Boston in the mid-90’s and it made a considerable impact on everyone there. What Senge laid out was what constitutes the “Learning Organization” and why those companies invariably do better than those whose primary goal is to replicate and execute their existing business model.
Since the beginning of the Builders' Show in Orlando this month, I have learned more in two weeks than most will learn in a year.  From the people I met, to new and evolving construction techniques and technologies that promise to have an impact on the construction community for years to come, the lessons are astounding.  Last week, I shared some of the products that impressed me and continue to tell a green story.  This week, we turn to techniques.
I am of two minds today. I have two entirely unrelated topics to discuss: A. Show Village at IBS B. Windows
The bottom of the market is clearly in and most builders know it, especially those that attended the International Builder Show (IBS) in Orlando, February 7-11th.  At IBS 2012, there were scores of great programs on red hot topics like Social Media Strategies, Marketing Must Dos, Lean and Green best practices, and much more.

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