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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.
The NHQA is open to home builders, trade contractors and remodelers. Whether you are building production or custom homes, within communities or build on your lot, whether your homes are $100k or over $1million, if your market is within a city or covers 14 states. Whatever market, climate or home type your business focuses on, using the NHQA criteria and applying for the award is relevant to you and improving your business. Past winners have fitted into this wide range of categories of builders, so you will too.
As the building world concludes another International Builders’ Show, the sentiment shared by many of the attendees was one of hope for a better year. Many builders showed the promise of a better year as January orders seemed to be up among many of the smaller, regional builders.  In light of that, there seems to be more room among the standard feature sheets for improvements in specifications, especially as it pertains to more sustainable products. Here are a couple of highlights from that show that seemed to take a top honor in my book for a sustainable future.
Typically I like to save my drama for my mama – not this time. This time I packed it all into this 2,800-square-foot Lean-designed home. This cost-efficient home is easy to build, value engineered, and developed on Lean standards.
We have all heard of ‘they’ or ‘them’! You know, ‘they’ never give us enough material to do the job. ‘They’ didn’t leave it ready for us again. It was ‘them’ in (fill in the blank) department that delayed it. The problem is we refer to ‘them’ as though they were some completely isolated group from the organization we work in. While in fact ‘they’ are usually just another group of colleagues in our own department, in another department or an organization we partner with such as a supplier. Some of whom we have lunch with or shoot the breeze with on a regular basis.
Employers have had it pretty good the last few years when it comes to managing employee turnover and keeping workers happy. The state of the economy has made it difficult for unhappy employees to find other opportunities. Many companies have taken advantage of this to see just how much work they can squeeze out of the few employees left.

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