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Having arrived in Orlando for the International Builders Show and NAHB Winter Boards, a few quick updates and observations:
There is nothing in homebuilding that makes less sense than purchasing by the square foot and it is a big obstacle in Lean implementation. Other than the fact that it makes things easy I suppose, there is very little to be said for it. It damn sure makes purchasing inaccurate and confusing, at best. Not much of a tradeoff. Imagine, for a moment, buying an automobile by the pound. Do you think you could do any meaningful price/value comparisons?
The fall of 2010, I found myself working with some of the best and brightest minds I have ever met in the construction industry.  I was working with a client in Alabama on a LeanBlitz with TrueNorth.  At dinner, the second night of our weeklong engagement, the owner asked two of the attendees a simple question.  After having spent the day hearing feedback and improvement ideas, what do I need to do to improve my organization?
Danger Will Robinson! Danger! The IBS plan review sessions are starting to get booked up. Professional Builder is hosting House Review Live with six different leading Architects and Designers (including yours truly) from across the country to help you review your existing plans and elevations. So bring your best plans, worst plans, any plans and I am sure we can help you improve them for 2012. Look for us at the Show Village demonstration homes Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. You can book time slots with the Architect of your choice at www.housingzone.com/housereviewlive.
This case study details the implementation of an extensive program of quality management at Wathen-Castanos, including training, the formation of Work Improvement Groups, benchmarking and the resulting impacts. It also discusses how quality was integrated to help support the building of green and energy efficient homes, all with limited resources. The NHQA criteria was used to coordinate and drive the improvement efforts. Wathen-Castanos won the EVHA Builder of the Year in 2011, NHQA Bronze in 2010 and Silver in 2011.
Recently I visited a host of builder sites in Florida. My objective was to have a direct comparison of many builders’ models, sales personnel, sales process and overall experience. It’s been a while that I actually walked dozens of builder models over a 300 mile geographic area in a relatively short period of time. I anticipated reviewing homes of builders that had survived our industry’s economic disaster and assumed that these same builders would all be demonstrating efficient and effective practices just too still be in the game.
  Quality culture is essential not only to implement and establish quality management in an organization but also to sustain it.  A Quality culture is an organizational value based system that results in an environment that is conducive to the establishment and continual improvement of Quality.  To attempt the implementation of quality without creating a quality culture is to invite failure. Gryna (2001) and Juran and Godfrey (1999) stated that to foster a quality culture, a company must have five behaviors.
I recently made the decision to relocate from Rochester, New York to Sarasota, Florida. Leaving annual accumulations of snow averaging 130 inches along with 80% of my days under grey clouds was my family’s motivation for the move. We couldn’t be happier. One of our new founded traditions is too be beach side every Sunday. Looking over the Gulf of Mexico is a certain fix for a hectic work week. I wanted to share with my readers that I have come to appreciate a phenomenon that exist on the beach that is strangely similar to what you as a leader face every day in the workplace.
In my blog two weeks ago, I launched into a tirade about how so many residential architects are not doing their job. Each week, I link this blog back to the LeanBuilding Group on www.linkedin.com. Many members posted responses with good points on how to remedy the problem. Here are some excerpts from them. I thought I’d let them do the talking this week. (Note: if you are not a member, go to www.linkedin.com and search “Lean Building.” The group will come up, and join! There are some excellent discussions going on.)
When it comes to trusses "Piggyback" is a four letter word. Piggyback trusses are little trusses that sit upon larger trusses to allow the roof configuration to reach a certain height/span. In general a piggyback system is very expensive and time consuming to put together. Piggyback systems can cost anywhere from $800 to $1500 per house depending upon the configuration, and in many cases this waste can be eliminated.
The Organizational Excellence Committee for the Quality Management Division of ASQ has launched a webpage with a series of papers to support and promote Business Excellence Models such as Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, the European Excellence Model and therefore, the National Housing Quality Award. So if you want to hear new perspectives and get new ideas on performance excellence, especially if you use the National Housing Quality Award Criteria this will be interesting reading. New papers will continue to be added.
In my travels, I have seen a lot of different places, both in the USA and outside.  When I travel, one of my favorite activities is finding great little spots to see and taste the local culture.  When traveling in New Orleans, I asked the concierge where to go to get great food.  He politely told me of several well-known spots near the hotel.  I then asked where he would eat and the answer was vastly different and exactly what I was looking for.
Diversity in the workplace is a key issue in Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Diversity creates new perspectives, new viewpoints. Talking with colleague Michael Avramides recently reinforced this issue. Here is a thought from Michael on this important topic. Memo to Human Resources: It's about time!   Lessons from a Movie Producer for Quality- and HR Managers
Over the last few months, I've talked to a lot of remodelers that are opting to use the cloud to store their files and share them with subs and clients. The idea is that it gives companies an easy way to back-up files and move them without spending a lot of money on servers, extra hard drives, etc. It's a great idea - I do it myself, using Amazon's cloud service, as well as Dropbox.
Philadelphia, Oakland and six other U.S. cities will get free help this year from sustainable building and development experts with an eye toward the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standard for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND). The others are Dearborn, Mich.; Eden Prairie, Minn.; Greensboro, N.C.; Lafayette, Ind.; Lakewood, Colo.; and Louisville, Ky.
We reached out to dozens of remodelers for this month’s cover story, asking them what they saw as their top challenges and opportunities for 2012. We also asked them to define their “key to a successful 2012.” And that’s where things got interesting.
A study published in ASQ’s Quality Management Journal this month (Jan 2012) found that ISO9001 Certification (Quality Management Systems Requirements) improved workmanship performance substantially in construction projects. It establishes a substantial correlation between ISO9001 certification and the improvement of workmanship performance. 
As many of you know by now Professional Builder is holding three days of plan reviews by some of the top designers and architects in the country during the International Builders Show. I am honored to be part of that group and very much look forward to the event. Here are some juicy insider tips to help you take advantage of the opportunity:
With the February edition of Professional Builder, I begin a series on the evolution of quality management. Here is a more detailed version of an excerpt from that article to come. Be sure to read that.
Walking in my home last evening, I was greeted with the usual excitement of children running around, the dog barking and my wife sharing the latest item in the home that needs my attention.  The kitchen faucet decided it was time to throw an aerator, spraying water on any unsuspecting user.  So, another trip to the hardware store for another “green” repair. 

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