This is my first day at home after a 3 week coast to coast tour that included 3 workshops in 3 cities. (Toronto, St John's Newfoundland and Vancouver). The purpose of this " Lean Project Gospel" tour was to share lessons learned on how to deliver hugely more successful projects.
It also provided a battery recharge opportunity as I was fortunate to have timed this tour with the annual Saskatchewan & Manitoba WindRiders kiteboarding safari to Hatteras. With kite boarding skills enhanced to the level that I can now say I am a kiter, I was energized to head to Vancouver for the LCI-C Lean Construction Conference. As a LCI-C board member I facilitated the Target Value Delivery workshop, recognized "Lean Agents of Change" in a presentation and attended the thought provoking presentations that provide the fuel for these blog posts.
The first thing I saw my first first morning back home in Saskatoon, were 3 jack rabbits sitting in the school yard across the street from my house. I was amazed at how RAPID these local school yard rabbits had CHANGED the colour of their coats. From white to brown in one week all synchronized with nature to blend in and hopefully lead a long, safe and productive life (More cute Bunnies).
This idea of RAPID CHANGE made me pause and ponder what nuggets from the LCI-C conference would be most beneficial for enacting rapid change in building a lean and more competitive company.
Why Just 3 Nuggets?
Seeing 3 Jack Rabbits also reminded me about the "Power of 3" and why I will chose to share only 3 nuggets from the Goldmine of information that I had just absorbed at the conference, in Vancouver.
The brain finds it relatively easy to grasp threes — elements, colours and fonts. Push that marginally up to four and the brain gets confused about where to look and what to do, and sends the eye scampering like a frisky puppy on a sunny day.
So why does this happen? For that we might have to go back a little to diaper country. As a child, everything you did and learned seemed to be centered around three — A,B,C; 1,2,3; Three blind mice, Three musketeers, Trinity, Three Stooges and Huey, Louie and Dewey. (Quack! Quack! Quack!)
Then again, maybe these writers, animators and wise men understood the ease with which we understand ‘threes' and reconstructed their work to fit this paradigm.(PsychoTactics, Sean D'Souza)
What 3 Nuggets?
In the Westcor Construction story of "How I Failed in Lean" by CEO and President Bob Robinson we learn that we need to embrace failure, turn management practices upside down and develop a franchising mentality in the development of people and processes.
Nugget 1 "Failure is a Wonderful Gift"as we get to learn from our mistakes: The faster we fail the less effort is wasted on processes or initiates that do not work. As business owners we need to encourage employees to take an active roll in improving work flow by trying new ways to create real value. Staff to be empowered to fail and recognize that for change to occur we need to make it safe to fail. We also need to test the improvement process innovation early and often to minimize the cost of the investment.
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt
Nugget 2 Turn Management on it's Head: To release the potential energy of the people in the trenches we need to turn management on it's head. We need to understand that pushing anything from the top down does not work as most people will not buy in to an idea that they did not help create.
In a lean organization this means we need the CEO/President to be at the bottom of the management pyramid as an inspiring Catalyst for change, middle managers in their new role need to be facilitators and coaches for the people doing the work. The people doing the work at the top need to figure out the best way to design standard processes for improving work flow and efficiency.
A common problem with a lean business transformation is that middle managers that are currently programmed for command and control, now need to become facilitators and coaches. This potential bottle neck needs to be addressed as we need management to get out of the way of the people doing the work.
Nugget 3 Brilliant processes deliver Brilliant results with Average people: In the E-Myth series of business process development books we learn that standard processes adopted company wide without exception are key to business success as demonstrated by the franchise industry.
In the building industry we tend to think that most buildings are a custom project. This can occur because we let designers develop customer designs that should in reality could be standardized work. How many different ways do we need to install stairs, elevator shafts and air handling units?
When we turn the project team procurement process on it's head and get the people involved in design that will be building the project we open huge opportunities to optimizing the whole building process. We need to embrace creating standardized systems and processes for delivering a large percentage of the work including using prefabrication to improve productivity.
We need for designs to be the shop drawings as opposed to protect your ass tender documents. On the most successful projects the delineation of design work to shop drawings occurs much earlier at the schematic design stage. When we have the entire team on board we are able to design for early construction start, constructibility, prefabrication and incorporate more standardized and integrated practices.
Create the Change you Want
Finally to be successful in enacting a Lean Transformation with-in your organization you will need to sell these nuggets and many more. To sell the change, salesman extraordinaire Pat McNamara the closing keynote at the conference suggests that we need to be provocative in our approach, meaningful in our messaging and memorable to enact the actions needed for change.
The memorable takeaways from this blog article are to sell RAPID CHANGE we need to package the message with "Just 3 concepts " supporting the central idea. For Rapid change we need to embrace failure as they go hand in hand, we need to turn management on its head and get out of the way of the people doing the work and we need to develop standardized processes that are adopted company wide that improve flow and efficiency to create real value.
n our next article we will look at one of the most talked about presentations at the conference, Personal KanBan and how it can be used to develop a lean culture for knowledge based workers.
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