Are you comfortable with your everyday actions working in the AEC industry?
Do you ever think, “The way I’m doing this cannot be the best way of doing this task?”
“I’ve done it this way for years. I don’t need to change because this method has served me well over the years.”
There is something happening that is quite amazing right in software, and it is affectionately called, “DISRUPTION”. Companies are challenging their business ideals by attempting to break their business model on one side of their business IN ORDER to enhance their business in another area.
You may be thinking, “Why would anyone want to break their own business model?”
I will tell you why by asking another question –
Would you rather break your own business model or have your competitor do it for you?
There is a family of 4 from out of town traveling through the state that pulled up to a gas station in your city. They are filling up and mention to another patron that they were thinking about moving. They wanted to know what the area was like, especially what the people are like in this city. This patron asked the father of the family, well sir, “What are the people like where you are coming from?”
Each person from the traveling family chimed in. They said, “They gossip”, “the people are dangerous and stubborn”, “we have murderers and thieves”, “and the economy is just in a bad state.” The mother in the family lastly mentioned, “the people are terrible and we never liked our neighbors”.
The wise ol’ patron said in reply, “Well, the people here are exactly the same.” He calmly goes back to pumping his own gas and and continued to go about his day.
This wise patron understood that your environment is Truly determined by your perception of it. He knew that if this family came to your city, that they would not be contributing to the environment, but, rather, sucking the sheer life out of it. Thier perceptions would not change solely based upon moving to a new environment.
Now, what does this have to do with construction?
Thanks for asking!
I’m sure your perspective of construction is not as negative as the lovely family passing through your city, BUT, here are some Easy ways you can start improving the perception of the construction management industry.
#1) Check yourself!
Check your own mindset towards the industry. Are you excited? Are you challenged with developing the best ways to start making improvements. Or are you stuck in the rut of, “This is the way it’s been done in the past, and it works.” or are you ready to disrupt?
#2) Always keep learning.
Stay on top of new trends. Why don t be track trends for technology, by not on processes, best approaches to training, why not teach leadership training to the lowest on the totem pole.
Pick an organization to follow – Buitworlds, Lean Construction Institute, Connex. As a matter of fact, in order to foster this type of conversation, I’ve started a LinkedIn group called Cutting Edge Construction, and feel free to follow me on twitter where I post about collaboration, lean construction, disruption, and co-working. Please share if you know of lots more in the comments!!
#3) Share information with your internal team.
It is important to get buy-in from your team including your boss, employees and especially C-Level executives. Internal company buy-in will build an energy so that your company can create the right positioning to partner with the right people. Information share builds awareness, awareness brings competency, continual action breeds action, and action creates a mindset shift. A mindset shift amongst a team causes a cultural change.
#4) Test and Track your advancements in order to improve on them.
The Build – Measure – Learn loop is the fundamental methodology of the The Lean Startup. Although this book is about software startups primarily, the same methodology can replicated here. Test the things you are learning, measure the results getting feedback about the effectiveness of your test, and learn from the results.
If you test, there is a likelihood to fail. Let’s be real. So let the stakes be as high as you can get them.
“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty that you can comfortably live with.” – Tony Robbins
#5) Affect your community.
It doesn’t matter if you are an owner, architect, contractor, or legal advisory! you must expect more from your project teams and peers.
Believe in higher expectations. In the Americas, why have the expectations only changed for healthcare, education, pharmaceutical and major tech companies, and not changed with others?
Even manufacturing companies haven’t implemented lean in construction.
Do you want to change perception of industry? These are a few small ways you can influence?!
- try… true collaboration
- try… valuing each skill from each person, down the last planner
- try… collectively assuming risk
- try…gaming software for designing spaces
- try…barking up a different tree
The construction industry is old and not quick to change! It sucks and someone needs to fix it. Ok, ok I’m a professional saying things that may sound a little extreme and even disturbing to the wise and experienced veterans in the industry. But, think about it –
What has your experience been?
I have been in the Construction Management industry for a 10 years, and I’ve seen a true disconnect between the technology available and the utilization of it. Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of technology available for use.
But the problem is not with technology, is it? Doesn’t the challenge presents itself with the people that use it? There has been a lot popularity around project management as well as collaboration software. Are people using it to these softwares to it’s fullest potential? Are we building relationships? It is certainly not that people are incompetent – the industry on a whole is very competent, if I may say so..
Do you know what the problem is?
The problem is their mindset. “What do you mean, Brittanie?”, you ask. Well, I’ll tell you in a bit after this short story.
There is fencing contractor that starts building a fence by building an 8 foot length of a fence and sets some bait in the middle of one side of the fence. A sly fox waits a while for the smell of people to go away so he understands it is safe. He then comes and enjoys the bait he has been smelling for hours.
Who’s smarter here?
In a few days the fencer builds another leg of the 8 ft length fence creating an L and sets more bait. The fox waits, sniffs for humans and when there is no smell, he eats with glee! (I have a pop quiz about fences when this story is over.)
The next leg is built to create a U and the bait is placed right in the middle. The same thing takes place: The Fox waits. Sees no one. And snatches the bait thinking he is the only fox that doesn’t have to hunt for food!
Lastly, the fencer builds the fourth 8 ft length of the fence.
Just as planned, the fox has not left the inside of the now 4 four sided enclosure!
The fox is happily inside, not realizing he is trapped and that he is also without food, and also that he might soon be shot with tranquilizer gun. He is no longer safe or getting subsistence. He has not realized that although he only was prancing around in the same space for the past several days, that his scenario has completely and drastically changed.
Who are you in this story? The trapper? Or are you the Wiley Fox?
Not broken, so why bother?
Is your attitude or the attitude of your colleagues, bosses and even clients, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
Have you been doing the same thing over the years and have not realized your scenario has completely changed? Has your scenario changed because of technology? How about the way you build business relationships? What if NOT using technology to build relationships is just like having a fence built around you? Are you safe?
I’ve learned two distinct concepts about how to do business in the industry:
- Learn what your client values
- Execute the job by meeting the schedule and the budget.
Executing the job, is the interesting part. There are so many factors in the process, from scheduling, change orders, construction accounting, operations, the technical design, the aesthetic design.. and the list goes on and on – as you know as an industry expert. All of these items are discussed with the owner, with the designer, and the contractors, not to mention the owner’s rep, and each project is supposed to go as planned. All of these activities and parties involved, but where is the relationship building in all of this?
What do the things we’ve learned – Please the client & execute at a high level – have to do with mindset on relationship building? Relationship building is usually not the focus. THAT’S THE PROBLEM!
Are you building a fence or a wall? Or are you building Relationships?
Want to stop hating the Construction industry and fix it? What’s your mindset?
Tell me what you hate about the industry, or just about a situation that is challenging for you right now in the following survey.
Tell me how you’ve been trapped inside by the inevitable industry built fence.
If you are wondering, why should I leave these answers here with Brittanie. Here are a few epic reasons why:
- Get it off your chest! Relax and feel refreshed afterwards.
- You aren’t the only one dealing with this.
- If there are enough people that deal with similar challenges, I will search for the expert on how to fix it and interview them for everyone to get the solutions on my podcast Constructrr.
Click here to help me understand how you handle and manage challenges on your construction projects?
Also, join my email list to get more posts like this and updates on my upcomingpodcast.
1. I’m a nerd for planning / scheduling solutions.
During the first two years of my construction experience, I was a Schedule Manager reviewing for 80 projects at Major public program the following: Baseline Schedules, Progress Updates, and As – Built Schedules. One major thing I learned while working in that role is:
“Rarely do things ever go exactly as planned.”
I found that 89% of time (my guestimate), the reason is usually the same – somewhere along the communication line, something broke down.
2. Efficiency is Epic!
I started loving problem solving through doing jigsaw puzzles at age 4. Soon after that, I started asking for 3D puzzles at Christmastime. I changed out my parents clogged faucet by myself at age 7. I asked for my own “real” tools my next Birthday and using those tools I built a play house with my dad for my neighborhood friends and me to play in our backyard.
My family moved to a beautiful, yet dated home, when I was 12 years old. I spearheaded doing house upgrades, organizing, decorating, and Do It Yourself projects (with my family as a great team behind me). Some of the jobs included painting, laying tile, hardwood floors, and re-staining kitchen cabinets. I wasn’t half bad in math and science in high school and loved buildings so I chose to study Architectural Engineering and Construction Management in college. I’ve work in construction management in the Project Management realm for about 10 years, mitigating risks for cost and schedule overruns for some of Chicago’s largest capital programs, and high profile global companies.
Now I am a project manager for a global owner’s rep/general contracting firm, mitigating risk every day. In my few years of experience, (let me know if you’ve learned something different – I’d love to hear), I’ve found that solution finding doesn’t stop with the technical side of construction, BUT that Collaboration AKA “over-communication” is key.
3. I have an insatiable desire for learning about innovation and technology that makes lives easier for doers in the industry.
I’ve recently become somewhat of an ENR (Engineering News-Record) (www.enr.com), and I’m always ready to dig into the technology that is trending for construction or engineering. When I went to engineering school, I was required to use software like Matlab, MathCAD, C++, Primavera P6, Cost Modeling software, EQuest, AutoCAD, Revit, etc. Whoa – Lot’s of stuff that I may not be using today, but I am consistently encountering and using Project Management software like: Submittal Exchange, Procore, PlanGrid, CW, many Oracle products, Bluebeam, Newforma, etc!!
There is always a question of which works best for your project needs and this excites me every time I encounter a new software. “Why?” you ask. I’ll tell you.
I have an innate need to constantly improve everything around me. – Isn’t that what technology means? “Systematic treatment”. I constantly want to tweak, and tweak the systems around me. Always have, from when I was a kid. The same trait continued as I transitioned into adulthood. Systematically treating things like they can always incrementally improve – kaizen!
4. I love learning and growing with the industry.
As much as I like systematization and consistency in growth, I also have grown to enjoy the challenges that come along with the technical questions, as well as the social, people management aspects of Construction. I’ve encountered scenarios of cultural growth that comes along with younger generations, and worldwide experiences impacting how Construction is done today. Innovation doesn’t stop with technology. Innovation has changed the way society interacts. We live in a social environment – where we can do in person meetings, 50 thousand miles away and have transparency with social media, where we learn other’s thoughts and opinions real time.
5. I love collaboration! – Collabo in preconstruction is HUGE.
Collaboration can be a wonderful thing when done Right! There are so many elements to doing it right – much of it has to do with the “BUY-IN” of the total team. Each person has to feel valued and trusted and capable of getting the type of respect for their opinion because of their expertise. If there is a kink in the chain it doesn’t work well. Each person must be a contributor and must be encouraged to do so. Only then, does the whole team get the benefit of all the skills in the team. In other words, you are able to use all of the tools in the toolbox – never neglecting one or two. This is done by creating synergy between the parties involved.
Collaboration always works best if started at the inception of the project, when design is happening. This is why I mention collaboration is HUGE. It is! The contractor/builder must be able to speak to the constructibility of the design, or there is a inevitable need for design changes.
6. Lean Construction is Awesome!
The Toyota Production System outlined in The Toyota Way by Jeffrey K. Liker, talks about illuminating muda (or waste) by using the knowledge of the last planner AKA the person who is physically putting the pieces together or “Swinging the Hammer” as we say is the most important person to get input into the plan of executing a project.
Those of you have had the opportunity to encounter the Lean Construction Institute, http://www.leanconstruction.org/, you can understand that the founders had the willingness to try to implement the success found at a manufacturing company like Toyota and test it out for construction. This takes the type of vulnerability from crazy trailblazers that is rarely accepted. Today, many companies are implementing the refined principles.
7. I love providing my clients with a Quality Product from inception of a design to day 1 – and beyond in your space!
This is my passion. Seeing the faces and hearing the accolades from reviving the culture of a business, to just upgrading the HVAC behind the walls for more efficient energy use, to upgrading residential properties, allowing for a more creative space for businesses to host their clients / stakeholders.
Providing this satisfaction drives me. Knowing that I am helping you provide the experience you are striving for in your business, gives me the greatest fulfillment.
8. I love sharing my passion for Construction.
When I met my father-in-law for the first time, when I was just friends with my now husband, I learned that my father-in-law did construction, and had built a number of houses from the ground up. I also learned that my mother-in-law’s father owned his own construction company and mentored my father-in-law.
Oh mayn, did we talk…. probably about a few we talked.. Good times.
At that time, my husband knew that I fit in the family.
9. I believe there are a lot of people who give a lot value in this industry – I want to showcase YOU!
I’m dedicated to showcasing top performers, amazing case studies, and other construction enthusiasts that are impacting our communities.
BONUS! I believe relationships drive this industry
I want to build a community here of people who are passionate about the same things I am.
As leaders, the approach that follows will seem glaringly obvious. Yet new project after new project is kicked-off with sublime disregard of these basic truths. There is always some underlying source to cause failure.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”
– George Santayana.
How do you elevate your whole company or become successful as leaders in construction?
Having “Collective Genius” is the way to become one of the most the innovative companies.
Many times organizations establish a Business Framework: inclusive of Vision, Mission, and Values, and Objectives. It is taught that these boxes should be checked off when you start a company. Do you have a Business Framework that your company follows? And that can you ensure each person in leadership follows them? Can you recite each as if they are part of your being?
Believe me, people don’t remember that stuff verbatim! – Especially if they didn’t come up the statements. It is sometimes hard when you are the one who came up with it. [I know from experience. :-/ ].
How can you guarantee that your company’s leadership, all the way down to the mail carrier, CARRIES OUT the Values established for the company, in every task they do, conversation with the customers, in every thought? IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Much more, can this be done with a construction project team? Typically, construction project teams are made up of multiple parties – For example: Architects/Engineer (A/E), General Contractor and other specialty vendors for furniture, Audio Visual etc. That means have hire vendors that are not necessarily familiar with Your Company’s “Framework” to build out space for you?
Collaboration leads to group genius.
By using Lean Integrated Project Delivery( -ish) methods, you can absolutely have “built-in” schedule predictability, safety improvements, and maintain your budget. However, replacing bureaucratic behaviors must be done to achieve this, by “Transformation of Design and Construction”, by Lean Construction Institute (edited by Bill Seed of Walt Disney.) By having your project team change their behavior from bureaucratic to an open and honest level playing, all can glean the following benefits:
- The team has deeper & honest discussions.
- Trust is built within the team.
- You become long-term partners.
- You have collective genius.
At the Lean Construction Institute Congress in Boston, MA, the Keynote Speaker – John Y. Shook, gave kudos to Professor Linda Hill at Harvard Business School, a professor teaching only 22 minutes away from the World Trade Center, where the Congress was hosted. (The irony. 😉
Professor Linda Hill has done some research on how the most innovative companies have become and maintained successfully as leaders in their markets. Our Keynote ran the video of her well-liked Ted Talk to bring about a major phenomenon:
“… we found that innovative organizations are communities that have three capabilities: creative abrasion, creative agility, and creative resolution.”
These three community characteristics are similarly just as applicable to a successful Construction Project team. Shook talked to about his experience with Toyota as the senior American manager and his role to assist North American companies to implement the Toyota Production System.
What are these elements of Collective Genius and how do we apply them?
- creative abrasion
- creative agility &
- creative resolution
#1 Creative Abrasion –
The team is willing to argue for the greater good of the team and Every voice is heard. It is about fostering the generation of ideas, and allowing the safe space for discourse and debate.
This is what takes place when we do a pull-planning session. Everyone has the opportunity to voice their valid opinion. They have the attitude to argue why it makes sense to do it their way, and ask the question to challenge.
So you don’t think I’m advocating all-out arguments in work environments, arguing with someone is very different than arguing against someone: Arguing with someone is when you are arguing for a cause, a higher purpose! It is not simply to problem solve, but to value each other for each person’s expertise and capabilities.
“In innovative organizations, they amplify differences, they don’t minimize them…Individuals in innovative organizations learn how to inquire, they learn how to actively listen, but guess what? They also learn how to advocate for their point of view. They understand that innovation rarely happens unless you have both diversity and conflict.” – Linda Hill
You set up a system, where each person is tasked with contributing in order to better the cause – Never neglecting because there may be a challenge.
#2 Creative Agility
The team is willing to grow the areas that are not working OR make the hard decision to redirect – Quickly.
“Creative agility is about being able to test and refine that portfolio of ideas through quick pursuit, reflection and adjustment. It’s about discovery-driven learning where you act, as opposed to plan, your way to the future. It’s about design thinking where you have that interesting combination of the scientific method and the artistic process. It’s about running a series of experiments, and not a series of pilots.” – Linda Hill
This concept of Creative Agility is very similar to PDCA, which is “a framework that provides a methodical approach to problem solving and continuous improvement” – DR. W. Edwards Demming. It is an iterative cycle composed of four main phases: Plan, Do, Check, Act. (PDCA)
PDCA is shared by many manufacturing companies and especially by Toyota, and now in the Lean Construction Method. This process can be applied to any type of initiative – from small to large – and by any type of business function – Click here for more information about the PDCA method and how to implement it.
#3 Creative resolution
The team is willing to “keep going” even though the ideas don’t seem to fit. At least right away.
“The final capability is creative resolution. This is about decision making in a way that you can actually combine even opposing ideas to reconfigure them in new combinations to produce a solution that is new and useful. When you look at innovative organizations, they never go along to get along.” – Linda Hill
You can achieve Synthesis and Synergy, using this approach despite at even conflicting ideas:
- They don’t compromise.
- They don’t let one group or one individual dominate, even if it’s the boss, even if it’s the expert.
- Instead, they have developed a rather patient and more inclusive decision-making process that allows for both problems and solutions to arise and not simply either/or solutions.
Lean Construction Institute teaches Target Value Design, where all values are upheld in the design process. It allows for the designers and constructors to work together in an innovative manner to complete the design – never compromising on values, quality, budget, and schedule.
Wonder how Pixar and Zappos are considered some of the most innovative companies?
Collective Genius is the way!
Would you like to implement this framework in your internal company? Would you like to create a physical working environment that matches your internal company values?
To hear more about how to be Collectively Genius at your company, join my email list. You will get more posts like this and updates on my upcoming podcast.