Toby Hecht

April 25, 2008

Wow, long time since I visited this site…well ’07 was a busy year.  Someone just reintroduced me to Toby Hecht and his site the Aji network. Toby is a consulting associate who has been doing great work in educating people with distinctions in wisdom and ethics in a business context and offering the tools to dramatically increase your profits. 

Here are a couple things I want to share from his site to give you a flavor of his work…

            “Either a person accumulates knowledge and power to take care of their financial concerns and live a good life, or the market place determines their possibilities and they become marginalized, often without even realizing it.” 

“For people with uncommon financial and quality of life ambitions, common knowledge and common sense are the problem, not the solution. Only uncommon knowledge and uncommon sense enables a person to have the competitive advantage, identity, autonomy and organization necessary to succeed. (Living a good life with an income in the top 5% – $150,000 to 0.01% – $3,600,000 is uncommon.)

“This excerpt is a “First Talk” about ambition. Personal ambition is a fundamental skill of accumulating uncommon power for producing competitive advantage, identities of trust and value, autonomy and a powerful organization. Ambition produces action. It makes powerful choices possible. It is a narrative that brings forth moods of passion, assessments of situations and action, strategies and tactics, and skill.”

Check out Toby’s work,  I highly recommend it.

I want to offer to start using this space for businesses to share information and practices that could raise the standards for how we do business.  My intention is that through collaboration and sharing of knowledge we increase the chances of success.  What’s inspired me is as I have moved around the country in the last ten years I see pockets of success with certain parts of a business, and found that information to be valuable to other businesses.  That was the reason I founded a roundtable discussion and what has become a NARI chapter,  seven years ago – I found contractors very interested in what other GC’s where doing, and they didn’t have a way to easily discover that. 

There are a few challenges with this… One problem is getting the right information out fast enough to everyone that needs it in a way that could make it useful.  Another one is the idea many have about competition with others, making sharing what works for you seem like a really bad idea.  Another might be the fear and doubt people have about what really does work, what you can do and what you can’t – what works for one company may not work for another!  These are all valid concerns, and I intend to explore them one at a time and see what makes more sense – collaborate or compete?  Your thoughts and ideas are most welcome…


What’s Up with Toyota?

January 21, 2007

Has anyone read the latest issue of “Fast Company” with the 8 page article on Toyotas Georgetown plant?  The author Charles Fishman makes some really great points about how they do what they do, and why many other companies are missing the point.  But before I get into the really good stuff,  I have to say I am equally impressed with the fact that they are dominating the industry and opening new plants, while Ford and GM have layed off 46,000 workers just in 06, and will be closing 26 north american factories in the next five years.  Does that get your attention?  It does mine.  So does that fact that Georgetown is making a car every 27 seconds, 2000 cars a day, while continuosly making improvements to the line.  Read the rest of this entry »

Traditionally, the management of a company and all the responsibility has always fallen to the shoulders of the owner.  This model of management carries from the dark ages of kings and serfs, in the same way we build roads based on the width of two horses side by side. We really are ready for a new way of thinking.  Today’s employees are just not responding to command and control paradigm the same way they used too. (hard to keep up with isn’t it) In national surveys taken by the Franklin Covey organization, money is no longer the most important motivator either.  Now what people want is recognition and acknowledgement for their work.  The want to have the opportunity to contribute, have a voice in the matter, and feel like they are making a difference in contributing to something meaningful. And what do owners want?  They want to have employee’s work with greater intelligence, think for themselves, solve problems, be more productive, in short, owners want employees to behave more like an owner. So why don’t employees just step up and go for it? Could it be a few centuries of institutionalized behaviour deeply embedded into our business culture that says, don’t take a risk, don’t speak up, and certainly don’t be responsible for anything you really don’t have to.  The old way – command and control – tell them what to do and have them do exactly as they are told…. the new way – communication, collaboration, teamwork.  Read the rest of this entry »

How do You Manage People?

January 15, 2007

I was in a meeting with a company last week when one of the project managers said he was having trouble with one of the lead carpenters he manages, and was wondering if it was wise to have that lead continue to run jobs.  The owner stepped in and said that – “having that lead be succesful was the job the Project Manager was hired for.  “If he fails, you fail,  so you need to develop a commitment and methodology that makes that guy look good”.   This is an example of the kind of management that happens in a culture of accountability, its the opposite of the more traditional  command and control style that I write elsewhere about.  Read the rest of this entry »

I got a call yesterday from a contractor yesterday asking for my help with his business.  He said he is a General Contractor, and then he proceeded to tell me the recent history of 26 years in business.  Mostly what he related were his frustrations and problems with his employees, which have ranged from 35, down to 9 presently.  He relayed that he has tried everything to motivate them, and nothing has worked.  So I said I would meet with him to find out more about how he was running his business and managing his people.  When I met with him,  what I discovered was about 40 percent of his daily activities that he considered his job, were responsibilities he should have been delegating.   The funny thing is, he didnt need me to tell him that, but he finds his circumstances very frustrating and discouraging, and has been unable to successfully turn it around.  Read the rest of this entry »

For most of us, where we waste time is not immediately apparent.  Obviously if it were, we would correct it.  But in the same way that we have employee’s operating with institutionalized behaviour, so too is our view of our own inefficiencies justified, and often with something as innocent as “that’s the way we have always done it”.  Hence the saying, ” Organizations rise to their own level of incompetence”.   I frequently run across the the regular practice of calling a sub-contractor four to six times to show up for a work assignment.  Now multiply that with how many leads you have, managing how many subs, then add in PM’s coordinating with the leads, architects, and owners….get the picture? Read the rest of this entry »

  When people ask me about the work I have been doing recently,  I tell them about the last 10 to 15 years or so, and then about meeting Greg Howell and his partner Hal Macomber 2 years ago.  I found them both to be very interesting, and our time together lead to finding that what we both have in common was a commitment to remove the suffering found in project management.  I didnt know at the time how serious Greg and Hal were about it, and I didnt know there was a world wide community sharing in these same concerns.   One of the next steps I would like to take is to organize a group of people from our local community to explore more deeply the practices of management, the problems, and new ideas and solutions.  I see this as an ongoing opportunity to learn, and connect ourselves to the larger international community for lean construction.  I recognize that some may think our practices at the level of residential may be too different from the larger commercial companies.  But it has been my experience that the kinds of problems they have sound very similar to the kinds of problems we have.  So I invite you to use this blog so we can begin to explore what’s working, and what is not working, and what we can do about it.   Tell me what it is that you would like to see as a priority for our focus, what breakdowns should we focus on first?   

Yesterdays event with Greg Howell went pretty well all things considered.  The technology was a bit challenging to say the least, but we were able to get a lot of information and very important points across to the group on the Last Planner System.  Greg did a great job of explaining the evolution and history that went into the making of the system. Some of the key points from memory: What Greg realized was needed was a planning system that allowed for tracking and matching of work flow and capacity, and the making and keeping of commitments to perform tasks. Greg explained how the system moves towards greater certainty from the master schedule, through the pull phase event, 6 week look ahead, to the weekly work plan. 

The system travels along a path of what should happen, to what can happen, to what will happen, and what did happen. Greg made a very good point about how effective collaboration at the pull event phase can reveal otherwise hidden conditions and or opportunities to make requests of other trades allowing the project to be completed weeks earlier.

 We talked about how foundational accountability is to planning, and how it arises in our speaking.  There is no heavenly endowed accountability outside our own speaking, that accountability arises in the moment of your speaking a commitment. This is a fundamental shift in moving from a task orientation with a background assumption that people already are accountable, no matter if they say so or not, to a new focus on whats being spoken between two performers. Were putting people, conversations for planning, and the commitments being spoken at the center and foreground of whats happening in the production process.  This practice builds accountability on all levels of your projects, as well as your organization.  All in all it was a pretty good event, and well do it again possibly in September.     

I just read Neil Gershenfelds book – FAB, the coming revolution on your desktop – from personal computers to personal fabrication. Its about the work that MIT is doing to create the means for anyone to create almost anything you want.  In fact, thats the name of the course they offer.  Your probably thinking “whats that got to do with construction”?  Everything.  Think about the fact that computers have evolved from monolithic mainframes to handhelds and imagine the same process of evolution for builders.  Most certainly the people we call cutomers will be taking a much larger role in the design and construction of their own homes.  Page 106 says they are already designing from physical scale models that converts cordinates directly to digital data using three dimisional scanners.  Engineering software then fills in the supporting mechanical and infra-structural services, and the resulting files get electronicly mailed to all respective parties.  Since everyone builds from the exact same specifications, human error is reduced to 0, which speeds delivery times.  Amazing…