In the building industry, owners, contractors and designers can find it difficult to get lean thinking to take root. The challenges of temporary teams, customized workflow, and lots of variability in each project can make an orchestrated change in culture seem impossible. Traditionally, the industry has been built on a mindset of isolating parties into silos and delegating risk to the next level, rather than doing a whole lot to actually mitigate the risk or improve the process. People often ask us, “What is the key to making lean work in the project-driven environment?” My answer is the Better Building model.
The Better Building model offers six core practices for bringing lean thinking to the project-driven organization. The practices rest on your values and purpose, and are built one on the other to support the value-added work of the organization. The six practices are shown in the pyramid along side Toyota’s 4Ps. The concepts are not new, but leveraging them in the world of projects is different than in steady-state manufacturing. The core practices are:
Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Term World
Align your actions with your long-terms goals, even on the shortest duration projects. Strategy should be seen on every project, not just in the board room.
Eliminate as much variability as you can and learn to manage the rest. This cycle of uncovering, eliminating, and managing variability is a powerful force for process improvement.
Launch your teams to high performance like a rocket rather than an airplane. In project work, your runway is too short for an airplane to gain speed and achieve liftoff.
Developing Your Temporary People and Partners
Focus on people development, even when the people are only engaged for a short time. You will probably see them again on another projects, and even if you don’t, your focus on people will create a culture that gets results.
Leading Without Authority
Top-down mandates don’t work, especially when you lack the authority to give directives. Switch to a model of Exponential Leadership to align your team and build capacity quickly.
Improvement comes from problem solving and experimentation. Learn to experiment and improve continuously without risking project outcomes.
The Better Building model offers practical advice for leaders at all levels who want to improve the experience of project work. Whether you are a lean veteran or just starting your journey, these practices can improve your effectiveness as a lean leader in your project-driven organization.
The book, Better Building: Lean Practice for the Project-Driven Organization, is now available on Kindle and in paperback. Check it out here.