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Go Lean, Leap Like a Rabbit

It is that time of the year when rabbits rapidly change color to survive the harsh realities of winter. One day they are brown and then just about over night they go through this amazing transformation to white that lets them thrive in and amongst hungry predators that are looking for that next juicy meal.

The rabbits somehow know they need to stay alert for those times when the white camouflage alone is not enough. They also need be nimble enough to be able to leap for their lives or be eaten.

Going lean also applies to drastically improving the performance of a business or project. When times are good companies can get lazy and complacent. When margins get tight, only the fit will survive.

So is there some magic potion one can drink to emerge as a business survivor?

Why Lean Works

Having salvaged a company, kick started three others and delivered 10+ successful projects using lean practices, I have come to the conclusion that Lean Works. It literally lifts organizations, projects and people out of the quagmire of mediocrity and challenges them to be great. Ok, how Great?

Lean practices lifted Integrated Designs (IDI) out of three years of losing money to have its best year ever in 2019. So good in fact that I was able to sell the company for the asking price, because I had over a 2-year backlog of work on the books.

Lean practices sucked the waste out of a $38.5m U of W Richardson College project to find the $10M it was over budget. The hand-picked team exceeded expectations from a very demanding client and were rewarded with contracts for future building projects, based upon their ability to deliver value.

Lean Turn Around companies like Alcoa, Lean Leaders like Toyota, Lean Start-ups like Tesla have learned to do battle with waste and become great companies. Companies that can “Leap like a Rabbit” and become very successful.

Lean Requires Companies to take a Leap

As much as I love lean, it is a huge challenge because it just doesn't catch on unless the rabbit is forced to take a leap to save their ass. Getting Lean ain’t easy, which is why we have so few lean success stories in the building industry. If lean was easy everyone would be doing it!

Lean requires a lot of energy and focus, as it takes a major commitment. It takes a whole new mindset! It needs to be an all in 3-Pronged Approach.

· From the top down, a commitment from management that brings focus to the effort needed to leap above competitors and transform to a lean culture.

· From the inside out we need to reinvent the Systems of how we go about creating value in a collaborative and trustful manner with business partners.

· From the bottom up we need to build a culture of eliminating waste and solving problems.

Did I say PROBLEMS? Yes, we need to embrace the idea that we all have problems. They are opportunities for improvement and we need to stop and fix them with the people doing the work. They know best. Lean Thinking is all about problem identification and collaborative solving.

When fully implemented with a 3 Pronged Approach, lean enables companies not only to survive, but thrive in mature competitive markets.

The Building Industry Needs to Leap into the 21st Century

So if we wanted to pick an industry that really needs a makeover, we would pick the building industry, as it only converts 10% of the work effort to value. This is pathetic as compared to manufacturing, which achieves 60%. This waste represents $500 Billion per year in North America alone. Why not convert that waste into NetZero buildings and help take action on 40% of the climate change problem?

This huge amount of waste is attributed to two main issues, bad behavior and inefficiency of traditional project delivery. From the E-Myth series of business process books we learn that standard processes focused on customer value, adopted company-wide without exception are key to success.

Brilliant processes deliver Brilliant results with Average people

Greg Howell and Glen Ballard recognized that traditional project delivery systems are inefficient and result in projects being delivered late, over budget and not meeting expectations for value. So they developed three brilliant systems for the building industry and introduced them to the building industry through the Lean Construction Institute.

· The Last Planner System is a planning, scheduling and construction work flow management system

· Target Value Delivery is a system to ensure that projects deliver value to the target cost

· The Big Room is a collaboration system that gets players out of their silos and working as a team

OMG, what a huge business opportunity to kick ass in a broken building industry!

Get Started with Brilliant Systems

A good way to get involved in lean is to attend local Lean Communities of Practice or Lean Construction Institute national conferences. A good way to ramp up a project team is to hire a coach and host a boot camp to learn the fundamental systems and practices.

Another option is to take advantage of a new online course Take the Fast Lane to Project Success.” This Lean Project Delivery Framework course includes the business case, system guides for the three main systems and a playbook on to how deliver a lean project. The weekly work sessions prepare participants to deliver a lean project.

We also encourage participants to “Get Certified in Lean Project Delivery.” The Lean Project Intern level requires 10 hours of formal training and passing an exam. The Implementer level is achieved with 50 hours of training, passing an exam and 1500 of practical experience. The Integrator level is achieved with 100 hours of formal training plus 4500 hours of experience.

Make Going Lean Easy

Based upon over 10 years of experience fixing projects and kick starting ventures, I am convinced that lean creates an unfair competitive advantage but have come to realize that very few organizations really have lean figured out. Lean is not a magic potion, it is easy to say, hard to do. This is why so few companies like Toyota, are successful in becoming a true lean company.

Looking to the future, we need to simplify the transformation to Lean practice so that it not such a monumental under taking. Can it be as simple as building a Team that works in a spirit of Trust and Collaboration to create Value using proven Systems? That it is!

In our next article we will explore how to gain traction with senior management for a lean transformation.

Go Lean, Leap Like a Rabbit,

Murray Guy,

Ps. The next “Take the Fast Lane to Project Success” online session begins Mar 16th. If you want to Get Certified in Lean Project Delivery, you can start here, write the exams and submit your lean credentials online.

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