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19th Edition 

December 2012

In This Issue
WANTED: Teamwork (Part 2)
Keeping Your Best Employees
Lean Construction Facilitator Training


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Organizational and Project Teamwork!


There are Four Prerequisites for Teamwork to Occur in any Organization or Group.
Part Two: Valuing diversity because it creates powerful teams 
By Larry Rubrich 

The four elements required for teamwork to develop in any organization are:


1) High levels of two-way communication

2) Team members with diverse backgrounds

3) Common purpose/motivated by mission

4) Common goals/measurements


This Newsletter will discuss element #2: Team members with diverse backgrounds.


The most creative, best problem-solving teams are those with team members who have diverse backgrounds. Diversity allows the composite team to view problems and opportunities from many angles or facets-a 360 degree global view. Every person working on a problem sees the problem from his or her angle, facet, or frame of reference. This angle is determined by the person's background, education, experiences, and culture (BEEC). These factors force a person to view the problem from that angle or frame of reference. If there are 10 people on a team and they all have similar BEEC factors (or think of it as 9 clones of the same person), great or even good creativity or problem solutions will not occur because the problem or opportunity is not seen in its entirety. Will the team with similar BEECs come up with a solution? Yes. Will it ultimately be viewed as a good solution? No. This poor solution is strictly the result of the non-diverse team not being able to take a global view of the problem and, therefore, being unable to problem solve for all aspects and potential complexities of the problem.


American organizations have a mixed bag in terms of diversity. Fortune 1000 firms that work and compete in the global economy first learned that diversity was required

to do business globally. They then learned that this diversity brought power to their teams. However, for companies of 500 people or less, which represent greater than 95 percent of all American businesses, it's a different story. When the President, CEO, or plant manager of these organizations is asked whether the organization has diversity in its workforce, the answer will be yes. True enough, but there is no power (only untapped power) in this type of diversity. This diversity is based on hiring members of one or more local ethnic groups who will work for the wages being paid. In general, English communication skills are not a job requirement. Without communication, there is no teamwork, and therefore, no "diversity power." The largest type of waste (of the eight types of waste) in these organizations is #8-underutilized human resources.


Ultimately, the goal of team diversity, regardless of whether it is ethnic, cultural, or social, is to develop a team that is unencumbered by "group think" but can effectively communicate and in due course develop team consensus.


The following is an excerpt from the Commencement speech give by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Southern Methodist University on May 12, 2012. In this excerpt, Condoleezza talks about how individual and professional growth only occurs in an environment when we, and the people we surround ourselves with, constantly challenge our assumptions and opinions.


"But no one should assume that a life of reason is easy. To the contrary, it takes a great deal of courage and honesty. For the only way that you will grow intellectually is by constantly examining your opinions, attacking your prejudices, and completing your journey toward the force of reason. It can be unsettling, and it can be tempting instead to opt for the false comfort of a life without questions. Unfortunately, that's easier to do today than ever. It's possible to live in an echo chamber that serves only to reinforce your high opinion of yourself and what you think. That is a temptation that educated people have a responsibility to reject. There is nothing wrong with holding an opinion and holding it passionately. But at those times when you're absolutely sure that you're right, talk with someone who disagrees. And if you constantly find yourself in the company of those who say "Amen" to everything that you say, find other company."


In our next newsletter, we will discuss Elements #3 and 4: Common Purpose and Common Goals.

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Keeping Your Best Employees


By Dennis Sowards


A few years ago in the construction industry, we heard a lot about forthcoming employee shortages. Then the great economic downturn happened and with many company layoffs, worker shortages haven't been an issue lately. However, some human resource experts are predicting that many overworked top employees will be moving on to different jobs as the economy recovers. A recently completed survey by Deloitte, an international consulting firm, revealed that 65% of those surveyed want to leave their current employers. What would happen if you lost two-thirds of your workers? While the survey came from employees working in large companies and may not have included contractors, the question still remains: How will you keep your best employees? Here are some suggestions:

  • Be clear on the company's purpose for existing - This is your vision of what the company is trying to become. It should be something to reach for, a reason for employees to get excited about coming to work. If you don't have a vision, why would employees want to stay with a company that's going nowhere?
  • Communicate what is going on - What jobs are being bid, what jobs are making it and losing it, what risks you are taking and how you are addressing the risks. Most managers under-communicate by a factor of 10!  Being on a team means we all share the team's plans. One company found that holding a meeting every Monday morning with a consistent agenda was very useful. They would briefly review the jobs progress from the previous week, and work backlog. They cover cash flow (money in, money out, net for the week, and net year to date.) They review the current week's key work plans. Finally, they hold an open discussion for anyone to ask questions or surface issues or concerns. In many cases, solutions are decided in the meeting, and everyone knows the final decision. These meetings last 20 to 30 minutes. Open communication helps. Maybe Monday mornings are not the best times for your company to hold this meeting, and perhaps, with jobs scattered around the area, it is hard to hold only "one" meeting. Figure out what does work for your needs. The point is to communicate to employees what is going on.
  • Create respect (trust) - Ask your employees for their ideas to help the company improve and grow, and then listen, listen, listen. The survey referenced earlier found that over half of those wanting to leave their present employers listed the lack of trust in senior management as the key reason. The late Steven Covey, a noted management guru, taught that the greatest form of trust is to ask for one's opinion and to listen. If you can implement their ideas - do it. If not, say "thank you" and then, after thinking it over, explain why you feel it cannot be done.
  • Recognize accomplishment and effort - Studies show most managers think they do a good job of giving recognition to their employees, but when surveyed most employees disagree. Don't think you have to give big bonuses; these actually do little to motivate people day to day. A phone call, a hand written thank you note, a personal visit to the employee's work area to recognize some accomplishment goes a lot further than money. Employees are more likely to be loyal when they feel valued. Don't just recognize success, but also effort. A project manager may have drawn the "unlucky" project, but made a great effort to keep it from being even worse. 
  • Build a caring organization by caring - No organization cares about you. Companies can't care. Your bank doesn't care, nor do your customers. Only people have the capacity to care. You show you care by:
    • Knowing employees' first names and their families - who is graduating, expecting a baby, celebrating a birthday or anniversary.
    • Communicating regularly with employees, both formally and informally.
    • Doing things with them such as taking breaks and eating lunch at the same time. Some managers think they must be separate and aloof from their workers. This is not true. This doesn't mean you have to be best buddies, but eating in the same area shows you are human.
    • Hiring people who care. Remember GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) is more than an information systems truth. If you hire employee who are non-caring workers/supervisors, don't be surprised when workers act the same and treat your customers the same way.
    • Say, "I'm sorry" and admit fault and mean it.
  • Be fair and consistent - Don't play favorites. Don't have "pet" employees that can do no wrong. Use team incentives rather than individual rewards based on subjective evaluations.
  • Hold personal management interviews (PMIs) - The PMI is a regularly scheduled meeting between the manager and his/her direct reports.  It has a structured agenda and allows for open discussion and sharing of information.  The manager shares with the direct report what he or she needs to know about issues, upcoming plans and new possibilities. The direct report shares with the manager what she or he needs to know about issues, plans, concerns and performance relating to that person's stewardship. In the PMI they discuss possible actions either one may need to take in response to the issues they surfaced. They may make decisions and commitments or identify additional information needed to respond. They also discuss training needs and opportunities and development plans for the direct report, and progress toward previously set goals. (For a sample agenda for a PMI - contact Dennis Sowards at dennis@YourQSS.com)

As the economy improves, we will have the need to man many jobs and retain our skilled employees. Will your employees stay or will they go?  You cannot stop them from leaving; some will go no matter what you may do. But taking a proactive approach NOW will help you retain the best. Don't assume they are loyal just because they work for you today. No one wants to be taken for granted.


* Survey reference: Deloitte's Talent Edge 2020

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This Lean newsletter is the result of the collaboration of three organizations:
Grunau Company
Ted Angelo, Executive Vice President

Quality Support Services, Inc.
Dennis Sowards, President


WCM Associates LLC
Larry Rubrich, President


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  WCM Associates LLC, 2012. All rights reserved.
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