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20th Edition 

January 2013

In This Issue
WANTED: Teamwork (Part 3 of 3)
Solving The Weakest Link in Construction
Lean Construction Facilitator Training


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January 16, 2013

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"Planning the Lean 
Construction Implementation" 

"The Core Lean Tools"
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February 7th, 2013
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Contractors, Inc. 
Winter Convention
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Organizational and Project Teamwork!


There are Four Prerequisites for Teamwork to Occur in any Organization or Group.
Part Three (Final): Common purpose, common goals
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 elements #3 and #4. Required elements #3 (common purpose/motivated by a mission) and #4 (common goals and measurements) are usually addressed together. The largest barrier to these two elements is departmentalization. Departmentalization blocks businesses from achieving organizational wide teamwork for the following reasons: 

  • Departmentalization usually means individual departmental goals. Individual department goals prevent teamwork throughout the organization because everyone is concerned about achieving their own department's goals and how they will affect their own performance reviews and merit pay increases. 
  • These individual department goals also produce a lack of Lean "system thinking." The system is broadly defined as the processes required from the time an RFP is received until the project is delivered. For owner satisfaction to occur, everyone in the organization must have owner satisfaction as a common goal so they will all pull in the same direction. System thinking requires that all decisions and improvements in an organization are made based on their impact on the system efficiency. If a suggestion will improve department efficiency but will negatively affect the system efficiency, it is not done.

 For example, people working for a department      (instead of the system) generally process the          "information product" passing through their            department in production batches. They use          batch production because, for their department,    batching is most efficient (due to mental or              physical setup or change-over time).        Unfortunately, batching stops the information    product flow, extending the information product  lead time and making the system less efficient.  Additionally, these individual department goals  may cause other behaviors detrimental to system  efficiency. For example, the business  development  manager who cares only about  "getting the  project" and not making sure that all  the owner's  expectations and requirements are  clearly  defined, or engineering tossing a design  "over the  wall" to the subcontractor even though  the design  is not installation ready. 

  • Departmentalization inhibits cross-training, which prevents associate growth. It limits the full use of our mental resources in improving the system efficiency because few people understand how the system operates. 

Lean drives down the authority, responsibility, and accountability to the lowest levels in the organization. It includes eliminating silos and departmentalization that are a traditional part of most corporate cultures so the flow of information and material through the organization can improve. An organization that is organized in silos or departments creates many handoffs. Wherever there are handoffs, there are delays and opportunities for errors. In a World Class organization, flexible, cross-functional teams are created to focus on processes that provide products or services to particular customers or markets from RFP to project delivery. These Value Streams or Business Units are assigned to a team leader who forms a team. The team is then given the autonomy to manage its own processes based on the organizational goals. The teams are focused on maximizing the amount

of value delivered to the owner. 

Solving the Weakest Link


By Ted Angelo


In any business, and especially in construction, there are always ways to improve a process. However, how do we identity the most important process to improve? Let's think of each of our processes as links in a chain. It has been said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Obviously, it makes sense to take the time to identify the weakest link.


How is this done? In most cases, the weakest link will be directly related to eliminating waste, and thereby improving profitably. If there is a reoccurring issue that is constantly raising its head and is found to be a distraction to the organization, this may be your weakest link. For example, in construction, at times there is a disconnect between what is estimated and designed and the actual installation. This disconnect can begin right from the start with the typical turnover meeting, which is designed to pass on specific project information to those who are responsible for the installation but were not involved in the bidding or designing of the project. We know the importance of this meeting or process. It enables the job to make or exceed the established margins. On larger projects, the execution of this process is usually not a problem; however on smaller projects (six months), do we make the time to use that same process?   


Let's assume our weakest link is our process of passing information on smaller jobs. First, we need to see the current process that is being used. There are lean tools that can be used to overcome your weakest link. For example one we have used effectively in the last few years is the A3 Problem Solving tool.


There are seven steps when using an A3:


1 - Background of the weakest link

2 - Current process

3 - Goal (going from current situation to what you want)

4 - Analysis of why the current process is not working.

5 - Possible ways to overcome the current situation (Countermeasures)

6 - Chose a countermeasure and develop a plan with dates

7 - Follow up to (a) make sure all team members are adhering to the new process and then (b) analyzing the results to see if the new process is really working - that is making a difference in our bottom line.  If not, start over.


Too many times we change a process and think we have solved the weakest link. However, in reality, we don't bother to validate the execution of the new process and as a result we actually (dare I say probably) fall back to doing things the old way instead of using the new process. Bad habit are difficult to break. Hence the need to apply the 7th step to make sure our time spent fixing the weakest link was not wasted.


What is YOUR weakest link?


Lean Construction Overview 

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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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