If you’ve been a reader of The Lean Builder blogs for any time, you’re familiar with our series, “A Field Walk With” where I profile a Lean practitioner and help them share their journey. So far, we’ve shared the stories of 13 Lean champions. We’ve been strategic on our profiles to cover a variety of backgrounds, company sizes, geographies, and roles as we work to show how all-encompassing and rewarding a Lean journey can be.
The Q&A-style format includes about 10 questions that look at the person’s journey as well as advice on securing buy-in, tips for implementation, and the future of our industry. As you might guess, we’ve uncovered some commonalities along the way, such as:
- Lean can be practiced on projects without buy-in from major trades, GCs, owners, or design teams. Sure, it isn’t as robust and effective as when everyone is committed and following Lean principles, but it’s still valuable and effective for the company using Lean.
- Lean can be implemented on projects of all sizes and build types – from ground up to remodel and from retail and healthcare to multifamily and warehouse.
- The overwhelming consensus is to start small in sharing Lean in the field and with those hesitant to change. The number one suggestion is to implement daily huddles. Almost every Lean expert also heralded the value of the Last Planner System.
- In terms of the single most important value achieved from Lean it comes down to respect for people. The topic came up in every interview with robust examples of just how that plays out on projects and career paths.
Insight from Lean Leaders
In this part one blog, I’m sharing tips for our Lean experts on ways to overcome resistance and get started:
- Steve Turner with FPI Builders shared his success in gaining buy-in with a 2-week challenge: “When we introduce something new to our trades or staff, all we ask is for them to try it for 2 weeks. We ask them to be all in for 2 weeks, and then let’s review and see what’s happened. It’s the ever-present PDCA cycle! This has worked well for us in many areas – some things stick, others get adjusted, and some just don’t fly at all. But for sure, we can get almost 100% buy-in all the time with asking for just 2 weeks.”
- Henry Nutt with Southland Industries shared how he approaches resistance: “I answer the question: What’s in it for me? Why do I do this if it doesn’t help me? I show them how buying into Lean will help benefit them in their actual day and increase the pride they feel in their work. It’s about how to be more effective, safe, and productive without unnecessary stress that we compound on ourselves when we don’t work as a team.”
- Chris Davis with Turner Construction added that resistance is expected and what he notes: “Pay attention to the super-resistant. They often end up being the hard-core supporter of the new way. Why? Because their skepticism is an honest assessment of the change. Early adopters are often early droppers…easy-come, easy-go. The skeptic is in for the long haul.”
- Jesse Hernandez of Life Time Inc added his tips to overcome resistance: “There are two things, and they’re deceptively simple. The first absolute requirement is that I must listen to them. And by listening, what I mean is receiving all the sound that is coming out of their mouth, listening for the story that they’re telling themselves, listening to hear the pain points in their experience. That’s one part. That’s how I receive the information. I display the fact that I’m listening by taking action to minimize their pain. It’s about listening and acting on a problem that they care about first, period.”
- Kent Hedges with Medxcel noted how pull planning has been a game changer in the field: “I’ve been amazed by the progression of field teams when they can more easily connect the dots between major milestones and daily activities. It’s fun to watch salty superintendents get excited because they can better anticipate next steps through their increased understanding of the entire Last Planner System.”
- Leadership coach Rebecca Snelling shared a quick tip to get started: “I encourage people and teams to look for opportunities within their own walls to improve their work. In some cases, a trade may only have a handful of people their work interacts with. Open lines of communication and plan with the people who work before and after you. There are all kinds of things you can do regarding work coordination, materials ordering, visual managementand 5S Lean. One drywall company I knew had all their equipment painted the same bright color. Their entire team could easily tell what tools theirs were and bring it back to their brightly painted gang box.”
- Justin Davis with Skiles Group added that the pandemic’s social- distancing protocols had a game-changing positive for engagement: “The daily huddle is still the best Lean tool in our box for sharing information and he level of communication that is exchanged, and the weekly board wipe-down/3-week look-ahead meeting keeps the last planners truly involved in and understanding the schedule. The pandemic really forced us to revamp how we conduct meetings and who could be there. The field teams have really flexed their adaptability skills, and now we have live, interactive, and documented morning huddles where we can get more of the right people talking than we ever could before.”
- Greg Stedman with KHS&S Contractors ended his interview with this priceless nugget: “If you make it about the intention and not the tool, you will get a much better response and outcome.”
Next week, I’ll share some wisdom from our Field Walk leaders on the biggest value of Lean and the trends they see coming.
In the meanwhile if you haven’t read the full series of interviews, I invite you view the blog overview page to read each person’s interview.
- Based on feedback from our readers, we’re continuing this series in 2023! If you’d like to share your journey or suggest someone to feature, please reach out to us for consideration.
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