Lean Podcast Episode 3: A Field Talk with John Burleson
In this episode of our Lean Podcast “Hoots on the Ground”, host Adam Hoots visits the jobsite with John Burleson, a superintendent with Robins & Morton in South Carolina.
John has been in the construction business for 14 years. His Lean journey started about seven years ago with a failed experience as he didn’t have the team involvement and support needed. After that first foray, every Lean journey since has met the goals.
He shares that you need the culture and collaboration with the trade partners and architects to reach the potential of Lean. You must care about the people and project and align behind the same goals. The jobs with the best culture have the best success.
LEARN with LEAN
Adam and John discuss how they LEARN with LEAN; some of John’s tips for implementing Lean on the jobsite; and words that irritate them.
“Building Forward” is the motto driving the jobs John completes with Robins & Morton. The company has been on the Lean journey since 2010 and works to implement Lean on all its projects and with the understanding that each project must make Lean its own.
They begin by getting everyone in the same room to determine what success and how to create that center of collaboration. This foundation is key to build the culture that drives innovation and encourages involvement. Can we be better tomorrow than we were today?
The Visual Nature of Lean
Before sitting down for the podcast, Adam and John walked the jobsite and snapped some visual pictures to better show the visual nature of Lean. The job site has Conex and BIMBOX containers for collaboration. John wants everyone as close to the work as possible and with the proper technology to support their work. They ensure there is enough workspace and Internet connectivity to support the full team and trades.
To be mindful of meeting with COVID, the team adapted some storage containers with rolling garage doors to enable more open sharing to spread out and still have visibility. It’s dubbed “The Lean Machine.”
Just as having a place to meet, John shares that setting the right time for daily huddles also matters. He polls the team to see what timing works best for everyone. This lays the foundation for early involvement and support. They discuss the concepts of the parking lot, the ELMO doll, facilitators, stop watches and more.
Once of the takeaway points both echo is that Lean is not about all or nothing. It’s important to take baby steps and pick a few Lean items and get them sustained and working well, then add some more. You first need to build consistency and trust. It’s a series of small steps – or as Adam calls it, a “small j curve” approach.
John notes that when he started the perception was the Super knows all and has all the answers. He readily admits, that is not the case and that we must be humble to say if we don’t know the answer AND that we will find out though. It’s about being a team player that matters and not a hero or silo mentality if we want to succeed with Lean.
The duo round out the conversation with the pet peeve phrases on the jobsite. For John, it’s “I can’t.” He notes that most often they can if they want to but it takes want and willpower. Adam shares that the word “try” and phrase “the problem is” also are trigger words.
They concur that it’s all a mindset. That you must create the culture and collaborate and embrace Lean because you WANT to do it and for the right reasons, versus being told to do it.
We invite you to take a listen. And, if you’re in the South Carolina area, the guys invite you to come visit their new LCI Community of Interest forming there.
ABOUT HOOTS ON THE GROUND PODCAST:
The Lean Builder’s absolutely, positively NO bullshido podcast. Join Host Adam Hoots and his guests as they dig deep into the topics that are relevant to those of us who “get it”: the men and women with the dirty boots, the ones who work in the field, doing the hands-on business of construction each day. Listen in as we keep it real while stories from the trenches are shared along with lessons learned and some laughter along the way.
RESOURCE LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- theleanbuilder.com | Our main blog, book, resources, news & events website
- linkedin.com/company/the-lean-builder | Our LinkedIn community
- Lean Construction Institute | Industry association with local chapters
- Jennifer Lacy | Lean Practice Leader with Robins & Morton
- This is Lean: Resolving the Efficiency Paradox by Niklas Modig