Monday, August 18, 2003

One Trip, Two Sites, Three Thoughts

Mondays bring surprises and this one is no different. My colleage Jim asked me to make a run to a job site this morning to see a material problem. While in the area, I stopped in at another nearby construction site.

There is nothing like getting into the action to see things more clearly. I elaborate.

The first site was a simple building. One of our four-man crews were working on it, under the leadership of one of our experienced foremen. Nothing fact the building was back in a woods and will hardly be visible except to the owners, who obviously want some privacy. Yet, during the 20 minutes I was on the site, the four guys were working as a team. Nothing frantic, yet each guy had a role, plugged at it and as I backed out, I was amazed at just how much they had done in a third of an hour. I could sense a simultaneous pace and calm...a job site clearly under control.

The second site was a more complex building, but the task for the day was simple; setting forms in preparation for pouring a concrete basement wall. Six men were at work for a concrete subcontractor. Turned out I was there for about 20 minutes as well. The guys were moving about but it struck me that they moved without purpose. In the 20 minutes, I saw no rebar tied off, no forms set, no visible progress made. There was not a sense of pace.

This very unscientific observation is not meant to extrapolate either crew's performace from my mere 20 minute sample to a general trend. However, three things did strike me.

  • Being there tells you more than reading a report. Anyone wanting to offer leadership in process improvement has to be at the place of work.
  • Knowing what needs to be done is central. Jim Womack's first point of the Lean process is "Value". That breaks down to being able to answer the question "Just what do we need to get done today?"
  • One need not be frantic to get a lot done. Calm resolove and measured movement clearly wins the day in the real world.
I hope this bit of reality is helpful. And that your Monday is a good one. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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