Archive for September, 2013

“Our finely-honed deal-driven mentality.”

Posted September 29, 2013 By Fletcher Groves

(excerpted from The Pipeline)


“The best production models – the best-known, most highly-regarded ones – all come from manufacturing”, said the CEO.  “However, homebuilding is a different kind of management situation.  It has different parameters.

“Plus – production principles and disciplines are not as highly-developed in homebuilding as they are in other industries, due, in part, I suppose, to our finely-honed deal-driven mentality.”

“Meaning what?”, asked the intrepid, results-based consultant.

“I know what he means”, said a superintendent.  “He means land deals that turn into community developments.  It’s really finely-honed lurching.  But, the deal-driven mentality isn’t restricted to so-called deals.  Literally, it’s everything we do.

“RB Builders has only recently gotten true process religion, and the still, small voice of deep systems spirituality has only been whispering to us, for what?  About a month?

“We tend to do everything like it is the first time, like we have never done it before”.


(The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production is available on the publisher website (, through the author website (, as well as,, and



Posted September 22, 2013 By Fletcher Groves

(excerpted from The Pipeline)


“Systems-thinking is a way of thinking, a way of reasoning, a way of problem-solving”, said the intrepid, results-based consultant.  “It determines whether something that’s ‘not right’ is really the problem.  Systems-thinking distinguishes between a symptom of a problem and the real problem.  It understands the difference between something that is the root cause of the problem, and something that is merely the effect of the problem.”

As she spoke, she wrote:




“Systems-thinking focuses on managing constraints.  Constraints are not bad, they are a fact of life for any system.  As I said earlier, for a system to not have a constraint, it would have to have unlimited capacity.  We know that’s never the case;  every system has capacity limitations.

“Constraints are the key to managing a system, to getting more out of it.

“To deal effectively with the capacity limitations imposed on the entire system by its constraint – by its bottleneck – the system needs to let the constraint set the pace and rhythm of production;  it needs to let the constraint be the drum, let it be the pacemaker.  That allows the system to exploit the constraint, by getting as much throughput out of it as it can.

“How does the system support the constraint?

“First, by subordinating the decision-making on every other resource to the needs of the constraint.  Second, once the constraint is at capacity, the system elevates the constraint.  It increases the capacity of the constraint, by switching it from some other non-constraint resource, or by acquiring additional resources;  it finds more of it”, she said.  “It understands the nature of constraints, that some are physical, but the vast majority are simply limitations imposed by our internal policies and beliefs, imposed by our own way of looking at things.

“Systems-thinking digs beneath the surface, digs beneath the mere appearance of things, and constantly and repeatedly asks ‘why?’.  It does not settle for the first answer that it hears.  It expresses legitimate reservation.

“It shatters erroneous assumptions and resolves conflicts.”


(The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production is available on the publisher website (, through the author website (, as well as,, and



Posted September 15, 2013 By Fletcher Groves

(excerpted from The Pipeline)


“If a chain – it’s purpose, strength, value, weight, cost, weakest link, etc. – is a fair analogy of our production system, RB Builders would never have more than one constraint to better performance”, said the intrepid, results-based consultant.  “But – our production system would always have to have at least one constraint;  otherwise, it would have unlimited production capacity, and we know that’s not the case.

“In reality, RB Builders might have more than one constraint, because we have more than one chain of dependencies”, she said.  “There are external, market-related constraints, there are internal, production-related constraints.  There are constraints to higher margins, there are constraints to higher productivity.  There are constraints on capital.

“But – any and all of these chains, with their own weak-and-weakest links, are part of the overall system.  In some way, they are what determine our capacity and capability to improve performance – to improve what we do, how we do it, and what we accomplish.

“The particular chain that is RB Builders’ production system”, she continued, “is focused on generating as much Throughput as possible, within the parameters established by a planned, controlled, and finite level of capital, resources, and capacity.  So – within the limitations imposed by a planned, controlled, and finite level of capital, resources, and capacity – RB Builders’ production system is focused on whatever limits production.

“At any point in time, RB Builders will have very few internal, production-type constraints, very few things that really limit the rate at which we can generate additional Throughput – and, thereby, generate cash flow, make a profit, and produce a return on our owners’ investment.  And – one of those limitations will inevitably prove to be a bigger limitation than any of the others.

“That is where the focus must be, right now.”


(The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production is available on the publisher website (, through the author website (, as well as,, and


“I remember where I was . . . I remember who I was with.”

Posted September 10, 2013 By Fletcher Groves

(An updated version of this entry is posted on “Escape from Averageness” every year nearing the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks)


“What is it that you remember most about 9/11?”  Whenever I am asked that question, my answer is invariably, “I remember what I cannot forget.”

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I was in the offices of Fidelity Homes, in Venice, Florida, just starting a process mapping engagement that would give this start-up builder a state-of-the-art set of business processes.  SAI’s involvement was part of a large pro bono effort, sponsored by Professional Builder, that included a number of top consultants then serving the homebuilding industry.

I was the Process Architect for Fidelity Homes.

Sitting across the table were David Hunihan and Todd Menke, two young builders, eager to take their experience in homebuilding and pursue a National Housing Quality award.  I still think David and Todd represent the entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking that remains the best hope for this country and for this industry.

We had barely started, when David was pulled away by a telephone call.  It was his wife, Lauren, asking if he was aware of what was going on in New York City.  As the events continued to unfold, in New York City, in Washington DC, in western Pennsylvania, we eventually found that it was impossible to focus on mapping processes, and whatever we were doing did not seem all that important, anyway.  We cancelled everything for the rest of the day, and, in our own ways, watched and tried to process what was happening.

Bill Lurz, then a senior editor at Professional Builder, joined us the following day.  We finished the project two days later, and I drove back to my family in Ponte Vedra Beach through a tropical storm.  Understandably, the hugs had more conviction than usual.

The articles were written for Professional Builder.

I still consider the events of 9/11 to be a matter of unfinished business for this country.  Time has not changed my feelings one iota.  We were attacked because of who we were, and because of who we unapologetically remain.  Evil is still the enemy of good, and evil still has a face.  In the face of that evil, we have failed to clearly state what war is;  we have dismissed the understanding of war as the utter and complete destruction of an enemy.

Whatever we think of issues like the tradeoff between national security and the constitutional rights to privacy of US citizens, the murder of US diplomats and security personnel in Benghazi, or the ramifications of a decision to intervene in the conflict in Syria, the discussion on those matters misses the point.

It misses the point, because it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem.  The core problem is not the threat of future terrorist attacks, or the presence of Weapons of Mass Terror;  the problem is the terrorists.

“Fleury.  Tell me what you whispered to Janet, in the briefing, to get her to stop crying about Fran, you know, before all this, before we even got airborne.  What’d you say to her?  You remember?”

“I told her we were gonna kill ’em all.”

(The Kingdom, Universal Pictures, 2007)