Archive for December, 2016

Final Vision

Posted December 30, 2016 By Fletcher Groves

In recent years, Oswald Chambers’ words have become the final post of the year on Escape from Averageness®, the encouragement and assurance we wish to share with our clients, colleagues, and friends, for the year ahead.


December 31, 2016

The Final Vision of the Exalted Lord

Matthew 28: 16-20

By His Ascension, our Lord raises Himself to glory, He becomes omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

All the splendid power, so circumscribed in His earthly life, becomes omnipotence;  all the wisdom and insight, so precious but so limited during His life on earth, becomes omniscience;  all the unspeakable comfort of the presence of Jesus, so confined to a few in His earthly life, becomes omnipresence, He is with us all the days.

What kind of Lord Jesus have we?  Is He the all-powerful God in our present circumstances, in our present setting?  Is he the all-wise God of our thinking and our planning?  Is He the ever-present God, “closer than breathing, nearer than hands or feet”?

If He is, we know what it means to “abide under the shadow of the Almighty”.

Still Higher for His Highest, Oswald Chambers (compiled by D.W. Lambert, 1970)


Pipeline Workshops™: Finding TrueNorth

Posted December 27, 2016 By Fletcher Groves

As almost everyone in this industry knows, Scott Sedam is the President of TrueNorth Development, Inc., and is the foremost Lean Production practitioner in the homebuilding industry.  He is a Lean Building purist, with roots that go back to Total Quality Management.  He is a friend, and longtime fellow consultant.

In 2013, after The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production© was published, and as I was planning the first Pipeline workshop™, I suggested to Scott that he attend as SAI’s guest.  I wanted him to see the workshop for himself;  I wanted his opinion, but I also wanted him to share his own beliefs with those first-time attendees on applying Lean principles beyond the margin side of economic return, towards what we were now terming the velocity side of Return on Assets.

Scott came to the first workshop in March 2014, functioned like any attending builder in the discussions and in the Pipeline games™, and was a panelist (with me) on blending improvement methodologies towards a homebuilding solution.

Afterwards, in September 2014, this is what Scott wrote in a discussion on the Builder group on LinkedIn:

“If you are ready to challenge your brain, get out of your well-sealed ‘Builder Box’ and make a huge leap forward in understanding schedule and its impact, come to this workshop and bring a few of your better thinkers.

“The roots of [this] workshop are in Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, which is at first-blush exceedingly simple, but you can spend years studying the intricacies.  Fletcher puts it all in builder language and forces you to go deep into the impact of our most common builder practices.

“If all builders learned and followed the principles in [a Pipeline workshop™], our industry would take a huge leap forward.  The winners would not be the builders alone, but also homeowners and especially our suppliers and trade contractors.  Fletcher does not know I am writing this, but I strongly recommend his Pipeline Workshop™ to everyone who has the will to change for the better.”

Come. Participate.  Learn.


Join us – Brandon Hart, Clark Ellis, and Fletcher Groves III – at the next Pipeline workshop™, April 5-6, 2017, at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Cost is $875.00.  Early registration, open through January 12, 2017, is $745.00.

Sponsored by BUILDER and BuilderMT.

For more details:


The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production, Second Edition© is available on the publisher website (, as well as through the major book sellers (,, and


“God with us.”

Posted December 18, 2016 By Fletcher Groves

(the intrepid, results-based consultant is the main character in both editions of The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production©;  an updated version of this post appears on Escape from Averageness® every year, at Christmas)

The intrepid, results-based consultant reclined in the desk chair, put her feet on the desk, and smiled, as she observed the shambles that her almost four-year old son, now almost two-year old daughter, and their younger cousin had made of her consulting firm’s global headquarters.

They were now sprawled on the floor around their grandfather, as he demonstrated the nuanced disparateness between a Marlin Model 1895 .45 70 gov’t and a Ping Eye2 seven iron.

“Boomer, don’t turn my daughter into a son”, she said.

She sipped her pinot noir and sighed at the hopelessness of maintaining corporate décor this time of the year.  Looking around her home office, she reflected on no longer being on the road as much;  about being able to work most days in whatever she worked-out in;  about needing to create separation between personal and work life, where earlier in her career it had naturally existed.

Her reflections were interrupted by a call on her office phone.  It was an old business friend.  “Calling kind of late for a work night, aren’t you?  What made you think I would still be at the office?”

“I know where your office is”, he said.  “Where are you?”

“I am home.”

Home.  The end of meaningful work for the year.  She was looking forward to a well-deserved break with her family and friends.

The conversation was about families, about well-being, about being well.  They talked about business.  “How was 2016?”, he finally asked.  “And – how are you?”

“The ‘life changes’ have slowed, at least for a while”, she laughed.  “As for my day job, we’re not partying like it was 2006, but I’ll take it.  Actually, 2016 saw a hefty increase in the consulting work I do with individual clients, not back to where we were before the end of the Age of Homebuilder Entitlement®, but better than any time since.  On the other hand, the tenth year of six-figure declines from personal peak consulting income was about as much fun as the first nine.”

It was a line she had employed too many times, for too many years.  She thought about the duration and the cost of the housing depression, and shook her head.  Although she considered it a lost decade, she was grateful she could find the humor in it.

The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production© – you knew that I published the second edition this year, right?  It continues to resonate, and it drives the ever-growing series of successful Pipeline workshops™.  That was a goal that we set more than nine years ago;  the public, sponsored workshops are in their fourth year, and we are now conducting the two-day Pipeline workshops™ and one-day Pipeline seminars™ in some of the other channels we had identified.

“Oh – and I am finally looking at an infill development opportunity, one with a real historic and architectural connection to northeast Florida”, she added.  “You know – elegance and allusion.”

“You’re sounding more and more like your dad”, he said.

“Yep”, she said.  “Pretty scary.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant thought for a moment.

“The decision I made early-on – to work where I live, instead of living where I work – continues to pay off, especially when you can host your workshops in a five-diamond resort two miles from your house;  the conferences, the speaking engagements, the consulting engagements for individual clients still pull me out of town, but I do most of my work here.

“And – I’ve got this great little guy, and his adorable younger sister, that need me.

“Professionally, that’s where I want to be;  as the housing industry continues to return to whatever the new-normal will be, I want to turn more of the road work over to colleagues.

“In every way that really matters, I am – we are all – doing quite well.”

“That’s always good to hear”, he said.  “I hope you guys have a Merry Christmas.”

“The very same to you.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant ended her call, walked to the fireplace, and placed another log onto the fire.  As she did, the front door opened, and her husband and brother-in-law walked in, back from running their errands.  “Daddy’s back!”, she said, amid the squeals and barks.  “Aww!  They’ve missed you guys so much!  And, so have we – for four and a half hours.”

She nodded toward the door leading to the back porch, and then her sister.

“Does the other one care to join me?”

“I suppose”, replied her sister.  “Otherwise – what would the other one do?”

They walked outside, joined by her sister’s golden retriever, and reclined into two of the chairs around the pool.  They talked, at length, about things, well-past the content of their wine glasses.  “I think I will go check on the prospects for dinner”, said her sister.  “Can I bring you another glass?”

“Thanks, but no.  I’m good.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant looked into the northeast Florida sky on a clear, moonless, star-filled night, and her mind turned completely away from work, and toward family.  She thought about the birth of their two children:  she recalled the hope and apprehension, the joy and inevitable challenges, the huge changes to their lives, the newness each birth brought.

Her thoughts turned to Christmas, the one almost here and each one previous.

And, she thought about the first Christmas.

She wondered what the tiny town of Bethlehem must have been like that night, so long ago.  She thought about another young mother and father, who had made their trip with few resources, facing an uncertain future.  And, she thought about their soon-to-be-born son;  to everyone else, save a few curious shepherds and a cohort of prescient stargazers from distant eastern places, he was just another child, born in an insignificant city, in a world ruled under the unflinching authority of the Roman Empire.

She considered the character and attributes of the Creator of the universe, the Author of all that is good, the true Lover of her soul.  She thought about grace and mercy.  She thought about the words of the apostle Paul, buried deep in his first letter to the small group of believers in Corinth, describing Faith, Hope, and Love, the principles of the grace she now pondered.

She leaned further back into her chair and closed her eyes.

“Father, thank you for giving me a Faith that looks back and trusts that the claims this child – Your Son – would one day make about Himself are true, and that each and every moment of time and event of history either points towards, or proceeds from, that truth.  Not only a Faith in evidence past, but one that also believes in Your triune willingness and ability to manage this world and my part in it.

“Thank you, also, for giving me a Hope that understands eternity means never-ending, not just somewhere-down-the-road;  thank you for giving me a Hope that looks forward from the perspective of the eternal life I have right now, but also understands that, one day, this world – with its share of both joy and pain, and varying degrees of fulfillment – will end, and I will live, constantly and eternally, in Your presence.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant thought about a final point of gratitude, mindful of all the distractions to purposeful living that daily life could present.

“Most of all, thank you for giving me a Love that that leverages Faith and Hope to sustain me, to motivate me, to give me purpose, perspective – and resolve that I could never muster on my own – until You return, or until You call me Home.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant thought about the significance of the full-circle of events that began on that long-ago night.  There was a birth;  there would be a death, a resurrection, an ascension;  in-between, there would be an earthly life.

“We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this:  the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.”  (On the Incarnation, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 350 AD).

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  (John 1:4)

“And you shall call His name Immanuel.”  (Is. 7:14)

“God with us.”


Pipeline Workshops™: Come. Participate. Learn.

Posted December 13, 2016 By Fletcher Groves

In the weeks leading up to a Pipeline workshop™, we explain to builders what is about to happen, we describe the tools that they will have to learn to use, the facts of the business case they will confront, the knowledge they will take away from it, what they should expect to see.

We describe the challenging, disruptive, competitive nature of the learning – the degree of interaction, the level of intensity – they will experience.

EFA - HBB or BHB (capture)

At a Pipeline workshop™, it is learn-by-doing, applying production principles and disciplines to production simulation, and measuring the resulting operating performance and economic return.  We communicate our expectation that builders come prepared to learn that way, that there is no place to hide.  Nevertheless, attendees frequently tell us afterward they should have studied more, should have prepared harder, in advance of the workshop.

Brandon Hart, Clark Ellis, and I make no apologies for the extraordinarily demanding nature of a Pipeline workshop™.  It is intended to not just inform your thinking, but also to reform your thinking – to challenge it, to change it.  It is intended to test your understanding of how production systems work and how daily operating decisions drive business outcomes.

There is a difference between being in the home building business, and being in the business of building homes.

So – you have to come to a Pipeline workshop™ prepared for what is going to be thrown at you.

In particular, exploiting the RB Builders: Lessons from the Pipeline© business case study used at every Pipeline workshop™ requires that you have a working knowledge of the following tools:

  • Variable Costing; Contribution Income Statement;  Cost-Volume-Profit (CVP) Analysis
  • Breakeven, on both a price and unit basis
  • DuPont identity for Return on Assets
  • Little’s Law* (for calculating cycle time, work-in-process, and throughput, both periodic and rate)
  • Cost of Variation
  • Theory of Constraints
  • Lean Production
  • Six Sigma

You can read the book.  The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production, Second Edition© is usually carried, in stock, on all of the main bookseller websites;  it is also available directly from the publisher (

If you want it all handed to you, don’t bother to attend.  If all you want is binder material you can underline and highlight, and put on your bookshelf, don’t come.  If you aren’t willing to own what you take away from it, a Pipeline workshop™ is not for you.  If you believe improving the margin side of Return on Assets is the only game in town, a Pipeline workshop™ is about a different game.

But, if you are determined to create sustainable competitive separation, by thriving on the velocity side of Return on Assets®, by excelling at a discipline other builders find too difficult, too rigorous, too daunting, then a Pipeline workshop™ is precisely the right place for you to be.

Come.  Participate.  Learn.


The next Pipeline workshop™ will be held at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, on April 5-6, 2017.  Cost is $875.00.  Early registration, open through January 9, 2017, is $745.00.

Sponsored by BUILDER and BuilderMT.

For more details:

*We will help you out a bit on Little’s Law.  Consider this scenario:  C/T=120 days;  WIP=80;  Closings=240.  Little’s Law says:  CT = (WIP ÷ C) x 360;  WIP = (CT x C) ÷ 360;  C = (WIP ÷ CT) x 360.  Therefore:  CT = (80 ÷ 240) x 360 = 120 days;  WIP = (120 x 240) ÷ 360 = 80 units;  C = (80 ÷ 120) x 360 = 240 closings.


Pipeline Workshop™ No. 7: Save the Date

Posted December 6, 2016 By Fletcher Groves

Pipeline Workshop™ No. 7 will be held April 5-6, 2017, at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  The latest in the series of production management workshops in the open, sponsored Pipeline channel, it is sponsored, once again, by BUILDER and BuilderMT.

3-Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

“The Pipeline workshop™ was really effective in showing how operational decisions affect business outcomes and how risky a ‘more for more’ approach to growing a home building company really is.  The Pipeline games™ were not only fun, but they were super-effective in showing how unbalancing the production system, managing the constraint resource, and managing the right amount of WIP, creates predictable operational results and maximizes financial outcomes.

“This workshop was really eye opening!”  (Charles Roberts, Vice President of Operations, Providence Homes, Jacksonville, Florida)

Welcome to the most intense, demanding, interactive, challenging homebuilding production management learning experience on the planet.

It just keeps getting better.

In recent workshops, we lengthened the schedule, enabling us to do more with the deeper-dive velocity accelerators;  for Pipeline Workshop™ No. 7, the three velocity accelerators are Business Process Improvement, Epic Partnering™, and Critical Chain Project Management – a good mix of immediately available velocity acceleration, currently possible velocity acceleration, and the future of velocity acceleration.

We continue to refine the scenarios in the production simulator and business game known as the Pipeline game™.  Over the course of all the Pipeline workshops™, we have:  (1) made the game shorter and faster;  (2) switched to an operating statement format that mirrors the specific attributes of a homebuilding operation;  (3) found ways to transfer the learning and knowledge with fewer games.

Pipeline workshops™ are unlike any other homebuilding conference.

The learning split is 70/30, simulation/business case to lecture;  the format is intense, interactive and competitive;  the Pipeline game™ production simulations and the RB Builders: Lessons from the Pipeline© business case test attendees’ understanding of production management and challenge their ability to solve production problems.

Pipeline workshops™ build an intuitive, instinctive understanding of production principles and disciplines, and they draw the oft-too-subtle – yet crucial – distinction between being in the homebuilding business, and being in the business of building homes.

And – we make it all incredibly fun:  the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club is a terrific AAA Five Diamond oceanfront resort venue;  there is a great reception at the end of the first day;  recommendations on outstanding local dining;  plenty of opportunity for networking.

Creating a visual image of homebuilding production;  establishing the connection between operating decisions and business outcomes;  building a new way of thinking systemically towards solving core problems and managing constraints;  managing limited capacity and resources, doing more with less;  dealing with variation;  managing homebuilding production as the multi-project type of workflow that it truly is;  and placing the emphasis on the actions that accelerate velocity.

The fundamental proposition of a Pipeline workshop™ is that thriving on the velocity side of economic return – thriving on the velocity side of Return on Assets – is the best way to create sustainable competitive separation.

Registration for Pipeline Workshop™ No. 7 opens December 12, 2016.

Come.  Participate.  Learn.


In advance, here is the link to the website:  When registration opens, so will the event registration and hotel reservation links.  The site also provides information about the workshop, provides reviews from builders who have attended previous workshops, and provides a downloadable Adobe PDF file with detailed information about the venue, agenda, and schedule.

The cost is $875.00 per person;  early registration (opens December 12, 2016 and runs through January 9, 2017) is $745.00.

Sponsored by BUILDER and BuilderMT.