Archive for June, 2017

Pipeline Workshops™: Come. Participate. Learn.

Posted June 25, 2017 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.

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.

We 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.  As we like to remind builders, 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’s bookstore (

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 October 18-19, 2017.  The cost is $875.00;  the cost during early registration, open through July 17, 2017, is $745.00;  for team pricing, inquire here (

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. 8: Save the Date

Posted June 18, 2017 By Fletcher Groves

Pipeline Workshop™ No. 8 will be held October 18-19, 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.

“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.

“At the end of the day, running a successful business is about how much money you make on the amount of money you invest.  The Pipeline workshop™ helped me understand this better than any workshop or seminar I’ve ever attended.

“I highly recommend it.”  (Charles Roberts, VP – Operations , Providence Homes, Jacksonville, Florida)

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

And – 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. 8, the five velocity accelerators are Business Process Improvement, Epic Partnering™, Business Information Modeling, Critical Chain Project Management, and OBM/Team-Based Performance Compensation – 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 Pipeline game™, which is both a production simulator and a business game.  Over the course of all the Pipeline workshops™, we have:  (1) made the game shorter, faster, and easier and quicker to grasp;  (2) switched to an operating statement format that mirrors the attributes of homebuilding operations;  and (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% simulation/business case, 30% 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 subtle-yet-crucial distinction between being in the homebuilding business, and being in the business of building homes.

Moreover – 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;  placing the emphasis on the actions that accelerate velocity.

The fundamental proposition of a Pipeline workshop™ is this:  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. 8 opens June 20, 2017.

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;  the cost during early registration (opens June 20, 2017, runs through July 17, 2017) is $745.00;  for team pricing, inquire here (

Sponsored by BUILDER and BuilderMT.


(initially published on EFA® in March 2011, republished in March 2013 as the last of a four-part series in the retrospective Above Average: The Best of Escape from Averageness®, 2009-2012, updated and republished here)

I will offer you a couple of final suggestions.

First – the value you deliver to stakeholders is created by the work you do;  that work is often performed in processes;  those processes are part of a business operating model.  So – wherever possible – the other elements of the operating model (its systems, organizational structure, teammates, culture) need to support process design, not vice versa.

Second – knowledge of the design, improvement, and documentation of processes is one matter, knowledge of the management of processes is something altogether different.  In addition to the process areas, a working knowledge of management areas like Six Sigma, Lean Production, and Theory of Constraints and how to effectively blend them – find a way to use the tools that work best without regard to the religion from which they came – is essential when it comes to good process management.

Third – as I mentioned at the outset – you need to be able to distinguish between the areas that need to be managed as processes and the areas that need to be managed as a portfolio of projects, and to operate accordingly;  you would find particularly useful a knowledge of Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) helpful;  CCPM is part of Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints.

As I noted at the outset, I rarely plug SAI on the pages of this weblog, but this is different.

SAI has done more work with processes – and done it longer – than anyone in the homebuilding industry.  Before the creation of the National Housing Quality (NHQ) Award, we were already assisting Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award winners in their efforts to refocus, restructure, and redesign their business operations around their processes.  Before there was any interest in the homebuilding industry on the documentation and management of business and operating processes, we were already recognized experts in that field.

Our process toolbox is the best in the industry.  We pioneered the development of many of the tools and techniques we use in this area.  We are a consulting partner with iGrafx, which has some of the most advanced process flowcharting and modeling software available;  we know, because we participated in a part of its development.

We are adept at every form of process documentation, including cross-functional flowcharting, value stream mapping, and IDEF0 process modeling, all of the notation languages, as well as the methodologies – Total Quality Management (TQM), Business Process Improvement (BPI), Process Reengineering, Lean-Six Sigma (LSS), Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN), Theory of Constraints (TOC), and Lean/TPS – that act upon them.

But, I will make this offer to you.  Yes – we know what we are talking about.  More importantly, we are willing to talk with you, at no charge, to help you make the right decisions about workflow.

By all means, please take us up on it.  Here is my contact information:


(initially published on EFA® in March 2011, republished in March 2013 as the third of a four-part series in the retrospective Above Average: The Best of Escape from Averageness®, 2009-2012, updated and republished here)

In terms of resources, there is no single, comprehensive reference or guide to all of the areas of Business Process Improvement.  At SAI, much of what we know, we learned by doing, by seeing what worked – and what did not work – in the real world.

However, most of us who want to learn start with what those who went before us know and took the time to write about.

Here are my book recommendations:

For processes generally, I think Business Process Improvement (Harrington) and Beyond Reengineering (Hammer) are still the best.  Although there is a newer handbook, Harrington is dated because of its TQM approach;  nevertheless, it is a process classic.  Hammer is also dated, but still has the best understanding of enterprise-level processes, if you set aside the focus on reengineering.  Hammer and Champy’s precedent Reengineering the Corporation remains a worthwhile read.

Depending on your level of experience and expertise, you might also pick up The Horizontal Organization (Ostroff) or Process Redesign (Tonner, DeToro).  They have their limitations, but they can help, if you are new to improvement.

For the mapping of processes, I recommend The Basics of Process Mapping (Damelio);  Process Mapping: How to Reengineer Your Business Processes (Hunt);  Workflow Modeling (Sharp, McDermott);  Process Mapping, Process Improvement, and Process Management (Madison);  BPMN Method and Style (Silver);  and The Practical Guide to Business Process Reengineering Using IDEF0 (Feldman).

Damelio covers very basic flowcharting;  Sharp has more of an IT and project perspective, and is better on implementation issues;  Madison is a good practical guide in all three areas in its title;  Silver does a very good job of explaining BPMN 2.0 as an emerging standard.

Hunt and Feldman both cover IDEF0 process modeling, but Hunt covers IDEF0 in a broader, more thorough reengineering context, while Feldman is a more complete guide to IDEF0.

Somewhere in between are books like Improving Performance: Managing the White Space on the Organization Chart (Rummler, Brache), Cycle Time Reduction (Harbour), and Fast Cycle Time (Meyer).  These books tend to focus on processes and process mapping, but usually in the context of their views and methods on their own areas of practice, like strategy and change management.  They are also somewhat older books.

I do not recommend Business Process Mapping: Improving Customer Satisfaction (Jacka, Keller):  the use of interviews instead of cross-functional teams to document workflows;  ineffective process and operating measures;  processes that are not redesigned by the people who actually do the work;  outdated, manual process mapping methods and techniques.

Almost every book ever written about the design, analysis, improvement, and documentation of business processes is in the SAI library, including all of the ones that I recommended.  I have personally read all of them.  The recommendations are not a comprehensive list, nor are they the only worthwhile reading on the subject, but it is a good starting point.

Here are my software recommendations:

As far as business process mapping software, we use and recommend the iGrafx ( suite of process applications.  iGrafx applications support a wide range of process methodology, including basic flowcharting, cross-functional flowcharting, BPMN, Six-Sigma (SIPOC) process documentation, IDEF0, Lean Six Sigma, and Lean Value Stream Mapping (VSM).

We are an iGrafx Consulting Partner, not a seller of iGrafx products.

My first recommendation is to find a true, dedicated business process mapping application, not an application that is just a drawing tool (like Microsoft Visio).

There are a number of worthy business process mapping software applications – BizAgi, BizFlow, IDS-Sheer/ARIS, Global 360, Metastorm, others – mostly for very large enterprises, but the differentiator, in my view, is that there are only two software providers – iGrafx and KBSI-Knowledge-Based Systems – that support an IDEF0 process notation and modeling module.

So – my second recommendation is to select a true, dedicated business process mapping application that supports IDEFO process notation and modeling.

Next:  Part IV:  Final Suggestions