Archive for December, 2020

Final Vision

Posted December 30, 2020 By Fletcher Groves

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


December 31, 2020

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™: Come. Participate. Learn.

Posted December 27, 2020 By Fletcher Groves

In the weeks leading up to a Pipeline workshop™, we explain to attendees what they are about to experience.  We describe the tools that they will have to learn to use, the facts of the business case they will have to confront.  We forecast the take-aways, the knowledge, the enhanced capabilities.

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

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, that they need to check their sense of entitlement at the door.

Despite all of this, most attendees admit afterward they should have studied more, 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 – and to re-form – that thinking.  It is designed to challenge your beliefs, to change the way you see production.

Pipeline workshops™ are intended to test your understanding of how homebuilding production systems work and how daily operating decisions drive business outcomes.

We constantly remind builders: there is a big difference – a big difference – between being in the home building business, and being in the business of building homes.

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

Here are examples of what we are talking about:  the RB Builders: Lessons from the Pipeline© business case, which is revised every year, requires the use of financial tools like Breakeven Analysis (using a variable costing approach, using Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis), the DuPont identity (for determining ROA), and the Cost of Variation.  It requires an understanding of production physics, including Little’s Law* and the Law of Variability Buffering.  It requires the application of a combination of improvement methodologies (Theory of Constraints, Lean Production, Six Sigma).

You can read the book.  The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production, Second Edition© is always carried in stock on;  it is also available (print-on-demand) directly from the publisher’s bookstore (

If you want it all handed to you, don’t bother to attend.  If all you care about is binder material you can underline and put on your bookshelf, don’t waste your time.  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.

On the other hand, if you are determined to create sustainable competitive separation, by learning to thrive on the velocity side of Return on Assets®, by learning to excel at a discipline that 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.


Pipeline workshop™ No. 15 will be held March 17-18, 2021, at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  The stated attendance fee is still $895.00.  However, the first fifteen (15) attendees will be registered at no charge, and the next fifteen (15) attendees will be registered at a reduced $395.00 per person;  all that is required is proof of room reservations (two nights, single occupancy) at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club).

Attendance will be capped at only 30 attendees, so everyone attends at a significantly reduced cost;  there is no early registration;  there is no team pricing.

For more details:

*We will entice you a bit with 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. 15: Save the Date

Posted December 19, 2020 By Fletcher Groves

Pipeline Workshop™ No. 15 will be held March 17-18, 2021, at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

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

“This is my second attendance to the Pipeline Workshops™.  All I can simply say is WOW!  Fletcher and his team strive to improve the workshops and make [them] even more relevant.  I especially enjoyed playing the Pipeline Game™ again and learning about [the] Velocity Accelerators®.  I look forward to attending in the future!”  (Carlos Alvarez, President, Alvarez Homes, Baton Rouge, LA)

“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)

“The Pipeline Workshop™ completely changed my approach to meeting my company’s productivity and profitability goals.  I came away with several actionable items that I was able to implement right away.  Any homebuilder with an open mind, who is willing to challenge the traditional ways of thinking that our industry has grown comfortable with, will benefit greatly by attending.”   (Ryan Band, Unbridled Homes, Louisville, KY)

Pipeline workshops™ are now beginning their eighth consecutive year, and we have worked constantly to enhance and improve the program.

Over the years, to that end, we have:

(1) improved the best production simulator and business game in the industry (the Pipeline Game™), made it faster to play, easier to understand;

(2) introduced an operating statement format to the game that mirrors the particular characteristics of homebuilding operations;

(3) found ways to transfer the learning faster, to make the connection between operating decisions and business outcomes clearer, quicker, more direct;

(4) started to examine areas of disruptive innovation (for example, outsourced building models that become integrated building models);

(5) introduced an MBA-level business case (RB Builders: Lessons from the Pipeline©);

(6) emphasized important and emerging areas we call Velocity Accelerators®.

Pipeline workshops™ are unique, completely unlike any other homebuilding conference (and, right now, under COVID-19 restrictions, they are the industry’s only significant event that is conducted live, not virtually).

The learning split is 70% simulation/business case, only 30% lecture;  the format is intense, interactive, and competitive;  the Pipeline game™ production simulations and the RB Builders: Lessons from the Pipeline© business case rigorously 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 simply being in the homebuilding business, and being in the business of building homes.

Our venue, the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, is a terrific AAA Five Diamond oceanfront golf and tennis resort;  we provide a relaxing and enjoyable networking reception on the Historic Inn’s putting green at the end of the first day;  we offer recommendations on outstanding local dining.

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 without more, hopefully doing more with less;  dealing with variation;  managing homebuilding production as the type of workflow that it really is – multi-project management with surrounding, supporting, and embedded-processes;  placing the emphasis on actions that accelerate production 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. 15 opens January 4, 2021.

Come.  Participate.  Learn.


We know full-well the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its evolving nature, because, like you, we have experienced it.  We have made a number of adjustments, some temporary, some likely permanent:

(1) At the most recent workshop (Pipeline Workshop™ 14 in October), the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, adjusted its operations to provide additional safety for guests and functions, and those practices will continue.

(2) We are forgoing sponsors.

(3) We have eliminated early registration, and its discounted pricing.  We have eliminated discounted team pricing.

(4) We have kept the stated regular attendance fee at $895.00.  However, the first fifteen (15) attendees will be registered at no charge, and the next fifteen (15) attendees will be registered at $395.00 per person, so everyone attends at a significantly reduced cost;  all that is required is proof of room reservations (two nights, single occupancy) at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club).


Here is the permanent link to the website:

The link provides information about the workshop, reviews from builders who have attended previous workshops, and a downloadable Adobe PDF file with detailed information about the venue, agenda, and schedule.

Note:  all of the workshop information, including the agenda and schedule, have now been updated;  the event registration and hotel reservation links will be updated before registration opens;  because the separate event management and payment processing website has to be over-ridden, you must first make hotel room reservations, then notify SAI, and SAI will register your attendance.


“God With Us.”

Posted December 14, 2020 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 her chair, put her feet on the desk, and observed the shambles that her almost eight year-old son, now almost six year-old daughter, along with their five year- old cousin had made of her consulting firm’s global headquarters.  Her almost three year-old son and his two year-old cousin apparently had other interests.

The older ones were sprawled on the floor trying to torment their grandfather, as he carefully went through his orientation on the workings of a Marlin Model 1895 .45-70 Government and a Ping Eye2 seven iron.

She swirled a glass of her favorite Russian River Valley pinot noir, conceding the hopelessness of maintaining proper corporate décor this time of the year.  Looking around her finally-furnished home office that she had remodeled a year earlier, she reflected on the year now almost past.

COVID-19.  Forget the business travel she so frequently lamented in previous years.  Except for Zoom meetings, she was almost always able to work in whatever she worked-out in.  There was still the ever-present need to separate her personal life and her work life.

Her reflections were interrupted by a call from an old business friend.

“So – you’re home”, he said.

“Yes . . . I am home.”


She had finished the on-site portions of her engagements for the year;  there would be no more travel this year.  She would have preferred that it was the end of meaningful work for the year, as well, but it certainly wasn’t.  Still, she was looking forward to the travel break.

“How was 2020?”, he asked.  “And, how are you?”

“Besides me, everyone is good”, she said.  “No changes.  They all still put up with me.

“I guess the biggest issue for me this year has been health.  I underwent major back surgery mid-year, and, then, returning from one of my consulting engagements just before Thanksgiving, I tested positive for COVID-19.  It has been a lot to handle.”

“Ahh, yes, COVID-19”, he noted.  “How was that?”

“Overall, my symptoms were mild, and non-respiratory”, the intrepid, results-based consultant explained.  “However, I had no endurance, no energy, no desire.  I completely lost my appetite.  It was not any fun.  I quarantined;  I have tested negative now.”

“Exciting enough.  Anything else?”, he asked.

“We finally finished the remodel of the five-year old house I told you about last year, if that makes any sense”, she said.  “We love the neighborhood.  It is a really good TND, and we like the elevations.  The floorplan is smaller than anything we have owned since our first house, and, if we had been building the house, as we almost always do, we would have never built this floorplan.

“We couldn’t change everything we wanted, but we like every change we made.  It took us over a year.

“Business-wise, we suffered along with everyone else over the effects of COVID-19.  Revenue-wise, it was a set-back from most of the years of the recovery following the End of the Age of Homebuilder Entitlement®.  But, 2020 was still a profitable year for SAI.

“There has been less travel, which makes my personal life less challenging.  Delta and Avis still love me – I think.

“I remember joking with you, a decade ago, that the then-most-recent yearly six-figure decline from personal peak consulting income was almost as much fun as the previous two years had been.  That seems like a long time ago.”

“What about the book?”, he asked.

The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production, Second Edition© continues to sell, continues to drive attendance at Pipeline workshops™.  Still working on the sequel.  It will be titled Horizontal©, and it will be about workflow and business process improvement;  same characters, same homebuilding company.

“You know, thinking about it now, the concept of the production workshops dates back almost fifteen years.  It is hard to believe, but the public, sponsored workshops are now in their eighth year.  We still conduct both the two-day Pipeline workshops™ and the one-day Pipeline seminars™ in the other channels.”

“What about that infill residential development piece you told me about, the one you were looking to develop and build-out as an authentic mid-19th century Florida settlement?”

“Didn’t happen”, she answered.  “Still looking for an opportunity to create elegance and allusion – homes that are simple, refined, fit for purpose, true to the vernacular architecture of the period.  We have looked at several possibilities, but they just haven’t worked.  I am not giving up, but there have clearly been distractions this year.”

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

“The decision I made early-on, to work where I live, instead of live where I work, continues to pay dividends, and makes even more sense, when you look at other states.  I do the workshops in a five-star oceanfront resort five miles from our house;  the speaking and consulting engagements require travel, but I get to do a good portion of my work here, where I get to enjoy this awesome crew.

“A couple of years ago, a client asked me about my ‘succession plan’, about how I intended to preserve the legacy of my consulting practice;  at the time, I told him I had absolutely no idea.  Now, I have a five-year plan.  It may still involve turning work over to partners and colleagues, but, increasingly, I see it as the transfer of all SAI intellectual property to an acquirer and retiring from this practice.

“I don’t have all the answers.  As always, finding joy daily in all of this can be a struggle.  Right now, under these circumstances, I don’t think I am doing as well as I could, but I will do better.”

“I am sure you will”, her business friend said.  “I hope you have a Merry Christmas.”

“Thanks.  The same to you.”

As the intrepid, results-based consultant ended her call, the front door opened, and her husband and brother-in-law walked in, back from who-knows-where.

“Aww!  We’ve missed you guys!  All four and a half hours!  The kiddos are all yours.”

Nodding towards the back door, she suggested to her younger sister that she join her.

They walked outside, joined by her sister’s golden retriever, and reclined into two of the chairs around the firepit.  They talked, about shared things, well-beyond the content of their wine glasses.  “I’ll go check on the prospects for dinner”, her sister said.

“Can I bring you another glass?”

“No, thanks.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant looked into the northeast Florida sky on a clear, moonless, star-filled night, turned her mind away from work, and toward family.  She thought about the birth of her three children, recalling the hope and apprehension, the joy and inevitable challenges, the ever-growing changes to their lives, the newness each birth had 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 long-ago night.  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 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 true Lover of her soul, the God who had pursued her heart relentlessly through all space and time.  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, I give it all to You, every care and concern, my schedule, every trouble and burden, every question for which I do not have an answer.  I ask that You restore my heart and give me joy.

“Thank you for giving me a Faith that somehow endures, 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, each and every event of history, either points towards, or proceeds from, that Truth.

“Not just 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.

“Thanks, also, for giving me Hope, an enduring Hope that understands eternity means never-ending, not just somewhere-down-the-road;  thanks 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, our lives in this world – with its joy and pain, and only partial fulfillment – will end, and that I will live in your presence – constantly, eternally, restored, with all things made new.”

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

“Finally, thanks for the Love given to me, a Love that that uses Faith and Hope to sustain me, to motivate me, to give me purpose, perspective and resolve – that I could never have on my own – until Your Son’s 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;  between birth and death, 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.”