Archive for December, 2021

Final Vision

Posted December 29, 2021 By Fletcher Groves

Over the past decade, these words from 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 29, 2021

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, 2021 By Fletcher Groves

Scott Sedam is President of TrueNorth Development, Inc., and is the homebuilding industry’s foremost Lean Production practitioner.  A well-known, well-respected Lean Building purist, Scott is a Bill Pulte protégé, with roots that go back to W. Edwards Deming and TQM.

He is a friend and a longtime fellow consultant.

TrueNorth Development©

In 2013, after the first edition of The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production© was published, and as I was planning the first-ever Pipeline workshop™, I suggested that Scott attend as SAI’s guest, so that he could judge the merits of pipeline-thinking for himself.

I wanted his opinion of the workshop, but I also wanted him to share with those first-time-ever attendees his thoughts on applying Lean Thinking to both sides of the DuPont identity (the most insightful method of calculating Return on Assets), his thoughts on applying Lean Thinking as much to the velocity side of economic return as to the margin side.

Scott graciously came to that first workshop in March 2014, functioned just like any attending builder in the discussions and in the Pipeline games™, and he and I co-presented our thoughts on blending improvement methodologies towards solutions that work best for homebuilding.

Afterwards, 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 [taught 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.

 

The next Pipeline workshop™ will be held March 23-24, 2022, at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  Attendance is limited to only 30 attendees.  The cost is $945.00 per person;  the cost during early registration, open through January 14, 2022, is $795.00.  For team pricing, inquire here (flgroves@saiconsulting.com).

Delivered by SAI Consulting.  Sponsored by Simpson Strong-Tie.

For more details:  www.buildervelocity.com

 

Pipeline Workshops™: Come. Participate. Learn.

Posted December 20, 2021 By Fletcher Groves

During the weeks leading up, we explain to attendees what they are going to experience.  We describe the management tools that they will have to learn to use, the nature 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.

Nevertheless, 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 paradigms, 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.

For example, the RB Builders: Lessons from the Pipeline© business case, rewritten every year, requires the use of financial tools like Breakeven Analysis (using variable costing, CVP 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 (TQM, TOC, Lean Production, Six Sigma).

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

If you want it all handed to you, don’t bother to attend.  If all you care about is binder material you can underline, put on your bookshelf, and check the box, 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, Pipeline workshops™ are 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.

 

The next Pipeline workshop™ will be held March 23-24, 2022, at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  Attendance is limited to only 30 attendees.  The cost is $945.00 per person;  the cost during early registration, open through January 14, 2022, is $795.00.  For team pricing, inquire here (flgroves@saiconsulting.com).

Delivered by SAI Consulting.  Sponsored by Simpson Strong-Tie.

For more details:  www.buildervelocity.com

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.

 

“God With Us”

Posted December 19, 2021 By Fletcher Groves

(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 now almost nine year-old son, almost seven year-old daughter, along with their six year-old cousin had made of her consulting firm’s global headquarters.  Her almost four year-old son and his three year-old cousin apparently had other interests.

The older ones were sprawled on the floor, one by one taking their turn trying to perfect their golf swing, pounding their grandfather’s golf impact bag with his vintage Ping Eye2 seven iron.

She gently swirled a glass of her favorite Russian River Valley pinot noir, conceding the hopelessness of maintaining proper corporate décor this time of the year.  Gazing around her happy place – the home office she had remodeled and refurnished two years earlier – she reflected on the past year.

COVID-19 was still an annoyance, but nothing compared with the past 20 months.  She wasn’t quite to the point of lamenting business travel in the manner she started to during the pre-2020 years, but unless she was on the road, and except for Zoom meetings, she was almost always able to work in whatever she worked-out in.

There was still the ever-present, never-ending need to separate her personal life from her work life.

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

“Let me guess.  You are still at work?”, he asked.

“Yes . . . technically.  But, I am home.”

Home.

She had finished the on-site portions of her engagements for the year;  travel was over.  She would have preferred that it was the end of meaningful work for the year altogether, which it clearly wasn’t.  Still, she was looking forward to the travel break.

“How are you doing?”, he asked.  “What are you doing?”

“I am good.  Everyone is good”, she said.  “No changes, for a change.  Everyone still puts up with me.

“I have completed the rehab from the back surgery last year, and the COVID;  the recovery from the surgery was a lot longer and harder than I expected.  Ugh, just thinking about it, it’s still hard to believe I even needed it.  I am back to playing golf, but I have had to rebuild my swing.  I am back to my workout routines.”

“Sounds boring.  Anything new and exciting?”, he asked.

“The biggest news has been my decision, made earlier this year, to sell the practice, sometime in the next two to five years.  So – I have put the goal out there, and we will see what happens.”

“That’s new, and big, and exciting”, he said.  “What lead to that decision?”

“Almost four years ago”, she answered.  “I was leading an all-day class for the members of a Builder 20 Club, teaching the production principles we use in our Pipeline Workshops™.  It’s one of the ways SAI gives back, doing work pro-bono for the B-20 program whenever NAHB asks.

“Afterwards, that evening at dinner, I sat next to the then-President of that B-20 Club.  At some point, he turned and asked me what my legacy was going to be.

“He went on to clarify his question:  ‘What I mean is this:  SAI Consulting is basically you.  No matter how long you work, you can’t practice forever.  How do you plan for the principles and disciplines that you teach to continue beyond you?  How are you going to pass what you do on to someone else?’

“I thought for a moment, and replied, ‘I don’t know.’  It was the best response I could offer to a question I had never considered.  In truth, I had never considered how – or why – I should stop doing the work I love doing.  But, his question did make me think about how long I wanted to manage a consulting practice.  I have concluded that I want to start the process of finding someone else to assume SAI’s role in the industry.

“I want to turn my attention to other interests.”

“Let me guess what those other interests are”, he said.  “But, first let me ask, how was 2021?”

“I’m sure you have guessed what my other interests are”, she replied.  “But, to answer your question, business-wise and revenue-wise, we have stabilized from the initial shock of COVID-19, not quite back to pre-pandemic levels.  It is still a set-back from most of the years of the recovery following the End of the Age of Homebuilder Entitlement®.  But, 2021 was another profitable year for SAI.

“There has been a bit less travel, which makes my personal life a bit less challenging.  Delta and Avis still love me, and that’s what matters.”

“I remember you joking with me, over a decade ago”, her business friend said, “that the then-most-recent yearly six-figure decline from personal peak consulting income had been almost as much fun as the previous year had been.  Those circumstances seem like a long time ago now.

“What about the book?”, he asked.

“The second edition has been in publication for five years now”, she said.  “The Pipeline© continues to sell, continues to drive attendance to Pipeline workshops™.  I am still working on the sequel, what I want to title Horizontal©, about workflow and business process improvement;  same characters, same mythical homebuilding company.

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

“It is amazing how much of this material you developed from scratch”, he said.  “And what about the infill residential development piece you have been telling me about ad infinitum, the one you have been looking to develop and build-out as an authentic mid-19th century Florida settlement?”

“I am still looking, and I will continue to look”, she answered.  “I am still looking for the right opportunity to create elegance and allusion – homes that are simple, refined, fit for purpose, true to the vernacular architecture of that period.  Early-on, the numbers didn’t work, now the land is so much harder to come-by.  But, I’m not giving up.”

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.  Again, we do the workshops in a five-star oceanfront resort five miles from my house;  the other work requires travel, but I get to do a good portion of my work here, where I get to enjoy this awesome crew.

“As I have said, I don’t have all the answers.  Finding joy daily in all of this continues to be a struggle.  Right now, under these circumstances, things could be better, and they will be better.”

“I’m sure they will”, her business friend said.  “For now, it was good catching up with you.  I hope you have a Merry Christmas.”

“Thanks.  As always, 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 you’ve been gone!  The kiddos are all yours.”

As she walked towards the back door, she gestured for her younger sister to join her.

They walked outside, joined by her sister’s golden retriever, and reclined into two of the Adirondacks around the firepit.  They talked about new things, shared other things, well-beyond the content of their wine glasses.

“I think I’ll go check on the prospects for dinner”, her sister said.  “Can I bring you another glass?”

“No, thanks.”

In the newly-gained solitude, 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 young 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 on 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 would be just another child, born in an insignificant city, in a world ruled under the unflinching authority of the Roman Empire.

She thought about the character and the attributes of the Creator of the universe, the Author of all that is good, the true Lover of her soul, 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 grace she now pondered.

She considered what the cost-benefit ratio on that investment might have been, whose investment it was, and whence that investment had come.  Momentarily amused, she thought about perhaps adding that exercise to the RB Builders: Lessons from the Pipeline© business case for the next Pipeline workshop™.

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

“Father, I give it all to You, every bit of it, every care and concern, my schedule, my homelife, every trouble and burden, every question for which I do not have an answer.  Please restore my heart and give me unconquerable hope, give me lasting joy.

“Thanks 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.  And, 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 that You have given to me, a Love that uses Faith and Hope to sustain me, to motivate me, to give me purpose, perspective and resolve – attributes 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.”

 

Pipeline Workshop™ No. 17: Registration Open

Posted December 12, 2021 By Fletcher Groves

Pipeline Workshop™ No. 17 will be held March 23-24, 2022, at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  Welcome to the most intense, demanding, interactive, and challenging production management learning experience on the homebuilding planet.

Pipeline workshops™ are unique;  they are utterly 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 rigorously test attendees’ true understanding of production management principles and disciplines, and challenge their ability to solve production problems.

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

Our venue, the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, is a renown AAA Five Diamond oceanfront golf and tennis resort established in 1928;  we provide a relaxing and enjoyable reception on the Historic Inn’s putting green at the end of the first day;  we offer recommendations on outstanding local dining;  there are abundant opportunities 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 without more, ideally 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 increase velocity.

The fundamental proposition of a Pipeline workshop™ is this:  the key to creating sustainable competitive separation is being able to thrive on the velocity side of economic return – being able to thrive on the velocity side of Return on Assets.

Registration for Pipeline Workshop™ No. 17 is now open.  The attendance fee is $945.00.  The early registration attendance fee (through January 14, 2022) is $795.00.

Sponsored by Simpson Strong-Tie.

Come.  Participate.  Learn.

 

Registration is open:  www.buildervelocity.com  All of the current workshop information is now viewable, including the agenda and schedule, the event registration and hotel reservation links, reviews from builders who have attended previous workshops, and a shareable Adobe PDF file download with information about the venue, agenda, and schedule.

For team pricing contact:  (flgroves@saiconsulting.com).