Discipline, Context, and Perspective

(excerpted from The Pipeline:  A Picture of Homebuilding Production;  available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, the publisher website (virtualbookworm.com), and the author website (thepipelinebook.com)

The intrepid, results-based consultant shut down her notebook, and began to pack her materials.  As she did, she addressed the team.  “I want you to know how impressed – and gratified – I am by your efforts, your attention, your attitudes, your cooperation, and your diligence.  Learning new stuff is hard, and this was a lot of new stuff.

“We have much more to do.

“What lies ahead notwithstanding, you are now bonafide experts, collectively and individually, in the principles and disciplines that govern homebuilding production.  That distinction may not mean much for a while, considering the current state of the housing market and condition of the homebuilding industry.

“At some point, it will surely mean a great deal.

She slung her computer bag over her shoulder.  She paused, and then turned to the team and said, “Let me leave you with some final thoughts.  These sessions have been devoted to production principles and disciplines.  In my view, improving the velocity side of the ROIA equation is the best path – perhaps the only path – to sustainable competitive separation, but there is more to business performance than managing production.”

She returned to the erasable board, and made a short list.




“Improving business performance boils down to getting the job done – viewing the issue, sustaining the effort, and getting the results – in three critical dimensions”, she said, completing each item.


“First, you have to continue to narrow your focus.  You cannot be all things to all people.  You have to make certain that RB Builders’ operating model – its structure, its systems, its processes, who it selects and develops as teammates, what its culture is – delivers exceptional levels of the specific and distinctive value demanded by a narrowly-defined segment of homebuyers.  It is the choice of a specific value proposition over any other, and how you choose to fulfill it.”


“Second, you have to continue to turn RB Builders into a company of business-people, by teaching teammates the real numbers of the business, giving them the authority – and responsibility – to act on that knowledge, and then giving them a real financial stake in the outcome.  That’s what being a ‘savvy, accountable, motivated homebuilding team’ means.”


“Third, you need to wrap your minds around the natural, horizontal, process-centered manner in which RB Builders performs work and creates value on behalf of its homebuyers and other stakeholders.  It is the most basic, the most universal proposition in all of business:  The reason an enterprise exists, the way it  makes money – is through the value that enterprise delivers to customers and other stakeholders;  that value is only delivered by the work that the enterprise performs;  that work has to be performed in some method of workflow;  and those methods of workflow exist, whether the enterprise is intentional about them or not.

“We once stated the sequence of our proposition underlying business process improvement as value-work-process.  Homebuilding involves both process management and project management, but it’s still about workflow, and about the work performed in either process or project management systems.

“Focus on these three dimensions”, she said.  “Remember them:  Discipline:  Narrow the focus, deliver distinctive value.  Context:  Knowledge, transparency, a stake in the outcome.  Perspective:  Everything in the business model oriented to the requirements of the workflow that creates the value.

“Everything else – the strategies, tactics, policies, scorecards, products, markets, external partners, departments, positions, including everything we have talked about concerning production principles – are the means to an end, the side issues to getting the job done in these three dimensions.”