Part II: “Your choice to continue your cynicism has a life expectancy of about 30 more seconds.”

(excerpted from The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production, Second Edition©, initially posted on EFA® in January, 2011)


“I am the one who is saying it, but plenty of us are thinking it.  This approach may have merit, but it does not mean that it will work here, not the way this company has operated in the past”, the superintendent said.  “So, I want you to tell me how this is going to be different.  I want you to tell me how this is going to work, now, in this company.”

“Your concern – your issue – has nothing to do with production principles, or with production systems”, said the intrepid, results-based consultant.”

” . . . ‘your issue has nothing to do with production principles’. Profound, as always”, said the CEO.  “Tell us something we don’t already know.

“Clearly, it is more foundational than that.  This is about giving teammates a reason to care, and about inspiring the confidence to follow where we are leading this company.

“So, one point at a time.

“Regarding your first point, the steps we have already taken to create business savvy-ness, to impart decision-making accountability and responsibility, and to provide a real financial stake in the business outcome are radical by industry standards.  Collectively, they give all of us – and I mean all of us – reason to care deeply about improving the operating performance that drives that business outcome.

“Secondly, in terms of inspiring the confidence to follow, some of us are charged with an official responsibility of leadership, by virtue of our management positions in the company.  Fair enough.  I think that the leaders of an enterprise are there to serve, not be served.  But, leadership is not fundamentally about the position that you hold, or do not hold.  The way I choose to describe leadership, it is a matter of personal character and courage.  It is about the credibility that flows from demonstrating integrity.

“It comes from trusting one another.  It means sticking to agreements and keeping commitments.  It means going beyond the expectations and responsibilities of your individual job.  But, it also means speaking and hearing the truth.  Expressing candor, like this”, he said, nodding to the senior superintendent, “comes with the territory.

“It means pursuing goals that are worth pursuing, even if they are difficult to achieve.  No. I will re-phrase that.  It means pursuing goals that are worth pursuing, precisely because they are difficult to achieve.

“It comes from inspiring the type of optimism that sees every situation as we choose to make it, not as we are told it must be.  Or, how some long-standing, so-called industry experts tell us it should be, if we were willing to settle for so-called industry best practices.  Somehow, I just do not see industry best practice guidelines as the path to competitive separation.

“The assessment of current reality that underlies everything?  That is where we are.  The production principles we have instituted?  Vetted, to get us to where we want to go.  Team-based performance compensation?  The focus on Gross Income?  Same thing.

“This is the direction in which RB Builders is headed.

“For whatever reason in the past, such an understanding of leadership has been absent.  At best, it has been an obligation and a title, for some, and an excuse for everyone else.  It is a situation that predates me, but it is a situation that stops with me.  Repairing the damage will not happen overnight.  That is the thing with integrity and credibility.  It is difficult to build and it is really easy to destroy.

“But – the situation is going to change, that I promise you.

“Based on past performance, I will not argue with your conclusion”, said the CEO.  “Nor will I blame you for being – as you put it – skeptical-bordering-on-cynical, about the prospect for change, the approach to production management we are committed to, or the requisite leadership I have just explained.  The right amount of skepticism can be healthy;  the possibility for pessimism is always there, but it has to be overcome, if anything worthwhile is to happen.

“I am going to make this clear, to all of you:  cynicism is pointless;  get over it.

“This is the direction in which RB Builders is headed, and your choice to continue your cynicism has a life expectancy of about 30 more seconds.”


The Pipeline: A Picture of Homebuilding Production©, Second Edition is available through the publisher’s bookstore, and from any of the main booksellers (,, or