Lean Perspectives: Skender Construction’s thoughtful blog

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Skender Lean
Skender Construction's Lean Perspectives blog truly advocates effectively for Lean Construction -- and demonstrates the Chicago contractor's leadership in this integrated project management and delivery model
Skender Lean
Skender Construction’s Lean Perspectives blog truly advocates effectively for Lean Construction — and demonstrates the Chicago contractor’s leadership in this integrated project management and delivery model

Chicago-based Skender Construction publishes a thought-provking blog advocating Lean Construction; an integrated planning and project delivery system. I need to admit that, although I’ve been following architectural, engineering and construction industry trends and practices for more than two decades, I only had a vague and incomplete understanding of Lean Construction. However, Skender’s blog, with many (but not all) entries written by Skender CEO Mark Skender, provides insights into the concept at a level that truly provides value. The theory may be fine, but operational experience, knowledge and first-hand stories of Lean’s practical applications certainly carry much weight.

Mark skender
Skender CEO Mark Skender

Here’s an example, where he discusses the Last Planner system:

 The Last Planner System Depends on the Right Leadership

Anyone who has ever used the Last Planner® System will tell you there’s more to it than meets the eye. The process of documenting weekly work plans and monitoring whether or not daily tasks are completed as planned has some obvious and not-so-obvious results. Let’s start with the obvious and most commonly discussed benefit: The Last Planner® System directly impacts schedule reliability. The process of recording whether or not tasks are 100 percent complete in such a stringent manner allows us to measure the planning process, and adjust accordingly.

Let’s take it one step further. If we build reliable schedules through planning, measurement and adjustment, we can make informed decisions. If the owner would like to make changes, we know how long they have until it will impact their budget. If we meticulously track detailed tasks on a daily basis, chances are those fine details that define quality will not slip through the cracks. If work plans are documented for everyone to see, it’s more likely that people on the jobsite will feel informed. If we create smooth workflow that stresses just-in-time delivery, it’s more likely that the jobsite will be cleaner and safer for everyone.

All of these benefits are outputs of the Last Planner® System. Our industry is just beginning to draw correlations between this process and how it impacts reliability, cost, speed, communication, engagement and safety. Any team that uses this process to manage projects will experience some benefit, but how do we optimize these results?  I believe it starts with looking at behavior so we can define the quality of information and exchange of ideas betweenLast Planners and teams.

Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”really defines behaviors that are essential for high-performing teams. Setting the precedent that trust, unfiltered conflict, true commitment, accountability, and a relentless focus on collective results are essential speaks volumes. But what really speaks volumes is when leaders practice these behaviors and reward others for paying attention to the process—even if they fail.

Leadership is the most important input for making this process work. Creating a culture that allows us to the get the most out of any process is a tall order. It’s not always obvious how to achieve the end result, but when we signed up to lead, we really signed up to drive behavior that drives the best out of every team.

Clearly, you will find value in this blog whether or not you are in Skender Construction’s service area, especially if you are exploring or considering either setting Lean Construction systems for your business, or you’ve been asked to work on a project where you need to follow the Lean protocols.

However, I see another level of value here — Skender has taken a leadership place in the marketplace; developing a strong, unique identity and market position. If you are within Skender’s service area, you’ll know this company practices Lean Construction and will appreciate its advantages. I can’t think of much more effective marketing here.

(The blog, I think, is well-designed, as well — and the company’s high-level leadership participation in its content development ensures both relevance and impact).

This is indeed a worthy entry in the 2015 Best Construction Blog competition (and also deserves a shout-out in Chicago Construction News.)

You can vote for this blog and others here.

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