According to Jim Collins in “Good to Great”, every great company first decides WHO, before deciding WHAT. This begins with what he termed a ‘level 5 Leader’ — a leader with a powerful mix of personal humility and indomitable will.
A shared view from diverse studies has confirmed that such leaders grow from within the organization — not imported from outside to address crises.
According to Jeffrey Liker in “The Toyota Way”:
- Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others.
- Develop exceptional people and teams who follow the company’s philosophy.
- Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers, by challenging them and helping them improve.
In the AEC sector, this is embodied in the “Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)” approach. This entails integrating people, systems, business structures, and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste, and maximize efficiency all through the project’s life cycle…
While this is ‘ideal’ to work towards, it takes a painstaking long-term philosophy to assemble a level 5 leader, a great team and an extended network of partners and suppliers and get them to share a common vision and philosophy.
In the low-trust environment of the construction sector, everyone is out for their head. People hardly care to understand external parties, let alone work towards a third better alternative — a Win-Win or No Deal Approach. No amount of technological intervention can ever compensate for this.
PROCESSES — PLANNING AND DESIGN
After an AEC Firm has defined her organizational philosophy (the Hedgehog Concept) and has answered the questions of ‘WHO’ (leaders, teams, and partners); they can begin to address the questions of ‘HOW’.
This begins with Project Planning and Design Coordination.
In line with the IPD approach is the BIM Execution Planning (BEP). There are many formats available in the industry.
Popular ones are the formats from:
However, it is important to understand that this is a process (the HOW) that brings people (the WHO) together.
For a firm that intends to create BEP template(s), they have to start by defining the Goals for their typical projects. These are mostly client’s and organizational goals that are, in turn, reduced to BIM Uses.
After that, they develop Process Maps over the life cycle of the typical projects:
- At what point do these uses come in?
- How do they relate to each other etc?
After that, they define the Information Exchanges across the project’s life cycle through an Information (IE) Worksheet. Then, they will finally define the Required Infrastructure (Hardware, Software, IT etc.) that is necessary to achieve the Project Goals.
The final outcome is the BEP template — a document that is constantly updated as more validated learning comes in through the firm’s growth cycle.
Design Coordination is simply a series of information exchanges following the BEP.
Once again, it is obvious that a functional BEP is an outcome of validated learning that will typically take years for a firm to ‘perfect’. This underscores the long-term thinking principle.
PROCESSES — CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT
According to Jeffrey Liker, when people study the Japanese approach (e.g. The Toyota Way) to business, they are always intrigued by the efficiencies. So, they will typically ask: “How do I implement this in my firm?”.
The truth, however, is that before the processes can yield efficient results, the foundational issues need to be taken care of first.
- What is the underlying philosophy for your firm?
- Who and who make up the extended team?
In recent times, offsite fabrication is gaining more attention as it promises to save cost, time and overall resources.
So, we will briefly review some lean manufacturing principles:
- The shop floor — or assembly — has to be set up in a Continuous (One-piece) Process Flow, to bring problems to the surface. As against the batch production system, ‘one-piece flow process’ has proven to be more efficient in the long-run.
- The shop floor — machinery and people — need to be ‘programmed’ to stop to fix problems, so as to get quality right the first time. Use of AI-enabled machines can be a good complement to people on the shop floor.
- Use Standardized Tasks as a foundation for improvement and employee empowerment. According to Stephen Covey, this is referred to as Stewardship Delegation.
- Incorporate Visual Controls into the system to reveal problems — so no problem is hidden. Such a feature as the use of Andon Lights on the shop floor is a good application.
In summary, these Lean Manufacturing Principles should be built to fit the firm’s goals and philosophy — informed by the people and processes.
PROCESSES — SUPPLY CHAIN/FACILITY MANAGEMENT
In line with the IPD approach, the suppliers and partners of an AEC firm should make up one big team. As a result, information is openly shared, with stakeholder trust and respect. Risks are collectively managed and appropriately shared. Team success is tied to project success and is value-based.
According to Stephen Covey, this interdependent relationship begins with ‘Character’ (individuals), which brings about ‘Relationship’ (teams); out of which flows ‘Agreements’. These are all nurtured in an environment where support ‘Systems’ is based on Win/Win ‘Processes’.
In essence, without a synergy emerging from the team members, technology cannot produce a long-lasting outcome — and such a relationship cannot endure for long.
Now think again:
Why has no AEC firm endured on the fortune 500 lists for long?
In line with lean manufacturing, we will still review some principles:
- An AEC firm has to use a Pull System to avoid overstocking or overproduction.
- The firm also has to use a Leveling System to ensure an even output. This, in turn, requires a well-calculated inventory against unforeseen circumstance — without bringing about wastes.
- With the use of an open communication system (such as the Kanban System), updates can easily be passed across the entire unified teams.
In summary, the people dimension is a prerequisite before the technology can function. In an atmosphere of shared goals, creativity thrives — and this extends even to the Facility Management Phase of the building life cycle.