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Many companies have a statement somewhere in their website’s “About Us” section that speaks to Corporate Culture or Core Values. These statements, if thoughtfully stated, communicate an organization’s mission and affect their ability to attract and retain good people.

I ran across a construction company recently with these Core Values:

  • Grit – Dig in and work hard, no one is a natural in construction
  • No Brilliant Jerks – We attribute it to Reed Hastings (Netflix) quote that says “Some companies tolerate them. For us, the cost to effective teamwork is too high”.
  • Shapers not Chirpers – Bring solutions, not complaints. Complaining doesn’t change anything.
  • We Trust Your Good Judgment – We hire great people, give them great resources, and trust them to make good decisions
  • We Before Me – Construction is a team sport

Initially, I was impressed. Here is a company that is trying to stand out and tell the world what they think, how they operate, what they promote, and what they don’t tolerate. Then I gave a little more thought to what they were saying.

Grit - James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits, describes “Grit” as “Mental Toughness”. In other words this is the attitude that enables achieving long term goals through perseverance. Digging in and working hard is part of it, but grit is really a lot more than that. It’s about being disciplined and determined; unrelenting in getting to the finish. I like the idea as a value, but it could benefit from better follow through. And, while it may be true that no one is a natural at construction, there are people gifted at building things. I think they’re probably born with that gift.

Brilliant Jerks - I love construction and, frankly, find it disheartening to see the industry associated with Netflix and things the company’s polarizing leader has to say. In fact, internet writer Freddy Tran Nager digs deeper into this idea of “Brilliant Jerks” along with the whole Netflix Value Statement. As Nager puts it “If a brilliant jerk is someone who simply questions the answers and rejects the status quo, by all means, he should not only be kept, he should be rewarded”. He goes on to say “…the opposite of a brilliant jerk is a mediocre team player, the person who nods assent to everything.” Mediocre team players are certainly not what the industry needs in these trying times if you ask me.

Shapers not Chirpers - I understand that the constant complainer is a lot like the smoke alarm that “chirps” when it has a low battery – they are irritating. Everyone isn’t necessarily a “shaper” either. Solutions arise from problems and problems most often surface because somebody complains. How we discover problems and “shape” solutions is the question we should be addressing.

Trusting Your Good Judgment - Given the previous statements, do you believe they mean this? So far, the message seems more like they expect their people to keep their thoughts to themselves, shun innovation or independent thinking (‘cause brilliant people are jerks), and just work their asses off. Hmmmm.

We Before Me Teamwork - is most definitely where it’s at. But, when you really look at what that means in the context of the construction industry and the dysfunctional way it tends to operate, creating and sustaining an effective team is difficult. The winningest teams in sports don’t start every game with a new roster of players. They stick to fundamentals, practice incessantly, are personally accountable, and have close, almost familial relationships with one another. The construction industry still has a lot of hard work to do on this front. Lean construction principles, target value design, and relational contracting are just the beginning. While Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) seems to have disappeared from the mainstream, achieving “we before me” remains a challenge worth accepting. The question is “How?”

Currently, there seems to be more emphasis being placed on a company’s world view and their position regarding social issues, inclusivity and diversity, than on what they are capable of. Knowledge and skill are being replaced with justice and equity.

There is a proverb that states “Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool displays folly.” One commentator on this proverb notes that knowledge is essential to having wisdom and that wisdom involves the right application of knowledge. Foolishness, on the other hand, is evident in someone who talks about things they know little about and attempts things they are incapable of achieving.

In my opinion, crafting a corporate culture or making statements that describe core values without really thinking through the message displays foolishness. Prove that you know what you’re talking about and convince your customers and co-workers that you will achieve the things you set out to accomplish. That’s a Better Way to Build.

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Accomplished and results-driven architect and construction manager with domestic and international hands-on experience. Project types include healthcare, industrial and advanced manufacturing, pharmaceutical and laboratories, multi-family, and vertical mixed-use facilities. Extensive knowledge of design-build, lean construction, building information modelling (BIM), integrated project delivery (IPD), and relational contracting methods. Experienced design and construction project manager, pre-construction and estimating services provider, business developer, and owner’s representative.