The Lean Construction in Action is a series that features Lean practitioners who are working in the field. In this series, Tim interviews lean leaders, superintendents, and foreman who are actively applying Lean Construction. The goal of this series is to connect people with the lean practices that they are currently using. We want to share stories about what they are learning and how they are improving their practice.
1. Please provide a little background as to who you are and how you got started on your lean journey?
I'll go ahead and start it off with LR is actually my first two initials. My first name is actually Leandris so I kind of started utilizing that a few years ago. I thought “oh man my name's got lean in it so I'm gonna start running with it”. I grew up in St Louis, went to college in Illinois and got a degree in construction management.
2. How did you get started on your lean journey?
I’ve been in commercial construction for about the last 18 years. A lot of it has been in health care. I was exposed to some lean things in about 2014 when I was working at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. We were doing some things there called “pods” (plan of the day) which is essentially a daily huddle. We had scheduling meetings which were basically phase planning meetings and we had trades doing weekly work plan. We were trying to utilize lean ideas but back then people were like “oh this stuff comes from Toyota, what the heck does that got to do construction?” I did it because that's what everybody else was doing and didn't think much about it until a few years after that. That's kind of really how I got exposed and started with anything related to lean. I had no clue it had anything to do with a whole lean methodology or last planner system. I had never heard of the last planner system until probably around 2018.
3. Did your experience in Cincinnati inspire you to start looking a little bit more into what is this whole Toyota way and what is lean?
To be honest with you no it didn't. I was there for about two years and like I said that was just kind of the way things happened. In total transparency the weekly work plans weren't really utilized the way they should have been, we kind of forced pull plan meetings and we didn't make the work ready after that. I left that job and didn't really get engaged with lean again until about 2018 or 2019. That's when I finally found the term last planner system and that sparked the light bulb in my mind “like okay last planner system what is this?” So I started trying to figure out what the last planner system is and it clicked that this is some of the stuff that we were doing in Cincinnati, so I'm kind of familiar with this stuff. That really got me diving in more and The Lean Builder book was one of the books I gravitated towards because it's written from a construction standpoint. From there I kind of started seeing all these other resources about lean (Toyota Way , Toyota Way Field Manual) are really started trying to broaden my horizon and my knowledge.
4. Can you share a little bit more about the LCI CPC and how you went about getting this certification?
The LCI CPC is a designation that Lean Construction Institute came out with for Certified Practitioner of Construction. It's not really a true test where you go through some material you take an exam. It's kind of the opposite - there is an exam that you take immediately and that exam is really testing your technical competency on lean knowledge terminologies and things that are related to lean in construction. The next portion is basically a capabilities assessment which is almost like a work portfolio that you're putting together. You're going through all the items of LPS and you're documenting how you did those things. You show how you’ve used those things in the field. The next part of that assessment is looking at some other concepts such as visual communication, target value delivery, 5S, Five Why problem solving and showing how you utilize those on a job site. Overall it is really more of an assessment of your technical competency.
5. How does the LCI CPC impact your current role?
I would describe myself as a Lean Advocate and Lean Champion here at Layton Construction trying to support project teams to Implement lean. I spend time working with owners trying to push some of the initiatives that they want to use. I believe that this certification 1. Gives you a more of a voice. You know people have seen that LCI highlighted these folks out here who are getting the CPC. I was reading a book, about two weeks ago, from one of the speakers that was at LCI, Max Story. In the book he talked about how leadership is really about influence and how it doesn't matter your title, you don't have to be a vice president to have influence in a company. It's really about how you can influence people and that influence starts with getting folks to trust you. Trust is is the baseline of everything construction.If you don't have trust you can't get reliable promises, you're not going to get commitments from folks and people won't want to work together because they don't trust one another.In our industry man trust is huge, so that's really one of the things that that CPC designation is affording me. I'm passionate enough to have devoted time and energy into receiving this certification.
6. What do you think is the best way to build trust with a new team?
Vulnerability. I think asking an icebreaker question when we're in a room where I don't know anybody is a great way to start. I like to start with “I want everybody to introduce themselves, tell me what you do and then maybe give me a challenge that you had growing up as a kid.” It makes people stop and think and you've created a sense of vulnerability within the room. If you go around the room, say you got 10 people in there, and you guys have all answered that question, youtube all made yourselves vulnerable. We've allowed ourselves to now start building some type of trust and rapport amongst one another just by a simple exercise. I think The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is where I read that and that was one of the things that stuck out to me.
7. What would you say is the biggest hurdle that the construction industry faces with lean implementation?
That's a loaded question Tim! One of the biggest downsides that we have is the emphasis on project management and the emphasis not on true production. A lot of people talk about productivity but nobody's talking about production and there's a difference between the two. When you look at project management, project management is really a lot of administrative tasks.None of those administrative tasks really add value to the asset that we're trying to turn over, which is the building. The only thing that's really adding value to those assets is getting into the production and how do we maximize and increase that efficiency? Until we learn more about true production in construction we're going to be a ways off from where we want to be. I think really getting folks expanding their knowledge because you don't know what you don't know. I've had to learn, unlearn and relearn some things over the past couple years and I continue to do that. That's a part of that continuous Improvement cycle. We really need to get in the mindset of you know Continuous Improvement. I heard the other day that “you don't have to be sick to get better”, meaning that there's always opportunities to get better.
8. Can you elaborate on the designation between productivity vs production?
Productivity is really taking raw materials and making them into something. For example - you’ve got a sheet metal guy who wants to maximize his productivity and you’ve got a plumber that wants to maximize their productivity. Production is really focusing on how you make the work flow through processes and get throughput. Productivity is to get as much as you can, as soon as you can. It doesn't equate to getting throughput through a system. In construction we're typically taught, because of CPM, to push start as much work as you can as soon as you can. All that does is put WIP (Work In Process) into the system unnecessarily and you get a bunch of variability introduced. Nobody ever thinks that way, because everybody says “push push push” “start as much as you can as soon as you can” and it doesn't get you any closer to the goal. My goal is to complete work, not start work, right? The productivity mindset has each individual trade living with their blinders on.
9. Why don’t more people embrace lean construction?
Honestly man like I said earlier man you don't know what you don't know. I think most people are into the mindset that they've become pretty good at what they do and it's been successful for them. I tell people that you shouldn't strive to be successful, you really should be striving to provide value and the success is going to come as an output. In order to provide value you have to really look at who your customer is.
10. Is there anything you wanna want to close out with?
The only thing I want to say is Lean Builders Do It Better. Come join the wave!