Leadership

What Can You Improve Today? A Survive-To-Thrive Plan Of Action

For "people," "process," and "product value" – including the fluid continuum of customers' needs, wants, and wherewithal – the constant through all time is that there's always more to learn than the sum total of what we know.

Leadership

What Can You Improve Today? A Survive-To-Thrive Plan Of Action

For "people," "process," and "product value" – including the fluid continuum of customers' needs, wants, and wherewithal – the constant through all time is that there's always more to learn than the sum total of what we know.

November 15th, 2022
What Can You Improve Today? A Survive-To-Thrive Plan Of Action
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Maybe not everybody who's an owner or principal of a homebuilding company feels exactly the same way, but more than one – with a few housing cycles under their belts – expressed how days like these work.

I come into work each day with two or three opportunity areas in the business for us to work on improving."

In good times or bad, the places to look for opportunity-areas for improvement are finite, a theme and variations like the following.

  • people
  • process
  • product value

Within these few domains – owners, strategists, leaders, managers, and customer-or partner-facing frontliners tell us repeatedly -- multitudes of strategic and operational improvement opportunities readily declare themselves as a constant to every homebuilder, whether the capital structure is public, private, enterprise, medium-sized, little, or tiny.

For each domain – and you may add to these three as many "pillar" domains as you feel are essential – we take it as a matter of belief that wisdom and experience on one side of each of them connect with a blend of curiosity and humility on the other side.

In other words, for "people," "process," and "product value" – including the fluid continuum of customers' needs, wants, and wherewithal – the constant through all time is that there's always more to learn than the sum total of what we know.

Learning evolved as one of our cleverest tools, for it works as a fulcrum that levers wisdom and experience to allow people to foray into the future with eyes and mind open along with a few blunt navigational instruments, but by no means a "playbook." Learning draws from messy, mistake-filled trials-by-error others were gracious enough to leave as their legacy to those who come later. Quite literally, the word springs from following the "furrow" or "tracks" of someone else's footprints.

Speaking of footprints, have a look at The Irrelevant Investor host Michael Batnick's highly relevant celebration of our timeless imperative to learn more than we know about what we're doing.  In "The Fingerprints of History," Batnick spotlights former asset management executive Scott Krisiloff's Time Project, a knowledge-base he created from having read ~4,000 issues of Time, covering 77 years, that concurrently tracks stock market performance across the span of the years 1934 to 2000.

Two of Krisiloff's lessons – or fingerprints -- stand out for homebuilders and their partners now.

Just when you think you understand everything, everything will change.  When I was reading TIME I often imagined myself as someone who was born around 1900 and began a career in 1923.  By the 1970s I reached a point where it felt as if I had seen it all.  I had 50 years of career “experience” and cycles were repeating.  Then the 1980s happened.  Economic dynamics changed and turned everything I thought I knew on its head.  I learned from this experience that there are structural breaks in the way that the world works and more forces in play than anyone has the capacity to understand.
Human progress is the result of an ongoing relay race among generations.  At any given moment the planet is inhabited by a group of generations sharing a common experience.  As time marches forward, the baton of leadership passes from one generation to the next and eventually an entirely new group of generations inherits the Earth.  Each generation benefits from the wisdom of those who came before it and guides the course of society for those who will follow.  One of the more profound changes in generational leadership happened after World War II.  In 1945 TIME wrote “the way of man with man changes from generation to generation, and the way of man with a machine changes sometimes overnight. The war was bringing forward a new generation of men, and with them almost a new world of machines.”

Learning, author Nassim Taleb might say is nature's superpower, including – on a generous day – human nature. How is that, and how does it apply to a Fed-engineered cyclical housing downturn?

Here's a high-level primer on how and why Taleb's brand of "learning" may apply in the early stages of a housing market rout.

Taleb’s main thrust has been understanding the application of what statisticians call “fat tails” — rare events at the edges of a statistical distribution that often carry the greatest consequences, yet are also the most unpredictable. He popularized the phrase “Black Swan” to represent the big events that have never happened and cannot be predicted, but still need our attention.

Here are two Taleb gems for people whose livelihoods are the business of making homes and neighborhoods to consider, especially during a stress test whose severity and duration are anyone's guess:

“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”  – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
The fragile wants tranquility, the antifragile grows from disorder, and the robust doesn’t care too much.” – FS.blog

Arriving on the job with two or three "what can we improve today?" focus areas – that let's-get-stuff-done character we've seen in abundance among homebuilders, developers, and their partners through the worst of times past – is a bulwark of the entrepreneurial DNA that flourishes no matter what.

If ever there were an occupation, livelihood, and purpose that proves again and again its capacity to both learn and be willing to learn, it's this one. So, while duration and severity may still be unknowns, what we know is that homebuilder stakeholders and leaders have arrived at work today with a mind to improving a few things in their business as regards people, process, and product value.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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