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Integrate, Don’t Complicate- A week with Story Construction – Ames, Iowa.

April 11, 2022
Story Construction deliver construction projects. That’s what they do. They say the reason why they do it is because people matter. This is perhaps a phrase that has been coined before and loosely applied by many. The difference with Story is that the President and Chief Operating Officer walk the talk, which then spills in every direction. Not in a loud way - in a way that embodies respect for people and builds trust.

We currently have the privilege of working with Story Construction, partly on site, with the following objectives:

  • Build the capability of a nominated group in the application of ‘Work Standards’ (Step Ups Reference Model base) to the daily work planning and evaluation function.
  • With a second group, introduce Job Relations (JR) and align the JR 4 step ‘problem handling’ pattern with the established improvement pattern within CP2.0.

(CP2.0 is Story’s Construction Planning system – not a computer in sight.)

For about 3 years now Story’s continuous improvement efforts have been underpinned by a ‘Toyota Kata philosophy’ – embed scientific thinking in systemised improvement. Those who see ‘Toyota Kata’ as ‘manufacturing thinking’ may find this strange for a construction company.

In the brief agreed to with Pat Geary (COO) the imperative was to integrate ‘Work Standard thinking’ to enhance what they’re doing currently in daily planning, and to see how we can integrate JR into an existing practice pattern being used to develop scientific thinking.

The first week was on site in Iowa.

Work Standard Thinking

On the Monday with a small group from the Small Projects Team we briefly introduced theory, illustrated it through a manufacturing simulation, then applied what they learnt in the simulation to their morning toolbox meeting. The morning toolbox meeting is where the frontline leader briefs their team on the day ahead – sets the expectations. The resulting ‘Output Work Standard’ (good enough to try out) was applied Tuesday through Thursday. We got back together Friday, discussed what had been learnt largely by the frontline leaders, then made adjustments. The adjustments are being applied and this cycle repeated with live online discussions for the next 3-4 weeks.

Job Relations

(The premise for success here is that the Job Relations 4 step ‘problem handling’ pattern is ‘scientific thinking with a people slant’.)

On the Tuesday the first session of Job Relations was delivered to a group of senior managers (as a means of introduction). We then considered the existing scientific thinking practice pattern and fitted the JR 4-steps in ‘enough’ to try this modified pattern out. Over Wednesday and Thursday 3 groups applied the pattern to real situations. As with the Work Standards group, we got back together Friday, discussed what had been learnt through real application, then made adjustments. The adjustments are being applied and this cycle repeated with live online discussions for the next 2-3 weeks.

It was stressed throughout that we weren’t replacing standard delivery of JR. We are seeing where and how it can be integrated before considering embarking on ‘results through people’ skill development.

The willingness of both groups to try what was being put in front of them was a testament to the trust in Story management.