Good strategy involves an interpretation of numbers and data. The most important thing to consider is that building an enduring organization requires patience, hard work and, most importantly, a strategic plan that allows the business owner to build the right infrastructure, develop his or her associates proactively and spend the requisite amount of time developing a tactical playbook.
Best-in-class firms focus on building an enduring organization with the right people and catalyze the right thinking, internally and externally. These firms value and strive to achieve the following characteristics when building their organizations:
- Flawless execution—Regardless of the customer, market or conditions, the firm does an introspective examination when they fail to meet expectations.
- Customers—They know their customers' businesses as much as they know their own, and they know what drives decision making at all levels.
- Data driven—In a world full of data, the best firms find the right recipe and use this to assist in the decision making. They are emphatic about measuring things connected to their business in order to provide accurate benchmarking.
- Employee focus—They take a proactive stance in developing talent at all levels.
- Ever-evolving succession—Succession planning is not limited to the CEO or CFO.
- Research and development—While most construction organizations do not carry a line item for research and development, best-in-class firms innovate and find better ways to build every year.
The best firms do not view these characteristics as a destination, but a constant journey. They focus on areas that hold them back, rather than the one area propelling them forward.
Vision, Mission and Values
Vision and mission statements usually adorn the conference rooms and boardrooms of most construction firms. However, how much passion really exists in the firm for these visions? Some companies find that as leadership develops and the workforce changes, a distance grows between mission statements and reality in the company's culture. To evaluate and determine the efficacy of your company's vision and values, try the following two tests.
- Ask anyone in the firm to recite the vision. How consistent is the vision across the firm? Can you recite it?
- Assuming someone can recite the vision, how much passion do they exhibit for this grounding principle of the firm?
There is often a huge disconnect for most people when it comes to the vision of a firm and how the associates see themselves influencing the firm overall. If the vision fails to evoke any passion, it may also be that the firm is not following the trajectory it originally set out to achieve. For instance, did the firm create a vision, mission and core values but do nothing else to change?
The problem often lies in the subsequent action planning, or lack thereof. A firm will go to great lengths to capture a vision, mission and values and then stop. However, in reality, the work has just begun.
The rubber truly meets the road in creating all of the action items necessary to fulfill the vision. The greatest visions and missions almost seem unachievable, but they evoke enough passion within the firm that everyone consciously works on the business, instead of only working for the business.
Business Hygiene and Innovation
As the flashier front of the business, overall strategy can be waylaid by initiatives and concepts that are outwardly focused but fail to capture the appropriate level of hygienic activities.
Hygiene, or maintaining the health of the business, hardly gets anyone excited. Some might even define these action items as remedial. However, failing to achieve success at the hygienic level makes implementing new practices, ideas and concepts very difficult. For instance, preconstruction planning might be considered hygienic.
That being said, to move any firm forward, there must be a balance of actions that focus on the hygiene and the innovative aspects of the business. If a firm only works on the basics, it is never able to look ahead to become a market leader.
A firm can simply operate within its existing sphere and execute the projects the same way with a focus on improving practices. The corollary would be examining a new market with all new rules of engagement. Both are effective strategies, assuming the market conditions and data support this hypothesis. The overarching strategic direction of the firm will require some semblance of focus on these concepts of hygiene and innovation. As it continually revisits its action plan for the future, it should constantly weigh the activities in either category to ensure it is achieving the right results.
Building an enduring organization takes time. The one item that separates the best-in-class firms is the time they take to work on their businesses. In the construction world, there is no shortage of emergencies. Even the greatest construction entities had their fair share of hiccups and challenges. Leaders must find a balance of both—dedicating the requisite time to build a great business while dealing with the day-to-day activities. Ultimately, someone has to be at the helm of the ship, guiding it through rough waters. If everyone is down in the mechanical room, wrenching on the engines, who is steering the ship?