Seminars, Seminars, I love them all.

Please allow me to post some comments about 3 seminars, from Construction Users RoundTable, (CURT) the Engineering News Record, (ENR) and Lean Construction Institute (Lean)  I learned that we need a giant push to get collaboration over the net and into our industry.  

First was the 2016 CURT National Conference in Orlando in Feb 2016.  The conference was very well run, boffo speakers, great up-to-date info and motivated vendors.  Of course, my stichk was to distribute my business card about this Blog and tell my elevator-version of my story about the book.  I keep getting measurable traction in conversations with experienced construction professionals. 

The CURT Conference has an attendance near 500 and costs over $1200, so it is a big fancy deal.  Fun though and very interesting speakers. For openers, Wellness Coaches USA, (who report 3/4 of many thousands of clients have health improvements) presented with Merck & Co. the giant biopharmaceutical company.  The topic title was Mindfulness in the Construction Environment. Another session had a team leader for Nasa on the Mars River project speak about teamwork. Other sessions covered productivity, safety and other meaningful topics.  

Second was the FutureTech Conference in San Francisco at the beginning of June 2016.  This is only the second year for FutureTech and the attendance was approximately 400.  It was one intensive long day for $545.  There was a very wide variety of attendees and vendors, arising from the explosion of Tech solutions to construction hurdles from conceptual design to operations.  Software, data capture, data management, design and drones were just a few of the categories of issues covered.  There was even a fellow who invented a wearable frame that helped work overhead with much less fatigue.  ( I hated hanging sheetrock on ceilings when I was a carpenter.)  I picked up more brochures from this conference than any of the others.  I wanted to show the information to my sons, who will probably understand more of it than I.  

Third was the Lean Summit in Henderson, Nevada, just two weeks ago in June 2016.  This was a Lean extravaganza.  Training, data collection about Lean projects, details of Lean processes filled the bill.  While I could have lived without some of the details of committee reports, i enjoyed the game, "Parade of Trades."  Three teams of seven players move around chips representing work and use different dice to play different rounds.  Some dice have only big and little numbers 6's and ones; some have middle numbers, threes and fours. Not to spoil the excitement for those of you that might attend a seminar where the game is planned, but the middle numbers do significantly better.  When the players rolled 6's and ones, the "work" (chips) often piled up in front of a few players.  It reminded me of a Pull-planning session where the subcontractors who finished early were dinged because they were early.  Faster than planned is not as good as accurate planning.  

One would think that I was done with conferences, but alas, I attended a Lean "Community of Practice" seminar 23Jun16 in Los Angeles about two projects.  The meeting was at the offices of Herman Miller (very cool), and was free.  Both of the projects discussed had glowing reports of money saved and early completions.  They were both hospitals and savvy owners: Sutter and UHS.  After the rather impressive and detailed presentations, in the Q & A, a senior architect asked a pointed question about productivity in the design process especially using Lean techniques.  He reported being in a "Big Room" where there were two or three people collaborating enthusiastically and solving problems, while a large number of others, including apparently some of his own employees standing around not knowing what to do.  

I took his observation as a thoughtful representation of the adoption of collaboration in that project, specifically that it had worked for some and not for others. At best, to summarize the fellows comments, and I spoke to him after, the process of collaboration was slow to get started and the benefits weren't going to be adopted by all the folks in his company equally.  The presenters made the best of the question he asked and agreed that not everyone was suitable to adopt the Lean process of collaboration.  But that many were and the companies involved in the project presented adjusted to make the processes work best for them.  

I took the exchange as a cautionary tale.  I don't think we can easily re-enfranchise that fellow to the wonders of a collaborative environment.  We should develop Lean programs, IPD contracts, collaborative environments, cooperative techniques where they are going to work well.  Innovative owners, skilled professionals knowledgable in collaborative techniques will need to be vetted to take the important roles in new, highly visible projects.  

 My goal in this extravaganza of seminar attendance was to grasp the state of the industry country-wide.  What are the leaders of the construction industry thinking and talking about.  It appears that the industry knows that there is a better way out there to accomplish things.  

One of the Toyota way main principles to use well trained professionals and I'm sure that is exactly what we are doing.  It just seems that we don't have nearly enough horsepower to revolutionize the industry, we have enough influence to get a few projects underway when the conditions are right, but the industry needs a kick in the pants to get moving in new directions.