Monday, April 4, 2011

"A network of commitments......."

Still reading The Commercial Real Estate Revolution.  The authors believe the traditional way of bidding out commercial building projects is hopelessly broken, leading to significant cost overruns and completion delays.  They propose several "mindshifts".

An extended excerpt:

Some of Stan's buddies in Michigan have told him about a process they follow called Lean Construction.  When he heard them say, "We focus on the relational interactions between the trades," he had to laugh.  That just seemed like chaos; they were asking for trouble.   One friend described the project as a "network of commitments."
  "What does that mean, a network of commitments?" Stan laughed.  "That's no different from what I do,  It just sounds cool and New Age-y."
   He clicked through a few more channels and ran across another show, "The Legends of Jazz" with Ramsey Lewis as host.  He watched bass guitar player Marcus Miller begin with a few quiet and simple chords and then shift to an up-tempo syncopated rhythm.  Within seconds, the drums, guitar, and piano entered at the same time.  Stan brought his recliner forward and now sat at the edge with elbows on knees and staring directly into his television.  Stan was having what he called "a music moment."
   Stan watched the way the musicians looked at each other for cues, they way they leaned toward one another during transitions.  He noticed the way the lead switched from player to player.  Suddenly, the idea of a project as a "network of commitments" took on a whole new meaning.  Stan realized that he was trying to run projects like that Marine drill sergeant; there was no network of commitments.  The only commitment was to learn your part and follow the leader.  Jazz, on the other hand, now that was all about commitments to one another - from tight interaction to listening, really listening.  Music wouldn't work at all if one guy tried to take charge, but it sounds fantastic when everyone is working to synchronize with the other musicians.
    Could this be what his buddies in Michigan meant?  Can a project really flow like a jazz session.  Stan promised himself that if he managed to survive this project, he was going to call his buddies and find out more.

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