Good Morning, Management Family!

on October 24, 2008

How ABC’s Hit Show, Extreme Home Makeover Gave Me Insights to Efficiencies and Strategic Engagement

Extreme Home Makeover recently came to our city to film an episode. For those unfamiliar with the program, basically a deserving family is surprised one morning to find the show’s charismatically, hyper host telling them to vacate the house because it’s going to be torn down and replaced with a new, better house… oh and it all has to be completed in a week.

Coincidentally, my dad works at the company that was hosting the VIP tent and I was able to score a media pass and get a front-row seat on the action, which proves the adage: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” as well as strengthening my own personal belief that if you have a button down shirt and a camera that looks expensive, you can sneak in anywhere.

When word spread throughout the office of my media pass, I was commissioned by several skeptical coworkers to find out “the real deal” behind the show. “That show is a scam!” one of them said. “My friend is a professional builder and he says the concrete can’t even set within a week!” Another one told me, “It is illegal to build a house in only a week.” and proceeded to explain this law to me as being in place for quality assurance purposes, “a quickly built house is an unsafe house, you see.”

Needless to say, my coworkers were skeptical – and why shouldn’t they have been? Building a 4,000 square foot house is a pretty daunting task in itself, throw in the tight deadline of a week and it seems impossible. Well, I went every day to see the house, and here is what actually happened:

Monday:
The house was torn down – at first by cast members and a group of local firefighters, and then the bulldozers came in to finish the job. The process of hauling away the debris began.

Tuesday:
By Tuesday evening all remnants of the old house were gone and the structures of the house were already up, but surrounding the house was nothing but mud.

Wednesday:
By Wednesday evening, the windows were in place, and the structure was really starting to look like a house.

Thursday:
The exterior of the house was finished; work on the house’s interior began. There were was not much improvement on the lawn.

Friday:
About 3 am Friday morning the weather turned foul: a tumultuous storm descended upon the house and within moments, the lawn was no longer a lawn-to-be but a murky swamp; a swamp that allowed for no traction for the supply trucks, let alone the workers. Immediately, those volunteers doing administrative tasks were given ponchos and sent to the only truck brave enough to venture into the swamp: the hay truck. By evening, both the interior and the exterior of the house were completed and the yard was metamorphosing into a large rounded-off driveway.

Saturday:
The furniture truck pulled up and a team of volunteers carried the furniture inside. Once the furniture was in place, everything was finished. The house and yard were complete.

Sunday:
The family returned home

It’s true, the house was entirely finished within a week – in fact it was finished early. And once the excitement wore off, I realized that the process of building the house was no different than any other job. In this case, the family was the client and the deliverable was a 4,000 square foot house to be completed in a week. My coworkers viewed this task the way many of us view the projects at our jobs: with skepticism. The project was too big in a timeline that was too short. So how did Extreme Home Makeover manage to quell this disbelief and get everyone be living in success? Well first of all, they had the necessary people and resources to get the job done – there is no way around that. Secondly they had a streamlined, efficient process that has been proven to work. But beyond that, the entire team was engaged and they were engaged for a few key reasons:

Belief:
The entire team believed in the product; they believed in the purpose the product, the quality of the product, and they believed it was possible to succeed despite the difficult timeline.

Trust:
The team trusted one another, and nobody was micromanaging. The window installing team wasn’t checking up on the garage wiring team to ensure that the job was being done right. Each part of the team let the other parts succeed.

Contingencies:
There was a back-up plan for everything. During the rainstorm, ponchos and hay were quickly distributed. There was even a tent with masseuses ready to massage strained and aching muscles.

Satisfaction:
Everyone’s contribution to the project was highly visible; it was very easy to see the progress from day to day, and there was a sense of satisfaction and pride connected with this progress. When the family came home and collapsed with tears of joy and shouts of excitement, everyone knew why their contribution to the product mattered to the end result. The team built the house together.

Using myself as an example to demonstrate how to keep me engaged: when I program an electronic learning application, tell me if it worked – not just from a technical standpoint, but from an objectives standpoint. Was the training initiative successful? And what were the results of the training? Were the desired results achieved? How was the task I completed relevant to the final outcome of the project? Engaged employees will want to know, and they should! By connecting them to the project, work transcends beyond the traditional view of “cranking widgets” and becomes something where the employees truly want to succeed.


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