Posted by: JC Gatlin | September 24, 2009

Our standardization is lacking, well, standardization

True story. Last Wednesday, I went to see a movie with four friends. Each of us put our two cents in about what movie to see and what night to go. And after some back and forth and a little planning, we all came to an agreement. At 7:15 on Wednesday night all four of us showed up at the same movie theater, bought a ticket for the same show and sat together on the same aisle in the same auditorium. 

But once the previews were over, one of my buddies got up and left. He wasn’t mad; he just didn’t care to watch any more.

So then there were three of us. The movie started and about 30 minutes into it, we lost another member of the group. He got up and for whatever reason, never came back. So for the next hour, there were just two of us watching this movie – until I looked over and noticed I was alone. All three of my friends had walked out. So I sat there watching the end of this film – by myself.

When I left the auditorium, I ran into one of those friends and asked, “What happened? Where’d you go?”

He said, “I got tired of watching that movie and decided to go see a different one.”

“But we had a plan. We organized. We all agreed…” I said, a little frustrated. “What was the point of all us putting so much planning and effort into organizing a movie night when no one bothered to watch the movie?”

Does any of this sound familiar? It should… Because we (as in you, me, and all our other Teammates) keep acting out the same scenario over and over again. Only, instead of planning a movie night, we put all that effort into PDCA. We go through the process of developing, agreeing upon and establishing uniform specs, criteria, methods, processes and practices, and then… one by one, like four friends walking out of an auditorium before the movie ends, we each drift back to an old way — or our own way. We’re not standardized.

You haven’t noticed? Let me give you some examples.

A few of the strongest and most-highly publicized and visible PDCAs of 2009 have been the “standardization” of the marketing flyer templates, the FTQ process, and the New Home Introduction. And over the last two weeks, a custom-created, non-templated flyer was turned-in, while many weekly FTQ sheets were not, and a very old, very outdated “Quality & Satisfactorily Complete Final Walk” check list turned-up. That doesn’t even begin to mention how many questions asked, phone calls made, and emails written to go over steps that are already accessible and clearly outlined in a SWIS in a manual. (You just got to blow the dust off the cover and open the book.)

Now take a minute to look at the PDCAs you’ve participated in this year. How many counter measures have you implemented? How many standard processes have you improved? How many Standardized Work Instruction Sheets have you created? How many people are consistently carrying-out and following them?

Now, be honest, are you consistently carrying-out and following them?

Are you wearing your hard hat on your head or on your hip every time you step on the homesite? How many Hot Spot sheets have you posted in your home-under-construction or even reviewed with a Building Partner? Are you referring to the SWIS to update the website? How many Construction Professionals and Sales Professionals are walking the community and model home together every Monday? Does every model home have a community info book next to the sales center printer?

In a nutshell, we’re failing to standardize, or the “Do, Check, and Adjust” part of PDCA. We’re not seeing it all the way through to the end. That’s like planning a movie night with four friends, but no one bothers to stay through the movie. We’re just dropping out and giving up too soon. And in many circumstances, we’re not even trying.

I believe there are several reasons this is happening and I have some ideas to improve, but that’s mountain jumping. So today, there’s a PDCA out there with my name on it that’s analyzing our lack of standardization in our standardization.

© September 2009 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.



  1. An interesting way to think of PDCA – puts it into perspective of how many PDCA’s have fallen to the side and never finished or revisited.

  2. How have other companies tackled the standardization and implementation part of PDCA? Is there anyone we can benchmark with to get over this hump? The hump is glaring and obvious and casts an unfortunate negative shadow over all the positive that’s been done and improved. An observation from a casual observer may say that many lean companies operate in a single environment: i.e. a warehouse where a good is manufactured in one location. Well, in our case, we have multiple warehouses/locations where we are manufacturing our good and processing it for sale. Therefore it’s more critical to us to gain buy-in from Teammates, committment in creating the habit to reference our manuals, and of course in keeping the manuals updated. How to we help our Teammates build that habit?????

  3. I’ve received a lot of feed back from this post — and an interesting observation is there’s three parts to standardization: A) implementation & education, B) execution, and C) audit & accountability. If one or more of those legs are weak, the standardization process fails.

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