Posted by: JC Gatlin | June 16, 2010

Construction-Sales Gemba Walks: Don’t get blindsided by surprises


Have you ever heard the joke about the New Home Sales Professional who went to Heaven? 

A Sales Professional (SP) had a dream about arriving in Heaven and being greeted warmly by St. Peter.  The SP toured Heaven to find beautiful tree-lined streets, with green, pristine conservation areas and all the best amenities such as a club house, Olympic sized swimming pool, separate bike and walking trails. Heaven was the perfect community. Then St. Peter pointed out the SP’s new home, an 8,000 SF, 4-bedroom home with a freshly manicured lawn, blooming flowers and a sprawling old Oak tree.

A few weeks later, the SP was involved in an unfortunate car accident, was pronounced dead at the scene and wound up back at the Pearly Gates.  But this time things were different. Behind the gate waited neighborhood streets lined with muddy tire tracks, vacant lots with knee-high weeds and wind-swept dirt piles, home sites littered with trash and construction debris. At the end of the street was the SP’s new home, a run-down trailer with broken windows and an old, rusting refrigerator in the front yard.

The SP looked frantically at St. Peter and exclaimed, “What happened? This is a dirty, over grown neighborhood. Just a few weeks ago there were clean beautiful streets and parks and a sparkling new home.”

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed,” said St. Peter, shaking his head. “I’m here every day.”

This joke is about blinders and how we’re all wearing them. When you’re in the community, on the jobsite, in your model home day in and day out, you don’t see all the little piles and clumps and growth that pops up. You’re focused on all the countless activities within the building and selling process – each one vying for your attention. That’s why a dedicated, weekly Construction-Sales Gemba Walk is critical to the success of your community.

As you know, Gemba in Japanese means the place where all the activity is happening. Walking the Gemba together is part of “check” in Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA). It’s the process of carefully observing to see where things are not as they should be.

So, for your weekly Construction-Sales Gemba Walk, take the blinders off and follow these steps.

1. Consistent day and time

Pick a consistent day & time that both the Construction Professional and the Sales Professional can walk the Gemba together. This is a standing appointment that is as important as keeping a Homeowner Meeting or any construction activity in the building schedule.

“I walk the community and model home with both of my Sales Professionals every Monday afternoon at 4:30,” says one Construction Professional. “Both Sales Professionals are working on Mondays and Monday afternoons tend to be a little less hectic than the rest of the week.”

2. Purpose

Select a purpose for the walk (see topics below). Each topic should be reviewed and “walked” at least once a month, and use the appropriate Standardized Work Instruction Sheet. 

    • Community appearance & curb appeal
    • Vacant & available lots
    • Inventory and homes under construction
    • Model Home

“We added reviewing our community web page to our list of Gemba walk topics,” says a Sales Professional. “Nowadays, the website is a virtual Gemba and it needs to look as good and be as up-to-date as the model home or the community entrance.”

3. Address problems immediately.

Don’t let corrections or problems you find on a Gemba Walk linger. Paint touch-ups in the model home, over-grown lots, trash & debris on the homesites and dirt tracks in the street are negatively affecting home sales in the community. PDCA recurring problems so that you won’t have to deal with them again.

“This is a really good time to make sure counter measures are working,” explained a Construction Professional. “I put up bandit signs along the street directing Building Partners to park on one side only. I’d been getting some complaints from Homeowners. When we walked the community, it gave the Sales Professional an opportunity to see how it was working and she started showing Realtors and prospects how clean and organized this community is during construction. It became a selling advantage.”  

Face it. You’re going to have blinders on during the week — and sometimes you have no choice when you’ve got to keep a construction schedule moving or have to follow-up with Homeowners and referrals. A dedicated, weekly Gemba Walk — where you take those blinders off and really “see” what’s going on around you — will prevent some big problem from blindsiding you later down the road.

© June 2010 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo


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