Posted by: JC Gatlin | January 26, 2011

Recommended Reading: Leadership From the Ground Up

These are three books from last year’s reading list that I meant to recommend several months ago. Interesting story behind them: The 2 Day House and The Checklist Manifesto were recommended and given to me by a fellow builder in Louisiana. I purchased Chasing the Rabbit after meeting the author, Steven Spear, in a Lean group on LinkedIn.

2 Hour House: Leadership from the Ground Up by Brian Conway (2007)

Is it possible to build a house in only two hours? Either they would prove the doubters wrong and go down in history, or they would go up in flames. Only time, the next few hours to be exact, would tell. A group of East Texas homebuilders dreamed of setting a new world record for building a 2,249 square foot house from the ground up. To do so, they would have to pour a concrete slab that hardened in only 22 minutes and paint the house in the same time it takes to brush your teeth. Plans called for a traditional home that met or exceeded code at every turn. It took two years of planning, 1,000 volunteers from every trade and more than a little luck to pull it off. It was an enormous puzzle with thousands of pieces. But once they dumped everything out of the box and onto the lot inside a new subdivision, would all of the pieces fit together? What this team learned about life, leadership and the persistence of the human spirit will motivate you to transform your own life, work and home from the ground up.

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Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and How Great Companies Can Catch Up and Win by Steven J. Spear (2009)

Winner of the Shingo Prize for Research and Professional Publication, 2009

How can companies perform so well that their industry counterparts are competitors in name only? Although they operate in the same industry, serve the same market, and even use the same suppliers, these “rabbits” lead the race and, more importantly, continually widen their lead. In Chasing the Rabbit, Steven J. Spear describes what sets high-velocity, market-leading organizations apart and explains how you can lead the pack in your industry.

Spear examines the internal operations of dominant organizations, including Toyota, Alcoa, Pratt & Whitney, the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Program, and top-tier teaching hospitals–organizations operating in vastly differing industries, but which share one thing in common: the skillful management of complex internal systems that generates constant, almost automatic self-improvement at rates faster, durations longer, and breadths wider than anyone else musters. As a result, each enjoys a level of profitability, quality, efficiency, reliability, and agility unmatched by rivals. Chasing the Rabbit shows how to:

  • Build a system of “dynamic discovery” designed to reveal operational problems and weaknesses
  • Attack and solve problems at the time and in the place where they occur, converting weaknesses into strengths
  • Disseminate knowledge gained from solving local problems throughout the company as a whole
  • Create managers invested in the process of continual innovation

Whatever kind of company you operate–from technology to finance to healthcare–mastery of these four key capabilities will put you on the fast track to operational excellence, where you will generate faster, better results using less capital and fewer resources. Apply the lessons of Steven J. Spear’s and leave the competition in the dust.

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The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Real by Atul Gawande (2009)

With a title like The Checklist Manifesto, it would be natural to expect that Atul Gawande is bent on revolutionizing that most loved-hated activity of workers the world over: the to-do list. But it’s not the list itself he wants to change; there are no programmatic steps or tables here to help you reshuffle daily tasks. What you’ll find instead is a remarkably liberating and persuasive inquiry into what it takes to work successfully and with a personal sense of satisfaction. The first thing you’ll realize is that it takes more than just one person to do a job well. This is a toppling revelation made all the more powerful by Gawande’s skillful blend of anecdote and practical wisdom as he profiles his own experience as a surgeon and seeks out a wide range of other professions to show that a team is only as strong as its checklist–by his definition, a way of organizing that empowers people at all levels to put their best knowledge to use, communicate at crucial points, and get things done. Like no other book before it, The Checklist Manifesto is at once a restorative call to action and a welcome voice of reason.

All books are available through www.amazon.com.

© January 2011 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo

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