Lean means cheap, ugly houses – NOT!

August 23, 2011

Todd Hallett and I are working with a fantastic smaller builder in California this week. They really “get it” and are very open to input from all of their suppliers and trades. They build very good looking homes at affordable prices and are highly sensitive to anything that would “dumb down the house” or hurt the visual appeal in any way.

The notion that Lean process and methods can be detrimental to home quality is nonsense, but fueled by the approach taken by some of the country’s largest builders, the term Lean sometimes becomes errantly associated with ugly homes. It takes little talent to reduce cost if you strip down a house, flatten the roof pitch and remove visual appeal. The real skill is to understand how to preserve a look or even enhance it, while reducing cost. (See Todd Hallett’s LeanDesign Blog from Aug 16, 2011 for a vivid example. http://tiny.cc/LeanDesignHallett08-16-11.)

When designing a new model, the key is to create a great look and highly livable floor plan using every trick in the book to reduce cost, and that includes structured input from your suppliers and trades. We have seen it work too many times to deny that it can be done and the best builders have taken market share with this strategy. It is happening with this builder in California as I write this. The result will be great-looking houses with significantly reduced costs. This builder will grow in a tuff market next year and their competitors will wonder why. But you know. The idea that Lean means ugly is a myth. This and 9 other myths associated with Lean will be addressed in my upcoming September article in Professional Builder, “BUSTED! The 10 greatest myths of Lean Building.”I hope you catch it.


Scott Sedam is president of TrueNorth Development, a consulting and training firm that works with builders to improve products, process, and profits. A senior contributing editor to Professional Builder, Scott has written award-winning commentary on all aspects of the business of home building and won the 2015 Jesse H. Neal Award, business journalism's most prestigious prize, for his commentary in Pro Builder. Scott invites you to join TrueNorth's Lean Building Group on LinkedIn and welcomes your feedback at scott@truen.com or 248.446.1275.


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