My biggest eye opener relating to the building business — Lean Tuesday with Todd Hallett

September 13, 2011

We all have our eye opening moments in life. When I was 17 my dad would often remind me to keep checking the oil in my 72 Bonneville. I did check the oil frequently (in my mind anyway) for a while. It was only after the old workhorse left me stranded on the expressway with a thrown rod that it dawned on me that running out of gas (an activity I participated in much too often) was quite a bit different than running out of oil. During the struggle to get to school, work and figure out how to pay for another car was when the lesson really sank in.

Another great learning experience was working at a mid-sized production building company. Starting at the company with my architectural training I felt I had a leg up, however, the project managers quickly put that idea out of my head. There is a lot more to putting together a great set of drawings or a solid design than I had ever expected. Working my way through the company and holding the purchasing position helped a lot. Realizing that the lines I put on paper had such a dramatic impact on not only direct cost of sticks and bricks, but also the cost of management, variances and schedule delays.  When I took over the president position, the pieces of the puzzle really started coming together. I could now see the big picture and that was when my understanding of the industry took root.

When the building company I worked for sold in 2005 I started my architecture business. I knew I would be learning quite a bit during this period as well. I did not, however, expect to learn what I have collaborating with Scott Sedam and TrueNorth. They have developed a Lean system that is so comprehensive that I would have never imagined the impact that it would have on the building industry or me personally.  I have witnessed builders discovering thousands of dollars per home during the Lean process – not just sometimes but every time.

With the struggle to stay competitive and continue to grow during this tough time a lean implementation is the single best thing a builder (regardless of size, product, or location) can do to improve systems, communication, marketability and cost. Learning lean is hands down the biggest eye opener I have ever had in this industry.


Todd Hallett, AIA, president of TK Design & Associates has been designing award-winning homes for more than 20 years. He spent 15 of those years working for a $50 million production building company. Todd designed all of its homes but also worked in every other aspect of the company including purchasing, development, land acquisition, product development, and operations, and was president of the company for three years. Equipped with his vast building experience and fueled by his love for architecture he left to form an architecture firm that is second to none in working cohesively with builders. Todd specializes in Lean Design and works, alongside Scott Sedam of TrueNorth Development, in the trenches with builders, suppliers, and trade contractors. Todd welcomes your feedback at or 248.446.1960.


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