Friday, March 11, 2011

"Do" Process!

The small, shallow voice on the other end of the line told the whole story. Whitney's friend Audrey was right in the middle of a complete remodel of their home and she sensed that it was not going well. Was there any way I could review the process and offer an opinion?

While trying to be careful not to be 'the next instant expert' that comes through the door, I spent the better part of two hours reviewing the carnage that was currently unfolding before Audrey and Jim's eyes. This was their dream home. This was where they are going to raise their babies. This was maybe the single largest investment they may ever make. This was a mess! Materials were not being ordered properly - either way to late in the schedule for efficient handling, or wrong altogether. Specific owner instructions were not being followed. Installation of some items (even those not specified by Audrey or Jim) was being done incorrectly. The Builder was asking either Audrey or Jim independently for decisions which ended up pitting husband against wife. Items being saved from the old house for re-use were not covered and ruined. At the Builders direction they had advanced significantly more money than the progress in the job required. What should have been one of the most joyful projects that they would ever experience had turned into a disaster!

Plan versus Process

Shelby and Jake's daughter turns two tomorrow. Dolly and Dutch joined the other grandparents and bought her this Pottery Barn toy refrigerator (some assembly required). It illustrates perfectly exactly what went wrong in Audrey and Jim's remodel. Pottery Barn did a superb job of packing the refrigerator and adding specific instructions on not only how it should look when finished, but also how to get from point "A" to point "B" so that it ended up looking that way. They provided an excellent roadmap of how that journey from point "A" to point "B" was supposed to go! Audrey and Jim hired a wonderful architect who told them what the completed remodel was supposed to look like, but they hired a builder who forgot to tell them how to get there! There was no roadmap! Where architects are usually responsible for the "plan", builders should be responsible for sharing the "process" with the client.

That fount of all knowledge Wikipedia defines "due process" as "...the rights owed to a person..." We're not baking a cake or putting a refrigerator together here - we are remodeling a family's home! If it had been a cake or a refrigerator you would have gotten a box with both the picture of the finished product and the steps necessary on how to get to the finished product. Doctors and lawyers can get by without informing their patients/clients on how they are going to surgically remove that bad thing, or how we are going to proceed in a lawsuit. Builders can't! Since the client is paying for the experience, it had better be efficient and fun! Communication is the key - if you are not doing a good job of communicating with your client, expect problems.

The more complicated the process - the better your process needs to be! With all the stuff that needs to be selected and ordered; with the tight timelines necessary to insure the project does not go on forever; with the budgets that need to be managed - you'd better have a good process. Audrey and Jim's builder did not. Without clearly defining the process and supporting it with strong communication, tremendous misunderstandings usually happen.

Sadly Audrey and Jim had a terrible experience that may have prejudiced them from ever wanting to try building or remodeling again. Even more sad is that business practices such as those described here go on every day. Even in states that closely regulate builders (Texas is not one!)  there is no legislating against disorganization and greed!

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