Geo Week News

November 12, 2018

Get Out of the Trenches: Leading the Construction Industry with Moonshot Goals


When people discuss the current state of the construction industry and technology adoption you will hear a wide array of opinions. I was inspired recently by a podcast guest that I respectively disagree with and it spurred me to voice my personal observations and opinions.

The statement was made by the guest “That the industry needs more leaders that get down in the trenches and understand the problems that we are facing.” I want to first say that this is not about the person making the statement or my difference of opinion. I think there needs to be a healthy balance of company leaders in the trenches understanding the pain points and designing solutions to our problems. This might seem a little confusing but let me expand on my disagreement.

It has been my observation that we have too many Executives, Owners, and Company Visionaries stuck in the details of the operations of the company. Leading people requires that you are removed enough from the day to day operations to see the forest through the trees. It is the objective of the leaders that you have hired to understand, articulate and ultimately solve the company’s problems. The objective of the best company visionaries is to create the lofty goals of the company.

Create Your Moonshot

In order to achieve this goal, the company must have a “Why”. For those of you uninitiated, please read Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. The purpose of a company cannot just be about money. Again, to borrow from Simon, money is the fuel to drive the business engine to achieve our goals. Our industry is ripe with fundamental importance from infrastructure, housing, medical, and industrial facilities that are transforming our world. The technology available to us is at an all time high and evolving almost daily. If the visionary is caught in the day to day it is highly likely that the industry itself will quickly pass the company.

We need to free up our visionaries to focus on future and focus on giant, lofty goals. These are commonly referred to as Moonshots, in honor of John F. Kennedy. He set a goal to put a human being on the Moon at a point when we had no comprehension of what the path looked like to achieve that goal. Nonetheless, it set in motion a fundamental transformation of our world through the innovation and creation of the space program.

Our industry and more importantly our companies need these Moonshots to fundamentally transform the way we construct the world around us. The problem is so great that a failure to set goals and begin the transformation could catastrophically affect the future of our ability to house, feed, and care for its estimated 10 billion people by 2050. The job does not end with creating the Moonshot. Doing so is just the beginning.

Removing the Fear of Failure and Innovating Everywhere

We have to begin with these Moonshot goals, but that’s the easy part. The real effective change comes from creating an atmosphere in your organization that fundamentally changes its DNA. The first goal should be to remove the fear of failure from the organization. The focus should be on effective failure by encouraging the inclusion of iterative process and failing early and often. This goal combined with the removal of the natural impediment of fear, can free your organization to achieve its goals.

The other fundamental change that I see most leaders overlook is that innovation can come from anywhere and anyone. Close your eyes right now and envision the person to solve your problem: now let that go. You must be open to all areas and employees of your organization contributing to the solutions.

A laborer might be the catalyst to moving material piles to a better location for access and resupply. A manufacturing foreman might revolutionize your prefabrication shop. A payroll clerk might be the person that brings you the software to change the organizations accounting. The only way to achieve this level of comfort for all to innovate and improve is to take those closest to you and empower them to do the same to everyone they touch in the organization.

This is what it means to have it in your DNA as a business. Creating a culture of innovation through empowerment, trust, and empathy sounds easy, but it requires daily dedication. The leaders of the organization and their chosen leaders in the company must treat every day and every interaction as if it could contain the breakthrough of a lifetime. When it is not, they must just let it go and continue the path.

What’s Holding Us Back?

The process to see the construction industry fulfill its potential has been laid out for us by leaders like Tony Robbins in his books, 30 plus companies and seminars. Moonshot goals can really relieve suffering in all its forms. He continually stresses that the only thing holding us back is ourselves.

The path to setting up Moonshots can be researched right now with Peter Diamandis’s XPrize contests, and the incubator known as GoogleX. Construction has recently become the focus of the person that could be a modern-day Nikola Tessla, Elon Musk. These visionaries and others are looking to see if we can find the leadership from within to evolve before we are fundamentally forced to disruption.

This is your magic moment in time to shoot for the Moon, but no one is going do it for you. What are you waiting for? Let go of your own fear and dare to succeed….


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