Message from George
Family is God’s institution given to us. We all know it, either consciously or unconsciously. One of the core foundations of family, if not THE core is love. You don’t have to explain this to children. They know it and if love is not given unconditionally, dysfunction starts usually causing great emotional pain. Can you imagine this world if love was the prevailing theme among us. Perhaps someday…
Why do I bring this up? One of my definitions of love is choosing to do what is in the best interests of another. Another way of saying this is serving a higher purpose than just ourselves. Selfishness is often the enemy.
The highest functioning teams have many commonalities with a loving family. Teammates understand the role of each member of the team and knows enough about that role that allows them to support their teammate and even cover for them when they are failing. They don’t criticize in the moment, but they support them and may even help do their teammates role for the success of the mission. At the right time there may be criticism given and even reprimand given, but for the purpose of growing a stronger team.
This Flywheel is about RQ’s new motto, “One Team, Total Ownership.” Our values are what they are because we love people AND we are committed to excellence. Low performers here are a drag on teams and must improve or go somewhere that they fit better. We are one team that breaks up into numerous smaller teams that execute projects. However, “total ownership” requires us to get an understanding of others and their role on the team to support and help out when they are struggling.
I believe that this is a characteristic of RQ that other companies admire but can’t replicate. It is first and foremost due to the character of RQ employees and the understanding that we are incredibly far from perfect. Our understanding of this, and an intense desire to get better, makes us a leader – if not the leader – in our industry.
I hope you enjoy this Flywheel. I hope you better understand after reading these perspectives on One Team, Total Ownership, you will be even more motivated to grow and improve the team. Your team!
George H. Rogers, III
One Team, Total Ownership: A Brief History
By: Eric Taylor
One Team has become a popular slogan recently, and for good reason. And saying One Team, Total Ownership is like saying One Team… with a big explanation point! It is like saying One Team… we mean it… One Team. RQ has lived One Team, Total Ownership for a long, long time now in a number of different ways. The slogan is just catching up!
Perhaps the single biggest stride toward One Team, Total Ownership in RQ’s early days was George’s foresight to bring Architecture in-house. His thought process seems simple enough, but it was unique (and is still unique) to the industry: If the Government is moving toward Design-Build, Architecture is the leader of design, and the GC is the leader of construction…why wouldn’t you bring Architecture in-house for RQ to fully lead Design and Build. It wasn’t easy. But George not only has vision, but was determined and helped RQ persevere. He likes to say, “You have to be willing to do the right thing poorly before you can do the right thing well.” Today, in-house design proves to be a major competitive advantage project after project after project. Design and Build together can deliver better in Design-Build…imagine that! If that doesn’t personify One Team, Total Ownership over Design-Build project delivery, I don’t know what does. But that was only the beginning of RQ’s One Team, Total Ownership journey.
The better part of two decades ago “lean construction” became an academic field of study coming out of the lean manufacturing movement that took the world by storm. George was on the forefront of the movement in construction. George got RQ in the middle of the discussions leading the lean construction movement, interacting with Cal Berkeley and Stanford as well as leaders within Sutter Health and the Lean Construction Institute. He brought us into a circle of professors, but also various consultancy groups like Strategic Project Solutions. RQ’s journey in “lean construction” was an early manifestation of George bringing RQ into a One Team, Total Ownership reality.
Why? Lean construction preached a lot of things about the industry of construction, both negative realities and positive ideas for a brighter industry future. Negatively it spoke of construction projects being a collection of groups as opposed to a single team working towards the same goals. Incentives were significantly unaligned. The nature of contract management proved to break down trust. Those with different logos on their shirts at the jobsite were not transparent. There was added contingency for reasons not discussed. There was strategy decisions made by the various groups for reasons not discussed. There was float inserted in durations for reasons not discussed. That’s what construction was – a collection of different groups showing up to the same project. It led invariably to a whole lot of project waste. The dream of lean construction has always been to align incentives. To truly collaborate for mutual benefit. To be transparent, to the point of even going open book with one another. All for the sake of greater project performance. Lean construction preached a kind of project utopia: If the project wins in a big way… everybody wins. You can flip that around as well. If everybody wins… you can bet the project was a great success.
Those were the days of sticky notes at RQ. Every project brought foremen in to Workstream to milestones using sticky notes. Every project (initially to the annoyance of our Superintendents and project foremen) went through the exercise of Daily Production Planning to make and track commitments along with necessary daily course corrections and insightful communication. It yielded significant results, one of the more surprising results being subcontractors holding one another more accountable to commitments. Finding other people who thought “lean” was a major part of our hiring strategy. I remember RQ bringing in Kevin Kurz who had invested himself in the movement before ever coming to RQ. He didn’t have to be taught the concept…he could lead the concept from day one. Our early attempts at “lean” application served as another step towards turning the traditional groups that show up to a project into One Team with Total Ownership. We hadn’t hit project utopia yet, but we were certainly climbing towards that mountain top.
Then came perhaps the most radical step in RQ’s journey toward One Team, Total Ownership. We called it PARTNERS+. The Great Recession coming out of the housing crisis brought an unpleasant reality to construction. Private commercial construction stopped in its tracks, as did Residential. Everyone was rushing to Federal work but couldn’t get in. Even in Federal, GCs and Subs were going after jobs at 0% Profit in order to win work and keep their people busy to ride out the recession. Foreseeing that reality, George got the leaders of RQ into a room and said this: “My challenge to you is for us to maintain our volume in this trying time before us… while actually increasing our margins while everyone else is dropping their’s. Let’s figure it out!” What we figured out we called PARTNERS+. The concept was to take key Subs and bring them up to the GC level through a JV. Their risk and reward were then entirely aligned with our’s. We tried 7 PARTNERS+ jobs in the 5 years through the Recession and achieved exactly what George had called for: higher margins than normal. Every traditionally done job by RQ in that same time frame struggled with lower margins than normal (like the rest of the industry). That made those PARTNERS+ jobs stand out all the more. We were onto something. With PARTNERS+, we discovered the very real fruit of One Team, Total Ownership…even when it means more than one logo.
We still execute PARTNERS+ jobs in various ways now to this day… almost entirely with the same type of outside-the-norm high margins. We had one job that the client actually called us 3 times to tell us our bid day number was “scary low.” We verified our number all 3 times and added some money before sending it back to make the client feel better. We won that job, found out our original number was right, and then made an outrageous profit. Scary Low Price for the client… silly High Profit for the project team… starting to sound like the realization of RQ’s mission statement to be the 1st choice of all stakeholders. One Team, Total Ownership does that. It drives out waste and realizes the advantages of the saying “We are smarter than I am smart.”
PARTNERS+ took on an unexpected evolution when we went out to GTMO. The PM we were going to send out there ended up wanting to go a different direction. Mack Rogers and Travis Eckert left North Carolina for GTMO without any of us knowing just how significant that would be to RQ’s future (let alone their careers). That first job at GTMO we bid the best we could given we had never bid an island project, but soon we realized none of the Subs were willing to honor their bid day prices and wanted to gauge us to do the work. The job Mack and Travis inherited was instantly a -7% job. Yikes! Travis came from an electrical background and he and Mack got together and decided the only chance the project had was to do some self-perform work. They not only took on the electrical, but they also took on concrete, earthwork, and more. That move was the primary reason that job went from a -7% to positive 7% job, an 14-point swing, and opened a lot of eyes…most profoundly Mack and Travis’s eyes. With each successive GTMO job, they increased the amount of self-perform work RQ performed until we were running the most extensive PARTNERS+ jobs we had ever executed…except the “partners” all shared the RQ logo. This time it was literally One corporate Team, with Total Ownership. When you consider the team at GTMO opened their own version of RQ Home Depot for multiple projects, invested in a batch plant, not to mention figured out their own tug and barging operation…you can see how the vision for One Team, Total Ownership grew and grew at GTMO. What once was in-house Architecture now looked like in-house Everything. Total Ownership literally started to mean Total Ownership.
And that largely brings us to today. We have a whole lot of manifestations of One Team, Total Ownership going on right now, and I’m sure those manifestations will only grow. What won’t change is the concept. Projects are better and more successful when the mindset is that of One Team. When I first got to RQ the client spoke in partnering meetings a lot about “soup-to-nuts.” Back then I had to ask exactly where that expression came from even though I think we all know what it means: From beginning to end. They were right. The best projects have from beginning to end leadership. From beginning to end strategy. From beginning to end service. From beginning to end organization, administration, decision-making and follow-through. Total Ownership. George was right all along and in all the different manifestations. The concept is right: One Team, Total Ownership.
“One Team, Total Ownership” In Practice
By: Levi Litke
The words One Team Total Ownership are used a lot at RQ but the projects and operations that not only preach this term but also practice it, generally run smoother, have a higher morale, and a better lasting experience from that project, task, or operation to look back on.
Practicing One Team, Total Ownership in my thought looks like: people working together with transparent communication, working with everyone for support, input, direction, and successful progress. One Team is knowing that our goal is for RQ overall to succeed; not just one person, group, or project, and decisions are made accordingly.
Total ownership is having humility and drive to step up and take on tasks that aren’t normal for us but need to get done for RQ to be successful. Total ownership provides many opportunities that otherwise may not have existed if we were stuck in a narrow lane or silo, which if we arise to the occasion many things get accomplished, and knowledge gained.
All of this is certainly easier said than done and is by no means always the easy path, but when processing decisions, actions, and planning with a mindset of One Team Total Ownership, we will continue growing stronger together!
A Culture of Unity, Collaboration, and Shared Purpose
By: Jimmy Hahn
The “One Team” mindset refers to a collective attitude and approach where team members view themselves as part of a cohesive unit working towards a common goal, not as a group of individuals. It emphasizes collaboration, unity, and a shared sense of purpose among team members. Instead of focusing on individual success or departmental boundaries, the “One Team” mindset promotes the idea that everyone is working together towards a shared objective, regardless of their specific roles or responsibilities. This concept only works if the individuals comprising the team are willing and able to function with the vision to support their teammates and the humility to receive support from their teammates. If we are to achieve the ideal of “One Team” engagement, each team member must have and cultivate the necessary traits of good teammates: work ethic, honesty, humility, patience, ownership, and teachability.
- WORK ETHIC – Good team members have a strong work ethic because they are intrinsically motivated. They do not take initiative, maximize their time, and produce quality output because they are told to. They have an internal desire to perform well and see the team around them succeed. Every team member must have a strong work ethic and look for ways to increase their own productivity as well as encourage and support others in doing the same.
- HONESTY – In any interaction, formal or informal, it is imperative that we can rely on the fidelity of the information provided. Obviously, we all make mistakes. But we need to be able to trust that information provided by a teammate is correct to the best of their knowledge. Someone making an honest mistake is an information issue. Someone intentionally providing bad data is an integrity issue and can have devastating effects on the team dynamic as a whole and our ability to perform our functions in support of the primary objective. Trust is a thing we earn. It is not given. It is earned by being honest, having integrity, telling the truth even when it may make us look bad. This has a direct impact on problem solving as well. Bad news, unlike a good wine or cheese, does not get better with time. As we prove ourselves to be honest, it allows others to rely on us and allows us as a team to immediately solve problems as they arise whether it be personal, procedural, communal, etc. It is a pleasure to watch a team work together when the individuals comprising the team can trust each other.
- HUMILITY – Humility may be a surprising trait to be on this list. But it is absolutely necessary for the effectiveness of a team that its comprising members be able to take constructive criticism, learn from their own and others’ mistakes, and be able/willing to be challenged. If someone lacks humility or is proud, it will be very difficult for them to challenge their own ideas, much less concede that someone else may have had a better idea. Their ability and desire to learn will also be underdeveloped. This can have a devastating effect on the creative thinking process discussed above. If we are not humble, then we cannot readily accept and learn from helpful critiques of our ideas or performance and will not improve. After all, if I make no mistakes, I have nothing to improve on. Humility is a winning trait that makes us better teammates in every aspect.
- PATIENCE – We all make mistakes from time to time. We also all have questions, need clarification, need guidance, have a challenging idea. The list of things we do that require our teammates to have patience with us is long. Sometimes a meeting will go a bit longer because one of our teammates had a great idea at the last minute that turned out to be the best idea. If we as a team do not have the patience to hear out the idea, we will never have the opportunity to see its value. Patience is an integral part of our team dynamic as we teach others, are taught by others, and seek to improve together thereby driving the team forward.
- OWNERSHIP – Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal Commander, said, “Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.” Taking ownership is seeing the success or failure of your team as your responsibility. This leads us to ask, “What can I do to help?” “What can I improve in myself?” “What can I improve in my team?” It leads us to take the initiative and develop innovative solution instead of dismissing something as “not my problem.” Taking ownership as an individual is indispensable in understanding that we succeed as a team.
- TEACHABILITY – Being able and willing to be taught, coached, and/or corrected is a necessary component of our individual development and thereby our development as a team. We learn something new on a nearly daily basis. Whether it be a new idea, a new fact or a new nuance to an idea or fact we already knew. Our knowledge base should always be expanding as should our ability to communicate well with others, our ability to solve problems and think creatively. We each have different strengths and we need to be willing and able to learn from each other. Put another way, we need to be willing to be taught by each other. Teachability takes courage as you must be humble enough to learn and honest enough to know you need to learn.
Overall, the “one team” mindset fosters a culture of unity, collaboration, and shared purpose within a team. It enhances communication, trust, and accountability, leading to improved problem-solving, innovation, and overall team performance. By embracing this mindset, teams can overcome challenges, adapt to change, and achieve success in dynamic environments.
Total Ownership in the Field
By: Kevin Kurz
Its 5:00 am, and your SSHO is really sick and texts you that he can’t make it in today. Later that morning you know you have a critical crane pick with heightened attention. You contact one of the PMs in the area, talk through the issue and resulting challenges. This team is unable to help, in turn this call results in a three-way phone call with another PM. Together the three talk through different scenarios and how they can manage through activities and coverages at their sites for the day. By 7:15 help arrives, the details are reviewed, the crane pick is completed as planned and without incident; the other two sites effectively manage their day.
What seemed like yesterday but was actually over 1 ½ years ago, the renovation project you’re running and managing involved extensive investigation for the utility infrastructure across multiple services for the renovation, replacement, and upgraded systems. Fast forward while you are focused on bringing the project into Commissioning and planning for final removal of temporary utility services, our neighboring project has uncovered the opportunity to advance its schedule with Facilities that share some of the same utility infrastructure. During routine touch base between the two project superintendents, discussion on what ‘we’ know and the need to keep multiple existing areas of the Base’s critical Facilities operational, turns into developing an expansion of the initial investigation and a shared plan that supports the final removal of temporary utility services and the needs of neighboring projects schedule.
While it is good news when we get new work, when it is a Design Bid Build (DBB) and on Day 1 you are already behind, oh and it was not one but two DBB within two weeks of each other, what next? The collective team comes together, with multiple PM’s leveraging their limited capacity, collaborating on a plan to keep their current projects moving and working together on what can and needs to happen to get the new work kicked off and headed in the right direction.
One Team Perspective
By: Mack Rogers
Ever since the introduction of the “Toyota Production System” and the subsequent transformation of the manufacturing industry, people have been trying to adopt the principles of the Toyota Way to construction with varying degrees of success. In theory, the principles should apply to construction just as they do in manufacturing, but there are enough differences between construction and manufacturing that the industry has struggled to consistently implement lean theory. Manufacturers don’t have to deal with regular weather impacts, they have a more consistent labor force, they make the same products repeatedly, etc. Essentially, manufacturers have far more control and consistency than builders, resulting in far less variation. However, manufacturing has an even more foundational advantage. Everyone in that manufacturing facility is on ONE TEAM. Imagine how much harder it would be for a car manufacturer to optimize their manufacturing process if every station in the assembly line were owned and operated by a different company each with their own profit center? We don’t have to imagine too hard because that’s exactly what we experience on the typical construction site.
A construction site is the temporary coming together of dozens, if not hundreds, of individual teams all with competing goals and interests, each focused on optimizing their own scope regardless of the impact to the other teams. Preferred subcontractors understand they may need to sacrifice some of their company goals on a project to be selected for the next project, but their goal is still to do what is in the best interest of their team (company). The more successful our Project teams are at aligning the goals of all the various teams on a project, the more successful the project tends to be.
Enter Partners+, Self-Perform Work (SPW), in-house Design, in-house VDC. All of these are ways that RQ is working to take the many teams on a construction project and turn them into one team. There is a reason why our Partners+ projects have consistently outperformed industry standards. It isn’t because we get a share of the subcontractor’s profit. They also get a share of ours, so that’s a wash. No, it’s because through Partners+ we align our project goals by becoming a single entity on the project. This incentivizes the two companies, now one team, to optimize the performance of the project rather than their specific scope. This reduces the waste on the project, which in turn increases the amount shared between the partners. This has proven itself out time and time again.
Putting everyone on the same team does not mean that it’s going to be a good team. Teams are often full of dysfunction. Some of the greatest collections of athletes have failed miserably because the stars refused to sacrifice personal goals for the sake of the team. Some are out for personal accolades, some don’t want to put in the work, they often refuse to support each other or build each other up, they fail to hold each other accountable, and they aren’t humble enough to acknowledge they also need the support of their teammates. Some even actively tear each other down in the media like Kobe, Shaq, and Phil of the LA Lakers back during their 2004 soap opera. One Team is incomplete without each team member taking personal responsibility to do all they can do to help the team achieve the goal. It requires TOTAL (personal) OWNERSHIP.
Total Ownership means I take full responsibility for my actions or lack of action. When something goes wrong on a jobsite, it is very rarely the failure of one person. Yes, there is usually a primary failure, but there are usually several secondary failures by other team members. An all-too-common example is when incorrect materials get submitted and approved only to be caught at delivery or even after installation. Of course, the vendor was responsible to submit the correct material, but the subcontractor missed it in their submittal review, the Project Engineer missed it, the QC missed it, the DOR missed it, and even the government missed it. Only one of them needed to catch the mistake to avoid the wrong materials being ordered. Total Ownership doesn’t mean we don’t hold others accountable. Quite the contrary, we hold our teammates accountable to do their jobs and do them well. At the same time, we are always looking at what we could have done better, how we can improve, and how we can make our teammates more effective.
Just as we can have a one-team mentality without taking personal ownership, we can also have total ownership of our actions, but within a narrow focus. The One Team perspective focuses us on the right goal and we achieve those goals by taking Total Ownership. If we all at RQ can combine a one-team perspective with Total Ownership, the RQ team will be more successful than we can imagine, we will thrive as individuals and as teammates, and it will be a lot of fun too.
From early childhood we are trained to identify challenges and then figure out solutions to meet the challenges. Hence the expression: Problem—Solved. It’s easy to talk about the pie-in-the-sky of One Team with Total Ownership, but if it is so pie-in-the-sky, why doesn’t everybody already do it? What is the challenge to One Team that needs solved? What makes it so hard?
The trick is, living out One Team is a challenge that it is made up of a thousand smaller challenges bundled together. Perhaps nothing illustrates that more than the number of challenges between the groups traditionally designated as Field Ops and Design. There is a reason the groups in our industry represented by those labels have been stereotypically known as arch nemesis rivals; more like Lex Luther and Superman than Batman and Robin. To get to One Team, Total Ownership, RQ has needed to defeat a pretty strong stereotype to be more like Batman and Robin. Dare I say closer to Superman and Clark Kent even.
So what has made it tough traditionally in our industry between Field Ops and Design? Both groups prefer to make early decisions on the selection of building systems. But making decisions locks the team to a solution. As in… one solution. As in… this is what we’re going with. With that in mind, perhaps the biggest challenge between the two groups is this: At the start of a new award, Design tends to be more focused on meeting submittal deadlines than Field Ops while Field Ops tends to be more focused on minimizing costs. It’s a tale as old as time in the conference rooms of GCs and studio halls of architects and engineers. The tension of time and money can create competing objectives when Design is looking for fixity to be able to hit dates while Field Ops wants to keep exploring best value options. It can create the sense from Designers that Field Ops don’t care about Design’s deadlines or appreciate what it takes to get things done; and conversely it can create the sense from Field Ops that Designers don’t care about maximizing financial potential of the project. There’s a saying in the industry, “If you give a Designer more time and more money, they can always come up with a better design.” The problem is that the added time and money doesn’t always compensate for the potential design savings. A sweet spot needs to be achieved.
RQ is not perfect, but in reaching for One Team, Total Ownership… we are reaching for something more perfect. There are not too many companies where you are at a Work In Progress (WIP) meeting and the DPM is a co-pilot to the PM’s presentation on the project. Even rarer, there are not to many industry instances where the PM gushes on Design’s performance. Don’t get me wrong, gushing doesn’t happen every day on every project, but the fact that it happens at all is pretty incredible. Not too many places where Design tracks value brought via design without looking for a change order or suggests handing over contingency money to the project because of efficient time management.
The One Team dream of Design and Field Ops being like Clark Kent and Superman looks like this:
- Vertically integrated (in-house) design is totally aligned with construction.
- Free-flowing conversations with Construction to evaluate different construction details during design. This enables an immediate feedback loop, so that design can test and adjust throughout the design process. Furthermore, RQ involves the subcontracting community for further technical and constructability assistance during design.
- Design team remains flexible and nimble throughout design which allows the design to be tweaked to respond to supply chain challenges. For example, rising steel costs. The team can switch from steel to concrete and stair system from metal pan to concrete quickly and efficiently without resistance.
- Dialogue between our integrated design and construction team is based on our One Team approach, levering the different strengths of Construction and Design team to produce cost effective solutions throughout the design process.
- The design team can make design changes at a nominal cost in comparison to the overall construction cost savings. This gives the Construction team the freedom to explore creative solutions alongside the design team.
- The timely appointment of trade contractors by Construction enables them to provide valuable constructability input during design which in turn enables the design to be developed based on their guidance.
An example of this dream working in reality would be something like a job where we saw rising costs from the guy who was supposed to be the ICF supplier on a project. It was a classic “O crap!” moment as it would have meant a significant hit to the project. But through alignment with Construction and free-flowing conversations, Design was able and very willing to pivot from the original manufacturer to an alternative supplier mid-design. This afforded the Construction team the flexibility to mitigate potential cost impacts. This type of team work illustrates finding the sweet spot represented by One Team.
Total Ownership is synonymous with One Team. The results are shared. Incentive is shared. What does Total Ownership look like shared between Field Ops and Design? We know “stuff happens” or “things change.” When escalation of any sort impacts the project, the team… the One Team… works as one to develop alternatives to solve the problem. When there are technical challenges, Design and Construction own the solution together and therefore are equal in deriving solutions, evaluating their technical, cost and constructability feasibility. And perhaps even more important than sharing the credit when things go really right… Total Ownership also means sharing the blame if a strategy doesn’t pan out or things don’t go as well as we wished. Really, it’s not about sharing blame so much as just doing away with blame. Blame doesn’t help ever. Total Ownership means we own the results as One Team and are doing everything we can to maximize results on individual projects as well as for the sake of future project results.
Before getting married I went to a marriage conference with my now-spouse. Something said there really stuck with me. The speaker said, “Marriage is not a 50-50 relationship; it is 100-100.” Regardless of what the partner says or does or doesn’t say or doesn’t do, I am to give the marriage 100%. It’s not you do your bit and I do mine. We are committed 100% and 100% to the results of our relationship. That is what RQ means by One Team, Total Ownership. It really is like a healthy marriage. Design doesn’t just do its bit while Construction does its bit. And you could say the same about the Supporting Services too. We’re not 50-50. One Team is 100-100. Total Ownership.
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