“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard. There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen. There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack – the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.”excerpt from The Art of War – Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu’s description of the building blocks of music, color, and taste make the complex simple. As a leader, “Listen. Plan. Build. Adapt.”, makes the challenges and complexities of construction simple. Understanding and using these four principles in any combination will allow you to move through any challenge you face in construction. They are the building blocks to “solve the problem” …what ever it may be.
The philosophy of “Listen. Plan. Build. Adapt.” is a problem solving loop. As conditions change the loop continues. In addition, there are four drivers to be considered at every stage of the loop: Safety, Quality, Time and Cost. Every challenge that may arise on your project will relate to one of these areas. You must be able to effectively analyze and prioritize as you move through the loop.
Listen. That means communicate. Communication starts with listening. When you listen, you learn. When you learn you have more knowledge to make the best decision to move forward. Listen first, learn all you can. Ask questions to clarify your understanding of what is being said. Then give feed back on the ideas.
Plan . In short…Collaborate. Take everything you have heard and learned and develop solutions. Plan A, B, C and D. This is the time to ask “what if?” The answers to the “what if” questions will yield multiple concerns and ideas. Trust your team and collaborate with them to come up with the best plan possible. When the team has buy in they will execute that plan with drive and passion.
Build. To truly build, it takes the ability to blend technical knowledge, administrative knowledge, and relationships. Building is where your plan and priorities in Safety, Quality, Time, and Cost must be executed. This is not politics, deals and shooting from the hip. This is where the boots hit the ground, always think of what is best for the project, and truly execute the plan.
Adapt. This is where you must realize that all plans are not perfect and will need to be changed as actual conditions come to light. Leave your ego at the door re-evaluate and move forward with a new plan. Start the loop again and follow through to adapt and integrate the new plan with the original plan.
It may seem counter intuitive to slow down and follow the loop when decisions need to be made quickly, but shooting from the hip to make a poor decision can cost you more time than if you took and breath and found the best decision. Trust in the philosophy and make the best decisions possible.