Seen the new book on Choosing by Advantages?

Seen the new book on Choosing by Advantages?

By LCI Executive Director, Dan Heinemeier

I don’t publicly endorse books or other learning materials produced outside of LCI’s auspices, and for a very good reason. Many Lean practitioners have authored excellent books on Lean Design and Construction over the years with a variety of different approaches to understanding the why and the how. I generally respect them all, so I don’t feel it’s my place to endorse one over another. In my role, that could be a recipe for a lot of controversy coming from those not endorsed. But in this case, we have a book that is both unique and unlikely to attract any competition from a content standpoint. It’s also potentially very important in helping teams achieve project success. So, I want to encourage you to pick up a copy of Rebecca Snelling’s new book, Choosing by Advantages: How to Make Sound Decisions. To understand why, read on.

Rebecca comes to her role as author with both a solid background as a Lean champion and practitioner and deep experience facilitating the use of CBA by countless teams and individuals. I hear a lot about CBA and its perceived benefits for our industry, but only rarely do I come across someone who feels confident enough in their CBA skills to volunteer to lead groups through it, let alone write a book about it. That includes a host of otherwise highly qualified Lean aficionados. I know Rebecca shares my conviction that creating a bigger cadre of CBA-competent individuals in our industry has the potential to benefit project work in a large and lasting way.

Choosing by Advantages is a methodology created many years ago by Mr. Jim Suhr, someone whose long career transpired completely outside the realm of design and construction. As I understand it, he probably never focused much on CBA’s use in the built environment, and he tends to be less than impressed with the efforts of some folks to apply it in our space. However, this is not the case with Rebecca Snelling: she made a concerted, years-long effort to learn from Mr. Suhr directly, and consequently he fully endorses her book. This is high praise in itself.

The book starts off with the question, “Do you consider yourself a good decision maker?” Most would answer “yes”, but also would readily agree they could be better at it. The book takes you through foundational steps of making sound decisions, and emphasizes how CBA helps document those decisions so others can understand how they were arrived at. In this sense, it helps address one of the major purposes of another important tool in the Lean tool kit: A3 decision making. Which of us would not want to make the soundest decision possible given the information at hand, and at the same time be able to show key stakeholders how rigorously the range of other alternatives was considered?

The text describes five distinct phases of decision making: Stage-setting, innovation, decision making (mentally choosing), reconsideration (emotionally choosing), and finally, implementation (physically choosing). It turns out that there are cornerstone principles of sound decision making that anyone can master, dispelling the notion that the average person’s unstructured decision making processes are perfectly adequate (and of course equally capable on occasion of blowing up in our faces).

There are also simplified methods you can use (depending on what’s being decided) to make decisions quickly and easily while still using valid processes. And if you are facing a really monumental decision, say one with huge implications in both time and money for a key client, doesn’t it makes sense to follow a structured process that engages those who need to be consulted and documents the results? It sure beats the less structured decision processes we so often rely on just to keep things moving forward.

Finally, the book lays out more than process: it acknowledges the considerable, real-life challenges of using CBA and how to address them. It provides tips for being the facilitator who brings CBA to the decision making needs of your own team. Exercises throughout the book provide simple, easily-understood examples based on scenarios any of us might encounter on a day to day basis. These encourage an understanding of how to decide based on specific advantages, not just the attributes of various alternatives (read the book to learn the difference, and why it matters).

In sum, although I have the highest respect for Rebecca Snelling and her considerable strengths as a practitioner and author, my reason for blogging about her book is really more about the conviction that CBA has so much to offer our industry and its project teams (although it is so rarely understood and practiced). Making consistently better decisions will have direct benefits in improving project cost, schedule and quality. Check out this book and see if you don’t agree that it provides a path forward to realizing those benefits. Pick up your copy by clicking here.