Organisation : Ed Norton Plumbing Contractors - Case Study

Prof. Thomas J. Vanderbeck has written and taught 150 courses in organizational leadership and education at the University of California (Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Irvine, and La Jolla), California State University (Hayward, Stanislaus and San Marcos), San Diego State University, and the Universities of Alabama, Georgia, Houston, Northern Kentucky, North Carolina, South Florida, and Utah.

Clients include America On Line, Bose Stereo, Hewlett-Packard Printer Design, Lenoir Police Department, Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals, Premier Commercial Builders, San Diego Crime Commission and TRW Aerospace.

Originally, Tom worked as an electrician with his father at Vanderbeck Electric in Glen Rock, New Jersey; and later built models and special effects for Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and the Spruce Goose Project in New York City.

Thomas James Vanderbeck, High Performance Leadership

University Heights, San Diego, CA  USA

TVELM@Cox.net    Home: +1 619-546-6626 (Noon to 8pm, PST)


This is a case study following on from the article on Tom's Enlightened Leadership Matrix

i consulted with Butch Spaulding, a master (D4) journeyman plumber on the staff of the Ed Norton Plumbing Company. They are currently working on a large commercial project with a variety of restaurants and retail stores at the street level, 24 apartments on the second floor, 36 condominiums on the third and fourth floors, and three levels of underground parking with a security office and laundromat on the first level.

Ed Norton Plumbing had originally bid on this project three years ago, before gas and copper prices increased. They had no clause in their contract about adjustments for increases in material or fuel costs. Overall, this project is now behind schedule and over budget. Issues have been so stressful that the on-site manager quit and walked off the job two weeks ago. The management company is concerned that tenants will not be able to move in on time as scheduled.

Butch recently observed an unsupervised team of four employees installing rough water feeds. He discovered that all of the men in this group consistently showed up late for work (R3 - Not starting on time), take long breaks and lunches (R3 - Not following company limits about coffee and lunch breaks), smoke while they are working (R1 - Unsafe and illegal practices); and R2 - (Disregarding direct orders). They also perform poor quality plumbing (D2, R1, & R3 - Not following plans and construction codes, and not testing their work). Additionally, they always end their workday half an hour early, excepting Fridays, when they leave more than an hour early (R3 - Ignoring company policies and procedures about work and timesheets). 

City building inspectors have found a large number of improper installations and many leaks. Often this has resulted in double or triple time for repairs and corrections, as well as re-inspections, not all of which pass. Additionally, there have been increasing expenses for the pipes and fittings that must be removed and replaced, as well as scrap that “goes home.”

Butch and I decided to create two comparative matrixes with which we could analyze the current situation, so that we could provide an effective way to complete this project effectively and quickly. At first, we focused on the members of this group of the four men working independently, and without any oversight from a project manager. We generated a list of Critical Tasks, and then Butch rated each team member's demonstrated performance. (Matrix 1. - Initial Assessment of the Unsupervised Crew.)

Butch listed the remaining installations and job requirements and calculated that with the current group, it would take at least 40 days for the project to be completed. We estimated that the time, wages, and extra materials that would be required to complete this project with the Unsupervised Crew would cost more than $30,000.

Next, I asked Butch what could be achieved if he could be the leader of a "Dream Team" and have the freedom to draft the best plumbers and helpers from all of the staff at Ed Norton Plumbing. In this case, how long would it take to complete the project? What financial advantages could be realized? (Matrix 2. - Initial Assessment of the Dream Team.)

In this scenario, with Butch selecting only highly competent and committed (D4) team members, we calculated that the job could be completed in just twenty days, and for a cost of less than $14,000. We estimated that this would save Ed Norton Plumbing about $16,000. An additional benefit of quick project completion would be having the members of the high-performing Dream Team available twenty workdays early so that they could accelerate the achievement of other ongoing projects! 

Further, having the skilled members of the Dream Team available for twenty days would be worth at least $20,000 to the company in additional profitability, as they contribute that time bonus in the service of other projects. And more money would be saved on materials as a consequence of not having to replace pipes and fittings from improper installations and failed inspections.

Clearly, allowing Butch to carefully select and lead a purposeful and accountable Dream Team would be worth a minimum of $36,000 to Ed Norton Plumbing!


See the detailed discussion on Tom's Enlightened leadership matrix

Copyright Thomas J. Vanderbeck 2010

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