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The Official Publication
of the Mason Contractors
Association of America
Lessons From ‘A Christmas Story’
How can the classic sports movie “A Christmas Story” teach us about construction project leadership and management? Success in construction is all about implementation, which is something that Ralphie teaches to us clearly in the movie.
So, I need to deal with two issues: one is that some of you don’t believe that this is a genuine, Christmas sports movie, and the second is that some others of you don’t think it has any lessons for us that will improve our businesses. But you’re wrong.
Here is the movie’s 60-second summary: Ralphie is a kid with a dream: He wants a BB gun for Christmas so badly that he can almost taste it. And not just any BB gun – an “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.” He thinks about it day and night. He’s pretty mild-mannered, almost to a fault, and almost afraid of his own shadow. He’s afraid of the bullies in his school. However, he aspires to greatness, but in a quiet way.
So, that’s why this is, indeed, a holiday sports movie, since part of winning in any sporting event is believing so strongly in a principle that you will now take action, just because it is the right thing to do. And Ralphie did!
Here’s the funny thing: When Ralphie proved Coach’s point that this is a sports movie, he also made my other point, that there is a construction PM lesson lurking in the movie as well: Part of winning in any sporting event is believing so strongly in a principle that you will now take action, just because it is the right thing to do.
If you think I am repeating myself, you are partially right. But don’t miss this: Lessons and principles sometimes look a lot like each other. What Ralphie did in that instant, when he was threatened by a bully, was to take him on. That’s probably the best way to deal with a bully.
And there is a principle involved here: There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with issues. Now, you can argue that Ralphie might have gotten a little extreme, but he did the right thing, at least philosophically. He challenged.
As to principle, Ralphie knew that what the bullies were asking was wrong. He shouldn’t give in to them. Since Coach Gary likes to stand on principle, and avoid fist fights, I favor using the law. In most cases, it is conveniently written right into our contracts, and it instructs us as to what we can do. It usually tells us that we don’t have to allow bullying. And, check this out: It was written by the bullies, thinking that it was in their best interest! But these things have a tendency to cut both ways, if you know what you’re looking for and how to use it.
You are the leader, at least on your projects. Learn your lessons well, abide by tested principles, and you could prosper. Ignoring lessons and principles will cost you, even in the short run. You just need to get a plan. Begin by understanding the value in RFIs and change order requests. Coach’s info below is free for you; ignoring it can be very expensive.
The year 2011 is upon us. By the time you finish reading this column, it is already knocking at your door. Go into that New Year with a plan, having learned your lessons, and having agreed to stick by your principles.
Look, next year will likely still be pretty grim in our business. Hopefully, things will improve. Your strategy has to be that of a survivor. If you don’t survive, you can’t win. So, be passionate about winning. Give yourself a chance. Get your own version of an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! And careful how you use it. If you aren’t, you just might shoot your eye out.
|Last Updated on Monday, 20 June 2011 14:04|