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#37 The Secret Elements to Improve Construction and Project Management with Felipe Engineer.

Proudly brought to you in association with S A Partners, a world-leading business transformation consultancy.


Felipe Engineer Manriquez, international speaker, host of "The EBFC Show" Podcast and member of the LCI (Lean Construction Institute).

Welcome to Episode 37 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. It is wonderful to have on the show with us today, Felipe Engineer Manriquez. Filipe is an International speaker and practitioner in Lean and Agile. He is committed to sharing decades of construction industry excellence experience as the host of "The EBFC Show" Podcast. He also helps as a member of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI). Felipe is passionate about helping the construction industry, amongst others, to improve and create a better future. Let's get into the episode. Felipe, thank you for joining us today.


The uncertainty of construction projects, and how Scrum and Agile can provide the framework for control.

Felipe did not learn about Lean at university. Neither did he in his first job in a research building. In his subsequent career, Felipe attended a seminar and heard Lean talk - a pull system, 5S, and was recommended the book, Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones. Felipe noticed that the Lean team were happy and wanted to join this delighted team. He had to read one Lean book to subscribe to the Lean group at work, and Lean Thinking was it.

Enter construction. One out of 7 or 8 people work in construction worldwide. The annual spend in the US is 3 trillion dollars, with over 11 million people employed in the industry. The client usually sets the tone for the project, and that can be high pressure. Workers can feel overburdened as they try and deliver projects on time, although the project design goes through many revisions along the way. How do you deal with that uncertainty? Agile and Scrum is a framework that allows you to picture what you have to do into a clear visual structure for flow, pace and delivery.

Four secret elements to improving in the construction industry.

  1. Take your temperature. Felipe highly recommends "The Machine that Changed the World" by Jim Womack. You need to step back and look at what you have. Don't benchmark. Don't compare yourself to other people. If your work looks complex, you might want to adopt Lean or Agile.

  2. Don't add more people or resources. When a project is late, adding more people can delay further. This has been proven in industries like IT and construction and can add more chaos and pressure. Don't throw more money at the project.

  3. Plan a little more. Try a daily short (15min) stand-up meeting (Scrum, Huddle) of people who need to deliver actions. What did you accomplish? What are you working on? What help do you need, if any? Don't problem solve in this short stand-up. Instead, identify actions that you could improve on in the future. This daily stand-up improves communication, which enhances flow and performance. People start to help each other.

  4. Experiment and learn systematically.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world. The capability to build agility safely and systematically is vital. If you are going to try something new, don't burn the house that you live in! Felipe believes fundamentally in the structure that the agile framework provides. He drew a diagram of the process: the Agile loops, which shows the loop of the product owner, through their sequence of working with the daily teams and then the daily Scrum and out to the resulting sprint Review and Retro.

What is your reason to change?

A lot of organisations are getting by and don't see the need to change. What is your sense of urgency? Felipe discusses the change that Amazon is bringing to the world in a very competitive way. You have got to break away from the whirlwind of your job to be able to reflect and change.

Key Takeaways

1. 'Take your temperature' to step out of the whirlwind of your job and reflect on how things are going.

'Take your temperature' is about taking the small amount of time needed to break out of the whirlwind of the day to day and reflect on how things are going. There is a Scrum technique that really helps with this. It is called a 'retrospective'. Reflect on how things are going and note down what you need to:

  • keep doing,

  • stop doing and

  • improve.

These three simple reflections will provide you with some ideas and hopefully motivation to put them into action.

2. Experiment safely with your ideas from the retrospective, and think about how to improve in small ways.

Experiment safely is such an important thing to remember. Many people avoid doing things differently because of the time it will take in an already busy world. They are worried about the risk of failure and the fallout this could cause. When you understand the simplicity and speed of experimenting safely, this all goes away. Take your ideas from your retrospective and think about how you could experiment with them quickly and safely to learn and improve. This experimenting thought process creates continuous learning and improving outcomes for yourself. When many people apply this thought process in an organisation, it continuously improves and innovates the company.


07:25min When something is at least 25% efficient, it's considered lean and successful. And you're thinking, like, 25% is terrible. You know, that's like on a Leningrad scale, that's a FFF----. You don't even show up or write your name on the test, probably to get a 25%.

16:56min You've taken your temperature, and you realise that you're not happy. You're frustrated with how things are going. Let's make a change. Let's do what I learned from Jim Womack and people at the Lean Enterprise Institute. Let's do an experiment. Let's try something different. If you just keep doing the same things that you've done. If you're on a one year job or a ten-year job, it doesn't matter. If you maintain the same inputs and outputs and processes, you're going to be in the same state of chaos all the way until the end. So, you've got to what's called the safe to fail experiment.

21:29min They instituted that daily huddle as an executive team, and what they found is, their staff meeting that happened once a week, the duration of that staff meeting decreased to the point where they said they didn't need to have that staff meeting. And they found that, for the first time ever, and this was after the first week, in the first week of making this change, this safe to fail experiment, people started helping each other.

25:26min Companies that had this enterprise-wide agility had significantly higher percentages of profitability, employee retention during this tough time. Like here in the United States, we had record-breaking unemployment numbers, where we saw unemployment that was worse than the crash in the 1920s.

35:06min We're all seeing that it's a globally connected supply chain now. Even in the construction industry, Brad, our architects here, designing here, and sometimes designing overseas for something that we're going to build here is requiring products from all over the world.

39:36min You need that emotional trigger to want to try to do something differently. For me, I got interrupted. It was that director talking to me. I saw how happy the people were. He challenged me to do something in order to learn more so that I could join that group. That was an interruption and a challenge.



Brad is proud to support many Australian businesses. You can find him on LinkedIn here. If you’d like to speak to him about how he can help your business, call him on 0402 448 445, or email Our website is

Felipe Engineer Manriquez

LinkedIn: engineerfelipe

Twitter: @felipe_engineer

Instagram: the felipe engineer

Thank you, Felipe, for coming on our show and sharing knowledge to improve construction, a massive, global industry.

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