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Arizona: A Culture of Continuous Improvement

We had the opportunity to spend some time with Scott Wright, Arizona division president and David Jones, Arizona vice president of construction to learn more about what makes Arizona such a bright spot in the country. The Arizona Division is a consistently top performer in several key metrics in the build quality and customer quality experience.

Scott has been with the Company for 16 years, starting out in the land department in California. David is an 18-year veteran of PulteGroup where he has worked his way up from Field Manager.

In this first installment, we highlight culture – encouraging an environment of continuous improvement. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation. Stay tuned for upcoming stories about accountability and cross-functional alignment to build a great performing division.

What is about the culture in Arizona that makes it such a bright spot?

Scott: I think there is really a couple of things. I think over the years as the organization has grown, we’ve maintained a strong culture through a lot of different things. We’ve got a culture committee, which keeps everybody very active in division activities, but also in giving back to the community. When I think about it in context of quality though, we do a number of things here and we’re always asking the question: “Does it help us build a better home and does it help us improve the customer experience?” I think when we continue to look at it from that lens, it always drives us forward as it relates to quality and customer experience.

Valerie: Well, I think that’s why so much of your division has some of the best practices that come out and get rolled up throughout the country. Your division is like the hotbed for new ideas, pink dot happening, how do you come up with those ideas?

David: The one thing that we do is…we have talented people. There is no doubt we have talented people in the Arizona Division and we empower them to make decisions. So we think of how can we be better? We think of a way and then we brain storm. Typically, we take some managers, key field personnel and we put them in a room. It’s a brainstorming activity. What’s great is when you walk out of there you have peers that have helped make that decision making process. So the buy-in is easy.

Once you develop that process, but if people don’t buy into it, then it goes nowhere. That’s one thing we do here: to not make a decision in a silo, but to take a group of talented people and put them together in a room, and come out of there with a uniformed direction. Once you roll that out to the field teams, they’ve bought in, their peers were part of developing this process. It’s not just managers so there are front line employees, middle level managers, operations team members so it is a diverse group of people who will land on a process, and again, it has to be simple, repetitive and effective.

Scott: I think that’s an important point because we do a lot of cross functional meetings to try to implement best practices. In fact, we did one the other day on our quick-close process and invited all the front line employees. You’d be amazed at the great input that can come out of those since they get it better than we do. I mean we can sit here and think we know what the right solution is. But really in the field, they have the answers. You just need to give them a voice and to David’s point, once you give them that voice, they’re totally bought in. They are almost unstoppable at that point. You have given them the tools they need to succeed.

I love this because it seems like this division has a focus on continuous improvement. Always to your point…how can we build a house better? How can you deliver a better customer experience? When you keep that goal in mind there’s that culture of continuous improvement.

Scott: Along the continuous improvement front, our scores here are great, but Dave and I keep talking about our first passed yield. Getting it right the first time, that’s our biggest opportunity for improvement. It’s one of the areas the teams are focused on today. That’s a big focus as we go into 2016 and 2017. It’s going to be a collaborative effort with the field managers, the trade partners, I mean everyone is going to have to buy-in for us to get better this year. We always want to get better and we’re always focused on the ways we can improve.

We talked about culture, but what about culture in terms of having fun, they enjoy coming to work, why is that?

Scott: It is interesting, I think from a culture standpoint, we have a culture committee, that’s really divided into two groups. We call the fun group and charitable focus group. The team has been doing a great job of how to give back to the committee and brings them together and there’s a lot of camaraderie around here. You just walk down the hall and you can feel that everyone is excited to be here. They are pulling together to give back and I think that is very important, and ultimately it makes the place where they want to come because we are making a difference. We are building quality homes, we’re moving families into their homes that they will live in hopefully forever – or hopefully not forever, I hope they’ll buy a new one from us. But from a culture standpoint, we are having fun, we are giving back. It’s a good balance.

David: They really rally and support each other. I think the selfish attitude that could exist out there is really diminished here. They really pick each other up, they rally and it’s cross functional, which is great. There will be month where the sales team is having a tough time and the community teams are out there supporting each other. And there will be times where we are having a hard time building homes or we are having trade partner pressures or weather conditions, and that sales team is there rallying behind each other. It is unique, its special, and we are very proud of that for sure.

Scott: Candidly, I’ve been in a lot of divisions and it’s pretty rare. But when you see it and you watch it, it’s pretty incredible the results that a strong culture can bring.

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