it's a people business

You hear it all the time in home building. It's a people business.

Never mind that it's most basic raw material is dirt. Forget that its chief enabler is the global bloodstream of money, currently convulsing as it deals with China's downturn. Ignore that its design plans come generally on paper or on a monitor, and that its materials and products originate in research and development labs. And set aside for a moment the fact that its processes, dating to ancestral times, are ironclad workflows whose order may not be reversed or dramatically altered in much of any way.

Every leader and every line worker says it's people that make home building what it is, at every turn.

So much so that it can almost seem obvious, unnecessary to point out, possibly even taken for granted.

I'm thinking of it this morning though, partly because of the FiveThirtyEight focus by Andrew Flowers we spotlight in the Pulse line-up today, and, not ironically, a Harvard Business Review post on the same subject from an assistant editor at the title, Nicole Torres.

In home building, success traces more often than not to interpersonal skills playing out well. You can have technical proficiency, you can have money, you can have a process, you can have a great design, and you can have a supply chain of products and materials that will make the vertical product work, and, perhaps above all, you can have land, real estate, dirt.

But all of those "skills," "assets," "advantages," and "solutions" grow measurably in value when interpersonal, human scale, social effectiveness, team thinking, and emotional maturity play a role in each of the stages, phases, parts and pieces of the enterprise, large or small.

The work of the Harvard academic economist David Deming addresses one of the crucial pain points of our era: the limbo many of us feel we're in in our livelihoods, thanks mostly to the onset of machine-based, automated, technology-enabled, data-driven decisions and execution.

The work's finding is instructive. Technical talent and proficiency alone won't cut it for those who aim for more senior-level opportunities at their organizations. People skills matter.

Home builders know this. They know that technical, professional, artisanal, data-centric, technological, acquisitive, creative, and, even, inspirational skills are only part of what it takes to cut it and make it in the world of good home building and improving homes and communities.

Fact is, programmatic buying, drones, robots, data, algorithms, 3D printers, CAD, BIM, critical chain management systems, customer segmentation overlays, and such, are and will change how home building is done and who wins and loses doing it. Still, you're not going to hear of that great land deal without a relationship. And try getting a schedule to work from start to completion without social skills.

It's a people business, you say.

Seth "Say-Tons-in-20-Words-or-Less" Godin says,

It turns out that nothing will change everything for the better. It works better to focus on each step instead of being distracted by a promised secret exit.

We might go one step further than to say home building is a people business. It's a business that succeeds or fails on that single person standing, or sitting, or working right next to you now.