So Facebook's answer to Apple's annual iPhone-a-palooza new-release drama may be the introduction of a new feature.

The Facebook dislike button

But, just as there will be iPhones 7, 8, 9 and on and on into the future, never fear that Facebook will run short on its own generation and regeneration of new product releases. There's always "Un-Like," "De-Like", "Like-it-or-Not" and "Re-Like" buttons to come, all in the iconically elegant format we've grown to know and Like.

Still, development of the Dislike function is still under wraps, and has certainly not arrived in time to use it in connection with a number of our current moment's star-bursts of media attention that it would be wonderful to put into use.

Such as all of this hype around the meeting of the seven member-Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, together with the five other members of the Federal Open Market Committee today and tomorrow.

This is not to say that Fed monetary policy and how it affects the cost of borrowing and impacts Wall Street is not an important subject. It's just that every FOMC meeting now brews up as the business headline equivalent of the next Category 5 hurricane skulking across from Africa into the Caribbean, on target to wreak havoc from Sarasota to Saratoga.

The Facebook thumbs-down is not, in this case, to indicate a dislike for any of the Fed governors nor their chair Janet Yellen, the most powerful human being in housing. It's to signal that an unbridled obsession with the FOMC verdict on whether to raise lending rates now or later in the year (three more Cat 5 hurricanes after this one) is giving the matter excessive space in our collective brains.

Fact is, just as the Fed is practically at a flip-a-coin moment with respect to trying to make a clear case to raise rates based on clear signs of sustainable economic improvement, or waiting because of ongoing fragility and risk, that same overall dilemma applies to us in our home building and development economy. It's just hard to tell which way momentum will move next. So, what are the "things we can control" matters of the moment that we should be taking action on now, rather than to join the FOMC vigil?

Fed Open Market Committee is likely to raise rates very slowly over time.

Well, 'tis the season for two areas of focus, one on the present of "things we can control" and one on the future of the same. The present is about execution and operations and getting things done well. The future is about budget planning 2016 with plans for growth around new ideas, maybe even some bold ones, process and decision improvement, and a deepening and more-nuanced understanding of who customers are and what they want to be.

So rather than watch the FOMC news flow and fret about its implications as to how Americans' psyche and investment fortitude and capacity to make monthly payments will be impacted, here's three present and three future focus points for builders as you head to the end of the calendar third quarter into the final stretch of 2015.

Present focus points for 4th quarter 2015:

  • Completions: weather delays (as well other external disruptions, like fire and local political inertia, etc.) and labor disequilibrium notwithstanding, work in process is (or needs to be) an in-your-control, measurable, and manage-able movement of resources across time toward a profitable outcome. Don't blame externals for variance to your work-in-process formula. Rather, root out poor decision-making by understanding how on-the-fly decisions tend to negatively impact your work in process outcomes. Check out Pipeline Workshop "Compressing the Learning Curve," if you want to know how your team's decision-making figures heavily into completions, cycle-time, cost variances, etc.
  • Talent: you can give lip service to this notion that your people are the difference between success and oblivion, or you can give your talent the thought, and practice, and constancy of action the matter really merits. Your choice. 
  •  Your story: Hell with "mission statements," in the big-time consulting firm sense. Who are you? What do you want to be? That's not mumbo-jumbo corporate speak that puts you at arms length from real people, real money, and real ideas. Your story is who you are. Your team's story, and the way it keeps getting told, is who you want to be. Do that this Fall and you'll have a next Fall.

Future (2016) focus points:

  • Sell land. Don't wait until it's a no-transaction marketplace before you get optimal value for land. They say that "what goes up must come down," but what real estate proves time and again is that "what goes up is also going down." Simultaneously, yes that's right. What home builders don't seem to learn is that when things are good they should start preparing then for when things will be bad, rather than to bank on things remaining good. So, sell land.
  • Design. The community has been overly obsessed with finance and real estate asset value, and this is one of the reasons it has a lot of room for improvement in activating new buyers by lighting the fire of need and desire to own. This is where design plays as important a role as capital. Where would Silicon Valley be without design. Design needs to do three things when it comes to housing, home features, and home characteristics: excite, learn, and endure.
  • Talent 2.0. The emphasis and question, rightfully, has been, "how do we get fresh blood into our trades, our businesses, our studios, our job sites?" Money, we think. Training, we think. Policy reform, we think. But how about this? How about we communicate how much we, ourselves, have meaning and passion and purpose in our jobs. How about a communication that celebrates each of our home building and development disciplines in light of how--through up cycles and downturns--our skills and our resilience and our resourcefulness have make what we do a meaningful career.

That would go far to showing a new generation this business--including its brutally hard work and high anxiety and test of patience and fortitude--is worth it.

So, here's to giving the FOMC the attention it deserves and matters that "are in our control" the focus they need.

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