Ever wonder how housing investment, development, design, engineering, construction, and sales organizations might be set up today if nothing of the kind had existed before?

Impractical notion, yes, but as a thought exercise it's worth considering, and we can't help doing so as we see analyses like this one from the Wall Street Journal that rank 250 U.S. companies as the nation's most effectively managed organizations.

Led by Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet, none of the 250 is a home building enterprise.

The characteristics of strong management used to develop the rankings come from the late management wiseman Peter Drucker, compiled by the Drucker Institute for the WSJ, and they're five core principles Drucker laid out as essential to good management: customer satisfaction, employee engagement and development, innovation, social responsibility and financial strength. The 250 companies distinguished themselves from a bigger grouping of 608 American firms, belonging either to the S&P 500 stock index or Fortune 500 list or with a market value of more than $10 billion.

No doubt, a number of our own Builder 100 firms met the qualifications for consideration among the 608 in the original pool, it's just that they didn't measure up as well as the 250 top companies for the five metrics this analysis regards as most relevant [Note: a number of building products companies did make the list].

Amazon, Apple and Alphabet are innovation and customer-satisfaction standouts because so many of their products—from cloud-computing platforms to smartphones to the burgeoning field of drones and driverless vehicles—are reshaping entire industries as well as social behavior.

Tech firms such as Alphabet and Microsoft also contract out much of their front-line work. The official staff that remain tend to be highly paid and enjoy generous perks, a likely factor in those companies’ high employee scores, says Rick Wartzman, director of the Drucker Institute’s KH Moon Center for a Functioning Society. “Their workforces are the winners of the knowledge economy,” he says.

During a recovery cycle for real estate and housing, that may not matter much to home building enterprises.

Keith Holdbrooks, president of manufacturing for Clayton Homes, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway which does make the list at No. 101, believes that favorable business conditions should be exactly when companies commit more resources to improve customer satisfaction by improving their own 15,000 team-members' work experience as they produce and deliver more than 42,000 homes annually.

"We don't typically think about these things during good times, and then when there's a downturn in housing and things get hard, we wish we had invested more to elevate the customer experience and in our people so that we'd be more resilient during those tough periods," Holdbrooks says.

If U.S. home builders were start-ups today, and they put the first two of Drucker's essential dimensions--customer satisfaction and employee engagement and development--instead of starting from the premise, "everybody needs a home, and lots of people want the home of their dreams," how might that look differently than it does today?

What if, as recently-added Clayton Homes unit Oakwood Homes' ceo Pat Hamill once put it, "we put a potential home buyer at the very center of our universe of processes," the way Silicon Valley's juggernauts have done?

It might be that those who lead and manage home building enterprises would operate, structure, and commit resources very differently if they focused in dramatically different ways on how and where they leverage money, people, land, materials, and time to create value.

Shifting from an "everybody needs a home" mentality might lend access to a fresh way of answering the question "what business are we in?"

Boiled down in today's world, what people who will pay for what builders of new homes and communities want most might sound totally different if those companies were starting up today. Instead of shelter, or the dream of homeownership, we might land instead on timeless values like a place that provides protection and an environment to prosper.

What if, instead of shelter, a customer-centric home building strategist recognized that it's really this blend of protection and a place to prosper that puts him or her in the business of well-being? That might change home builders' ranking by the Drucker Institute when it comes to customer satisfaction.

And, too, what if employee engagement and development really did rank second as a company priority? Perhaps sustaining values like "making a difference" in both profitability and social impact could unify, motivate, and energize our folks toward a goal of excelling. In other words, companies' DNAs would be about creating the value of well-being for customers, and the value of purpose for associates.

Investors, stakeholders, municipalities, and partners might feel that, if home building companies prized, committed to, and achieved those points of clarity about who they are, who they want to be, and how they can be that, those companies would measure up well on any scale of effective management Peter Drucker or anybody else could create.