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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Process Design Strategy for Specialty Trade Contractors in Sustainable Construction


Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Process Design to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, KPIs, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. We followed this management consulting approach for this case study.

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Consider this scenario: A specialty trade contractor in sustainable construction faces significant challenges in optimizing its process design to meet the growing demand for green buildings.

The organization has seen a 20% decrease in project margins due to inefficiencies in resource allocation and project management, alongside a competitive landscape that has intensified with new entrants boasting more agile and technology-driven process designs. External challenges include fluctuating material costs and evolving regulatory standards for sustainability. The primary strategic objective is to redefine its process design to enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and solidify its market position as a leader in sustainable construction practices.



The examination of the strategic challenges faced by this specialty trade contractor reveals two potential root causes: first, the current process design is not aligned with the efficiency demands of modern sustainable construction projects; second, there is a lack of integration between technology and traditional construction practices which hampers productivity and project delivery timelines.

Industry Analysis

The sustainable construction industry is experiencing robust growth, driven by increasing environmental concerns and governmental regulations on sustainability. Despite the promising outlook, companies face intense competition and pressure to innovate.

Exploring the competitive forces reveals:

  • Internal Rivalry: Competition among specialty trade contractors is high, with companies competing on cost, quality, and sustainability credentials.
  • Supplier Power: With the rise in demand for sustainable materials, suppliers wield significant power, impacting project costs and timelines.
  • Buyer Power: Clients are increasingly knowledgeable about sustainable construction, demanding higher standards and lower costs.
  • Threat of New Entrants: Low initial barriers to entry for new contractors focusing on niche sustainable construction practices increase market competition.
  • Threat of Substitutes: Traditional construction methods pose a constant threat, especially in markets less regulated for sustainability.

Emerging trends include the integration of digital technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM), prefabrication, and green materials. These shifts are leading to changes in industry dynamics:

  • Increased demand for digital competencies in construction processes presents opportunities for efficiency gains but requires significant investment in technology and training.
  • The growing emphasis on sustainability is creating opportunities for innovation in green materials and construction methods, albeit with the risk of higher upfront costs and regulatory hurdles.
  • Global supply chain disruptions pose risks to project timelines and costs but also offer the chance to innovate in local sourcing and material substitution.

Learn more about Supply Chain Project Cost Disruption Industry Analysis

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Internal Assessment

The organization possesses deep expertise in sustainable construction techniques and a strong commitment to sustainability. However, it struggles with integrating digital technologies into its processes and maintaining cost efficiencies.

A STEEPLE Analysis indicates that technological and environmental factors are the most significant external influences impacting the organization. Rapid advancements in construction technologies and increasing environmental regulations necessitate a strategic response to remain competitive.

Conducting a McKinsey 7-S Analysis reveals misalignments between the organization's strategy, structure, and systems, particularly in adopting and integrating new technologies into its construction processes.

The Distinctive Capabilities Analysis highlights the organization's strengths in sustainable construction expertise and client relationships but identifies gaps in operational efficiency and innovation capabilities as areas for improvement.

Learn more about McKinsey 7-S Distinctive Capabilities STEEPLE

Strategic Initiatives

Based on the insights gained, the leadership team has defined the following strategic initiatives to be pursued over the next 24 months :

  • Revamp Process Design for Enhanced Efficiency: This initiative aims to integrate digital tools like BIM into the construction process, streamlining project management and enhancing collaboration. The intended impact is to reduce project timelines and costs, improving margins. This will create value by leveraging technology to achieve operational excellence, requiring investments in software, training, and change management.
  • Innovate with Sustainable Materials and Practices: Focus on developing and incorporating new sustainable materials and construction methods to differentiate and meet emerging market demands. This initiative will enhance the company's sustainability credentials and client value proposition, necessitating research and development, and partnerships with material suppliers.
  • Strengthen Supplier and Subcontractor Networks: By building stronger relationships and integrating suppliers and subcontractors into the project planning phase, the organization can mitigate risks related to cost and timelines. This initiative will create value through improved supply chain resilience and cost efficiencies, requiring enhanced supplier management processes and systems.

Learn more about Operational Excellence Change Management Project Management

Process Design Implementation KPIs

KPIS are crucial throughout the implementation process. They provide quantifiable checkpoints to validate the alignment of operational activities with our strategic goals, ensuring that execution is not just activity-driven, but results-oriented. Further, these KPIs act as early indicators of progress or deviation, enabling agile decision-making and course correction if needed.


Without data, you're just another person with an opinion.
     – W. Edwards Deming

  • Project Margin Improvement: To track the financial impact of process redesign and efficiency improvements.
  • Project Delivery Time Reduction: This KPI will measure the effectiveness of integrating digital tools in streamlining project management and operations.
  • Sustainable Material Utilization Rate: To gauge the success of innovating with sustainable materials and practices.

These KPIs offer insights into the strategic initiatives' effectiveness, providing a basis for continuous improvement and ensuring alignment with the organization's strategic objectives.

For more KPIs, take a look at the Flevy KPI Library, one of the most comprehensive databases of KPIs available. Having a centralized library of KPIs saves you significant time and effort in researching and developing metrics, allowing you to focus more on analysis, implementation of strategies, and other more value-added activities.

Learn more about Flevy KPI Library KPI Management Performance Management Balanced Scorecard

Process Design Best Practices

To improve the effectiveness of implementation, we can leverage best practice documents in Process Design. These resources below were developed by management consulting firms and Process Design subject matter experts.

Process Design Deliverables

These are a selection of deliverables across all the strategic initiatives.

  • Process Design Enhancement Plan (PPT)
  • Sustainable Materials Innovation Roadmap (PPT)
  • Supplier Integration Framework (PPT)
  • Technology Adoption Financial Model (Excel)

Explore more Process Design deliverables

Revamp Process Design for Enhanced Efficiency

The Balanced Scorecard and Value Stream Mapping were selected as the most relevant business frameworks for this strategic initiative. The Balanced Scorecard was utilized to ensure that the process design revamp was aligned with the organization's strategic objectives across multiple perspectives: financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth. This framework proved invaluable in maintaining a holistic view of the project's impact on the organization. Following the implementation of the Balanced Scorecard, the organization:

  • Developed specific, measurable objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) for each of the four perspectives to monitor the initiative's success.
  • Conducted workshops with stakeholders from various departments to align the new process design with the company's long-term strategic goals.

Value Stream Mapping was employed to identify and eliminate waste in the construction process, thereby streamlining operations and improving efficiency. This approach was instrumental in visualizing the current state of processes and envisioning the future state with reduced bottlenecks and enhanced flow. The organization undertook the following steps:

  • Mapped out the entire project lifecycle from initial client consultation to project delivery, identifying all relevant activities and their time allocations.
  • Identified non-value-added activities and areas of delay, focusing on eliminating these to improve overall process efficiency.
  • Engaged cross-functional teams to redesign the process flow, incorporating digital tools such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) to enhance collaboration and efficiency.

The implementation of the Balanced Scorecard and Value Stream Mapping significantly improved project margins and reduced project delivery times. By aligning process improvements with strategic objectives and eliminating inefficiencies, the organization was able to achieve a more streamlined, efficient, and competitive operational model.

Learn more about Process Improvement Balanced Scorecard Value Stream Mapping

Innovate with Sustainable Materials and Practices

For this strategic initiative, the organization leveraged the Resource-Based View (RBV) and Design Thinking frameworks. The Resource-Based View was crucial in identifying the unique resources and capabilities that could be leveraged to innovate in sustainable materials and practices. By focusing on internal strengths, the organization was able to pinpoint areas where it could create a sustainable competitive advantage. The process involved:

  • Conducting a thorough inventory of the company's resources, including knowledge of sustainable materials, relationships with suppliers, and construction expertise.
  • Assessing the value, rarity, imitability, and organization (VRIO) of these resources to determine their potential to provide a sustained competitive advantage in the market.

Design Thinking was applied to foster innovation in sustainable materials and practices. This human-centered approach to innovation incorporated the perspectives of all stakeholders, including clients, suppliers, and employees, in the development process. The organization executed the following steps:

  • Organized cross-functional teams to brainstorm innovative solutions for sustainable construction challenges.
  • Prototyped new materials and construction methods, testing them in real-world scenarios to assess their viability and sustainability impact.

The application of the Resource-Based View and Design Thinking frameworks enabled the organization to successfully develop and incorporate new sustainable materials and practices into its projects. This not only enhanced the company's sustainability credentials but also differentiated it in a competitive market, leading to increased client satisfaction and market share.

Learn more about Design Thinking Competitive Advantage

Strengthen Supplier and Subcontractor Networks

The strategic initiative to strengthen supplier and subcontractor networks benefited greatly from the application of the Ecosystem Strategy framework and the Theory of Constraints (TOC). The Ecosystem Strategy framework helped the organization understand its role and influence within the broader construction and supply chain ecosystem. This perspective was essential in identifying key partners and fostering collaborative relationships. Actions taken included:

  • Mapping the construction ecosystem to identify critical suppliers and subcontractors that could contribute to the organization's strategic objectives.
  • Developing partnership models that offered mutual benefits, such as shared innovation labs and joint sustainability initiatives.

The Theory of Constraints was applied to identify and address the most significant bottlenecks within the supplier and subcontractor networks. Focusing on these constraints allowed the organization to streamline operations and improve project timelines. The organization implemented the following:

  • Conducted a thorough analysis of the supply chain to pinpoint the primary constraints affecting project efficiency and delivery.
  • Worked closely with suppliers and subcontractors to develop solutions that addressed these constraints, such as improved forecasting and inventory management practices.

The successful implementation of the Ecosystem Strategy framework and the Theory of Constraints led to more robust and efficient supplier and subcontractor networks. This initiative not only improved project delivery times and reduced costs but also enhanced the organization's ability to respond to market changes and client demands more effectively.

Learn more about Inventory Management Theory of Constraints

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Project margins improved by 15% through the integration of digital tools like BIM, streamlining project management and enhancing collaboration.
  • Project delivery times were reduced by 20%, attributed to the elimination of non-value-added activities and the implementation of Value Stream Mapping.
  • Sustainable material utilization rate increased by 25%, driven by the development and incorporation of new sustainable materials and practices.
  • Strengthened supplier and subcontractor networks led to a 10% reduction in project costs and a 15% improvement in project delivery timelines.

Evaluating the results, the strategic initiatives undertaken by the organization have been largely successful, achieving significant improvements in project margins, delivery times, and sustainable material utilization. The integration of digital tools and the focus on eliminating inefficiencies have directly contributed to these outcomes, demonstrating the value of aligning process improvements with strategic objectives. However, the results also highlight areas for improvement. The 10% reduction in project costs, while notable, suggests there may still be untapped efficiencies within the supplier and subcontractor networks. The challenges in fully realizing potential cost savings could be attributed to the complexity of managing these networks and the initial costs associated with implementing new technologies and practices. An alternative strategy could have been to phase the technology adoption more gradually, allowing for a more manageable integration process and potentially smoother cost optimizations.

Based on the analysis, the recommended next steps include a deeper evaluation of the supplier and subcontractor networks to identify further efficiencies and cost-saving opportunities. This could involve leveraging data analytics to gain insights into supply chain dynamics and pinpoint additional areas for improvement. Additionally, continuing to invest in employee training and development, particularly in digital competencies, will be crucial to sustaining the gains achieved and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Finally, exploring strategic partnerships with technology providers could accelerate innovation in sustainable materials and practices, further differentiating the organization in the competitive landscape.

Source: Process Design Strategy for Specialty Trade Contractors in Sustainable Construction, Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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