Blog: Stone Fabrication Software and Business Articles

Hello from Chase!

Hello! I’m Chase Diamond and, as of October 2018, I’m the newest addition to the awesome Moraware team. I’ll be working closely with Eric as an Account Executive and I am absolutely thrilled to be working with such a talented group of people who are truly committed to helping our customers!

What do I bring to the table? My background in design, creative direction, and project management has provided me with insight into all stages of the fabrication process from concept to install. Add in a few years of experience working in software and Moraware is the perfect fit for me!

When I’m not helping our customers solve their business problems, I spend my time camping, hiking, cycling, and just about everything else “outdoors” with my future wife, in and around Portland, OR where we live!

The Importance of a Strong Team

Being relatively new to a remote team here at Moraware, I’ve been able to make some interesting observations about joining a growing team as well as the pros and cons of not being in an office. For example, everyday communication and getting to know your coworkers is harder when you’re not sitting in the same building. But, I get to wear pajama pants in meetings and I love the challenge of pushing myself more because there’s more trust. Huge pros, people.

Anyways, I’ve digressed from what I’ve really learned. And that is that while all teams from all industries may be different, have different goals, and combine different personalities – strong communication is the core of any team. This entails a variety of factors ranging from being clear of everyone’s roles and goals to developing a system of processes that are growing with the team. Yes, we’re obsessed with systems and processes…but for good reason!

If you’re asking yourself, “OK, cool, you are typing this in pajamas – how does this affect me, a countertop fabricator?” Never fear, I have the answer! Your team is a huge part of your business. Huge. I can’t stress that enough. It’s important to have a strong system in place, which we talk about extensively. But, it’s just as important to have a team that communicates and performs well.

“Where are you?”

Ever had to make that phone call? Having a successful process implemented in your shop requires clear communication through every step. That means each employee needs to be present to perform their assigned task so that the install can run smoothly. Whether it’s at the customer’s house or in the shop, a schedule can help keep track of job statuses and appointments.

Another side of this, is that an employee who knows their job is important will feel the responsibility of their task and rise to the occasion.  Help your employees understand how the shop works and appreciate their contribution.

“I’m not sure what to do with this.”

Here we go again with systems and processes. Do you have employee manuals? Trainings? Company organization? Every person on your team should know the shop and what each person does. They should also know who the appropriate person to go to for help is. A successful team can look at the software you’ve implemented (or the whiteboard) and be able to answer questions about any job.

“Thank you”

Magic words. Just because you are paying someone to do their tasks doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the appreciation of their efforts to show up and do their best work. If you aren’t going above the bare minimum of a paycheck as gratitude towards your employees, then why should they do above the bare minimum that the paycheck requires? Mutual appreciation and respect makes for a happier and more productive team. Check out The Paul White Company’s example in this article.

Do you have a great team that you want to brag about? We’d love to showcase them! Just send me and email at marketing@moraware.com.

Updates to the JobTracker / Systemize API

Our Application Programming Interface (API) lets programmers write software that integrates with JobTracker or Systemize. Several of our partners have developed products that depend on the API.

Based primarily on their feedback, we’ve recently made some additions to our API. Most notably, we’ve made it easier to:

  • Find the job(s) you want without having to loop through accounts and jobs
  • Get the status of a job without having to loop through activities
  • Get serial number balances and allocations without having to loop through purchase orders and jobs

In addition, we’ve added a few small capabilities that were previously missing but always seemed like they should be there.

We also moved the documentation online to developer.moraware.com (no more help file). You can view a complete list of version 5 changes on that site.

There’s still plenty that you can’t do with the API – most notably, there’s still no way to get at quotes programmatically – but these improvements make it much easier to complete the kinds of tasks that programmers have already been using the API to address. If you’re a programmer, give the changes a look (the simplest way is to view the samples), and let us know if you have any questions or issues with them.

I’ll see it when I believe it! (Wait… what?)

If you missed the setup (and the sting!), check out my previous post: Are your biases carved in stone?

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias occurs when the desire to confirm your existing beliefs is so strong that you unconsciously discredit any evidence or arguments that don’t confirm those beliefs. At the same time, you view the arguments supporting your beliefs through rose-tinted lenses.

Again, this bias means trouble. Consider how many employers bemoan the Millennial generation, claiming these younger employees are terrible workers. You can try to counter with a story about the amazing Millennial doing great work in your department, but the biased manager just returns with two more nightmare examples. He favors examples that confirm his bias – and that’s both dangerous and bad for business.

People often say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But the opposite is more often true: “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

If you don’t believe it, you won’t see it – and you’ll miss out on talented people at a time when it’s getting more difficult to recruit for jobs in manufacturing and trade. Park Industries sets a great example. They actively recruit people across generations because it’s good for business. And now they have positive stories to tell!

Suggestions for Overcoming Confirmation Bias

  • Don’t trust your gut when it comes to business decisions. Affirming current beliefs comes naturally; challenging them takes self-discipline.
  • Make a point to listen to multiple experts with differing points of view on a topic.
  • If you have a strongly-held idea, ask yourself: “How would I know if I were wrong?” Then actively look for evidence that might challenge your ideas.  
  • Fake it til’ you make it. Yes, sometimes you just have to decide to change your beliefs.

Change my beliefs? Wait… what?

The Belief Cycle

Our beliefs color what we see and experience because we filter out information that doesn’t fit our beliefs.

Consider one example of the Belief Cycle depicted here.

  • I believe that my salespeople are lazy.
  • I don’t notice how they’re trying to learn more about the qualities of quartz vs. quartzite – I only see what they don’t know. But I’m certainly not going to invest in training or software – because I think they’re lazy.
  • The salespeople will in turn come to believe that I don’t value their contribution or that I think they’re not capable of improving.
  • They now believe they’re in dead-end jobs so they just get by doing the minimum – while they look for other work!
  • When I see that behavior, it will reinforce my belief – and the cycle continues!

“It isn’t the past which holds us back, it’s the future; and how we undermine it, today.”

I love that quote from A Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who survived the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. He reminds me that if I’m not willing to believe that something is possible in the future, I might refuse to acknowledge the evidence and opportunities available to me today.

Is the future of your company limited by something you believe today?

Experiment with changing that belief before you see the evidence that change is possible. And then maybe when you believe, you’ll see the proof!

Running a Stone Shop Really is Rocket Science

NASA Human Research Analog Project

As part of a Masters of Engineering program at Texas A&M, I recently got to hear a presentation by NASA Flight Analogs Program Manager, Lisa Spence. Anyone from NASA is like a rock star to me, and her project is amazing!

Spence works with teams of four civilians to enact 45-day simulated space missions in a model spacecraft. This “ship” is the size of a Winnebago but has only one small window and no shower. The Space Winnebago doesn’t actually leave the ground, and they don’t try to recreate zero gravity, but she said her experiments study the most complex systems in any manned space mission: the men and women.

So… were there countertops in the Space Winnebago?

Manufacturing countertops may not be rocket science, but NASA flight crews face the same management challenges as any stone fabricator: goal definition, communication, conflict management, decision-making, assigning roles and leadership. But NASA has a R&D budget to address their management issues! Why? In extreme environments, leadership and teamwork can easily erode and jeopardize an entire mission. And the stakes are high when you’re 30 million miles from Earth.

But the stakes are high when you’re tasked with moving a 900-pound slab of granite, too. Just as they’re high when you’re operating the industrial saws found in most shops today. The stakes are high too when you’re making decisions that will impact the people you employ – people with families or dreams of their own.

What can a stone fabricator learn from a NASA flight simulation?

The Flight Analog missions are designed to recreate the conditions of isolation and confinement experienced by astronauts in space. Once the crews enter the Space Winnebago, they remain cut off from their families, media, the Internet – just as they would if they were really in space. The crews work 16-hour shifts, 6 days per week, with realistic tasks and time-lines that vary from exceptionally exciting to morbidly mundane.

Spence and her team found that as the stress of these extreme conditions increases, pro-social behaviors decrease. What does that mean? To illustrate, Spence asked us:

Which of these two would you want on your team?

Getting the right people on your team is critical. NASA has no trouble finding people who are smart enough to do the work, but other qualities (sometimes referred to as emotional intelligence) proved equally important. Investing the time and resources needed to get well-rounded people on your team is indeed mission critical.

What happens to teams in extreme conditions?

While the crew is living and working aboard the Space Winnebago, researchers observe crew behavior from outside. They’ve found a few common pitfalls:

  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Failure to work together toward a goal
  • Group-think
  • Over reliance on the leader
  • Compliance rather than evaluation

What can leaders do to support crews in extreme conditions?

Researchers also identified some tactics that help crews overcome these pitfalls. These suggestions include:

  • Model the behavior you expect from others
  • Learn to recognize how individuals respond to stress & provide support
  • Focus on the big picture & remind people how they’re helping achieve a shared goal
  • Set intermediary goals & celebrate small wins
  • Maintain a climate of trust through collaboration & cooperation
  • Ask for input, ideas and potential solutions when problems arise
  • Let the experts in different areas take the lead
  • Pitch in

Want to learn more?

I had to keep cutting this post to keep it short, but I wanted to share more details! Please contact me if you have questions or just want to hear more.

Or maybe you’ve always wanted to be an astronaut? Lisa Spence said she’s always looking for the  next Space Winnebago crew! Check out the their website to learn more!

How do you counter the IKEA effect?

If you missed the setup (and the sting!), check out my previous post: Are your biases carved in stone?

Look, mom! I made it myself!

The IKEA Effect

The IKEA Effect is affectionately named for that Swedish juggernaut of home furnishings, where a disposable Allen wrench makes all things possible!

IKEA bias is the tendency to over-value items you have assembled yourself.

The Research

The IKEA Effect was identified and named by a team of researchers from Harvard, Yale and Duke universities. They found that when people were asked to put a dollar value on an IKEA chair they had assembled themselves, and then the same chair that came pre-assembled, they always said that the chair they put together was worth more.

We get emotionally attached to our own projects, the ones that we’ve worked on personally.

Ouch! That one hits home! But we’ve all been there.

  • We can’t paint over the mural I painted in Joey’s bedroom! That’s going to improve our property value!
  • What do you mean we’re losing money on that account? I worked hard to make that contact!
  • I don’t care if CounterGo can draw the Mona Lisa. It can’t be as good as the spreadsheet I worked so hard to create!

While it’s normal to want to protect your ideas, it can blind you to valuable information that could improve a project.

Suggestions for Overcoming the IKEA Effect

Start by noticing the times when you leap to the defense of an idea or project as if it were… precious. Like our friend Bilbo here.

When you notice that your knuckles are turning white as you cling to the steering wheel on a pet project, pull over.

Pause.

Make a decision to allow somebody else to edit your work or to contribute at least one idea to a new project. And then do it. Even if you’re not convinced that any good will come of it.

To free ourselves from bias we have to look honestly at the things we’ve created, and then compare their value objectively to the available alternatives.

There will always be another use for that Allen wrench!