Leading Beyond Fear: How One Company Took Advantage of the Covid-19 Job Market

One thing is certain in 2020: uncertainty. With the global pandemic in full effect, thousands have been furloughed or laid off while many companies enact hiring freezes. Yet, other companies are still hiring – and some, like COE’s newest member company Singleton Construction, have found a way to take advantage of the pandemic to bring in top-notch talent.

Over the past year, Singleton was looking to hire a Lean Coordinator to help lead the company on their operational excellence journey. In January 2020, Denise Doczy-DeLong, President and Owner of Singleton Construction, learned about Lean Enterprise Institute’s Internship program and partnership with Oakland University to bring education opportunities in Lean thinking to students.

“I figured that with Covid, hiring and offers had slowed down. Their recruiter got in contact with the Director, who confirmed this,” Doczy-Delong explained. “We sent him our job description and what we were looking for, and he connected us with several good candidates. The person we ended up hiring was one of the few that LEI had funded for an internship.”

The hire? Monisha Vasudeva, who completed her Bachelor of Engineering and Information Science at the Global Academy of Technology before earning her MBA in Marketing at the RNS Institute of Technology and her Master of Science in Industrial Engineering at Oakland University.

“She’s brilliant. Even though things were uncertain and hectic for our business at the time, we were able to capture a fantastic new employee to help us on our Lean journey,” Doczy-Delong commented. “And who knows if we’d have been able to get a candidate like her if it wasn’t for Covid. She is going to be a gamechanger for us.”

How did Denise Doczy-DeLong make the decision to hire for such a big role while managing the the risks associated with the uncertainty going on right now?

“If we don’t get lean instituted, we can’t grow. Without lean, without this hire, we can’t get to where we want. You have to take the chance and have the opportunity to grow, or you don’t take the chance and you have no chance for success.”

For many leaders, this is easier said than done. Denise, however, shared the formative experiences that have taught her to not lead from a place of fear. For one, she is no stranger to leading through recessions.

Denise took over the Singleton Construction company in 2006, right before the Great Recession of 2007 and 2008. During this time, she “survived by being frugal” – but she made a significant hire for the company during that time as well, which she credits as an experience that helped her get over her fear.  Before coming to Singleton, Denise worked in manufacturing, where she witnessed the business lose most of its clients when the telecommunications industry fell on hard times in the early 2000’s.

“If you live in fear, your brain is not in problem-solving mode. To really know and understand what your business needs, you have to be in that mode. If you’re fearful, you step back. When I’m not fearful, I can actually lean in and solve problems,” she explained.

And that’s exactly what she’s hired Monisha Vasudeva to do.

“It’s pretty progressive for a construction company to embrace Lean. Denise is progressive in her thinking and wants the company to grow. For her to think of hiring a Lean person in times of uncertainty, I think she’s looking to the future,” Vasudeva commented. "What intrigued me the most about Singleton Construction is its values: value people, build trust, and deliver excellence. These are the pillars for fostering lean culture in an organization. Denise emphasizes and believes in continuous learning."

For the time being, Monisha is knee deep in data and observations. She’s going to Gemba by visiting one job site a week and taking time to map the value stream.

“I have to observe a lot to understand. It’s quite different than manufacturing. There’s so many people, variations, variables out of our control. You have to write, edit, and re-visit. But it’s rewarding in the end: to exact the value stream and begin to connect people and process and innovation. There’s a lot of waste in construction, so it’s both overwhelming and exciting. As a Lean thinker, there’s a scope for improvement and the opportunity to really make it better. I’m ready to get to the root cause and problem solve,” Vasudeva said.

It’s clear that the ability to adapt matters more than ever, and we’re excited to work alongside Denise, Monisha, and the rest of the Singleton Construction team as they continue on their operational excellence journey and transform their processes and operations with relentless cycles of continuous improvement.

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