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March 12, 2001 8:09 AM CST

Pathways to the Future

Mapping out the association’s role in shaping construction

By

Planning out the future of the masonry industry is just like taking any journey. If you begin with a clear cut vision of where it is that you want to go and some semblance of how you are going to get there, the trip generally goes as planned. If however, you begin a trip without any idea of where you want to go, invariably you are destined to wander aimlessly. Oh, you may have the time of your life experiencing all of the unexpected events that may take place, but more than likely, you will only end up experiencing the trip from hell.

In many ways, our industry stands at a crossroad. We are faced with a greater demand for our product than ever before. Almost daily, a new competitive construction product makes claims against our masonry system. At the same time, the demand for labor has never been so high yet interest among young people in a career in construction is at an all time low. More up start mason contracting firms enter our industry virtually overnight, armed with a lack of knowledge on how to run a profitable company. Even your own time as a mason contractor has never been so divided. If you are like most contractors, you just don't have time for anything.

In the midst of all of the chaos, the Mason Contractors Association of America and its Executive Committee participated in a Long Range Strategic Planning retreat in order to map out a new direction for the masonry industry. What will construction be like thirty years from now? What will be the dominant building materials preferred by customers? Who will our competitors be? Will we have enough workers available to install our products? Will new technology render us obsolete? These were all questions that the association and its officers faced when strategizing about the future. More importantly, the association developed a long range strategic vision of where the masonry industry should be and what role the Mason Contractors Association of America will play in shaping the construction market. What was completed is a new, more defined direction for the association and the development of pathways to the future of masonry.

On September 15th and 16th, 2000, a planning group consisting of staff and the Board of the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) met to complete the process of developing a strategic long-range plan. Jean Frankel, Principal Partner of Tecker Consultants, LLC (TC), led the group in the process. During the session, the group engaged in dialogue and deliberation which yielded a number of insights that were refined in an offline review of their work. The framework used was a model of strategic judgments organized into four time-related horizons:

  1. Consideration of factors in the long-range planning horizon (10-30 years into the future), and the articulation of a core purpose, core values, a Big Audacious Goal, and a vivid description of what attainment of the goal will be like.


  2. A set of assumptions about the future of MCAA, the masonry industry, and the business environment of the future.


  3. Identification of a set of mega issues - critical questions that will need to be answered in order for MCAA to position itself strategically in the future.


  4. Long-range visioning articulated in five goal statements with draft objectives and strategies that identify where MCAA could be in the next several years and how it can get there. The vision attempts to focus on how the organization will provide beneficial outcomes to members.
10-30 Year Planning Horizon: Core Ideology & Envisioned Future
In developing a strategic long range vision, a core ideology was developed to guide the Board of the MCAA. This core ideology will assist in determining which short term goals and objectives are needed to achieve the associations vision. All association programs and actions will be guided by the core purpose of the MCAA.

Core ideology describes the Mason Contractors Association of America's consistent identity that will transcend all changes related to the associations relevant environment. MCAA's ideology consists of two notions: core purpose which is the associations reason for being and core values which are the essential and enduring principles that guide the MCAA. The associations envisioned future conveys a concrete but yet unrealized vision for the organization. A vision for the entire association to strive to obtain. It consists of a big audacious goal which is a clear and compelling catalyst that serves as a focal point for effort along with vivid descriptions of what it will be like to achieve the big audacious long range goal.

Core Purpose of the Mason Contractors Association of America
To provide leadership to advance the masonry industry.

Core Values of the Mason Contractors Association of America
Networking, including the sharing of ideas, synergy, professionalism, integrity respect, honesty, responsibility, promotion, education and continuous learning or improvement, credibility and excellence in all we do, innovation, and a striving to unify the masonry industry.

Envisioned Future
Strategic Long Range Goal
To be the recognized leader with the knowledge and resources to lead the masonry industry and influence the construction industry.

Vivid Descriptions are those actions that if taken collectively will achieve the goals of the association. They are a series of bold statements that the association and its members can rally behind and set the MCAA apart from other industry organizations. MCAA's planning group spent a great deal of time developing an extensive array of vivid descriptions of MCAA's activities, each falling in five areas of concentration, workforce development, education, code development, promotion and government affairs.

Vivid Descriptions of the MCAA
MCAA will be the "go to" organization for the entire industry. MCAA will be the source for technical information on masonry wall systems and quality. MCAA will unify all elements of the masonry industry in order to achieve a common goal of making masonry the preferred method of construction. Membership numbers will be increased. MCAA will be the training and education source for architectural and engineering students on the advantages of masonry. MCAA will aggressively promote masonry as the building material of choice which will lead to an increased number of projects using masonry. There will be an increase in recruitment of quality masons. MCAA will communicate more with all legislators on issues affecting the masonry industry. MCAA will be the highly regarded leader in masonry education. MCAA will be the leading innovator and educator of new materials, methods and technology. MCAA will be strategically aligned with relevant organizations. MCAA will communicate and interface more with construction customers. Masonry curriculums will be offered in every high school. MCAA will open regional offices to address local needs of the industry. MCAA will educate students and school officials on the advantages of a career in masonry. MCAA will be the recruiter and educator for our future labor forces. MCAA will develop a working relationship with the union.

5-10 Year Planning Horizon: Building Foresight
Assumption statements developed by the planning group will help MCAA purposefully update the strategic plan on an annual basis. Goals are a necessary foundation for good organizational strategy. Goals are based, in part, on anticipation of the possible future. MCAA's projected future environment is described in this section.

The planning group debated the numerous assumptions about what conditions that members and the association must contend with in the future. The assumptions were segregated into four overall categories. They are construction industry and competition; the global business climate that members will be affected by; government regulations and politics that could radically change operational costs and procedures; and demographic and social values that affect consumers and the general public. These same assumptions become very important in the development of an MCAA long range plan and the allocation of association resources to affect the long range plan.

Industry Structure & Competition
There will always be competition. Vertical and horizontal consolidation will continue for the material supply segment, which can lead to new investment and capacity but may also remove decisions from customers. The industry will face continued competition from more innovative building systems that cost less and are less labor intensive in the short-term. The design-build concept will increase as owners take a more active part in material product selection. Masonry will still need to be hand-placed thus not replaced by new technology. Metrication will challenge the industry in terms of new and existing codes and standards. The industry will remain fragmented, increasing the need for unification.

Global Business Climate
Foreign technology will continue to become available in the U.S. which could offer new sources of investment as well as potential competing technology. Global technology construction trends will impact U.S. construction methods quicker than ever before. The percentage of foreign-born workers will increase. Foreign competition and opportunity (from Europe and America) will increase. New technology from overseas will often be unrelated to traditional masonry.

Government Regulations & Politics
Environmental regulations will increase masonry construction and all other building costs. Employee safety regulations will force the masonry industry to be more innovative. Government will continue to place social costs directly upon private enterprise. The need for multilingual communication will increase. Stringent performance codes can decrease our market share. OSHA's ergonomic regulations will affect labor practices and construction costs. America's political climate will impact interest rates and long-term construction growth, OSHA, government regulations. Seismic codes may limit or increase applications based on costs. Government regulations may affect the "contractor" labor pool (people leaving companies).

Demographic & Social Values
The ability to change/remodel building structures will remain important. An increasing elderly population will create demand for new construction such as assisted-living. The aging of baby boomers could also lead to higher quality and higher cost homes. The graying of America could resist investment in institutional construction such as schools which has been a mainstay of masonry. Consumers will be able to gather information and comparison shop faster than ever before. Future generations (eco-generation) will put more emphasis on the environmental impact of building materials and their use. There will be a new generation of younger workers who will be drawn to more high-tech careers while the baby bust may result in a shrinking workforce, only offset by an increase in the immigrant labor pool. Product knowledge and the ability to review existing conditions will be important. Dot-com companies will decrease the workforce - including the masonry workforce. Redefining homes downward and away from masonry will occur on a regional basis.

3-5 Year Planning Horizon: Outcome-Oriented Goals
Goals are outcome-oriented statements that represent what will constitute the organization's future success. The achievement of each goal will move MCAA towards the realization of its vision. The goals are not in any order of priority. Every goal will need to be accomplished if MCAA is to fully achieve its vision.

MCAA Goal #1 - Codes & Standards
MCAA will have the ability to influence the codes and standards in the best interest of its members.

Objectives:
  1. Strengthen the MCAA's influence on major industry committees.

  2. Develop a team of contractor volunteers who will represent their regional and national concerns, who will communicate and develop a plan to ensure representation with MCAA engineers at industry committees.
  3. Establish and maintain a communication process to monitor changes to codes and standards, and inform MCAA membership of their impacts (mailers, website, Masonry).

  4. Increase contractor participation.

  5. Obtain field data and information on contractors' issues to support changes in codes.
MCAA Goal #2 - Marketing & Expansion
MCAA will maintain, develop and expand its market share.

Objectives:
  1. Increase and strengthen strategic alliances.

  2. Local groups that have local alliances try to work together, increasing the awareness of the Masonry Industry Council (among members)and conducting a yearly review of the status of MCAA's industry alliances.

  3. Increase the number of architects exposed to the benefits of masonry through an expanded development of architecture masonry symposium to reach more architects ("regionalize"), develop continuing education courses for certification, develop several masonry wall systems available to architects on disk. Encourage local chapters to exhibit at state shows of CSI, AIA.

  4. Enhance buyer awareness of advantages of masonry.

  5. Work with existing national associations on national accounts program, distribute information on lifecycle cost analysis between masonry and competitive systems and highlight the advantages of masonry, develop promotional materials on a national level that can be adapted locally for distribution.
MCAA Goal #3 - Public AffairsMCAA will supply knowledge and direction in the development of policies impacting the masonry industry.

Objectives:
  1. Expand knowledge and awareness of (OSHA) work restrictions to masonry industry - i.e. ergonomics, safety life issues (anything altering the production method, which effects the bottom line).

  2. Reduce or eliminate estate taxes (companies cannot survive a principle loss).

  3. Increase participation to pass the Workforce Enhancement Act.

  4. Increase participation in national fuel tax issues.,/li>
  5. Expand our participation in EPA laws and standards (i.e. noise pollution, air, chemical).

  6. Improve overall contract and payment terms!

  7. Develop relationships within the industry (e.g. suppliers, educators, designers, contractors, engineers, users) as the vehicle to effectively reach our goals.
MCAA Goal #4 - Education
The masonry industry and its stakeholders will benefit from education and training programs that provide knowledge and understanding.

Objectives:
  1. Provide knowledge of government and business issues to our members and their employees by working with related industry organizations (i.e. OSHA, MSJC, labor groups, businesses, government, promotions) to accumulate technical information to relate to our members.

  2. Increase knowledge about design and construction among relevant officials and decision makers.

  3. Provide information to narrow the perception gap of our consumers.

  4. Expand the technical ability of our members to enable them to influence the design process and construction techniques.
MCAA Goal #5 - Workforce
MCAA will increase the workforce through educating students, parents, school officials and the general public on the benefits of a career in masonry.

Objectives:
  1. Increase the number of masonry training programs (high schools, vo-tech, job corps, community colleges, apprenticeship programs).

  2. Increase the number of apprentices being hired and trained.

  3. Increase number of high schools offering a career day in masonry.

  4. Increase participation in job fairs.

  5. Expand our alliances with industry organizations to work together to train and recruit workers.

  6. Monitor the number of contractors hiring apprentices.

  7. Reduce the stigma associated with careers in masonry.

  8. Identify and remove any artificial barriers to our objectives, increase funding from industry sources, developing marketing programs to promote careers in masonry and to remove social stigma, identify current programs, increase awareness of contractors of the benefits of hiring apprentices, expand our alliance with VICA, develop marketing programs geared toward guidance counselors and parents.
Strategically Thinking About the Future
Utilizing the method of strategic governance, the Board of Directors of the Mason Contractors Association of America and its members, through this new long range strategic plan, is beginning to evaluate the impact that the association is having on the future profitability of its members and the viability of masonry. Simply stated, the association will begin to allocate greater association resources in vital programs that will assist member mason contracting firms not just survive but to thrive in the future. If assumptions that the Board of the MCAA made about the future of construction are correct, it has become increasingly more important for the MCAA to think long term about advancing the interests of our members. Can the association protect members from competition? Can the association stem the tide of intrusive government regulations and the upheaval of political change? Can the MCAA keep members ahead of the rapidly changing tide of code and standards changes that can bankrupt mason contractors? Can the association encourage a ground swell of interest in careers in masonry so the masonry industry will not be hit as hard as other construction trades? The first step of saying "yes" to all of these questions lies with the development of this new long range vision.

We have debated long and hard about publishing the MCAA's Long Range Plan. After all, there are many who may use this document against us. Maybe so, but by keeping where the MCAA is leading the industry a secret, we would only be thwarting those mason contractors and suppliers who would join our campaign from participating with us. We know where we are going. Our competitors know where we are going. But armed with a strong conviction of where it is that we want to take the masonry industry and an equally strong trust in mason contractors joining our effort, can our competitors really stop the MCAA from making masonry the dominant building material?

The future will tell us if we were right!


About the Author

Michael Adelizzi was the Executive Director of the Mason Contractors Association of America.

 

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