Leon Foster is the Chief Performance Officer (CPO) at The Lemoine Company, out of Lafayette Louisiana. With a wealth of experience working for several large general contractors and top ENR firms across 12 different states, Foster joined the Lemoine team in 2013 as the VP of Operations and Systems. After the CEO at Lemoine retired in 2018, Foster began overseeing HR, IT, training and development, project controls, corporate scheduling, and was named Chief Performance Officer. When asked about the primary focus of a CPO, Foster is quick to respond:
“My focus is looking through walls and finding smoke. Where there’s smoke, there’s typically fire. I leverage our data and technology to understand our pulse across the company and share key findings in our weekly huddles. It’s all about information sharing.”
As Lemoine continues to expand their business, their goal is to ensure they stay true to their core of operational excellence. Lemoine achieves this by putting an emphasis on building client relationships and building up their people within the company. This transition to a people-first approach has helped Lemoine focus on strategic planning, and improve their bidding process by focusing on negotiated work. The reason? According to Foster “it’s hard to build meaningful relationships with competitive and hard bid work.”
Bridgit’s CEO and co-founder, Mallorie Brodie, sat down with Foster to discuss innovation at Lemoine. You can also check out the full recording of our Innovation Spotlight with The Lemoine Company. Interested in reading more of our customer insights? Check out how Power Construction is managing resources more effectively, or read from any of our customer success stories here.
Mallorie Brodie: One thing that really stands out about Lemoine is that innovation isn’t just about technology. There’s so many different types of ways to innovate within your organization – there’s always a better way. That’s foundational when you’re trying to bring an innovative mindset to your company, challenging the status quo, and asking the right questions to uncover a better way.
Do you feel like that’s something that’s really persisted in the culture at Lemoine?
Leon Foster: Definitely. Our number one core value is safety – sending everybody home safe at the end of the day. My second (and near and dear) core value is innovation. Continuous improvement is a core of our business. We’re always hunting for ways to be more efficient and more effective, which is one of our strategic goals.
Mallorie Brodie: That’s a great insight. The fact that Lemoine has made that a priority with your position really speaks to the innovative culture and spirit around continuous improvement.
I was wondering if you could outline some of the main communication or process challenges that you’ve faced as a company, and ultimately, what were the pain points you were looking to solve as an organization?
Leon Foster: Our number one chief resource is people and resource management. I was struggling to get my arms around it because we were trying to track everything in P6. I know some folks will say, “Oh, we do it in Excel, we do it in P6, we do it in Microsoft Project.” Whatever the tool, we couldn’t get it to work. It was old information. It was hard to get updated, and it was tough to get people to really look at it. So not only was it a silo, it was stale information. The data wasn’t relevant. That’s when I found Bridgit.
Mallorie Brodie: I think in a project-based industry, depending on your role within the organization, it’s easy to be so focused on project delivery. You want to make sure that you do a great job for the client, but sometimes taking a step back and looking at your overall project portfolio, and how your workforce has prepared, is something that’s hard to do if the information’s not up to up-to-date or if it’s living with just one person.
Were there any other challenges in terms of the overall communication with the broader team?
Leon Foster: Yeah. There were. Especially when you have old information and stale data. I would be sitting in workforce meetings and we’d be talking about an upcoming project and they’d throw in a name. Well, when the other division already had that person called out, clearly there was a disconnect. Again, the challenge was old information that wasn’t visible to everybody, and wasn’t readily available.
Mallorie Brodie: Can you walk us through a couple of the examples of how the flow of information has improved at Lemoine?
Leon Foster: We have weekly operations meetings. When they meet, Bridgit Bench is up on the screen and it’s live information. We use it to organize meetings. It’s very, very user-friendly. We use nine different project colors to differentiate projects based on the manager or VP overseeing it. It helps us focus our conversations and organize shared information. It was so successful that our pre-con group liked it so much when they were in the meeting, now they’ve started using Bridgit Bench too.
So, now we have all of our precon projects color coded as well. And there’s a certain nomenclature we use to distinguish that it’s a precon job versus an active construction project. Before, we weren’t confident that the information that was brought to the table was relevant to the conversation.
There are two key elements to Bridgit Bench that have helped the flow of information:
- Bridgit was easy to implement. We actually implemented it between two hurricanes last fall, Laura and Delta, if you can only imagine.
- The other key is, it’s very user-friendly, which increases its adoptability. That helps transfer the ownership of managing that information to the folks that really need to manage it. It’s been amazing to watch our group – everything is updated to the T. They know where everybody is, where they’re going and where they’re heading. It’s impressive to watch from afar.
Mallorie Brodie: That’s great to hear. What do you think is next for Lemoine? Integrating your overall tech stack, sounds like it’s a priority. What’s the benefit you see with integrating your tech stack as one of the next major steps for Lemoine?
Leon Foster: In 2019, we went live with our new core ERP, which is ViewpointOne Vista. So we have a core ERP, and now we have these best in class platforms. What’s next? What’s next for us is we’re trying to get as many of those best in class systems talking to one another. We use Bridgit now and we also use BuildingConnected. So there’s an API connection there that we are working on. We’re going to be one of the first companies that’s going to be leveraging that. We’ve already had kickoffs. We’re also using a software named Rabbet. That’s able to tie systems together. So we’re trying to tie our Avada pro-con system into our core ERP. So getting everything to talk to one another is a top priority..
Mallorie Brodie: I think everyone has realized that the construction industry has so many workloads and it’s such a complicated business, that to really digitize your entire business with one piece of software is just not likely or possible. It’s been interesting to see the overall appetite around integrations really increasing across all of our customers.
Outside of the integrations, it sounds like one of the priorities for Lemoine is really having more of a people-first strategy and making sure that you’re investing in talent and your workforce overall. Is there anything that you can share in terms of best practices that really help put your people at the forefront of your business?
Leon Foster: Bridgit is helping us to figure out not only who’s available, but figure out what the best mix of talent is for that project.
We’re big on persona metrics here at Lemoine. We leverage that, not only just during the hiring, but also when assembling our project teams. If you have two superintendents or two project managers, which ones fit best together? Since we’re leveraging workforce intelligence with Bridgit, we now have a way to highlight team members and see the mix of people and have total team optimization. We can ensure we don’t place too many Type A personalities on a job and can mix in other team members to complement the type A’s. We’re looking to really leverage Bridgit Bench on a go-forward basis with that.
We’re also big on dashboards at Lemoine. We have dashboards built for certain teams and certain job titles within the company. Bridgit has its own built-in dashboard for optimization and resource allocation. So we’re going to be, of course, looking at that, along with the whole optimization of our teams.
Mallorie Brodie: That’s great. It’s interesting when you can start pulling some of those more detailed data points together to put the best teams forward that can deliver the project quickly, and on budget, obviously.
Leon Foster: Yeah. Realistically, sometimes it’s unavoidable that we won’t have the perfect mix on a team, but at least if you go into it with your eyes wide open, you can train around it, you can educate around it, and you can get the team more open to the idea and more familiar with each others’ tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses.
Mallorie Brodie: I wanted to touch on the ‘one company’ culture that you’ve achieved at Lemoine. If you can share a bit more context on what that means, I think everyone would really benefit from hearing about just how you’re organizing Lemoine as a company across your different regions and sectors.
Leon Foster: It’s all about people. It’s all about respect and it’s all about making sure you can share your corporate capabilities across the various markets, all in an effort to get lean and to eliminate waste.
The ‘One Lemoine’ concept is making sure everybody’s working on the same team, rowing in the same direction, and understanding that we’re bound to have better results that way.
The idea is that we’re not a bunch of different divisions that don’t talk, that don’t want to share resources. We’re constantly doing that with our disaster arm now. When disasters hit down here, it’s all hands on deck. Doesn’t matter if you’re in commercial, doesn’t matter if you’re an infrastructure group, everybody stands up to help one another and helps across the groups. So we’re really looking to leverage that.