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Professional Profile: Tammy McConaughy

Lab Manager speaks to Tammy McConaughy of CRB

MaryBeth DiDonna

Tammy McConaughy is director of lean delivery with CRB in Broomfield, CO. Lab Manager recently spoke with Tammy about her career, experience, and personal interests.

Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers mid-stream, etc.?

A: I started my career while working on my Six Sigma Black Belt through my employment at GE. At the time, the branch I worked at was closed, and I found myself looking for a job. I secured a position as a project assistant for a mechanical contractor in San Diego, CA. They supported me in the completion of my Six Sigma Black Belt. I started to do small improvement projects internally, which eventually grew into my involvement with the local Lean Construction Institute community of practice. After eight years of developing, implementing, and learning, I knew that I wanted to be a full-time lean consultant or in a similar role. I had fallen in love with the AEC industry and wanted to stay within it also. In 2014 after co-authoring a white paper that the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC) published, I interviewed for a lean specialist position in Portland, OR, with JE Dunn Construction. I wanted to be a journalist in high school; being the director of lean for CRB, a leading provider of sustainable engineering, architecture, construction, and consulting solutions to the food and beverage and life sciences industries is a significant deviation. But this is my dream job. I love what I do.

Q: What’s a common misconception about your job?

A: A common misconception is that my job is quality-based or just about process improvement and efficiency. Lean tools are just processes that will not deliver the results many seek without the right mindsets and behaviors. Lean follows six principles, one of them being Respect for People. I am a coach, a trainer, a facilitator, and an advocate. I believe in going to where the work is, swarming the problem and engaging the people doing the work, listening to how they would solve them, their ideas to improve, and helping empower them to act. My role is to help create a culture where lean is who we are and not something extra we do.

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you've faced? How did you overcome it?

A: The biggest work-related challenge I have faced came early in my career when working with a project team to implement lean tools and coach them on how to be facilitative leaders. The construction superintendent I was working with was a 20-year-plus employee with a proven track record of delivering projects on time in a command-and-control manner. After a lot of tension, frustration, and hard conversations, he said to me, "Tammy, I like you as a person, but I am not buying this snake oil you're selling me. I've been doing this for a long time and what I do works for me." This experience was a pivotal moment. It taught me that change must be personally relevant for each individual. I realized that my role was working with each person to align on how they work, remove roadblocks, and provide the resources necessary to succeed. I realized that this is the value I deliver. It is so much more than applying a process.

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?

A: My favorite building is The Knight Research Center in Portland, OR. While I did not work on this building, I know many people in the industry who did. The building used an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) approach that influenced the buildout of the research spaces. Instead of having separated research labs and areas, the building was intentionally designed and built to be an integrated lab facility which promotes collaboration among the research groups. Seeing the results of not only this project but several other IPD projects makes me excited to be working with CRB and their ONEsolution approach to IPD.

Q:  What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?

A: Outside of work, life is hectic with four kids and three dogs. Living in the beautiful state of Colorado, we are avid hikers and paddle boarders. In addition, I am a volunteer storyteller at the local library and serve as the board chair for the nonprofit The Sacred Transition.