There is little fanfare given to the leader or worker who goes about their job every day, performing work in a disciplined and consistent manner. The attention often goes to the individual who pulls off some miraculous effort to save a project from disaster.
What is interesting however is that for the leader and worker who daily, practices consistent discipline to insure they have the tools they need, and make sure their work efforts are methodically followed, their results are consistently better. This is what I have come to call, being “exceptional at the ordinary things.”
There is little doubt that “ordinary things” do not possess much excitement. I mean, how can some of the following items be considered anything but ordinary?
- Making sure the equipment and vehicles are gassed up, lubed and oiled, and properly loaded and unloaded.
- Taking the time to see that all plans, pictures, and specifications are in the job file.
- Double or triple checking prints for accuracy.
- Looking to see that all working areas are safe and pose no threat to workers due to power or gas lines in the area.
- Regularly having the crew picking up after themselves to insure the site is clean.
- All project tools and equipment are accounted for daily and returned to their respective storage areas.
- Preparing for each new day, conducting morning “huddles” with the workers to be sure that they know their roles and the scope of work for the day.
Such tasks do not require a “Hail Mary” pass effort, but instead, a daily consistency to perform the same procedural things that are required to achieve the needed quality, safety, and to meet critical schedules.
If more contractors over-emphasized being exceptional about performing the ordinary things, more companies would reap the benefits. I mean, consider briefly a few benefits to those who are exceptional at the ordinary things. Can you imagine:
- Less risk to workplace injuries?
- Better house-keeping of job-sites?
- Equipment that last longer due to consistent PM?
- Jobs that start on time?
- Less tool replacement costs?
- Customers are bragging on your worker’s efficiency, quality, and clean job-site?
- Projects that make the estimated profit?
- Greater peace of mind for you?
So, if there are so many benefits to be realized by having all our workers being exceptional at the ordinary things, how can we influence or encourage this experience?
Let’s look at a few efforts that leaders and owners can make to influence their employees to be exceptional at the ordinary things.
- Formally Create and Document the Ordinary Things
Whether it is creating a “pre-start” list of tools, equipment, building components, etc. needed for the day or providing crews with an inventory management sheet to keep better track of what they are to bring back to the yard or tool crib, you will need to document the expected procedures to follow.
- Compliment Individuals When They Practice the Basics
Remember, “praise what you want practiced.” When employees receive recognition for doing the basics, they will be more likely to maintain the effort. No different than a professional athlete who methodically prepares for their daily workouts, being consistent on the little things allow the bigger things to be more easily completed.
- Make it Your Norm to Remind Workers About Consistently Following Every Process or Procedure
Contractors will grow frustrated if they assume their workers are all doing the “little” things each day to bring about the best results. Reminding workers helps to keep them focused on following process steps. Being disciplined in the “ordinary” things will make it easier to take on the extraordinary things with more confidence and preparedness.
- Review Problem Jobs with Leaders and Workers to Determine What Isn’t Consistently Followed
Finding inconsistencies in following procedures or processes is almost always the reason behind poor work results. Reviewing jobs that had higher than expected costs should always be looked at to determine the cause of the increased cost and what was or was not followed. Inevitably the reasons come back to confirm that one or more things were not performed as required.
- Conduct a “Spring Training” One to Two Times Each Year
If the professional sports teams can require their coaches and players to prepare for the season, is it any less important for our own people to have their own form of “Spring Training”? Use such times to re-educate work efforts, include hands-on learning, and challenge workers to strengthen the “ordinary” tasks and how they are to be completed.
- Prepare to Discipline Those Who Fail to Practice the Basics
This can be challenging for the contractor that has lost control of workers embracing the need to perform well on the ordinary things. However, when workers, and leaders, are disciplined for failing to perform important basic but needed tasks, then the message begins to be understood that doing the little things really do matter. Failure to do so could cost one their job!
Just think what your performance could be if all involved would spend just as much energy and focus on performing the ordinary things? Consider how much lower your equipment costs could be or much cleaner or safer your job sites might be if each worker made an exceptional effort to complete the small and ordinary tasks.
One final observation about this topic. Being exceptional at ordinary things reflects the degree of pride within the employee. It is easy to get excited about a new project working for a high-profile customer but not about a small project within our own company. But both project types benefit from workers who are focused, consistent, and attentive.
To perform every project with such proactive and positive effort is reflective of people who take pride in their work, their preparation, and their reputation. This is what most contractors need to direct their time and attention to, the raising of the ordinary things as needing and benefiting from exceptional work efforts.
The Contractor’s Best Friend