Tag Archives: planning

Exceptional at the Ordinary Things

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Brad Humphrey

The Contractor’s Best Friend

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[AUDIO] Making the Call

Learn how to take the initiative and “make the call” for your business – it just may just work in your favor, pushing you, and your workers, to being fully engaged, busy, and productive.

 

[TRANSCRIPT]

One of the most common comments heard on most construction sites is, “Whatever we planned for today will change.”  This comment is more than spoken words, it often becomes a mindset of the crew leader.

What’s actually surprising is that very few things change that much during the average day in construction.  Sure, the concrete scheduled to arrive for the 11:00 AM pour might be delayed, or one of the contractors arrives to the site an hour late, or even, the quick thunderstorm that suddenly appeared before blowing through in ten minutes, are all examples of changes.  Yet, such changes do not always have the massive impact on production if field leaders are better prepared for “Plan B” when such interruptions take place.

It is the responsibility of every construction field leader to, when a change, or adjustment is required, that a “call” is placed to the appropriate individual.  That appropriate individual for most contractors is their job scheduler.

The impact of a call made to the job scheduler can strengthen logistics, make greater use of company resources, and keep the client’s confidence in the contractor.  Yet, with all that is good about calling the job scheduler immediately after recognizing or experience an unscheduled change, many field leaders continue to be slow to make “the call.”

What are the benefits of calling your company’s Job Scheduler?  Let’s consider a few very critical benefits that can even touch your own job security.

  • Calling the Job Scheduler gets the person with the widest knowledge of needs, available resources, and customer needs in the decision-making process.
  • Calling the Job Scheduler “sooner versus later” provides the Job Scheduler with more time to consider more options that may strengthen the company’s next move.
  • Calling the Job Scheduler reduces the number of people who will all have an opinion about “what we should do,” but have little to no authority to change the schedule.
  • Calling the Job Scheduler can make the schedule change sooner, often mitigating the potential loss of wasted time and increase the potential profitability from a situation that could have been a disaster.

Don’t think for a moment that calling your Job Scheduler is taking them away from what they are paid to do…this is their job.  But what the Job Scheduler does not have are your eyes, field presence, and a feel about the situation.  Similar to a Football Team’s Offensive Coordinator, sitting up high in a stadium, they may have a broader view of the playing field, but it is still the QB who is still engaged and allowed to bring what he “feels” is the right call.  Consider the two roles:  The OC is high up and sees the entire field; the QB, however, can also feel the momentum of the other players, feel more the temperature and motivation level of his teammates…and that of the opposing team.  It’s not a perfect science but the need for both roles is important.

So too is your role as the Field Leader to keep your Project Scheduler informed and updated on how you are seeing “the field,” and, what the “temperature” of the crew members best dictate, or how much pressure is your customer placing on your project to move ahead, or what the developing weather appears to be.

Communicating what you are experiencing is crucial to the Job Scheduler as he or she takes your input and considers how best to support the next move based on what he has his hands on in regard to information.

It is the Job Scheduler that often has a better bead on how plants are operating, what other projects can be moved back or accelerated, or if “Option B” is the better choice and will make the best use of the crew involved.  It is the Job Scheduler who more often will have a better feel on how thin the equipment resources currently are, or are there enough operators to make certain changes, and even what is the expectation of the most demanding customer.

Here are some situations that you will want to act clearly and quickly in making a call to your Scheduler.

  1. Assess a Mistake

You are paid to make decisions, so make them!  If you, or your Foreman, see something that is not right, assess the situation.  You should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Can we fix it now?
  • Will we need additional support to fix?
  1. How much time will this impact the schedule?

Notice what the first question is NOT?  “Who made the mistake?”  You can deal with the “Who” later; for now, you must assess what is to be done and how that will impact the schedule.

If the time estimate is anything more than 30-60 minutes the Foreman should call their Supervisor and give them the update.  Don’t delay and certainly do not wait until you have fixed a problem IF the time lost is still going to make an impact on the schedule.  When in doubt…call your Supervisor!

  1. When your Customer Changes Your Scope, Location, or Starting Point

While we work for the customer, they can take us off our intended schedule of work.  If any Foreman, and crew, arrive to the job site and the customer, who might be a GC/Superintendent, informs them that they need the crew doing something different than what was scheduled, get clarity as to the request or redirection, the Foreman should contact their Supervisor ASAP.  In some cases, the Foreman may need to join the Supervisor on the call with the Scheduler to determine what needs to be changed in the schedule.

Don’t take the changes put on you or your crew personally, but do take the initiative and contact the Supervisor or Scheduler to address the changing situation quickly.

  1. When Site Is Not Prepared for Our Crew

Probably the easiest to address but again, it appears to take longer than is needed to contact the Supervisor or Scheduler.  When our crews show up to our project site and what was promised, in advance by the GC/Developer, to be prepared for our crews to work…is not ready, then a quick call to the Supervisor is needed.  We simply cannot afford to have wasted time spent on a GC arm-twisting our Foreman, almost sweet talking them into staying and doing something else.  This gums up the entire schedule for that job and others.  And, of course the GC will never remember this episode later when they charge our company with getting something completed after it was the GC who held us up.

  1. When Projected Weather Conditions is Not Good

With more “stay outs” involving our crews working farther away geographically, we must rely on our Foremen to be the “weather man.”  If the weather is forecasted to be a real nasty event then a quick call to the Supervisor, or the Scheduler, needs to be placed for greater assessment.  Depending on the location, the costs involved thus far in the project, and the need of other projects, it’s imperative that such communication must be made.  The “call” must be placed with as great of clarity as possible.

  1. Resource Quantities are Short in Numbers or Are Wrong

This situation cannot happen!  It’s a reflection on so many others including Estmating, Cad-Techs, Yard, the projectd Foreman, and even the Supervisor.  But this situation can happen.  When it does, the Site Leader at the site must assess the shortage and identify exactly what is needed.  Then, the very next action is to contact the Supervisor or Scheduler to update and discuss next steps.  Again, it may be less expensive to keep the crew at the site, working on what can be accomplished, or, it may make more sense to have the crew drive to another site to assist.  Either way, the “call” must be made quickly, allowing the Scheduler more time to consider the next best moves that strengthens the schedule’s success.

None of the five situations are new.  Most of the actions suggested to address the situations are not new.  Yet, such situations still exist.  Therefore, it’s not for lack of education or experience that we continually revisit what should be done, so it must land on the leader’s shoulders, Foremen and Supervisors, to take quicker action.

Making “the call” is not a sign of humility or guilt, it’s a sign that we respect our company’s commitment to complete jobs on-time and at or below projected estimates to turn a profit for our company.  Now, by making “the call” in a quick and timely basis, we are accomplishing a few things:

  1. We can track the nature of the calls to measure what we are still short of perfecting.  Thus, we identify opportunities for improvement.  That’s a good thing.
  • Making “the call” sooner, rather than later, we are increasing those in charge of more coverage and authority to better position our company to make the best of a difficult situation, hopefully resulting in greater profitability. Remember, a profitable company is a lot more fun to work for and with, providing more benefits to everyone.

Don’t be slow to make “the call” when needed.  Be faster on the draw to call your next in line leader, even the Scheduler to get out in front of a mistake or potential delay.  Make such a call may just work in your favor, pushing you, and your workers, to being fully engaged, busy, and productive.

Make…the call!

Brad Humphrey

Getting the Best from Your Interns

A growing number of companies have realized the benefits to bringing an Internship Program to their organization.  Larger contractors have used Interns for years but the experience has become more common for many contractors, no matter their size.

For all the benefits that an Internship Program can bring to an organization, few companies really exhaust their efforts to make the experience all that it can be.  Let me share a few signs of a poor Internship Program.

  • College students are not interviewed; just “invited & assigned”
  • Interns are given primarily administrative or low difficulty jobs
  • Interns are not included in strategic based meetings, decisions, etc.
  • The company does not work to determine the potential of the Intern
  • The Intern is not questioned by their “host” company about new trends being taught in school

Ask many Interns who have experienced one or more of the signs listed above and you will find an Intern who heads back to school considering other career choices.  At the least, the Intern will probably not consider being hired by the same company they served their Internship.

If you believe that Internships are worth the effort, and include an Internship Program as part of your company’s strategy to grow the company by finding the future workers and leaders, then you will be quite pleased with this article.  If you are interested in starting an Internship Program or want to upgrade your current efforts, then this article will really resonate with you and provide you with some excellent building tips.  Remember, the Internship Program should be part of your future growth plans.

Let’s look at how to get the very best from your Interns…and your Internship Program.

 

  1. 1. Interview Intern Candidates as if You Were Hiring

Asking the local college to send over a few candidates to Intern with you is not going to help identify the best Intern Candidate.  You must plan to interview Intern Candidates in the same manner that you might interview any job candidate.  While the questions may be different, you need to prepare by interviewing the Intern to determine their aptitude and attitude.  Anything less than this level of commitment and you will have only brought on short-term administrative assistants.

  1. Identify, Train, and Commit an Intern “Point of Contact”

I conduct training for many contractors on how to be a leader to an Intern.  But first, a company needs to identify the right candidate to be an Intern Point of Contact, or IPC.  This person needs to be someone who will oversee and coach the Intern on their role, responsibilities, and their job expectations.  The IPC needs to be trained on how to interact with their Intern, how to address improvements when needed, even how to determine if the Intern should be a future candidate for employment.  Finally, the IPC needs to be fully committed to fulfilling all that is needed to make the Intern’s experience enjoyable, educational, and encouraging.  It is quite common for contractors to hire employees who may have served an Internship while they were in college.

  1. Develop Goals & Exit Strategies for the Intern

The Intern, while interviewing, should be told that they will have goals set if they are selected.  This effort must be accomplished and delivered on the Interns very first day with your company.  The Goals might be reflective of what the IPC believes the Intern should be striving to achieve during the time-period of the Internship. 

Once the Intern has been around for a few weeks, the IPC should sit down with the Intern and begin to map out some Exit Strategies for the Intern’s departure.  The Exit Strategies might be a continuation of the Goals, but they may also include other achievements that the IPC believes the Intern capable of finishing as they complete their Internship.  The Exit Strategies might include preparing for and making a presentation to senior leaders on their Internship experience or, it might include having the Intern complete some written exercise that has lasting value such as a Standard Operating Procedure, or a software instructional book, etc. 

  1. Match the Intern with Interest & Educational Desire

To gain the best from your Intern it will be important to match their focus with something that will interest them and provide for some educational value.  Part of any internship should include introducing the Intern to some of the realities of construction or the specialty of your organization.  Additionally, it is wise to ask the Intern what is an area that captures their interest or desire. 

The Intern’s interest should be discussed during the interviewing phase, before they are extended an offer to spend their internship with your company.  Once they arrive, a brief confirmation of what they shared as their interest is then matched with a possible role that brings as much of the opportunity and educational value to their time with you.  Not only does this meet their need, it also sends them back to school with a positive attitude and experience with your company, something that they will brag about to their Academic Advisor and to any of their peers interested in a future Internship.

  1. Empower the Intern with Some Authority & Responsibility

If you are to give the Intern a great experience by educating them on how the “real world” works, you will need to invest some authority and responsibility into their time spent with you.  Short of them running the company, you can still empower an Intern with some authority, allowing them to make decisions that do not require them to have permission. Remember, they always have their IPC to throw ideas at, and who can counsel them on better options.  Giving the Intern a clear role description and the responsibilities that go along with the role reinforces the Intern that they were not brought in only to make copies of drawings or to file customer files.

  1. Schedule Regular Follow-Up by the IPC & Other Company Leaders

Depending on the length of the Internship, there should be periodic and regular follow-up sessions with the Intern.  And, because so many companies fail at prioritizing the time spent with an Intern, I would highly recommend that a regular schedule of more formal Follow-up Meetings are arranged between the Intern, their IPC, and other company leaders.  The list of “other” company leaders might include the Owner, a more Senior Leader, and a Human Resource Manager.  Conducting the Follow-ups with such a diversity of leaders will reinforce the commitment that your company has to making the Intern, and the Internship Program, a satisfying and a learning experience for the company. 

  1. Create a Team Exercise that the Intern Leads

One of the most interesting and beneficial observations I have made of companies who have a great Internship Program is engaging the Intern in creating and facilitating a team-based exercise.  The exercise might be job related or it might be team-building related.  It’s not critical what the exercise is but it will provide the Intern with the chance to facilitate a meeting that they control, thus providing an opportunity for you to monitor just how well they do in a mixed-group of people.

  1. Insure that the Intern Spends an Evening with the Team

Only so much can be learned about an Intern during the work day.  While grabbing a cup of coffee with an Intern, possibly taking them out lunch every few weeks, are good things to do, and should be encouraged, getting the Intern out for an evening with one or more of the company employees often furthers the experience for the company and Intern.  This is not about going out and getting drunk, but instead, taking the Intern to a more relaxing environment, allowing them to share more freely how they are doing, what type of things they feel they are learning, and do they have any ideas or recommendations to share about the Internship experience.

  1. Assess the Internship for All Involved Parties

By the end of the Internship process it will be important to capture any learned lessons and opportunities for improvement that has been gained.  Often, a company will only ask the Intern about their experience.  I would recommend that you also include those who were part of the Internship Program, whether directly (IPC), or indirectly.  Gathering feedback from the multiple perspectives can contribute to strengthening your Internship Program.

Internships are a great way for you to catch a close-up view of some of tomorrow’s workforce.  It’s a chance to see what sort of talent is out there to hire.  It’s also a chance for you to challenge your staff to recognize the importance of working with younger workers, being more sensitive about how your company “on-boards” new workers, and assess how effective the company is on training and development.

Internships are not about giving a college student an easy go of it, allowing them to spend eight to twelve weeks, maybe even sixteen weeks or more, just hanging out.  No, the Internship should be viewed as an honor to experience and an awakening to how hard great companies work to be successful.

Want to get the best from your Interns?  Then put some of the steps presented here to work in your company and watch the energy that takes place between your Interns and many of the company employees who will interact with the Intern.  It really is a win-win scenario.

Here’s to Getting the Best from Your Next Intern!

Brad Humphrey

The Contractor’s Best Friend