Strengthening the Project Manager/Foreman Partnership

Norb Slowikowski

July 2008

There are many different aspects that go into the project manager/foreman relationship. If the pathway between these two main components is cluttered with miscommunication and problems, the entire operation consequently suffers. Each party needs to know what makes the other tick. The project manager has to take the lead and follow a series of guidelines in order for the partnership to work at an optimum level.

Review the estimate with the foreman. How many man-days are in the estimate? Review actual staffing against the estimate. Make adjustments as required. Are there better ways to get the work done? Make sure the customer agrees with the way you want to proceed.

Make sure that the quality of work meets the customer’s requirements. You may want to have the customer review the quality of your work at various stages of the job. Schedule such a meeting in advance.

Conduct an on-site safety inspection when you go to a job. Walk the job with the foreman and review what both of you observe. Discuss taking corrective measures where appropriate.

Check the foreman’s performance on maintaining a clean environment. Review discrepancies and discuss remedial measures. Expect improvement. Provide positive feedback when cleanliness standards are met.

Make sure that the company issued tools are properly maintained and that the foremen have the tools they are supposed to have. Review with them the tool requirements as specified for the job.

Ensure that the foreman fulfills all paperwork requirements and completes them in a legible, accurate, timely manner.

Encourage the foreman to communicate to you any barrier that affects his effectiveness or productivity on the job. Tell him that you can’t help him if he doesn’t tell you about these barriers. Let him know that it’s OK to communicate problems. You are there to help eliminate them. Examples of some barriers are late delivery or wrong material sent to a job, broken equipment, lack of support from the general contractor’s superintendent, irate customers and lack of timely information.

Remind the foreman that he is the company’s representative on the job. The way he talks, behaves and presents himself to the customer and the other tradesmen is essential for building teamwork on the job site. He must provide excellent service to your internal and external customers.

Make sure you communicate to the foreman that he will be required at times to order materials that may not be shown on the blueprints. Tell him that you expect him to make those judgments and follow through on such assignments. It’s important to communicate with the PM when this becomes necessary.

Inform the foreman that it is important to practice positive customer relations with other trades, his own crew and the customer. He needs to be sensitive to the customer’s needs, communicate them to the appropriate people and then follow up to see that those needs are met.

Let the foreman know that you are extremely interested in any input he has that will improve productivity on the job site. If he has suggestions to do things better, you’re listening.

Explain to the foreman that it is very important that he knows how to read and understand prints and specifications. You may ask the customer’s engineer or PM to review these items with you and the foreman when you are on the job site. You may have to provide individual coaching or ask him to attend a training class to improve this essential skill. It should not be overlooked.

Again, mention to the foreman that he has to inform the PM anytime something occurs that will hamper productivity or obstruct positive progress on the job. Stay away from any conflict with other people. Communicate the problem to your PM immediately so that remedial action can be taken.

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.