End the Disorder from Top to Bottom

Norb Slowikowski / November 2019

One of the biggest obstacles to improving productivity is a disorganized company. The last thing you need is a chaotic work environment. All that disorder will bring confusion, frustration and low productivity from all players on the job. Everyone in your company needs to work together as a team if they are to share in success. Since profits are generated on the job site by people working in the trenches, they need support from management so that they are in position to maximize productivity and job profitability. The best way to keep everyone working together moving toward a common goal is to be highly organized at all times.
    
Organizing requires systematically arranging all of the pieces in the work process through effective planning and coordination. Here are the key components of the work process:
    
Planning. Look ahead and decide where you want to be within a specific time frame. It starts with setting a goal with a series of action steps to achieve the goal. A foreman needs to do weekly planning to ensure that he is proactive, not reactive.
    
Prioritizing. You can’t do everything at the same time. It’s the foreman’s job to determine what is really important and prioritize accordingly. Specify the activities in the action plan by order of importance and assign a deadline for completion.
    
Scheduling. The GC provides a macro schedule for the job. It is the foreman’s responsibility to perform a two-week look-ahead that shows the GC’s superintendent how you will fit and meet the schedule. Use the look-ahead in conjunction with the job schedule to properly plan labor needs and prepare the team to do specific tasks at predetermined time intervals. The look-ahead is also critical for organizing tools, equipment and material.
    
Dividing. Start with the total scope of work. The foreman needs to utilize a Swiss cheese approach: Poke holes in the whole job by breaking it down into smaller chunks that can be completed in a realistic time frame.
    
Assigning. This is the skill of delegation. Assign specific tasks with a deadline to each crew member (a production goal). When assigning tasks, take each team member and work their strengths. Know exactly what your people are good at skills-wise and assign tasks that they can complete with competence. Set people up to succeed. Be sure to provide clear instructions for executing the assigned tasks.
    
Performing. Once people know what to do, how to do it and when to do it by, they must perform. Wasting time is not acceptable. By completing tasks in a timely basis, they are helping you meet the overall schedule for the job. Support them and help them understand that they are key players in the productivity process.

Link Up Support. Ensure that your crew achieves quality results. Be a coach, not a critic. Let your people know that if they aren’t sure of what to do or how to do it, they need to contact you right away so that you can help them do their job effectively and efficiently. Let them know that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.
    
Monitoring & Checking. The foreman must follow up and check that the work is being done right. The monitoring process includes the following steps:

  • Observe what the employee is doing and how he/she is doing it. For great work provide positive feedback. If the employee is doing the work at incorrectly or in a sub-par manner, intervene and use coaching to help him/her get back on track.
  • Always circle back to ensure that the work is being done the right way.

In sum, keep utilizing the P-D-C-A-A Concept:
    Plan the work.
    Do the work.
    Check the work.
    Assess the work.
    Adjust the plan, if necessary.

Getting organized is a logical, sequential process. To effectively execute organizing skills the foreman, superintendent and project manager must work together synergistically to bring about quality results.
    
There needs to be a unity of purpose, which means all players in the construction process must understand the following key components:

  • The skill requirements for labor.
  • Expected results for each person on the job.
  • Level of authority and clearly defined reporting relationships.
  • Feedback system.
  • Support from the office to the field and how this support will occur.
  • Access to key information, which includes the following:
    • Scope of work.
    • Quality specs for the job/blueprints.
    • The subcontractor’s contractual responsibilities.
    • Job schedule.
    • Paperwork requirements.
    • Procedures for ordering equipment and materials.

 A team that is structured properly will ensure that the job site work process flows smoothly from beginning to end. Keep chaos at bay by doing all the things you need to do to stay organized.

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. To contact him, email norbslow2@gmail.com.