How to Conduct Effective Job Site Planning

Norb Slowikowski / February 2015

I can’t stress it enough: Managing the job is an “all hands on deck” situation.
While experience as a project manager is certainly important, it is obviously not the whole answer to successful job site management. An ability to assess the needs and requirements of a project is essential. Few people alone know all that must be accomplished to complete a major project, so it is essential that the foreman knows who to turn to for assistance.
The first step is to form your planning team, which would consist of your foreman, superintendent, project manager/estimator and any other staff people relevant to the project.
The project manager should lead the team through a project review, identifying objectives to be accomplished during each major phase of the work. Listen carefully to team members’ ideas and encourage participation, for if you selected your team well, you have before you the solutions to the problems you will soon face.
As your team develops a game plan, be sure someone actually records it in a set of meeting minutes. Then distribute each session’s minutes to all members before the next meeting. Spend a little time at each session reviewing the ideas of the last meeting, discarding those that no longer make sense.
When the team feels good about the project plan, have a major review of all that has been decided—a dress rehearsal, if you will, of the building of the project. Look for omissions and weaknesses. Do not fail to correct any suspect operation. Review the plan until it sounds right—until it works. Distribute the plan to everyone who will be involved on the project. Then, as the work advances, make everyone adhere to the plan. The key is to follow up.
Your planning should have resolved some key issues about the project:

  • Identify the job site staff: the general superintendent, other superintendents, project engineers, office managers, etc.
  • Assign major project responsibilities. Remember that responsibilities aren’t always defined by titles or job descriptions.
  • Identify all long lead time materials and services. Arrange for timely procurement. Sort materials if necessary, and make contracts early with those firms upon which the schedule depends.
  • Create your progress schedule. If not in ultimate detail, at least in general form.
  • Check on timing, the flow of workers, materials and equipment around and through the job site. A few lost minutes each day can greatly impair a tight schedule, especially if the time is lost from a cycling activity such as forming typical structures.
  • Plan for safety. Preliminary planning should recognize potential safety hazards. If your planning has been thorough, progress should occur without too many problems. However, be attentive to the following warning signs so you can make adjustments to the plan as necessary:
    • Poor or negative attitudes or personnel can indicate confusion with or misunderstanding of the project game plan.
    • A faltering project start may mean there has been poor communication of the game plan to job site personnel, suppliers or subcontractors. If this is the case, review the plan with them and get their input.
    • A failure to meet scheduled activity completion dates may mean those responsible for the plan’s execution aren’t following up. There is no substitute for constant and intense attention to detail. Review submittal logs, clarification requests and correspondence to see if information is flowing freely to all involved.
    • Constant failure of jobsite staff to complete work activities at or near predicted unit costs can mean your budget numbers were wrong or there are labor inefficiencies.

Although no plan is perfect, it certainly makes sense to use the team approach in preparing your jobsite plan. By using the diverse talents of all job site planning team members, you will be in a better position to increase productivity and profitability on each and every project. Remember: The whole is still greater than the sum of its parts.

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