Aligning All the Pieces: How to Get Organized

Norb Slowikowski / September 2016

Question: What essential step do we need to take before embarking on any job or project?

Answer: the first step is always to get organized.
First things first. Organizing is the ability to systematically arrange all the necessary pieces in the work process so that desired results can be achieved in a timely, efficient manner. Sounds simple, right? Although it’s easy to define how to organize, one of the chief concerns for contractors is how to do it effectively.
Without aligning all the pieces in the correct manner, the job suffers under the weight of a sprawling series of independent segments that don’t cohere into a final procedure. This sprawl can lead to a “mission creep” of sorts that leaves the job over budget and off schedule. By breaking down the nuts and bolts of what, how and why we must organize, we can assemble the pieces into a process that works for the company as a whole.
Organizing for the job requires dividing up work among crew members, assigning work and providing clear instructions for implementing the assigned activities, linking up the field with a support system, having a defined project manager’s role in supporting the jobsite foreman, and planning and anticipating ongoing needs for jobsite productivity.
To effectively execute the skill of organizing the foreman, superintendent and PM, one must clearly understand what organizing entails. 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 of each person on the job.
  • Level of authority and clearly defined reporting relationships.
  • Feedback system.
  • Support from office to the field and how this support will occur.
  • Access to other necessary information, which includes scope of work, budgets, blueprints and specs, schedule, procedures and paperwork requirements, job site meetings, access to office support staff, proper materials and correct amount, jobsite working conditions and training for people with skill deficiencies.

To complete the organizing process, it is essential that the following job controls be put in place to ensure that the job site work process flows smoothly from beginning to end.
Pre-job Planning Meeting. This is usually the responsibility of the project managers, and the size of the project usually dictates the amount of planning required. When considering such a meeting, you should consider issuing a policy statement and determine who will attend. Use a pre-job planning checklist that details key items for job success, and prepare written minutes of items discussed that will be distributed to appropriate personnel.
Post-job Review. The purpose of the post-job review is to review how the job came out and to provide feedback to all key parties. This information will be used to avoid problems on similar jobs in the future. It’s a “lessons learned” exercise that helps in improving productivity on future projects.
Tool & Equipment Inventory/Maintenance. Many times, tools and equipment are sent to jobs without a process for inventory control. It’s important to maintain an inventory control of tools and equipment and have an M&R program in place to repair defective tools and equipment.
Jobsite Safety Program. Implementing and maintaining an effective jobsite safety program is a must. To ensure that safety becomes a way of life on site, the following controls need to be put in place: a safety rules checklist, a job site inspection checklist, weekly tool box safety talks, a hazard communication program and a job site safety program that includes a job site safety inspection report, your company’s safety policy and safety rules, a format for tool box safety meetings, and procedures for reporting accidents.
Jobsite Paperwork. Requiring the foreman to complete paperwork on the job site has a lot to do with tracking productivity for the overall project. The office needs information from the field to determine the profitability of the job as it progresses. If the foreman fails to maintain and report jobsite data to his project manager, then the company is in the dark when determining how they did on a specific project.
Labor Tracking Process. Have a process with key labor codes broken out by specific areas on the job site.
Start using these key job controls to improve overall productivity on the job site. Getting organized isn’t easy, but it’s a necessary skill for achieving desired results. It’s easy to move away from process when an obstacle presents itself, but this is exactly the time to adhere to the tenets of organization. Skipping steps can ruin a job before it begins, so don’t skip the fundamentals of organization!

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