Manage Better! (duh)
I am an ENR-junkie, a habit I strongly advise for anyone interested in the construction industry. This morning’s articles included a thoughtful one on productivity in construction. Its title? “Don’t Blame the Workers.” It’s a standard office water cooler topic that those lazy s.o.b.’s out on the job site screwed up someone’s (allegedly excellent) estimate through laziness, extended coffee & lunch breaks, standing around, etc. In fact, research clearly shows that workers out on the job aren’t the primary cause for lost productivity. Most problems are due to poor project management planning: late material deliveries, inadequate or unclear task priorities, inefficient job site materials handling logistics, etc. Chris Heger, a superintendent for Turner Construction, says it this way: “I try to set them up for success rather than trying to avoid failure.”
In a nutshell that’s the key for job site productivity. The guys on the site have been making their living working their craft for any number of years, know what they’re doing, and take pride in their work. It’s up to us to organize well, communicate well, and continually work toward achieving excellence, or as my carpenter-partner Vic used to say, “work towards zero.” It’s a simple strategy that works. The primary technique to keep things moving is short interval planning and work packaging. Analyze the process in detail and plan for success. Mr. Heger uses the term “work breakdown structures” for managing subs. Sound familiar? It should, as it’s the standard nomenclature of our software tools, regardless of which brand is your tool of choice for estimating and project management. You should be producing estimates and schedules and their subsequent reports for the job site, broken down into short interval tasks using WBS. This enables clear communication of our expectations in a format that’s clear out on the job. If things start to go awry, with short duration work breakdown segments, it’s quickly identifiable while there’s still time to fix it.