How to Organize a New Construction Leader's First 90 Days

Every professional coach will tell you that getting off to a good start will encourage and enhance his team’s chances of winning the game. Every great golfer will tell you that hitting for par or better on the first few holes can relax him and make him play with more confidence. Even professional airline pilots recognize the importance of getting off to a great start while speeding down a runway for take off.

It’s just as critical for the individual moving into a new construction leadership role to get off to a great start. Whether the individual is moving to become a foreman, superintendent, project manager, lead estimator, even president, getting off to a great start will embolden both the individual’s confidence and demonstrate the “right decision” made by senior leaders.

The first 90 days of any leader’s life allows for both settling into the new position and getting acquainted with those he or she will be leading. Let’s take a brief look at what a new construction leader’s (NCL) first 90 days should entail.

Days 1-7: Meet, greet, vision & direction

This first week should certainly include a full and thorough orientation to the company, and the NCL should meet all the players above, below and at the peer level — if possible, something more than a quick handshake or an acknowledged nod of the head. It is also critical that the NCL gains the real vision and direction of the company. Even if the NCL isn’t new to the company it’s a great idea to reacquaint him to the path in which the owner or senior leader of the company wants to be heading.

Days 8-30: Review, listen & take notes

The NCL should formally and informally set out to review the efforts of the previous leader, looking for the good that was done and take note of any unsuccessful efforts. The time spent here should be primarily focused on asking questions and listening. The NCL should always take notes and review them at the end the day. The NCL should also formulate his own questions about what he is or is not hearing and prepare to share these questions with senior leaders for clarification.

Days 31-60: Project understanding, ‘thoroughbreds,’ check-up, needs & expectations

This next period of time should be spent pinning down key people; I call them the “thoroughbreds.” These are the top people who have the right attitude about what is needed and expected. The leader should seek out these individuals and get a better handle on projects, areas needing improvement, priorities and expectations from the workers for their new leader. It is during this time that a NCL first begins to develop a rough draft of what he is going to do or what changes might be needed.

Days 61-82: Identify the ‘A team’, prioritize improvement efforts, needs & set KPIs

This time period should really begin to bring the NCL’s thoughts together and to begin setting out a plan. The NCL must determine who his “A team” will be. Now, this might not mean changing the roles of current employees, but it could. Putting the plan together will include prioritizing those efforts that must be addressed now and who will be involved with impacting those items.

Finally, the NCL should develop his own KPIs, or key performance indicators. This allows the team to identify and see what performance objectives or goals will now be addressed. Some of the KPIs may be similar to what existed. In such cases the NCL should give credit to others, including the past leader, for having set the targets.

Days 83-90: Present observations with senior leader, vision & action plan

This final week of the 90 days will require the NCL to make a full presentation on what he has observed and the new direction in which he intends to lead. Any questions the NCL has not already asked should be asked now. The NCL should provide the senior leader with the intended direction he will follow. It is also important that the NCL listens for differences or other ideas from the senior leader to further refine his thinking and plan of attack.

Now, many construction owners might think this first 90 days is a bit over the top for, say, a new crew foreman. Yet, while the 90 days might be able to be compressed a bit for a foreman, the same path of discussion, understanding and planning should be executed.

Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a management/consulting company committed to the construction industry. For more information about Brad’s organization go to