1st rule: Keep the forms easy-to-use.
2nd rule: Design the forms to collect the exact data you need.
3th rule: Pre-print the forms complete with repeating numbers (like the project).
4th rule: Use coding systems and reference cards.
So what makes a form easy-to-use?
- It has plenty of space to write in the required information.
- It flows naturally from left-to-right and top-to-bottom.
- It doesn't use unfamiliar abbreviations.
- It contains lines to help keep data in their proper space.
Take a close look at your current timesheet. Does it possess the characteristics of an easy-to-use form? If not, create a new timesheet.
One other issue for you to be aware of: Timesheets that are easy to fill out often are difficult to input payroll data from. Sacrifice ease of data entry for ease of data recording.
Warning - do not sacrifice ease of field recording for ease of computer entry, no matter how loud your accounting and clerical staff complains!
Use Reference Codes
Writing a number down is far easier and faster than writing down a word. Numbers take up less room and are easier to read. To make the numbers easy to remember, give your field team reference cards that contain indexes linking:
- Employee name to employee number
- Project name to project number
- Work activity description to cost code number
- Material description to material number
- Equipment description to equipment numbers
- Approved benchmark codes for the project
Reference lists need to be available. Keep blank copies of all forms with the reference cards.
Provide enough copies of the reference lists so that each gang box has one, the job trailer has one, the foreman has one in his clipboard, and each major piece of equipment has one in the cab. On projects that run over a month, you will find laminating the reference cards to be well worth the cost.
Moving on to the inevitable, one or more of your foreman refuses to submit complete and accurate data. What to do? Time to tap your inner boss. Hold the offender(s) accountable. State your position very clearly and concisely. "Help us collect good data or you will be asked to leave the company."
Don't duck the issue. Don't let anyone off the hook for any reason. It only takes one exception to undo all of your progress. Don't let your clerical staff undermine the process. They will want to simplify it. Don't let your estimator undermine the process. He will want to complicate it.
Stick to Your Guns
You KNOW performance tracking is essential for long term business success. It is the foundation for estimating, scheduling, budgeting, and incentive programs. There you go. You now have your roadmap for getting good data from the field. Follow it to much success.
Ron Roberts teams with Guy Gruenberg as The Contractor's Business Coach. They show contractors how to grow their businesses profitably. To sign up for their FREE Newsletter or join their Private Club, visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com.