Improve Your Preplanning Agenda for On-the-job Success

Recently I had the pleasure of working with a contractor with multiple locations. The focus was primarily on the need for and how to conduct a preconstruction meeting. This wasn’t a large general contractor, rather a smaller contractor who depends on everyone at his company, in all locations, to do things right the first time.

As a rule, general contractors have normally included the preconstruction effort as part of their preplanning. However, as more contractors of all sizes and specialties realize narrow profit margins, the need to ensure that “costs of goods sold” are executed as estimated leads to an even greater need to prepare and plan jobs thoroughly.

In this article I will provide a short but powerful agenda that you can adopt to conduct your own preconstruction meetings.

Present a General Scope of Work

Whoever sold the project needs to clearly communicate what the big picture looks like before getting into the weeds of the work. Often pictures are worth a thousand words, but pictures taken with our smartphones don’t always display the needed information. It’s always important to take pictures of the more complicated areas, not leaving it to our crews to figure things out when they arrive at the site.

Discuss Client Profile, Issues & Expectations

While your crews may perform similar work from job to job, the one distinguishing difference will be the customer. Again, the employee with the customer relationship needs to debrief the crew leaders on what sort of customer they will be working for: Is the customer high maintenance, nit-picky, laid-back, etc.? This part of the agenda should also invite discussion of any unusual item or challenge. It’s the out of the ordinary issues that most often get discussed — but don’t forget the more mundane effort. Finally, whatever project expectations the customer has, or you as an owner have, need to be shared and clearly understood.

Discuss Non-negotiables and Documents

What does your company require your crews to comply with and what documents are needed? What does your local city, county or state require in the form of documentation? Finally, what federal laws are you required to secure and maintain with the appropriate documentation? Sorry for the great reminder, but as contractors we cannot allow anyone in our company to jeopardize the legitimacy of our business by not being in full compliance with any formal process or law.

Discuss the Project’s Building Process

Now we’re at the portion of the meeting that too often gets discussed either while the crews are on their way to the site or have just arrived to the site. It’s critical that the employee who sold the job communicates how he initially processed the job in his head and how he transferred that to an estimate. Then, with the crew leaders engaged, the constructability of the job can be openly discussed, with changes addressed if needed.

If you are a contractor who might complete more than one project a week, then you might wish to move through several projects during this preplanning effort. No matter your project size, it is critical that the folks who sold the job, estimated the job and who will execute the job meet to discuss the actual construction process best suited for the project in review.

Produce a Final Next Week Look Ahead/Job Schedule

Many contractors use the Next Week Look Ahead (NWLA) in some form or fashion today. All of the critical discussions addressed in the first four agenda steps should culminate in the best schedule possible that captures what the brains of the organization believe to be the best schedule. This schedule needs to capture order, priority and notations about needed equipment, material deliveries and communication with inspectors and client contacts.

Final Q&A and Review

Certainly different members throughout this preconstruction meeting will ask questions. However, just before the team “breaks the huddle” it is important to allow time for one last round of questions. This one more time for a brief Q&A might allow those who have been quiet up to now a final chance to speak.

If your crews take won jobs and execute the estimated work flawlessly, then this article has been of little importance. However, if you are finding that your crews and estimators are not always on the same page, then perhaps you need to implement a more aggressive and thorough pre-work discussion. Use the agenda in this article to move your preplanning to the next level.