The Contractor’s Best Friend /08-21-2013/ 7 Signs of Poor Project Leadership…And How You Can Prevent Them

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Running successful and profitable projects is important for every contractor, yet some construction leaders continue to miss the “signs” of poor project or job management.

Having conducted surveys with contractors across the United States and Canada, a national research organization specializing in the construction industry identified some significant reasons for poor building results. The Center for Construction Innovation & Development in fact found about 15 reoccurring issues that can trip up a contractor.

I recognized about seven snags -- let’s call them “signs” -- that can represent challenges that might also be symptoms of potentially greater problems for our businesses. In some cases, by the time a contractor recognizes the “sign” it might already be too late for any late game miracle.

Therefore, consider the “Seven Signs” that often raise their ugly heads for contractors when things are not going well. Check off any that you have experienced. We’ll address how to prevent these signs from making too long a stay in your company or on your project.

  • Under-supervised or lacking knowledgeable supervision
  • Inability or lack of knowledge of how to administer change orders (not collecting monies for work performed)
  • Job not completed on time (a pattern is starting)
  • One or more contracts have a claim or pattern of owners/customers holding back final payment
  • Company is continually threatened with litigation
  • Increase in backlog with few management resources
  • Lead time to prepare bids is too short or lacks needed “intel”

Have you observed any of the above signs in your company or at your job sites? I sure hope not…BUT if you have then pay attention to a few prevention techniques that are sure to help you overcome each of the “Seven Signs” listed.

1. Staff Project with Adequate & Knowledgeable Supervision

OK, this really sounds super simple, right? But contractors continue to put poorly trained or not-ready-for-prime-time field supervisors on projects that they are just not equipped to handle. Why? Perhaps because they don’t have anyone else!

Trust me when I say that if this is a challenge for you, you are not alone. However, if you are admittedly placing a less than “A-List” supervisor on a project then you might need to personally oversee that crew’s progress. This is where holding daily early morning “huddles” to discuss strategies for the day and then afternoon “huddles” to confirm that what you thought was to happen…happened!

On projects that might experience this “sign” work harder at preparing your supervisor with a preconstruction-like effort. Sit down with him and, detail by detail, go through each step of the project. You will certainly educate the leader on the project and you might just create a bit more confidence and improve morale for the leader to pass on to the crew.

2. Be Proactive on Change Order Management (C.O.M.)

This is so easy to correct it’s almost laughable…and would be if it weren’t such a drain on a contractor’s cash flow. Setting the wheels in motion for C.O.M. begins at the bid proposal. It needs to be clearly stated in each written or electronic bid that changes to scope of work under contract will require a change order document, signed by the owner and the contractor, and a clear provision of payment. Quit allowing customers to sweet talk you into changes in their likes or needs without any documentation of the changes and the expenses associated with completing the work. This is not about refusing to do outside-the-contract work; it’s about doing the requested work and getting paid for it!

3. Practice the “4DX” Model of Job Completion

There are four disciplines of execution that you might incorporate to begin bringing your jobs in on time:

$    The Discipline of Scheduling Hard Dates

$    The Discipline of Measuring Daily Performance

$    The Discipline of Maintaining Crew Updates

$    The Discipline of Goal Setting

To schedule “hard dates” is to be clear, firm, and committing your schedule to paper or an electronic job planner. Hard dates represent real days and calendar dates that commit you and your crews to finishing the job. Dates are made more “hard” when you are accurately calculating and applying productivity rates to a realistic schedule while considering weather, other contractors etc.

Measuring daily performance clearly requires the contractor to know what productivity rate crews are achieving and the amount of work that is projected based on this rate. Daily productivity levels should then be set as goals, which address the fourth discipline.

Finally, maintaining consistent crew updates on a project’s progress, challenges and problems keeps everyone connected to executing the project on the same page.

If you are beginning to see a slight trend in not completing projects on time you will see it in resources still out on sites, fewer bills going out, less money coming in and an increase in dissatisfied customers. Apply the 4DX Model and start winning!

Next week we’ll have a special Labor Day article, but in two weeks I’ll cover the remaining four of the “Seven Signs.”

Brad Humphrey  

© 2013 Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/The Contractor’s Best Friend™

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