Crew Foreman Study Your Job Folder

Tips for how construction foremen can improve their performance

Agenda Freedigitalphotos

My wife would tell you I was terrible about putting together toys for our kids at Christmas time. I remember once, when we purchased a play kitchen that had to be assembled for my six-year old daughter, late Christmas Eve. Man, I was up 'till almost the time the kids awoke on Christmas Day putting together that stupid thing. Finally, I finished but I had about 15 extra pieces that I just couldn’t figure where they were supposed to go.

The reason for my stupidity? I never read the directions! I knew how to build! And, I sure as heck knew how to put together a simple plastic kitchen set that my daughter would enjoy making make-believe food for her dolls and dad!

I was reminded of this memory when conducting some training with crew foremen and project managers (PM). A PM shared that he wished the foremen would actually read through their Job Folder before sitting down for their pre-construction meeting. In fact, several of the foremen admitted that they didn’t always take the time to read through everything about the job, as they should.

Find the time

Ok crew leaders, let’s get to the heart of this issue. The Job Folder is your best set of “instructions” for what will be needed on the project. Sure, once in a while a PM or estimator could be more detailed, provide more pictures, share more insights about the customer, etc. Your company needs to continue to work on that improvement. 

However, going to the jobsite, having not read through the Job Folder, can cause you to “feed” more possible mistakes, such as "go-backs" and rework. You can stop 80% to 90% of these negative experiences, by simply reading the Job Folder…before starting the project.

Now, for any foreman who does not always read through their Job Folder, blaming it on the lack of time, let me offer some encouraging words of improvement.

How long does it take to really walk through the Job Folder? Depends on the size of job, I know. But for most foremen, taking the time may include:

  • Review the Job Folder for 15-30 minutes in the evening at home
  • If you have the Job Folder early enough, read a little bit over a lunch break at a current job you are working
  • Catch a few more minutes of study time while your crew may be waiting on material for the job you’re trying to finish up

Over the past few years, most foremen I have discussed this opportunity have shared the average time of Job Folder review is only about 15-30 minutes.  

Isn’t 15-30 minutes spent reviewing the Job Folder worth the risk of not being aware of the scope of work or raising the questions you have at a pre-construction meeting (hopefully you practice this pre-start meeting)? Isn’t this time spent reviewing the Job Folder worth ensuring we make more money on the project…and therefore, more money for us personally?

Part of the commitment any project manager or estimator should have is to ensure that they get the Job Folder pulled together, with the needed information, sign-offs, pictures, etc. and delivered to the foreman so you have more than an hour to look at their best-projected plans and thoughts, before starting the job. 

However, when the season gets crazy with customers, each demanding to start work quickly, your PMs, and many of the office team, are working quickly to get all the needed info pulled together to keep you with the right information, and to ensure that everything is clean…legally!

Foremen, don’t give up on your PMs, estimators, and any other company employee supporting you. They’re working hard to keep the work coming. Remember, your owner doesn’t want to take work at just any price…everyone wants to make a profit…a nice profit. You’re not working for a non-for-profit organization. 

At the very heart of better work, safer work, more profitable work, is to do our jobs right, the first time. A huge key to this happening is to have your PMs and estimators pull together the Job Folders correctly and have each foreman committed to reading through their Job Folder. 

Don’t be bashful but be quick to highlight something that is difficult to understand; or write down a question that you want to ask your PM to ensure you have the right perspective of the project. But no matter when you are given the Job Folder, read and study it before ever even leaving for the site, if possible.

Don’t be like me when I was working all night putting together my little girl’s kitchen set for Christmas. You might just leave out a few things that really need to be performed on the project. Let your next Job Folder provide the roadway to your success!