The Impact of a Call When Change Happens on a Construction Jobsite

It is important field leaders call jobsite schedulers when a jobsite change occurs; however, this does not happen when it should

Be faster on the draw to call your next in line leader, even the scheduler to get out in front of a mistake or potential delay.
Be faster on the draw to call your next in line leader, even the scheduler to get out in front of a mistake or potential delay.

One of the most common comments heard on most construction sites is, “Whatever we planned for today will change.” This comment is more than spoken words, it often becomes a mindset of the crew leader.

What is actually surprising is that very few things change that much during the average day in construction. Sure, the concrete scheduled to arrive for the 11:00 a.m. pour might be delayed;,or one of the contractors arrives to the site an hour late, or even the quick thunderstorm that suddenly appeared before blowing through in 10 minutes, are all examples of changes.

Yet, such changes do not always have the massive impact on production if field leaders are better prepared for “Plan B” when such interruptions take place.

It is the responsibility of every construction field leader, when a change or adjustment is required, that a “call” is placed to the appropriate individual.  That appropriate individual for most contractors is their job scheduler.

The impact of a call made to the job scheduler can strengthen logistics, make greater use of company resources and keep the client’s confidence in the contractor. Yet, with all that is good about calling the job scheduler immediately after recognizing or experience an unscheduled change, many field leaders continue to be slow to make “the call.”

What are the benefits of calling your company’s job scheduler? Let’s consider a few very critical benefits that can even touch your own job security.

  • Calling the job scheduler gets the person with the widest knowledge of needs, available resources and customer needs in the decision-making process.
  • Calling the jobscheduler “sooner versus later” provides the job scheduler with more time to consider more options that may strengthen the company’s next move.
  • Calling the job scheduler reduces the number of people who will all have an opinion about “what we should do,” but have little to no authority to change the schedule.
  • Calling the job scheduler can make the schedule change sooner, often mitigating the potential loss of wasted time and increase the potential profitability from a situation that could have been a disaster.

Don’t think for a moment that calling your job scheduler is taking them away from what they are paid to do…this is their job. But what the job scheduler does not have are your eyes, field presence and a feel about the situation. Similar to an Offensive Coordinator sitting up high in a stadium, while they have a broader view of the playing field, the QB is still engaged and allowed to bring what he “feels” is right for the calling of plays. It’s not a perfect science but the need for both roles is important.

So too is your role as the field leader to keep your project scheduler informed and updated on how you are seeing “the field.” Communicating what you are experiencing is crucial to the job scheduler as he takes your input and considers how best to support the next move based on what he has his hands on in regard to information. 

It is the job scheduler that often has a better bead on how plants are operating, what other projects can be moved back or accelerated, or if “Option B” is the better choice and will make the best use of the crew involved. It is the job scheduler who more often will have a better feel on how thin the equipment resources currently are, or are there enough operators to make certain changes, and even what is the expectation of the most demanding customer.

Here are some situations that you will want to act clearly and quickly in making a call to your supervisor: 

1. Assess a mistake

You are paid to make decisions, so make them! If you, or your foreman, see something that is not right, assess the situation. You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can we fix it now?
  • Will we need additional support to fix?
  • How much time will this impact the schedule?

Notice what the first question is NOT? “Who made the mistake?” We’ll deal with the “who” later; for now, you must assess what is to be done and how that will impact the schedule.

If the time estimate is anything more than 30 to 60 minutes the foreman should call his or her supervisor and give them the update. Don’t delay, and certainly do not wait until you have fixed a problem IF the time lost is still going to make an impact on the schedule. When in doubt…call your supervisor!

2. When a GC changes your scope, location or starting point

While we work for the customer, they can take us off of our intended schedule of work. If any foreman, and crew, arrive to the jobsite and the GC/superintendent informs them that they need the crew doing something different than what was scheduled, get clarity as to the request or redirection, the foreman should contact his or her supervisor ASAP. In some cases, the foreman may need to join the supervisor on the call with the scheduler to determine what needs to be changed in the schedule.

Don’t take the changes put on you or your crew personally, but do take the initiative and contact the supervisor or scheduler to address the changing situation quickly.

3. When site is not prepared for our crew

Probably the easiest to address but again, it appears to take longer than is needed to contact the supervisor or scheduler. When our crews show up to our project site and what was promised, in advance by the GC/developer, to be prepared for our crews to work…is not ready, then a quick call to the supervisor is needed. 

We simply cannot afford to have wasted time spent on a GC arm-twisting our foreman, almost sweet talking them into staying and doing something else. This gums up the entire schedule for that job and others. And, of course the GC will never remember this episode later when they charge our company with getting something completed after it was the GC who held us up.

4. When projected weather conditions are not good

With more “stay outs” involving our crews working farther away geographically, we must rely on our foremen to be the “weather man.” If the weather is forecasted to be a real nasty event then a quick call to the supervisor, or the scheduler, needs to be placed for greater assessment. Depending on the location, the costs involved thus far in the project, and the need of other projects, it’s imperative that such communication must be made. The “call” must be placed with as great of clarity as possible.

5. Resource quantities are short in numbers or are wrong

This situation cannot happen! It’s a reflection on so many others including estmating, Cad-techs, yard, the projected foreman, and even the supervisor. 

But this situation can happen. When it does, the site leader at the site must assess the shortage and identify exactly what is needed. Then, the very next action is to contact the supervisor or scheduler to update and discuss next steps.

Again, it may be less expensive to keep the crew at the site, working on what can be accomplished, or, it may make more sense to have the crew drive to another site to assist. Either way, the “call” must be made quickly, allowing the scheduler more time to consider the next best moves that strengthens the schedule’s success.

None of the five situations are new. Most of the actions suggested to address the situations are not new. Yet, such situations still exist. Therefore, it’s not for lack of education or experience that we continually revisit what should be done, so it must land on the leader’s shoulders, foremen and supervisors, to take quicker action.

Making “the call” is not a sign of humility or guilt, it’s a sign that we respect our company’s commitment to complete jobs on-time and at or below projected estimates to turn a profit for our company.  Now, by making “the call” in a quick and timely basis, we are accomplishing a few things:

  1. We can track the nature of the calls to measure what we are still short of perfecting. Thus we identify opportunities for improvement. That’s a good thing.
  2. Making “the call” sooner, rather than later, we are increasing those in charge of more coverage and authority to better position our company to make the best of a difficult situation, hopefully resulting in greater profitability. Remember, a profitable company is a lot more fun to work for and with, providing more benefits to everyone.

Don’t be slow to make “the call” when needed. Be faster on the draw to call your next in line leader, even the scheduler to get out in front of a mistake or potential delay. Make such a call may just work in your favor, pushing you and your workers to being fully engaged, busy and productive.

Make…the call!