Business 101: The Four Quarters of Construction Leadership

Things you should focus on to ensure each day is successful.

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You often hear football coaches speak of their team's need to put together a "complete game," that is, play well for all four quarters. Construction companies too must seek the complete job, working to see that every quarter (i.e. 90 to 120 minutes) of their day is completed to schedule, specification and expectation. Let's take a look at the four quarters and what you should focus on to ensure that each day is successful.

First quarter

The first quarter is won by those construction leaders who have properly prepared their workers for a quick and effective start. This should include you ensuring that your workers are informed about any early changes to the day, where each worker is to be positioned to work, and what resources, equipment and tools are needed and where.

Daily instructions, reminders of quality and safety and early deployment of work tasks are presented during "Q-1." This first quarter of direction should primarily confirm what the end of the previous day's message from you should have shared in preparation for the following workday. Additionally, you should use Q-1 to inspect the mental, emotional and physical aspects of the workers, taking note of any early morning question marks that will require follow-up in the second quarter.

Second quarter

Allow your workers to begin their day (Q-1), finding their work rhythm for the day. Early in the Q-2 you should follow up to see that instructions and directions are being followed and answer any questions or correct any signs of misunderstanding or wrong performance efforts. The workday is four quarters of time and performance, so it is important that you realize the production numbers that must be arrived at by "half time."

Within 30 to 45 minutes of the mid-day break (i.e. lunch), you should assess if production is ahead of or behind the daily goals. This requires you to know the performance numbers to determine whether production is ahead or behind. If production is behind the needed results, then adjustments may be made to further the production output for the second half. This might include adding some additional employees to the work, deciding to work overtime or alerting the customer or other contractors to the expected delay in completion.

If you find that production is ahead of schedule for the day, then the decision might be to maintain the pace or to move a few of the workers to another portion of work needing attention. Either way you should be fully knowledgeable about the needed production and the opportunities to improve this or other jobs.

Third quarter

Getting your workers up and focused again after a mid-day break will require that you begin to get workers going again just minutes prior to start-up. You should start driving conversation and questions about the "second half" five minutes before getting started. Workers who stop for a lunch break often take a little mental nap and thus need to be resuscitated mentally and physically. Without this major effort you may experience workers taking 15 to 30 minutes to get back with the pace they held just prior to lunch.

Fourth quarter

The final push is now needed so you will have to decide early what final efforts can be made to finish the day's work strongly. This could mean getting the one last square foot of formwork completed, pouring and finishing the last wall of the day, delivering the last of the order's materials to a site or getting all the needed equipment needed for the next day repositioned.

Depending on your progress a final decision will be made whether to keep some or all of the workers on overtime or to shut down the effort at quitting time and prepare the site for a fast start tomorrow. Certainly the last effort of the fourth quarter should include bringing your workers together to discuss the day's efforts and results, what needs to be primed and ready early the next morning, and what the schedule looks like for the remaining days of the week based on the day's results.

The "2-Minute Drill"

While end of the day miracles do take place in construction, it is often better for quality, safety and employee morale if the leader can build four consistent victories during the day. If a two-minute drill is needed, then it is imperative that you are right in the middle of the action, personally engaged to prevent shortcuts that might impede the next day's efforts or cause mistakes that have to be fixed later on at a greater cost.

Looking at your daily effort in terms of four quarters is quite effective in leading many of today's construction workers. Most of the construction leaders with whom I interact regularly tell me that many workers seldom think past an hour or two ahead, perhaps to lunch time in the morning or quitting time in the afternoon. Doesn't it make sense then that you would break your perspective of the workday into four quarters?

But looking at your day in quarters requires you make the needed adjustments at the appropriate time to maximize your workers' productivity. Four-quarter management empowers you to see earlier what often creeps up on us at the end of the day. Seeing your day in 90- to 120-minute periods would allow you to have greater faith to win each quarter, thus putting together your own complete game where both your "offense and defense" perform as needed and designed!

Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a construction industry leader in training resources consisting of audio CDs, books, articles, consulting and leadership workshops. Visit Brad's firm at