In this article we take on the personal aspect of improving speed — and the key is to increase speed without sacrificing quality or suffering greater safety losses.
Every decision/task has deadlines & consequences
Construction leaders realize that time is money. This mental pre-requisite requires that every leader embrace his responsibility to be a decision maker and a motivator of action.
Every decision or effort that is delayed, for any reason, costs the contractor, customer or others money in some form. Leaders must first realize that there are deadlines, and depending on the type of task that is needed, the consequences could be significant.
Quite honestly, also related to this is simply giving yourself a kick in the seat of your pants. Motivation is a personal thing. If you are an owner or senior leader and you are often slow to act, you need to wake up and smell some early morning coffee. Build “alerts” into your calendar, on your cell phones, into your electronic scheduling, etc. to remind you of needed decisions or actions. Even give others your permission to “kick you” when needed to remind you…and don’t get upset with them when they do!
”Pre-Think” daily decisions
Contractors simply must prepare each day to attack the needs of the day. Too many leaders still sort of slide into their daily efforts, often allowing the “squeakiest wheel” to dictate where they’ll put their focus. Such a strategy can place you into all sorts of bad situations.
Begin each morning by carefully thinking through what situations, conversations, meetings, etc. you will be engaged in and consider early how you might need to address each event. If necessary, make some brief and simple notes for each situation so that you can quickly refer back to them later.
Certainly we can get caught off guard occasionally, but most of the time we can anticipate what our daily challenges are. “Pre-think” such challenges and determine how you will approach the situation.
Gather needed resources for future decision-making
Most of us are notorious for waiting until the last minute to gather needed information to make a decision. If you know what your week (even better your two-to-four week “look ahead”) looks like then consider what information, contact information, resources, etc. you will need and begin the gathering as you move throughout your day.
For example, if I’m preparing for a follow-up call on a potential customer who is expecting an updated estimate along with some references, I might:
- Multi-task while sitting in my office on the phone with my crew foreman by pulling some of the references together
- Circle needed changes and provide new numbers to assistant to make changes
Speed is not a “linear” reality. We can no longer afford to do one thing at a time only. Keeping your future needs in mind while working on real-time activities can allow you to piece and parcel bits of needed information, documents, etc. along the way so that you are more organized and prepared earlier.
Organize and prioritize your files, office, vehicle and company
Ok, I couldn’t resist; a little time management is required. The first speed bump for most contractors is that they can’t find needed items quickly. Pull up your pants (or slacks), tighten your belt and put on your work gloves to being better organized in every area of your personal environment.
I gave my administrative assistant permission to organize my office a few years ago. In fact, I gave her permission to organize my files, my folders on my computer, and our old, current and prospective customer folders to her preference. She couldn’t believe my request at first but soon realized that I was serious. I informed her that with all my traveling it was much easier for me to adapt to her methodology of organization, and that when I called from abroad, she would know, faster, where needed info was.
This last personal example saved my assistant untold hours in looking for my “stuff” and put more speed into each day for each of us. If you are fortunate enough to have an administrative assistant, direct her or him to organize you! It might put more speed into your day like it did for me.
Keep others updated and informed, and require the same back
Another impediment to personal speed is not knowing what is going on — or not knowing on a timely basis. But remember, such needs and realities go both ways. You must make the effort to keep your people updated and informed on project needs, customer expectations, supplier emergencies, etc.
Practicing this fifth suggestion will encourage your “others” to reciprocate, but don’t be shy about verbally requiring the same from the others that impact your efforts. As one old saying goes, “the only thing worse than bad news is bad news late.” This is more true than we know as even bad news, if delivered early enough, can still allow us time to make the best of a bad situation.
Delegate whenever possible BUT ALWAYS follow-up and follow-through
Delegation, if done properly, creates a win-win for both parties. When you delegate you are affirming to the receiver that you trust him and need his competence. When you delegate properly, you make it easier for the receiver to execute the task right, the first time. Again, speed is in play here.
The most important effort supporting proper delegation is to practice good follow-up and/or follow-through. An interesting survey conducted among thousands of employees found that the most respected trait for a leader to possess and practice was that of following-up and following-through. The message? Practicing such efforts reinforces the importance of the task and the sincerity of the leader in delegating.
One last thought on delegation: Delegation is not “dumping” work on others. Dumping might lighten your load for the short term but it will come back to slow you down later as you most likely will spend time taking the work back to complete. Dumping also tends to sour the employee, leaving him less motivated, and thus, slower to process other work for you. Don’t be a dumper!
Do low-priority tasks outside of peak construction time
The 40- to 50-hour workweek doesn’t exist for contractors and construction leaders. In terms of workweek “60 is new “40.” The contractors I know that best exemplify “speed” are those who arrive to their office hours before their workers to knock out e-mails, line up presentations or pull together final touches to their estimates. This might be repeated two to three times a week.
Likewise, the same “high-performing” contractors might also set aside an hour or more late at night to complete other unfinished business. Both efforts are done to build more speed into their workday. This isn’t new, but it does pay to remind ourselves that speed is best achieved when we can reduce or eliminate as many obstacles during our workday as possible.
Speed will never be fully achieved if we continue to allow things to snag our time and efforts. Remember, the more “wastes” that you can eliminate the faster you will allow your efforts, and your project’s efforts to progress. Speed is not just working harder or applying more time or people, although that may be needed periodically. Speed is best achieved when we remove as many of the hurdles in our lanes of work as possible, thus allow a more fluid pace to be achieved.
Speed is definitely what all customers are requiring from their contractors. Use all of the resources available to you and your company, but make one big assessment: Does the resource increase or decrease speed? Be bold to utilize methods and resources that increase speed, and watch what you and your company accomplish!