Returning from two large conferences for construction contractors I am again impressed, and surprised, about the focus of quality among many companies. I was impressed with the focus and attention that most of the leaders I worked with have for quality craftsmanship and reputation. I was surprised to find how few contractors have any formal knowledge or approach to ensuring their entire company processes ring of quality.
Will most contractors admit to shooting for being the most quality provider of their products and services? Yes! But, will many of these same contractors confess that they may not be doing enough to ensure that quality is impregnated on their minds and the minds of every leader and employee? Yes! Then where is the disconnect?
I think for many contractors the reason that limits their full efforts to make quality part of every decision, plan and execution comes down to a few hurdles. Do any of the following reasons sound like something that you have battled?
- Just don’t have the time to adequately spend on it.
- Not prepared or educated on how to train for quality.
- Not clear of the measurements to monitor quality.
- Quality is still in the eye of the beholder, i.e. the customer.
- It’s important BUT…sometimes “you just have to do what you have to do to make something work.”
- Quite honestly, it just isn’t talked that much in our company unless there has been a major mistake.
- Don’t want my guys spending half their time measuring and tracking problems, specifications, etc.
If any of the above comments sound close to what you have expressed or thought, you’re not alone. So, let’s take a more assertive approach and consider then how we can make quality a real part of our daily existence, planning, execution and clean-up.
1. Commit to “No Bad Job” leadership
I’ve written about this before so I’ll be brief here, but owners and senior leaders must first be committed to looking at every entity within the company to apply this mantra. There are no “shades of gray” when it comes to commitment for quality. You either live it or you don’t!
2. Jobs only start AFTER a pre-start meeting
Simply put, “No job, of any size, will begin until the crew leader, estimators and key members supporting the project have a short “pre-start” meeting to line out roles, responsibilities, proper sequence confirmation, needed tools/equipment secured and prepared, and site is ready for our crew. Keep your thumb down on this effort alone and watch productivity and profitability begin to rise.
3. Demand daily pre-day site preparation
Once your project has begun make it mandatory that each new day will begin with your version of an “AM Huddle” between the leader and their workers. Every day may bring some new wrinkle to what needs to be adjusted, made a higher priority, etc.
4. Close each work day with closing comments & staging
Every work day should end with the crew leader meeting with their workers to hold, what I call, a “PM Huddle.” This short meeting, at the site, debriefs on the day’s efforts. Good or bad, there needs to be a clear download on what the crew did well, what needs to be improved, and remind everyone of what the crew can do today to prepare (stage) the site for the next day of activities.
5. Conduct post-project reviews & make needed changes
Depending on the size of projects you normally work, each project should have a debrief on several of the following items:
- Costs — too much, too little, etc.
- Chemistry of workers on project
- Customer relations — better or needs improving
- Process compliance — Did we follow our own company SOPs? If not, why?
- Lessons learned that should move us to update our existing processes
Your post-project reviews can be “gold” to your company improving quality, productivity, safety and profitability. The key here, though, is to ensure that you and your workers get an honest shake at how things really went on the job.
If we have learned something new be sure and fast to make the needed changes from what you currently do. This will reinforce to your workers that you do listen to their concerns, ideas and suggestions.
6. Develop a vision for quality and “Preach it Brother!”
Perhaps the most important effort to take is to develop a vision for the quality you want to see on projects — every project. The vision for your desired quality needs to be written down and placed on posters, business cards and other company related giveaways.
Each meeting throughout the year should either recite the vision, or at least the vison should be discussed in terms of, “How are we living the vision?”
You must “Preach it Brother,” if you are going to saturate and influence the commitment to quality throughout your organization.
Quality has always been something that most contractors say they have. Again, how many times have you recalled telling a prospect that one of the things your company is known for is quality. BUT, how many customer have heard contractors, some of them your competitors, say that they too are a “quality contractor.” What’s a customer to do?
Dedicate yourself and your actions this year to being a quality contractor. But more than that, commit to becoming a quality owner or leader, one that is sold-out to ensuring that not one job will start this year that hasn’t had a complete and specifically defined strategy before start-up. Your quality, and profits, may just respond quite well!
Here’s to “No Bad Jobs”!