Issue: Finishing on Time and on Budget

Several times since the International Builders Show was held in February, I have been asked to speak with companies and their field people about the importance of producing the job as estimated and as scheduled. The owners and company managers in all cases are competent, non-tyrannical managers. The same is true of their people in the field with the “problem.” From what I can tell, the managers are anxiously trying to make their estimates and schedules produce the projected gross profits and margins. And this issue is all the more under the lights in those remodeling markets that are showing some softness. With good folks on both sides of this, why can’t there be a reasonable “fix”? What is the right message? And how do we communicate more effectively?

What I am seeing and hearing in most cases are crews that are working hard trying to get the job done; then a customer won’t make a decision and that holds up the job — everybody gets frustrated. Yet there is still this gap, the wall that tends to block communications and understanding. In talking to the owners, they seem to feel the job packages are ready to go (mostly); they wonder why the field production managers don’t get everything arranged and flowing at the onset, so the job flows better. But then I hear there are pieces missing from the job pack and that projects are scheduled too tightly together. They finish a job one day and have to start another full steam the next day. Now that’s real pressure.

What’s the common problem? It appears to me to be a lack of clear communication. To confirm this, I need your help. I want to hear from both production managers and owners about how to get job packages out to the field so that there is understanding and time to do some strategic thinking by the field crews, some “what if” time. You can tell me to keep your name out of a discussion or not.

I also want to hear from some project managers, supers and lead people about what’s broken in their system, how can it be improved. How good is the real communication between you and the office or is it a “yeah, yeah, now get back to work” attitude by the front office.

We have long preached the value of taking time at the end of the day to stop and look the whole job over before leaving from the day to get the big picture. I truly believe admonishing good people to really bear down during tough times might be counter-productive and here’s my reasoning. We do our best work when we are relaxed, attentive and focused but not uptight. We see ourselves being successful, on time and budget and we live it. Trying to not make mistakes is not the frame-of-mind for good production.

The field people I have spoken with are of course concerned when targets aren’t met because they had some say in setting the targets. There is another culprit though and that’s nearsightedness, myopia. They are focused on too close a time frame. Arrangements and coordination are being left until the last minute and worry is taking over. “Griping” is not the answer.

The secret ingredient for most successful companies is that everyone on the inside acts like an owner — taking ownership. I want your help from both the field and office sides on why you think it works or doesn’t. Let me hear from you right away. This is really important at this time when some markets are seeing some slowing down and builders are scurrying around trying to find a cash flow source since houses aren’t selling well now.

Help me help you so we can suggest some effective ways to get a clearer message passing between production and management, while you’re here...