The volume of information exchanged on construction sites today is increasing as people become more "connected". This trend is putting a lot of stress on overly centralized organizations. Here is how to adapt.
The symptoms are quite straightforward. After a busy week on site, part of the project team (including you) comes back on the weekend to catch up on emails, un-processed RFIs and change orders. If it happens on a regular basis, it means that your team simply isn't able to process the information generated fast enough.
Since requests aren't processed until the weekend, the length of your communication cycle increases by a few days, slowing down the teams on site. When one of those teams happens to be on the critical path, you effectively end up delaying the entire project.
Thankfully, bottlenecks are easy to spot as they occur primarily around people occupying a central position on the project (typically a superintendent, project engineer or project manager). Here are three strategies to solve that situation:
1 – Don't micromanage.
This one is quite obvious and will eat up all your available bandwidth quickly. Make it easy on yourself and share the ownership of safety and quality with everyone on the team (including subs). The key to success is to create a clear path for subs to build trust over time after they join the project, and then to treat them differently depending on how reliable they have proven to be. You are trading control for visibility, so be metrics driven and ready to jump in if those metrics ever go off chart.
2 – Decentralize simple communication.
If you feel that you are spending 90% of your time forwarding information around and only 10% of your time focusing on the important items, this one is for you. Make sure that all contact information is openly available to your subs and encourage people to interface directly on simple tasks (ex: information request). It may feel un-easy at first, but every time you do it successfully you spend less time being busy and more time focusing on the high impact decisions (ex: reviewing change orders).
3 – Get adequate tools:
I have a pretty simple calculation. Assuming that you are in the $60k-$90k range, a minute of your time costs about $1 to the project. If you need to drive to the warehouse in the middle of the day, it's probably worth $40 in project time. If you have 5 guys on your team waiting for a decision it's costing the project an extra $6/minute. Calculate the cost of your bottleneck quickly and find ways to automate repetitive tasks with specialized tools and software like Fieldwire. It makes sense to run a lean project but being too stingy could end up costing you more in the long run.
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