Creating a Sense of Urgency in Construction

Creating a Sense of Urgency in Construction

urgency in construction

 

 

 

 

Building a culture of urgency isn’t easy in the construction industry. For starters, your crews are remote and it’s usually up to your Foremen to convey that sense of culture.

There’s also safety. If you convey its importance wrong, your workers will equate urgency with speed, and accidents will follow.

You need a culture of urgency in order for sustained Process Improvement to work. Here’s how to do it in the construction industry:

urgency in construction process

1) Visit the Job Sites

Construction is planned at the office, but it happens at the job site. That’s where hammer meets nail, and where a sense of urgency makes the biggest difference.

You probably visit your sites regularly anyway. Turn that up a notch. Get more face time with the teams working each job. Don’t commit to so many visits that it’s unsustainable in the long run, but make sure they see more of you.

Your presence on the job site will have a bigger impact than you might think. To start, your presence will bring a sense of urgency with it. Nothing like the captain on deck to make the crew snap to attention.

Your visit will also remind the workers that their job site matters. A reminder to take pride, double check their work, and get it done on time.

It’s also an opportunity to hear them. Gather them around and ask for their feedback. Catch up to them one on one, make an effort to get to know them, and ask about the small inefficiencies that bug them. Recharge them out of complacency and back into urgency.

 

2) Turn Your Foremen into Advocates

You can’t change your business’s culture from your office. You need boots on the ground, butts in the lunchroom seat, and eyes on the details.

You need to inspire. Giving employees the “how” of Process Improvement won’t do it. “How” comes later. Start with “why.” Tell them why this is so urgent for the business and get them on board (spoiler alert: if your “why” is to raise the bottom line 10%, find another one that involves the employees more directly).

Your Foremen are your mouthpieces at the site. Spend time with them. Empower them with what they can do. Give them permission to make the right call in the moment.

When they have feedback: listen. That is, actually listen and get back to them later with a follow up. Preaching Lean involves making good on needed process improvements. Give them ownership and make them advocates.

When foremen are empowered, they bring a sense of urgency back to the job site. Combine that with your more frequent visits and everyone will understand that you’re not only serious, more consistent.

 

3) Make Sure Urgency is Safe

There are 2 kinds of urgency. There’s the running place-to-place, always-busy-never-focused, working-harder-but-not-smarter urgency. It’s unproductive, and can even be dangerous in a construction environment.

Productive urgency is being driven to work smarter, not harder. Faster is dangerous. As you discourage reckless speed, remind people that it’s not necessary.

Urgency is the opposite of complacency, not slowness. It’s about doing things right the first time, and being deliberate in your actions. If anything, a culture of urgency in construction should make the site safer.

 

productivity types construction

Promoting a sense of urgency is really about promoting a sense of accountability. When people care, they care about getting the job done efficiently and properly. Once a team gets a sense of what they can achieve, that sense of urgency can evolve into a culture of excellence.

 

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Creating a Sense of Urgency in Manufacturing

Creating a Sense of Urgency in Manufacturing

urgency in manufacturing

urgency in manufacturing processSuccessful process improvement needs to be cultural, and urgency must be at the cultural heart. Whether or not your entire team is driven towards process improvement will decide if your organizational change will succeed or fail.

Here’s how to build that culture of urgency:

 

1) Focus on Financials

Staff usually have no idea how profitable (or unprofitable) the business is. Chances are that they think you sleep on a pile of money.

Open up about the business. Tell them what areas are losing money and why. Make them understand how competitive your manufacturing environment really is.

Engaging your team is more than pep talks. It’s teaching them about the company they work for. They’re invested financially too – they pay the mortgage with this job. Trust them enough to tell them why process improvement is so important, and they’ll feel the urgency to help.

 

2) Identify Waste as a Group

Being there to listen to someone who tells you about waste is effective. But providing the space for people to assemble and identify waste together is powerful.

Create groups by department. Ask people to spend some time beforehand thinking about waste to prepare (give them this time, don’t ask them to make it magically appear).

Conduct the meeting roundtable style with the bosses keeping their mouths shut. It’s the employees’ turn. Give them the chance to talk and they will, and what they say will save you money.

 

3) Inspire Them

Process improvement needs everyone’s engagement, but it needs your vision. Urgency comes from being inspired, and inspiration comes from leadership. It’s a common theme in process improvement and Lean that leading change can’t be done from the corner office; it happens on the shop floor.

Inspiration is more realistic than idealistic. Set actionable goals with timelines and accountability. Get everyone involved and move towards them together. Stay transparent about what parts of the plan are working what needs to be improved.

 

Make Sure Urgency is Productive

There are 2 kinds of urgency. There’s the running place-to-place, always-busy-never-focused, working-harder-but-not-smarter urgency. It’s unproductive, even dangerous, especially in a manufacturing environment.

Productive urgency is being driven not to work faster, but smarter. It’s following the processes you’re used to, but opening your eyes to the waste that’s in plain sight.

 

two types of productivity

Creating a wide-scale sense of urgency can be a heavy lift in a process-based industry like manufacturing. With the process switch on, sometimes brains switch off. We need processes for efficiency and uniformity, but they can pave the way for complacency.

 

Urgency goes hand-in-hand with a sense of ownership. Take the steps to involve your team today, and let them in on the impact their productivity is making on the business. When your team knows how much their contributions matter, a sense of urgency will naturally become a part of your business’ culture.

 

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

Leonardo da Vinci

The Importance of Urgency in Process Improvement

The Importance of Urgency in Process Improvement

importance of urgency in process improvement

Culture of Urgency: Why It’s Hard

Sprinting is easy. We:

  • Focus hard on the finish line.
  • Stretch till we’re limber.
  • Put everything we can into our burst of speed.

Do you have a sense of urgency when you sprint?  Of course you do. And then it dissipates after. Imagine maintaining the urgency of a sprint for a marathon. Not the speed (that’s impossible), but the focus. Grit. Intensity.

Every business wants to succeed at Process Improvement. We all try. We mostly fail.  We fail because we think it’s about speed. But…

It’s about urgency.

Assume this: that your business has a deep culture of complacency. Most do. Our cubicles and job-sites are full of people pulling 8-5, day-in and day-out tasks. They do their job well, get paid, repeat.

You’re the boss, and you want to be more profitable. You hear HLH talk about “process improvement” and it’s a good idea. You wake up at 3am with thoughts on how you can do things better. You write memos and give pep talks. You have intensity and focus, and your staff rally around you. And you see small changes happening…

And then the sprint is over. The sense of urgency gets trampled by daily tasks.  We’ve been there. Maybe you’re there now.

 

Culture of Urgency: What It Looks Like

It looks like you showing up Every. Single. Day. with the same message: seek waste and destroy it. It looks like you doing this until your managers catch the bug. Then their teams. And then you’re running a marathon with the urgency of a sprint. It looks like the janitor spotting waste and telling the CEO about it, and action happens. And money is saved.

 

Culture of Urgency: How to Get There

culture of urgency main points

Tell the Truth:

They won’t feel urgency if they aren’t motivated

They won’t be motivated if they think the business is invincible

They won’t know the bottom line is fragile if you pretend it isn’t

Employees always think you make more money than you do. Be transparent about market realities. The more you tell them, the more they feel included. It’s what we teach our kids but forget ourselves.

 

Include Everybody:

The Culture of Urgency isn’t just for managers. Everyone’s mortgage is on the line. Everyone wants to make more money.

Set up a forum where everyone is heard. Walk the floors. Re-learn how to talk to your staff without giving orders. Break bread with them. Listen.

 

Don’t Make Big Changes:

Make small changes; make them permanently.

One small change. Make sure it’s sustainable.

Another small change. Make sure it’s sustainable.

Another.

And another.

And another until you have a stack of sustainable changes, and an army of engaged, included staff sniffing around for more waste to fix.

And then you start to save some real money.

Lean Leadership in Professional Services

Lean Leadership in Professional Services

lean principles professional servicesWith a stack of files on your desk and 3 urgent calls gone unanswered, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day of managing a professional services firm. But to achieve process improvement that brings systemic change, we need to invest our leadership focus in the people who run our business everyday.

 

Inspiring Experts

To succeed in professional services, you surround yourself with experts. This can complicate what leadership looks like, and makes their buy-in absolutely essential.

Change Leaders need to articulate their vision clearly to themselves (don’t skip that part), and then to their team. But what about those who are comfortable just the way things are?

If you try to bully your expert team into change, it will taint the process from the beginning. When you encounter the “but we’ve always done it this way” crowd (often referred to as the old guard), you need to erode the resistance with your vision. Here’s how:

change in professional services

 

Communication

If you’re a quiet leader who likes to keep to yourself, that will need to change. Change Leadership is about building people, and that takes advanced communication skills. If you lack these, but want to become that leader, don’t be ashamed of reaching out to a professional coach or other mentor to help you.

When it comes to communication, office-based business have the advantages of being in close proximity where everyone (usually) starts work and has lunch at about the same times. Take advantage of this and get clear about what communication looks like in a change-driven office:

communication in professional services

 

Visualize It

Process improvement is about constant definition and measurement. People need to see where change is needed, what change is happening, and how successful change has been. And they need to see it in a glance.

Be transparent with your KPIs for file turnaround time, efficiency, etc. Buy a big whiteboard and track the course of each KPI daily. If a deliverable isn’t on target, there’s a reason. Professional teams need concise constructive feedback when they’re off-base, and be motivated to review processes, sniff out waste, and change the course.

Make the whiteboard democratic. Put it in the centre of the office (not in the boardroom) and provide post-it’s for ideas. Make it the hub of your daily stand-ups and keep it simple.

 

In professional services, everyone in the organization serves a critical purpose to keep the business running smoothly. When everyone in the firm feels valued and empowered to make an impact, they show up with their best ideas and contributions. Make your team feel like they have a stake in the success of the business, and you’ll be amazed at how much more can be accomplished with the same Lean team.

 

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”

 John Maxwell

Lean Leadership in Construction

Lean Leadership in Construction

lean leadership in constructionConstruction is an industry of tight timelines beset by on-site realities. What’s planned on paper rarely materializes at site, and foremen need to adapt quickly to maintain margins.

Change leadership is about the leader inspiring his or her team to sniff out waste and destroy it. As leader, you can’t be on every site at all times, and you have a million things to worry about. It can’t be your job to make sure enough lumber has been brought in or to see if a bathroom pod can be pre-fabbed at the shop. You need empowered crew leaders.

It’s a cultural shift, and it’s neither easy nor fast. You’ll need to articulate a vision that inspires, be visible on site, and divert your focus from managing logistics to coaching your team.

 

Inspire Before Bulldoze

Change Leaders need to articulate their vision clearly to themselves (don’t skip that part), and then to their team. But what about those who are comfortable just the way things are?

if you bulldoze them with your vision, it taints the process from the beginning. When you encounter the “but we’ve always done it this way” crowd (often referred to as the old guard), you need to erode the resistance with your vision. Here’s how:

change leadership in manufacturing

 

Looking bigger picture, your construction firm is probably only one of many stakeholders on a large project, and it becomes more complicated when the “old guard” are other contractors.

Establish a culture of process improvement in your business first, and then (if you’re ambitious) you can begin to inspire other contractors that you commonly work with. It’s inspiring that some large projects are now entirely Lean, with contractors all working together towards a common goal that thrills the client and increases margin.

 

Communication

If you’re a quiet leader who likes to keep to yourself, that will need to change. Change Leadership is about building people, and that takes advanced communication skills. If you lack these, but want to become that leader, don’t be ashamed of reaching out to a professional coach or other mentor to help you.

communication change-driven construction

 

Delegation

Change Leadership begins with authentically asking your team for their ideas. But it goes on from there.

Ideas aren’t worth much without accountability-driven execution. You’ll be spending more of your time coaching and developing your team, but your other pressures aren’t taking a holiday.

Delegation is the natural evolution of empowerment. Invest in your team, build processes for them to execute their ideas, then learn to step back. Your stress level will decrease as your employees’ new responsibilities become routine, and their ideas become part of systemic change.

 

360 Reflection

Process improvement will wilt without reflection and measurement. In construction, waste is often lurking systemically in your processes. Root it out. Don’t let failed jobs accumulate because you didn’t get rid of process problems.

Be transparent with your KPIs for delivery, cost, safety, etc. Do a post-mortem for every job with your team and see how they did. Don’t let that conversation devolve into a finger-pointing session; keep it about constructive feedback for the last job and proactive action items for the next.

Start the whiteboard during the job, so that foreman and workers alike can post ideas that occur to them in real time. Make it easy to give criticism, especially if a job goes south and all we want to do is forget about it. As Seth Godin says more eloquently than I, failure is our best and perhaps only teacher.

 

It’s amazing what an empowered, engaged team can do. When Lean principles are properly applied, team members step up to the plate in ways you might not expect. When everyone on the crew feels a sense of ownership, it becomes everyone’s job to push projects into better, faster, more efficient territory. You’ll feel the difference when you arrive at work every day—and that’s the kind of culture that lays a solid foundation to build upon.

 

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”

 John Maxwell