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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:
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.
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