real vs false urgency construction header

By definition, construction is a manual industry. It depends on people’s hands to do the work of bringing a blueprint to reality. And its success or failure is directly related to the level of urgency that those hands (and minds) have bought into.

Forcing a sense of urgency is a mistake. It creates pressure to act busier, which equates to working too fast, and results in unsafe work conditions and team burnout.

You can only build a healthy culture of urgency if you inspire the people around you. Tell them your vision, then show them what it looks like. This culture is the fuel that will propel employee engagement and Process Improvement.

Vision creates perspective. Perspective is what keeps urgency from becoming dangerous. Here’s the difference between the 2 types of urgency:

  • False urgency needs this job done now and then the next job done now. It races through each step and it doesn’t coordinate with others. In a construction setting, it can lead to people running down the stairs 2 steps at a time, cutting corners on safety protocols, and to equipment not being cleaned, stored, or serviced properly.
  • True urgency finds the horizon and creates a map as it charts backwards. It keeps perspective, knowing the goal is urgent but the task is not. It neither hustles nor bustles, but takes correct, coordinated steps, exactly when it needs to. True urgency understands that slowing down to keep a safe pace is the only way to achieve business goals.

real vs false urgency construction

Here are a couple ways to keep your culture of efficiency as safe as it is productive:


1) Make Safety Non-Negotiable

Anyone who has stepped onto a construction site knows it’s a dangerous place. Over thousands of years, and many lives lost, the construction industry has developed standards for negotiating hazards.

But sometimes safety feels tedious. You pay a person to clean every drop of every spill, to call someone else over to lift something they could probably lift themselves, and to make that second verbal check of the equipment. Yet you also know what can happen if you don’t spend the proper time or money…

Remember: urgency is not busyness. It’s not pressuring people to move faster. If you do that, your team’s “low-hanging fruit” for amping up speed will be to cut corners with safety protocols.

True urgency means helping your team see 3 steps ahead so that they plan properly. If everyone is only thinking about the next step and then the next, mistakes and inefficiencies will slip through unnoticed. Keep everyone thinking a few steps forward, and you’ll save time without endangering anyone’s life.


2) Attract, and Value, the Right People

Hiring the people you need when you need them is an industry-wide challenge. To get it right, you need to offer something that the other guys don’t. You build your marketing strategy to prospective clients around your key differentiators; same rules for attracting workers.

What are your hiring differentiators?

  • Paying more money?  This doesn’t necessarily attract the best people- just the opportunistic ones. And it can kill the bottom line like a bullet.
  • Reputation? We’re all envious of the companies that everyone wants to work for. But there’s a reason for it, and it’s probably not money.
  • Empowering culture? This is the one that matters. Empowering workplaces treat workers like skilled, smart adults. They foster accountability while encouraging people to make smart decisions independently.

A culture of urgency is a culture of listening. It’s a promise to listen backed by something more personal than a feedback form. It’s asking your workers what’s bugging them and making good on your share of the solution.

steps to urgency in construction

You can’t ask for urgency without showing it. If someone comes to you with an improvement that makes sense, it’s on you to show them the urgency of implementing the fix. The feeling they get when they see that their idea has a real difference in the business is the best retention tool you’ll ever have. Once your team sees the impact of their work, you’ll see what an internalized sense of true, healthy, urgency looks like.