Contributed by Jef McCurdy
Whether it is carefully cultivated or haphazardly ignored, every company has a culture. Top leaders create cultures that encourage quality, respect, accountability and more. These values help to create an environment where clients and staff feel confident in the value of the services or products delivered. However, culture is an often-overlooked aspect of the trades. Ask yourself this: Why would anyone want to start or continue working with you and your company?
If the answer is, “They need a job, and I’ve got work”, don’t expect to have long-term, loyal employees. Companies with weak cultures have retention issues. Because they do nothing to create loyalty, their employees are easily poached. Because they are constantly training new employees on the basics, they struggle to develop the higher-level skills required to meet client demands.
Conversely, employees in environments of appreciation, trust and development are far more likely to remain loyal and deliver greater value to your company as their skills and knowledge increase. When leadership has their backs, employees are more likely to remain engaged and proactive.
It is commonly accepted that working in the trades is supposed to be stressful, but I disagree. Hard work is expected, but bad leaders burden their staff with undue stress and uncertainty. I have found that bosses who yell the most, explain the least. I was on a job site a while back where another trade was also doing work. As I set up for my day, I noticed two of the guys arrive. They waited around for about 45 minutes until their boss finally arrived. He then berated them for at least 15 minutes for being lazy good-for-nothings for having not started working before his arrival. Their explanation that they did not know what he wanted them to do and were unable to get a hold of their boss fell on deaf ears.
The following day, the guys again arrived before their boss. Fearful of being humiliated in front of everyone on the job site again, they found work to busy themselves. On this day, their boss was an hour late and again upset with his crew. Calling them names and yelling, he said that they were idiots and should have known that their self-assigned tasks were a waste of time.
Luckily, I was quickly off to another project. But my short time with the yelling boss left me very uncomfortable, even though I didn’t have to work directly with him. Ironically, the predetermined belief that his crew was lazy and didn’t care about the quality of their work likely created that exact scenario.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Remember my post from February, entitled 'Project Compaction: Not Just for Soil'? Well, if you don't remember, didn't have the chance to read it, or would like a refresher, I'll give you a few minutes to jump over there and give it a read.
So, guess what? They're not quite ready yet. How close to not ready? Well, the picture above is from this past Friday, the seventh of June. On a project that was supposed to install in May.
As a reminder, my company installs flooring. Flooring is a product that's supposed to go under that pallet of block, the forklift, those 55-gallon drums of something and the tons of miscellaneous equipment, dirt and debris that litters the gymnasium. If I've learning anything over my thirteen years of installations, its if you give someone a 5,000 square foot (or larger) space on a construction site, it will be used as a catch all for everything that doesn't fit somewhere else on a job. Kind of like that junk drawer that we all have in our house.
Please forgive me for my sarcastic tone, but this isn't the first time I've seen site conditions like this, which was three mere days before we were due to start work. And, it certainly will not be the last time.
I tried to be optimistic about their timeline request months ago. In early May, the basketball hoops were due to be installed "by Tuesday next". As of Friday, they're still not. So, along with my company, that's at least one other vendor who was given a commitment date that wasn't adhered to. I'm presuming there's at least a few others.
So, despite our numerous written notices that "it is imperative that we are immediately notified if you will not be ready for the week of June 10th", our requests were ignored. Our last written communication has now gone unanswered for over two business days. And do you know how this will most likely shake out? Chances are we'll be given a very short notice that the site is "now ready" and we'll be expected to drop everything, juggle our schedule and refocus our attention on someone that was unable to be realistic about a project schedule for months.
Buckle up and stay tuned for my next article focused around life as a finish trade.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
On a recent project of mine, the lack of a submittal for the contractor’s proposed solution to an unexpected situation caused a problem. The contractor didn’t think that a submittal was required by the contract documents, and the architect didn’t realize that a submittal was required by the contract documents. The contractor could have saved himself some money and time, and could have saved the architect and the owner some time, if the contractor had just prepared a submittal for the architect’s review before proceeding with the work. (Oh, yes, some freshly-installed flooring underlayment had to be removed before the project could proceed. THAT was a waste of time and money.)
If something is added to a project, because of an unforeseen condition, everyone (architect, owner, contractor) often acts as if it’s the first time this sort of thing has ever happened. It’s not. Unexpected things happen all the time on construction projects, and that’s why we have standard processes to deal with them.
Anything that wasn’t originally in the project, but is part of the project now, is in the contract as the result of either a change order or a minor change to the contract. Whether it’s a moisture mitigation treatment for an existing slab, or a whole new roof assembly, whether it was initiated by an owner as a late addition to a project, or it was initiated by the contractor as a solution to an unexpected condition, or initiated as a substitution request because of a sudden product unavailability, it ends up in the contract as the direct result of a change order or a minor change (such as the type authorized by an ASI, Architect’s Supplemental Instructions). Even when the change results in no added cost to the owner, and even when its purpose is solely to repair a mistake made by the contractor, it’s a change, and it should be documented (and submitted on).
Architects and specifiers can make sure that the contract documents require submittals for things that weren’t originally in the project. Requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction is a good idea. In fact, requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction may be even more important than requiring submittals for things that were originally part of the design, since the new element wasn’t originally thought through along with the rest of the design. The contractor’s preparation of the submittal, and the architect’s review of the submittal, act as a double-check mechanism to help make sure that the added item will be appropriate.
Contributed by Michael Chambers
In my 25-plus years as a specifier I have been an independent consultant and in-house project specifier. I have had the privilege of working with a wide variety of designers, project architects, and interior designers. I have developed specifications for projects ranging from room additions to a billion-dollar hospital.
Recently on 4Specs.com, someone asked the question, “How to work effectively with Specification Writer?
In my opinion and experience, the more knowledgeable a design professional is about specification processes, the more effectively they can work with specifiers. Probably the best project architect I have ever worked with was a gentleman at Ellerbe Becket in Minneapolis. He was incredibly knowledgeable about specification processes and how they integrated with drawings. He also hated writing specs. He would ask me the most insightful questions about what he was drawing and how it should be specified. He understood the process and how to make it work for his projects.
In explaining to design professionals what they need to understand about specifications, I would ask them to consider the following issues and concepts.
Every design professional has expectations for a certain level of quality in their projects. One key element that is often overlooked or underestimated in projects is quality. How do you accomplish the design concept and protect your design intent? How do you indicate the levels of quality that are appropriate for your client’s needs and budget?
Specifications, that’s how. Drawings have no qualitative aspects; they indicate size, shape, and relationship but not quality. Specifications are all about quality. They contain critical procedures and product information that allow the design professional to stay in control of the review and approval processes that affect the design concept.
Also, the boring bit about formats and standardized places for information are critical in limiting omissions by acting as checklists and highly effective coordination tools.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
In a few short days, Cherise and I will once again jump on a plane and converge on a new locale to spread the Let’s Fix Construction message. A new conference, and with that, a new audience, awaits in Anaheim at the AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference to hear a little about the who and a little more about the why behind what we’re doing.
With LFC being founded steeply in our Construction Specifications Institute roots and beliefs, much of the message of LFC and CSI remains in our closed loop circles if we do not do our part in getting in touch with the onlookers and informing new individuals about the who, the what and the why in 2019 and beyond.
These continued opportunities will never cease to amaze me. Cherise and I go into each one grateful for the chance to spread the message of Let’s Fix Construction and to perhaps spark an AHA! moment for even one of our attendees. For I truly believe that it only takes one person to walk away from one of our workshops to know that we’ve done our part. One person to tell us after attendance that they could feel our passion for what we’re doing. One person to say that they got more out of one session than a year of box lunches.
And Cherise and I are just two voices for Let’s Fix Construction. With our Speed Mentoring session in Anaheim, Let’s Fix Construction becomes dozens of voices, encompassing hundreds of years of construction experience, which will be conveyed to dozens more new receptors of our message and mission.
The AEC industry is undergoing monumental change and culture shifts and the next twenty years are vital to not only our future, but our children’s, grandchildren’s and great grandchildren's future. It’s important for all of us to continue to spread our knowledge and experience, and personally for Cherise and me, our mission and our passion that we deploy within Let’s Fix Construction.
You may not have the opportunity to join us in Anaheim at AEC Next, but there will be other chances. We’re always listening and open for new formats to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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