Wednesday 27 June 2007

Responsibility, attitude and accountability

copyright Pearce Innovations, LLC. Paper given by Marc Pearce Vice President.... continued from previous post.

Quality and safety also an issue

Building projects, by their dynamic nature, involve other responsibilities namely quality and safety that deserve similar attention. As managers, we should define specific goals for these areas too. Of course, each supervisor may have different requirements, depending on his(her) trade, but it's still important to establish guidelines. Quality success, for instance, may be defined as:

  • Installation meets specification.
  • Rework is less than one percent
  • Zero compliance items remain at the completion of an activity.

As for safety, it is, and should be, one of the highest priorities for builders today. Injuries can devastate a project in both money and morale, not to mention taint the reputation of the company. Supervisors and their subordinates make the best safety proponents on any construction project. You can empower them by defining aggressive requirements involving everyone. Safety success might include:

  • Four safety audits performed each week by every front line supervisor
  • Periodic examination by project and upper managers of safety practices being implemented
  • Random interviews with subordinates by managers to determine the perceived attitudes toward safety of their supervisors

Attitude Is Key

Schedule, cost, quality and safety are fairly easy to define and, if managed professionally, will net a satisfactory project. But there's another "softer," more elusive issue that can have a profound impact on the project too. Attitude, in my opinion, is everything. It involves managers, supervisors and subordinates. It permeates all aspects of the project and site: In planning the work, in delivering a quality product, in training for safety, and in interacting with both internal and external clients. As managers, we usually know the type of attitude we want to see in others. The trick is to convey that message to our supervisors. Attitude success might include:

  • Cooperation – readily helps subordinates and other front line Supervisors
  • Communication – readily and accurately shares information with subordinates, peers and managers
  • Teamwork – readily implements team and morale building activities or functions.

But how do we actually measure attitude since it involves perception? It's really quite easy once you've defined what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. You simply score each person, based on the collective observations of managers, peers and subordinates. I have to admit, measuring attitude can yield a few surprises. On one or two occasions, my perception of a particular supervisor has been considerably different than that of their subordinates.

But the underlying message is that by talking to others you gain valuable insight. For instance, some of the most experienced supervisors can be some of the worst communicators. Yet by learning that, you can provide specific training so that a supervisor not only improves his(her) skills but takes one step closer to success.

Accountability Is Essential

As a manager, you'll probably have other objectives or targets important to your organisation that you'll want to measure. After defining all the elements of a supervisor's success, you need to periodically monitor his(her) performance. Gathering, reporting and analyzing data is critical in measuring an individual's progress. But you'll need to determine how, and with what frequency, that information is collected and shared.

There is any number of measuring sticks to score a person's performance. It can be as simple as checking a "yes" or "no," indicating achievement of a specific target or marking a scale from one to five – or zero to 100 percent.

Whatever the gauge, by formally grading supervisory performance, managers can pinpoint accurately what and where attention is needed. For example, a supervisor who routinely scores low on safety may be putting others at high risk for an incident. Or a supervisor who seems to have a substantial rework rate could be experiencing outside influences – such as design or material deficiencies – that negatively affect performance. Low scores will trigger management to act. Periodically reviewing and adjusting each supervisor's goals, as predicated by the project, has to be part of the process. Objectives may be different, for instance, during the design-versus construction phases. A word to the wise: Invite front line supervisors to be part of the goal-setting and evaluation process.

You'll have instant feedback on how the program is playing – and a perfect backdrop for getting supervisors to buy-in. What's important is to focus attention where it's needed with laser-type accuracy instead of a shotgun approach.

Recognise and Reward

Managers are sometimes quick to discipline, but slow to recognise. But the suggestions enumerated here should help you identify those supervisors who are excelling within your organisation and, more important, merit your praise.

Supervisors who are successful in meeting their goals deserve to be rewarded, even if it's just a kind word. Too often, however, I think we ignore the obvious: Recognition, given in front of peers, goes a long way in lifting a team's spirit and improving morale.

Upper management should also encourage successful supervisors to acknowledge subordinates who've contributed positively to the team effort. Rewards don't need to be elaborate or expensive. Gift certificates or a catered lunch will suffice. The idea is just to motivate others by acknowledging "job well done."

You might be surprised at the spin-offs. Recognition will foster an innovative environment where camaraderie and even friendly competition helps everyone meet overall objectives.

The bottomline? Organisations that help supervisors be successful – and recognise them in the process – can expect measurable increases in performance and efficiency.

Pearce Innovations •

Empowerment and Accountability of Front Line Supervisors Improves Construction Performance

Historical Perspective

Construction projects are, by their very nature, dynamic environments, full of many variables. One day it's necessary to spray water to keep down the dust; the next day it's necessary to pump water to control the mud. Determining performance amidst such constant change is challenging at best. But the situation is more tenuous because our industry doesn't measure its front-line supervisors nearly as much as it tracks schedules, costs or safety. Yet these are the very people who have direct contact with hands-on personnel. Because they can influence performance and efficiency daily, their role should be encouraged, tracked, measured and rewarded. But how? Begin by retooling attitudes of the past. Gone are the days when a project boss can run his(her) site by simply invoking "It's my way or the highway" or "We've always done it that way" or even "If it's not broke, don't fix it." Gone also are the days when the solution to improving productivity and efficiency is simply pushing people to work harder. Managers have learned that putting the muscle to individuals can cause a backlash. Rather than raising productivity, it leads to quality problems and safety issues, not to mention absenteeism and low morale.

Today, savvy upper managers build on traditional productivity measures by motivating their front line supervisors to take responsibility for project outcomes. To do so, they create an environment in which supervisors are both informed and armed with:

Written descriptions of their responsibilities

  • Access to planned-versus-actual data specific to their team's tasks
  • Clear and measurable goals for success
  • Frequent feedback on performance
  • Continued training and rewards for their efforts —and those of the team

Communication is key.

Regardless of their titles, most supervisors want to do a good job. Yet they often ask questions for which they should know the answers. During my 18-year stint as a construction project manager, I was constantly amazed at the time I spent responding to my supervisors' queries: "When is 'X' scheduled to be finished?" "What is the equipment budget for 'Y'?" But I came to realise that as managers, we were often not effective in closing the information loop. Our front line supervisors sometimes didn't know or understand what was expected of them, even though we thought we had the items covered in the weekly schedule or budget report.

We have every fiscal reason to make things clear since supervisors routinely have direct weekly responsibility over thousands of pounds in labour, equipment and project material costs. So motivating subordinates to work smarter, not just harder, can be a positive step in improving the bottom-line.

Finding the holes; targeting changes

Moving forward starts with an honest evaluation of the organisation for ways to improve it. Your corporate soul-searching will no doubt lead to changes for both upper managers and front line supervisors. But you want to begin by asking people at every managerial level some trigger questions to identify what might be missing.

  1. Do we have an effective communication tool to share information with our front line supervisors? Is that sharing done in a timely fashion?
  2. Are we getting the right information concerning cost, scheduling, materials and effort hours to supervisors to help them with day-to-day decision-making?
  3. Do we clearly define the expectations of our front line supervisors? Do they understand those expectations?
  4. Do we have a program in place to measure accountability of our front line supervisors?
  5. Do our front line supervisors understand the fundamentals of cost management?
  6. Does our organisation have an effective change management system in place? Have our front line supervisors been instructed in the "do's" and "don'ts" of that system?
  7. Do we have a process in place to identify where front line supervisors need training?
  8. Do we allow, even encourage, our front line supervisors to implement innovative ideas?
  9. Do we have a mechanism or forum in place to implement those ideas in other projects or areas? Does your organisation have a best practice data source?
  10. Do we have a program for recognising and rewarding success?

Answering "no" to any of the above questions should raise red flags since they cover the components necessary for breakthrough success.

Information Empowers

To create any win, you want to ensure that each supervisor has accurate and timely information along with clearly defined goals to effectively manage subordinates.

Every supervisor should understand his(her) specific activities and the labour and cost implications of them. As managers, we tend to keep detailed cost information close to the vest. But such data can be useful in making day-to-day work decisions, not to mention, improving efficiency and performance. The important thing is to package goals in relation to the factors most important to the organisation:

Cost , schedule, safety, quality and attitude.

For example, your schedule should spell out each task clearly so that front line supervisors know their assigned responsibilities and can't fall back on that old canard, "that's not mine to do." The budget for each task needs to include both effort-hours and labour cost, details which can be very valuable to supervisors in making daily decisions.

Once you've established each supervisor's responsibilities, the next step is to identify targets that will define this individual's success. That can be done in various ways. You may define success, for instance, as:

  • Completing an activity before the actual due date
  • Working activities in their planned sequence
  • Achieving an actual progress percentage that's greater than the plan

In looking at "budget vs. actual effort-hours and costs," you also may define success as:

  • Keeping construction equipment rental at 10 percent under budget
  • Keeping actual effort-hours at five percent below budget
  • Managing change so that cost of it is recovered with no impact to schedule.

But merely outlining budgetary and labour goals for supervisors is only part of the success equation. Every definition has to be backed-up by a management team that's both supportive and continuously involved. If we're to see positive results, we need to encourage supervisors to discuss schedules and budgets with subordinates and, as a team, look for innovative ways to save time and money.

Pearce Innovations •

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Successful company leaders empower their people to execute their company’s mission and then hold them accountable to do so

That’s the essence of a new book titled, “Vital Factors: The Secret to Transforming Your Business - And Your Life.” The book’s co-author Lee Froschheiser is the chief executive officer and president of Management Action Programs (MAP) Inc. in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Froschheiser was recently interviewed over the phone by SBT executive editor Steve Jagler.

SBT: One of the lines in your book is a reference about how effective leaders don’t spend most of their time telling people what to do. Instead, they create a system that empowers people to understand and execute the company’s mission statement. Is that a core principle of your book – empowering people and then holding them accountable?
Froschheiser: “The essence is to get people to understand what the right things to work on are, and empower them and train them and coach them. And when I give my speech in Milwaukee, I’m going to talk about empowerment, and what goes into empowerment. And then, you’re right. You’ve got to hold people accountable.

“I can go into companies and ask employees, ‘Do you feel empowered?’ And a lot of times, they’ll say, ‘No, I don’t feel empowered.’ As a leader, empowerment doesn’t mean they (employees) get to run amuck. As a leader, empowerment is that you train and develop and they understand that this is what I need to work on, and I’m going to be held accountable on this. It takes a lot of energy to tell people what to be doing all the time.

“I like to use the analogy of a buffalo herd and a gaggle of geese. I go fly-fishing up in Montana all the time, right in the heart of Yellowstone National Park, and there’s always buffalo herds there. If you ever watch a buffalo herd, a buffalo herd truly does have one lead buffalo. Where the lead buffalo goes, that’s where the herd goes. That’s why the buffalo hunters could wipe out so many buffaloes. They’d find the lead buffalo, they’d shoot it, and the rest of them would all stand around, waiting for the lead buffalo to move. And what happens in companies when the leader is always telling people what to do, is you become a buffalo herd. When the leader’s not there, guess what? Nothing happens. What you really want is an organization where there’s empowerment, and you become that gaggle of geese, where, when the lead goose gets tired and falls back, the next one takes the lead. And you don’t have that in an organization if you don’t have empowerment. So, you’re right on.”

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Managing directors & others - time allocation

Rules of thumb
80% time dealing with customers and people
20% on other issues

All managers should spend circa 30%+ time on people engagement; e.g. 1 to 1s, team talks, etc activities

Supply Chain personnel impact on business

Rule of thumbs for returns to be expected on cost of employment.

minimum 7-11 times salary cost.
good 20
great 40+

Container ship capacities

Emma Maersk is world's biggest ship; 397m long, beam 56m and 21 storeys between bridge and engine room and capacity to transport 11,000 containers.
Bananas -an interesting perspective on volume and product.
Single container can carry 48,000 bananas - in theory container could hold 528 million bananas in a single voyage. Everyone in UK could have banana for breakfast for almost 9 days!

Monday 11 June 2007

Knowledge Paradox & a Competency Framework for Knowledge Management

Overload - objective to learn something new
Seductive Technology - promise > capacity to use (culture lags)
Business as Unusual - old leverage of physical assets

Competency Analysis (from BT seminar 2000)
Learn - Innovate - Collaborate - Integrate - Lever

Learn - BUILDING KNOWLEDGE - prepared Mind
- response to opportunity / threat
- competing on foresight

Innovate - CREATING KNOWLEDGE - open mind
- foster creativity, value ideas
- capture flow of ideas - process
- adapting physical spaces
- rewarding
- execute fast

Collaborative - SHARING KNOWLEDGE - collective mind
- community, sustainable relationship = share knowledge, working together with feedback

Integrate - STRUCTURING KNOWLEDGE - connected mind
- (Knowledge plus Knowledge) K+K = Value
- Connection outside usual boundaries
- Visibility / Transparency
- adapt and integrate change
- long planning cycles - dynamically reconfigure organisation

Lever - USING KNOWLEDGE - productive mind
- make productive use of resources and assets
- knowledge grows with sharing
- smart decisions on share/ protect