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 •