Improving Operations

To recap – we’ve visited Bob’s construction firm and analyzed its strengths and weaknesses. His people have good technical skills (construction, estimating) and poor communications practices.

Weak points included data entry, and mis-communication during the hand-off of jobs between workers.

This in turn indicated poor leadership by the owner, weak internal controls, poor training, and an overall lack of accountability.

That’s the diagnosis. Now we need to apply some therapy to fix these things.

We identified, during our interviews and our first group activity, ten high-impact tasks that weren’t being done the right way consistently. For each one we wrote up detailed, step-by-step procedures on the right way to do the task.

Then we trained and cross-trained everyone on these procedures. Soon the quality of work improved dramatically in those areas, and the complaints that “the boss expects me to read his mind” went away. Previously frustrated and disempowered workers began to feel empowered.

Next we worked on daily disciplines, focusing on some simple and high impact items. We began each day with a daily meeting that included everyone being in the office, on time, in uniform, and prepared to turn in a report on their accomplishments of the prior day and plans for the current day.

This daily meeting provided structure where it had been lacking, reinforced norms of behavior such as wearing the uniform, and was a communications medium for the hand-off of work between workers. The daily reports and plans also allowed the owner to better track what people were doing in a standard way.

Third was to begin holding the sales and marketing people accountable for performing their tasks of bringing in new business, which in this case meant first ensuring that they went out on sales visits. They hadn’t made a sales visit in the prior six months — by the end of the second week they’d begun to make their weekly quota of visits and were already seeing an uptick in new work.

In the next post I’ll describe the results we achieved.

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