Shorten the Feedback Loops
September 4, 2018
A couple of years ago at the start of a project a new customer pulled me aside and said, “Joe, if you have a problem, ask for help early when a little bit of help can do a lot of good. Don’t wait until it’s too late when a lot of help can only do a little bit of good.”
This is some of the wisest advice I’ve ever been given. The earlier a problem is discovered, the easier and less expensive it will be to resolve it. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to fix a problem on paper, prior to any material being delivered to the site, than it is to fix it after the material has been installed.
On lean/integrated projects, respect for people is a core value. One element of respecting people is giving them the opportunity to ask questions and be heard. If you are not hearing about problems on your project, you surely have a problem. As anyone who has been in this industry for any amount of time knows, ALL projects have problems. So how do we uncover problems early?
First, create an environment where people feel comfortable speaking. At the conclusion of meetings, go around the room and ask every person there if there is anything keeping them from achieving their plan and whether they need anything from you. At first this will make people uncomfortable, but repetition will eventually make it easier on them. Your leadership is key.
Second, make “see something, say something” the norm. Everyone on the team should be encouraged to ask questions, report issues, and speak up if they see something that doesn’t look or seem right to them. This behavior should be rewarded.
Next, shorten the feedback loops. Once a problem is discovered, stay on it until the problem is solved. There is nothing to be gained by allowing a problem to go unresolved. Even if it is not an immediate issue affecting progress, figure it out as soon as possible. The downstream impacts of unresolved problems in construction are often unquantifiable.
Finally, related to shortening the feedback loops, get the right people in the room to solve the right problem. Too often we discuss problems with the wrong people. To do this well, first determine what problem you are trying to solve, then decide who you need to help you solve it. Get them in a room and work on it until you get an answer.
Problems are a fact of life in the construction industry. Solving them at the earliest possible time can be the difference between a good project and nightmare.
Article by Joe Massaro, President and CEO of Massaro Construction Group