TRADE PARTNER HUDDLE
A key part of our daily huddle (that we referenced in our first blog) is our planning and production board. We use this to plan, organize, and display project and site information. The board is an important piece of the complete visual board system that helps to strengthen communication and understanding while capturing the team members commitments and constraints. This blog will outline how we are using each area of our system of planning boards.
PLANNING AND PRODUCTION BOARDS
The production is broken in to four key areas…
- Weekly Work Planning
- Daily Goal Setting
- Learning and Information
- Supplies Kanban
WEEKLY WORK PLANNING
The Work Planning area of the board holds the list of this week’s scheduled tasks as well as all the non-scheduled work the foreman is planning to complete on the project. Most foreman already keeping this list on their schedules, in their heads, and in their notebooks. They are continually adding, subtracting, reorganizing, and adjusting these lists as they travel around the jobsite, coaching and communicating their plans to their team members. When we take those lists out of the heads or hands of the foreman and post them on a board so their entire team can see the upcoming work and site commitments, we see a shift in the ownership of the build—from the just the foreman to the entire team of trades.
What is a trade partner in construction?
A Trade Partner in Construction is a subcontractor (either a company or individual) that specializes in one aspect of the construction project. The “trade” element of a trade partner means that person brings special training, skills, and education in areas such as drywall, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and other component aspects of the build or remodel. The “partner” element of a trade partner means that person brings key knowledge of how their contribution impacts the overall construction plan and collaborates with the general contractor and other specialty trade partners to support a construction project that is delivered on time and on budget.
As a foreman, if you want your trade teams to actively collaborate their work with you, you will need to show them your work lists. When they see the tasks and the work on your board, they will also see the work move from the work plan to the next task, to today’s task, and then to the completed pile. This cycle allows then to see the workflow while providing them with a sense of completion that is achieved with their actual assembly of the building. The sole action of taking these lists out of the foreman’s head and putting it up onto the board is the key to transition the ownership from the foreman to the entire team of workers.
The work planning area of the board has two key task lists for your site…
The “Work Plan” area is where all the tasks that you submitted on your weekly work plan live, as well as any other commitments the foreman has made at their site-level trade partner huddles or meetings. These are the same tasks that you would have committed to in your project pull planning sessions. If new work is assigned to you or your team at the trade partner huddle, or if the schedule is modified accelerated or changed. The foreman goes back to the board and adds all the new tasks, so they align with the most current site schedules and realities. The tasks are typically sequenced in the order of completion to maintain workflow across the site. This allows the foreman to easily take these tasks, starting at the top of the list, and assign them to the individuals or teams for completion. This list of committed work creates a visual list of the work targets that need to be completed from this week’s work plan and site commitments.
The Backlog area of the board is where we keep the list of all other tasks, defects, and uncompleted or uncommitted work. There seems to be no shortage of these clean-up items or tasks that we’ll need to come back to and complete onsite. When you first start using your production boards, or if your PPC is off for your team, this area of the board will be full of tasks. These tasks need to be managed, or they will grow into days or weeks worth of work that will negatively impact your project schedule. With some practice and daily planning, all this work can be seamlessly assigned, integrated, or combined with your team members’ Today’s or Next Tasks. Typically, when a team member is working in an area where one of the backlog items is to be completed, they will have no problem taking on these additional tasks in addition to their current committed Today’s Tasks.
The best-in-class option for this area of the board is to open the identification and population of these other tasks to the whole team. When you have 20 other sets of eyes looking at the site, quality and incomplete items will be identified. When this is done, we set up a Kanban to ensure that items are validated and confirmed for additional charges or work. This is another example of possible shared leadership with your team.
DAILY GOAL SETTING
The goal setting part of the production board is where we begin to shift the trade team from thinking and being reactive to becoming more proactive. Each trade person or work team has their own lane on the production board. This lane is used to load their work tasks into the column for either Today’s Task or Next Task.
When Today’s Tasks are assigned to a trade, they are then asked in the morning meeting to consider how long they think the task will take to complete. Their guess is then written on the board by the trade’s foreperson, and they will also add how long they think the task will take into the Foreman’s Guess column. If there is a significant difference between the two guesses a collaborative discussion is had to ensure we understand the approach and possible constraints associated with the task. The discussion continues until they align on the similar durations. When the team members set goals in this collaborative manner, we reduce the number approaches to the work and the overall variation in task durations across the site and company, which improves pull plan task and duration setting with closer actual work times.
We also assign the Next Task for each trade or team. When the trade people know what their Next Task is, they typically take the time to look at the upcoming work area as they travel the site to ensure it is ready for them to start work. They generally note what they need for tools, materials, and if the area is clear and ready to begin work. If it they are missing things, or it is not ready, they raise the issue as their lane is reviewed with the foreman during the huddle. This allows the foreman to get in front of the work and resolve or escalate the constraint at the site daily trade partner meeting. By having the next task on the board, we reduce set-up time and improve overall readiness across the whole site.
At Tomorrows Goal Setting
The team starts the goalsetting by asking about today’s work tasks (now yesterday’s task). Were we able to complete it or not? How long did it take; was our guess right? If they were successful, we add a 😊 in the Team PPC column and then celebrate the success with a high five or vocalization. Our team members need a win and when we check a box or complete a task, we celebrate with a shout-out or high five. These celebrations satisfy our physiological condition, through something calling the Zeigarnik effect, where we get a little shot of dopamine when we check a box and celebrate.
If we were unsuccessful, we place a ☹ in the Team PPC, and then we have a quick collaborative conversation on what happened. How can we improve next time? How could we approach the task differently? This is done with the whole team. This approach improves the quality and speed of the future work across the entire team.
As we go through each of the tasks in each of the lanes, we remove the completed tasks from the board, and then move the Next Tasks into the Today’s Task column. Then we start goal setting for our new Todays Task.
Daily work assignments and planning
Work can be assigned on the fly, in the huddle or by the foreman, after the huddle. Work tasks are selected, starting with the task at the top of the list in the Work Plan column. The foreman looks at the task, considers the resources needed and the capabilities of their team, and then places the task into the Next Task column for those assigned people. Once they have assigned the committed work, they look at the Back Log column to see if any of those tasks can be sprinkled across the team and the board.
Team PPC Score
At the end of the meeting, we add up the number of happy faces and calculate the PPC for the team and write it on the top of the board for the team to see. O our trade partner board, we will typically hit above 90% on our commitments, which is necessary if we want to average 80% PPC at the site trade partner meetings.
Sharing information with your team is important. Everyone on your team needs to be on the same page. We keep information that needs to be shared—both company and site—with the team in the same location. After the foreman reviews their emails or meets with the PMs, they will need to update the board with the new information. The site-specific information is typically added to the board after the daily trade partner huddle.
The information stays on the board for two days. If one of the team is sick, they are generally gone for a day here and there. When we keep the information on the board for two days, we are able to review the information from yesterday with those individuals. We have a Kanban, where the date is written behind the information, and then is erased when it is older than two days. It is critically important to not let the information get stale on the board if we want people to pay attention to the information that is on it.
Our CTI process is a modified A3, where team members review the constraints and roadblocks that are experienced onsite and then we make improvements to the process or work approaches. The goal is to set up and leverage the collaborative discussions that occur during our huddle to focus in on the improvement opportunity, aligning on a team solution and trialing the new method with an individual or team. When the trial is completed, we share the results at the daily huddle.
The “What We Need” area of the board is a tools and supplies Kanban. Because the tradesperson knows what work they are doing tomorrow or later in the week, they also know what tools and supplies they need. The process is simple. They write the item on the board, the foreman then orders the item and writes his initials beside that item to indicate that it is ordered, and then he erases the item once it has been delivered to site.
Having the right tools to get the job done ensures the work in uninterrupted. Using this process, the team member can add items to the list even when the supervisor is not around. The alternative is for the employee to remember, to tell the foreman the next time they see them, or for the team member to search out the foreman on site.
This completes our three-part blog series! I hope that the information has been of some use, and hope see more trade partner huddles on jobsites. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need more information on our huddles.