Culture

Construction Superintendent 2.0: Update and Reboot

Construction Superintendent 2.0 is the new Lean superintendent that is replacing the old school mentality with a new one based on terms like collaboration, patience, respect, flexibility, and accountability. NV2A Group’s Frank Coln explains.


For many years, I wore a tool belt at work. I used a hammer, speed square, chalk box, and even a plumb bob. The fact that I even know what those tools are and how to use them has helped advance my career in the construction industry. To some people, that knowledge equates to experience—and this experience leads others to have faith that you’re able to run a successful construction project. It means that you should be able to put work in place (and not lose money doing it) as the superintendent.

Construction Superintendent 2.0

But today’s construction industry needs a lot more from superintendents than previously required, and with Lean construction practices becoming the industry standard, it’s time we have an honest conversation about the different qualifications and leadership styles it takes to execute Lean practices in the field. Several years ago, when I first met Keyan Zandy, we shared conversations on this evolution. He referred to this desirable skill set as “Superintendent 2.0,” and I liked the futuristic quality of that term.

What might that look like?

SUPERINTENDENT 1.0

VS.

SUPERINTENDENT 2.0
Manages with “top down” style Empowers others
Pushes work Ensures work is “ready”
Creates the work plan Listen to others create the work plan
Uses contract/payment withholding to enforce accountability Establishes accountability through promises and tracking reliability
Encourages back charges for re-work/damaged work Finds root cause of issue and works to address issue with all parties
Excludes owner/architect/subcontractors Includes owner/architect/trade partners
Repeats same old solutions to same old problems Tries new ways to prevent same old problems from occurring

The Lean Update and Reboot

We expect our superintendents to manage the project according to “1.0” traits while also expecting Lean practices to lead to better project performance. But our projects will not see the benefits of Lean if we continue to manage work as we did before its adoption. New tactics require a new approach. A few things we can do to encourage the transition from superintendent 1.0 to superintendent 2.0 are:

STOP asking when work is going to start and finish. START asking why work has not started or finished.

STOP authorizing re-work and corrective work performed on a ticket. START discussing the work in the field with all parties involved and reach an agreement on how to repair and prevent.

STOP forcing the updated CPM schedule on trades. START identifying constraints and seek input from trade partners.

STOP expecting superintendents to be an expert in lean construction practices. START providing training and support.

Leadership and experience in will always be essential qualities for superintendents—but successfully implementing Lean takes a different type of superintendent than what our industry has traditionally required. There are several new tools you’ll need to add to your belt, including collaboration, patience, respect, flexibility, and accountability. Construction is evolving, with Lean leading the way. Now it’s our turn. Let the journey to SUPERINTENDENT 2.0 begin.

By Frank Coln, NV2A Group
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Frank Coln, NV2A Group

Frank Coln helps teams deliver better projects through his use of lean practices. He has assumed different roles ranging from field engineering to project management. His passion for seeing the work put in place and improving flow of construction activities led him to his current role of project superintendent.

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