Your Electrician has a name, and it’s not Sparky.

Team building and collaboration are vital elements for implementing a successful Lean strategy in the construction industry. Here are 5 team building tips.

Years ago, I was having a conversation with a project superintendent who was frustrated with the last planner system. He complained that his trades were not wanting to come to the daily huddles or pull plan sessions, and when they attended, they offered little to no input.  He felt strongly that the problem was we didn’t have this activity noted in their contracts and if we added the stipulation in the future that they would attend. I wasn’t so sure, so I asked to attend a huddle to see for myself.

And what I saw was the following:

  1. The superintendent referring to each of the trade partners by their firm name.
  2. None of the foreman communicating with each other (unless they were arguing) only the project superintendent.
  3. The foreman not referring to each other by first or last name (lots of nicknames – tinbender, sparky, etc.).
  4. No discussion about project goals or milestones.
  5. No trade to trade collaboration.

Team Building and Collaboration Tips

This made me question. Why don’t we build teams in the field the same way we do in sports? Meaning, building a bond between the foreman and focusing them around the goals and priorities of the project. It took some time, but that’s exactly what that superintendent did on that project, and the outcome was entirely different than any previous job of his. Below is his tip sheet on how to build a strong team on your jobsite.

Get to know each other

Don’t call your electrician Sparky. Call your foreman by their names. Get to know them and allow them to get to know each other. This could be over beers after work or putting a picnic table outside the trailer and inviting the guys to come sit and eat over lunch. The more you get the team on a first name basis, the easier time they will have working together onsite.

Value your foreman

Each man or woman on the job brings something unique to the table, and their expertise can be a major asset to the project. Take the approach that your job is to make them feel like their job matters. You will be surprised by what ideas come to the table when you allow it.

Encourage collaboration

Have you ever had two different trades come up to you at the same time talking about an issue that involves the other one? Empower those foremen to collaborate. Have them go into the field together to come up with solutions before presenting the issue.

Set goals

Get your foreman aligned with the mini and major milestones of the project. Put a scoreboard up and make it fun. The team should always know the dates of the upcoming milestones and feel ownership around the commitments they make toward meeting those goals.

Celebrate your success and learn from your failures

If someone pulls a late shift or puts in high quality work, give them a shout out in front of the team. Acknowledge when trades are working well together. When the team fails, don’t throw people under the bus. The mentality should be if one trade fails, we all fail. Bring the team in and understand why they failed and what countermeasures can insure it doesn’t happen in the future.

By: Keyan Zandy, COO
Skiles Group

For more from Keyan, see The Lean Builder – A Builder’s Guide to Applying Lean Tools in the Field or Connect with Keyan on LinkedIn.

Keyan Zandy is a longtime Lean practitioner, enthusiast, and advocate. As Skiles Group’s COO, he has a dual focus on client service and on nurturing a progressive company culture. He is ultimately responsible for the oversight of the firm’s daily operations and ensuring that their Lean processes are continuously improved and consistently practiced. He is the co-author of The Lean Builder: A Builder’s Guide to Applying Lean Tools in the Field, which simplifies and clearly articulates the benefits of seven primary Lean concepts, and delivers them in a highly-relatable, immediately-applicable, and field-friendly manner. Keyan also serves as CEO for Smart Safety, an award-winning crisis management communication and emergency response tool.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Buddy Brumley

    Absolutely this approach works. It changes the atmosphere of the job. I feel the tension between our trade partners ease when we follow these practices. The teams really excel on the next project when these relationships have already been established. It also helps new trade partner leaders adjust to this team building approach.

    February 6, 2020 at 7:52 pm | Reply

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