Written by Jason Schroeder
January 16, 2022
An important aspect of any construction project’s success is the level of stability on the project. In order to have true project stability, your workers need to know what they are building, how to install it, where it goes, the materials and equipment required, and a clean and safe environment in which to work.
For Schroeder, the stability of the project is the superintendent's key consideration. He believes that projects that lack stability aren’t suffering from a lack of knowledge but rather from a lack of motivation on the superintendent's part.
“If you can't keep a clean job — and that means on your water main install, on your site development projects, at the mines, wherever you are — then you can't do anything to 100% certainty on your project. Because that's where that's what it all comes down to,” says Schroeder.
“But if you can get human beings to keep a remarkably clean project that is safe, organized, and that is clean,” he continues, “you can do anything. There's nothing you can't do.”
Clean, safe, and organized.
There’s nothing harder than keeping a job site clean and yet that’s your most important job. When a job site is clean, safe, and organized, there’s no end to what you can accomplish: “You can keep the project on schedule, you can create flow, you can make a remarkable experience for the owner, you can finish on time, all of these other things.”
Schroeder asks you “to be just like General Patton. We salute, we have our helmets on, we train, we're on time, we practice like we want to play. Now we're not in the military. But as soon as we cross that gate, as soon as we come onto that project site, we are ready to go to war. Like everything on that construction project is trying to kill you.”
Schroeder doesn’t see this as an exaggeration. “That crane is trying to kill you. That loader is trying to kill you. Everything's trying to kill you. That trench is trying to kill you. Everything's trying to kill you. That high pressure waterline.”
“It's all going to get you if you're not acting and practicing and dressing and looking and thinking like a soldier, you're going to find yourself in harm's way and under fire.” says Schroeder.
The environment shapes the activities.
As a superintendent, your job is to create that stability as soon as somebody comes onto the site, demonstrating that we are on point — we're ready to go. For example, Schroeder doesn’t recommend having a composite cleaner. He always recommends having the trade partners be responsible for their own cleanup.
When it comes to running and maintaining a clean site, he points to the need for having standards in place. If the grading crew is throwing stuff out to the side, that has to be picked up. If the pipe crew’s leaving trails of cut pipe, all that gets picked up. In sum, “Whether you're in the mine, whether you're doing site development, whether you're doing structures, whatever you're doing in this wonderful dirt world of ours, we have to run a clean site.”
Which means that everything is organized and every delivery goes in its designated space.
It also means that everyone on the site is safe: Everyone is wearing their PPE (personal protective equipment). Everyone is following the rules.
How you treat your worksite is not unrelated to how you treat your workers. Every one of your workers, from laborer to foreman, is smart and capable of following the rules. And they take pride in the work they do. If you or other contractors treat them like dirt, that’s going to become the culture. Whatever bad behavior you tolerate on your project is going to become the culture.
Schroeder would have you write this down: “The success of any organization is determined by the worst behavior that you are willing to tolerate. The success of your project, your dirt job, is determined by the worst behavior that you are willing to tolerate.”
As the superintendent, says Schroeder, “If there's an accident, you said it was okay. If there is a dirty area, you said it was okay. If the bathrooms are messy. You said it was okay. Anything that happens on that project site, you said it was okay.”
On the flip side, as soon as you stop tolerating a behavior, it can change. “Everything can change tomorrow, as soon as you stop tolerating it.” The superintendent has ultimate control over which way the story goes.
And once you stabilize a project, you can optimize it.
“There is no improvement without stability. There is no improvement without standards,” says Schroeder. Can you improve when things are changing every day? The answer is no. But with a stable environment, a stable team, and stable leadership, you’re headed toward excellence.
Written by Jason Schroeder
January 16, 2022