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Lucky's Blog

This blog has been created to keep our customers, partners and friends up to date with pertinent information relating to our industry, technical or otherwise. It will also keep everyone up to date with M.C. Dean's ever expanding capabilities. Thanks to all my followers and I hope you find this blog both helpfull and informative. Best Regards: Lucky Drake

Friday, February 17, 2012

Plan Your Work

Plan your work then work your plan! It really is that simple. This article will speak to how to set up jobs prior to the boots on the ground startup of a project. I believe that this will give you the best chance for success on a project. However, this should also be translated into everyday life regardless of what kind of work you do. The idea is to break down the tasks involved into small bites and analyze each step and have contingencies in place for each step. If you do this properly you will have already virtually completed the project and uncovered any issues, and how to deal with them, before you ever even start the project. Some of this example is industry specific to Electrical Projects, but much of the data is transferable to any discipline.

Prior to bid:

Analyze the customer, scope of work, project schedule, experience you have in this line of work, terms and conditions of the contract, cost to bid the project vs. the likelihood of winning this project, and strategies to secure the project. This takes place to make sure that the project is a good fit for your company prior to spending any money bidding the project. For example: why bother spending the money bidding a project only to find out in the end that you cannot agree on the terms and conditions included in the contract agreement.

Bidding process:

Once you decide a project is a good fit, take the time to go through all the contractual documents. Document all plans and project specification dates on the proposal; any questions or clarifications applicable to the contractual documents or schedule need to have an RFI-P# sent to the Engineer, Owner and GC for clarification and documentation. Then the correspondence needs to be entered into an RFI-P log for tracking. I.E. substitutions, approved vendors, schedule constraints, etc… All communication needs to be logged and tracked. If there are any conversations on the phone, they need to be followed up by an email recapping what was discussed and agreed to by both parties then logged as part of the proposal package. Once the final price is ready for submittal, include all of the recorded RRFI-P#, the dates, and pages of the contract documents, and any correspondence log information as part of the proposal.

Upon award but prior to executing contract:

The contract and documents need to be checked against the proposal documents to assure there are no new changes to the terms and conditions, schedule, contractual documents, and that the contract includes all RFI-Ps and recorded correspondence. The PM and Superintendant that will be running this job need to do an entirely separate take off to compare to the original proposal and be in full agreement that the proposal is solid and nothing has been missed or overlooked.

After execution of the contract but prior to starting the project:

The Project Manager needs to completely build the project from the ground up in their head and prepare the following documents to prepare for the start of the project:

1. Build the budget and breakdown into cost codes; all like type materials and areas for tracking.

2. Build a loaded resource schedule showing all milestones, critical path activities, submittals, manpower, equipment, materials, release dates, etc… This schedule needs to have ‘float time’ built in for contingencies and changes.

3. Start a CO log, RFI log, and correspondence log for the project including all pre-bid RFI-P and correspondence.

4. Build buyout schedules with expected targets.

5. Build rental equipment schedules with budgets.

6. Build four week look-aheads for the first week and continued every week after.

7. Build pre-fab designs and schedules.

8. Draft detailed duct bank drawings.

9. Draft electrical and equipment room layouts and measurements.

10. Build DPO Tracking, if applicable, with release dates.

11. Build LIC worksheet / Indirect daily costs.

12. Build subcontractor buyouts, schedules, and targets.

13. Build schedule of values to keep cash positive based on the above schedules.

By completing all of these tasks (some of which many of my readers will not understand) the PM has virtually built the entire project from the beginning to the end in their head. This will allow the PM to analyze and address any issues before ever starting the project, and allow all long lead equipment or support to be ordered in plenty of time for the project.

Where most jobs go south is when one or more of these steps are skipped or not fully thought through. For example, contracts get signed with language that ties a contractor to something that wasn’t included in the original proposal, or long lead items were not identified in the release schedules, or there wasn’t enough time allotted for a specific activity in the contractual schedule, and so on. The key is to make sure before the job ever starts that there has been good communication between the team that bid this project and the team that will ultimately build this project. The fewer the surprises down the road the better off you will be in the end. It really all comes down to documentation. If you can’t provide proof of the conversation, then you cannot defend your position. So take the time to plan your work before you start the project. Because the truth is; that if you fail to plan your work, you are planning to fail.

While this is pointed directly at construction, and yes I know I left out many items, I used this to get the point across about planning your work. You would never take a trip somewhere without taking the time to plan and pack, but everyday people jump into a work project without taking the time to plan. This article was written to try and express the importance of taking those few minutes to plan your work before you start. It will greatly increase your efficiency and will also keep any surprises from derailing your efforts.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Follow Directions

To all my loyal followers, I apologize for the long delay between posts. We have gone through a large scale restructuring that took up all my free time and kept me from my weekly blog updates. I am back on track now and hopefully will be back to a weekly or at least bi-weekly blog posting. Thanks to all of you who have continued to follow me through this rough time, and I hope you enjoy this weeks post.
Follow Directions

Over the years I have managed multiple team members with a multitude of different personalities. In that time I have made some lifelong relationships with some of them, and had a tumultuous relationship with others. While you would think that the team members that I am still in contact with today would have been the best employees, you would be wrong. The truth is that over the years I have had to fire many team members that I really liked as people. Even though we could not continue as colleagues we were able to continue a relationship as friends. Other team members that I didn’t get along with personally were exceptional managers. This comes down to the famous saying; “it’s not personal; it’s business”. While I tried to help some of the people I liked personally, sometimes it came down to them not having the skill set required for the job, in many cases, not being able to follow directions.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people simply cannot follow directions. One thing I have always done throughout my career is make sure that I follow directions. When my boss asks me for something, it takes top priority over everything else I am doing. Never have I ignored a direction from a superior, or pushed it to the back of the line. However, I have seen this multiple times by other colleagues.

Many companies spend thousands of dollars, and countless hours training each employee on the proper way to complete a job within the most stringent safety guidelines. This is to insure that the job is done right and that the employee goes home safe at the end of the day. However, despite all the efforts and emphasis on procedure and safety, some rogue employees take it upon themselves to break the rules and do things “their way”, putting the company, their lives, and their jobs, at risk.

As a manager I task many of my team members with specific assignments that need to get done. We will go over the details of what I need and a time frame for completion, ending with a Q&A period. However, more often than not, I have to send reminders to them asking again for the ‘deliverable items’ I originally requested. All I can say is thank you Microsoft for Outlook, because without it, I would have a hard time keeping up with all the reminders to ask again and again for the items from my team members. To this day I don’t understand this problem. If my boss has to remind me of something I am mortified that I let it slip. Never would I need to be reminded a second time. So how is it that I have some team members that I have to remind a third, fourth, and even fifth time? How long do you think I will continue to rely on them?

Now don’t get me wrong I have several team members that I never have to ask twice. I also have Managers that feel the same way I do and instantly return my requests ahead of the scheduled completion date. These are my Rock Stars and the team members that will go far with me. However, others will decide what is important and what is not important to them. I honestly believe they think I give them assignments just to keep them busy. The truth is, that if I asked for it, it’s because I need it. Maybe they don’t understand why, but that doesn’t reduce the fact that I wouldn’t ask them for something I didn’t think was important.

I have had many people ask me how I have achieved success in my career thus far, or advice on how they can move up the corporate ladder. In the end it comes down to following directions. If your superior tasks you with something, you need to treat the task as though your job depends on it. If a company has rules-- follow them, as though your job depends on it. There is a reason you were assigned those tasks, or why those rules are in place, even if you don’t understand what they are. Please understand that I am not suggesting that you follow blindly without question. I have never had an issue with a team member questioning my direction. In fact I enjoy it when someone challenges my ideas. I know I don’t have all the answers and I am always looking for another’s insight. What I am referring to is when people say they understand and agree with the assignment and then don’t deliver. If I have to ask two or three times to get something, then I begin to feel that either you don’t respect me enough to execute my request, or you don’t know how to do what I asked.

I have always believed that there are only four reasons why people don’t do what they are told:

1. They don’t know how.

2. They don’t have the proper tools or support.

3. They don’t want to.

4. They are just plain lazy.

Items one and two can be easily fixed by getting them the training, tools, or support they need as long as they let you know what they are lacking. Items three and four are different issues. If one of these is the problem, the only cure is to get rid of the team member and find someone who is motivated to replace them, and supply them with the training and support needed to be successful.

I want to close this article by stating that I am not trying to come across as a tyrannical fascist; but just giving all my readers the best advice I can give, based on my many years in management. If you follow the directions of your superior and the rules of the company, not only will you earn the trust of your superiors and start your accent up the virtual corporate ladder, but you may just learn something along the way.