We've talked time and time again about how construction is a hugely complex industry. The book Checklist Manifesto goes as far as to compare it to professions like Surgeons and Pilots. These are all industries, where no matter how much you train, how hard you work, or how much of an expert you are, there are external variables that are out of your control.
So what happens when these variables enter your little bubble and you need to react and keep moving forward?
Take a minute and think about this. What happens when you're crew runs into an issue? What happens when the inspector rejects a concrete delivery? What happens when the drawings and the spec contradict each other?
Usually (hopefully!) there's a process in place. If you're a project manager and run across a spec/drawing discrepancy, you have a process: you write an RFI. And you probably know what needs to happen in order to get a response to the RFI. You know what form to fill out, you know the information and attachments to include and you know who to send it to.
You just ran through a checklist. Something like that may or may not be written down, but whether you realize it or not, you just went step by step through a checklist.
This happens every. single. day. on a job site. We're constantly running through checklists, either quick and simple or insanely complex (like a schedule).
Make Life Easier to Everyone
The best type of checklists are the kind that you don't have to think about. The brain is an incredibly efficient muscle, and it's constantly looking for ways to take shortcuts. You probably recognize these as habits.
"We're constantly running through checklists, either quick and simple or insanely complex (like a schedule)"
What's interesting is that we often take these habits for granted. If you're a Foreman, you might just assume everyone knows what to do when you're digging in a utility-dense area. But what happens when we just assume that and don't put some guidelines in place? We hit those utilities. So when what happens? We write up a procedure to make sure it doesn't happen again.
If you want to make life easier for everyone, start writing up some of these procedures from the get-go. Take a moment and think about the tasks you complete in a day and start making little checklists. It's going to make your own life easier (and probably more efficient, also!) and it's going to showcase some tasks that can probably be handed off to an assistant or mentee.
I like to use an app called Asana for this. In the past, I've used anything from the Tasks app on my iPhone to OneNote and Evernote. Even an old-school paper notebook can foot the bill here. Find what works for you and hit the ground running!
RELATED: The Power of Habits in Construction
Like our previous example about assuming your crews understand what to do when working in a utility-dense location, this goes for nearly any operation under any circumstance. If you're expecting a specific reaction from your crew or team in a given scenario, put it in writing. Make it so easy that you're sure to get the result you want.
This is the exact same reason we do things like create schedules, write letters, ask RFI's and write work plans. A work plan is probably the best example of this. It's a master plan to complete the operation, including material to be used, safety and quality risks, hold points and even specification requirements. It's a checklist!
I maintain a checklist for what I need to do every week for Frontline. Because I get busy and it's easy to forget. Many times I've referred back to the checklist at the end of the week and gone back to finish something I had forgotten about.
How exactly can checklists save me money??
Well, other than reducing risk, it's going to make you more efficient. When you're more efficient, you're saving time. When you're saving time, you're saving money. See how that works?!
Not only will it save you time by working more efficiently, it's going to to allow you to delegate some of these things now that there's a true process in place. Handing this stuff off to other people on your team (who are probably cheaper to hire & faster at it as well!) can free you up to handle the bigger tasks that will make a bigger impact.
It's kinda funny how we operate on a job site. My challenge to you: pat attention to how your day breaks out into tasks. Then draw out a little flow chart for those tasks. When you start reducing everything down to bite-size pieces, it's MUCH easier to see where you're inefficient or where you could delegate things out.