Productivity- Still a conundrum?

Ah- Good old productivity! After having built thousands of plants, the industry keeps struggling with the seemingly simple concept of earnings. Meeting the schedule to make your goals and earn your hours. Simple ? Yes. Easy? No! I am not trying to advertise a silver bullet but rubbing salt into an age old wound in reality.

Food for thought-

  1. Are short term gains with achieving productivity in the construction world hurting our chances of project delivery?
  2. Is a “Finishing” culture absent in the industry? Why are we all so good with Starting somethings and we get caught with our inabilities to Finish?

The Finishing culture is something that will always have a bearing directly on our abilities to deliver something to a downstream customer and also to earn the right hours. Of you think of this as a fishbone with the end game being “Finish” the roadblocks and show stoppers must be identified as soon as they are discovered and this doesn’t involve any fancy software but a basic process of being able to know the decision making chain. Each person in this chain is critical.

3. What drives the worker? Are a good percentage of them just here for a paycheck?

4. Does Data really help? Is Data going to a huge driver and can we actually see this improving productivity?

 A simple footnote- Its always good to earn more than you spend. As simple as that

 

 

 

 

The Human factor vs the Bottomline

With all the nationalistic rhetoric about American jobs for Americans, surprises do not cease on how deep this goes; affecting industries I thought would be insulated. Its probably not a huge deal spewing broad words of wisdom encompassing every business and then the dissection can begin.

Clearly the highly technical lower tier execution work is something the low cost centers in India and China can clearly be banked on. A good directive combined with presence of some leadership in these low cost centers will continue to prove to be the most optimal option. This in my humble opinion can continue to be executed overseas.Good examples of these are detailed designing, optioneering etc.

Now the regular data entry type, discrete work- Do Americans want to do that? You would think they would. If these jobs go to local Americans, understandably it would lead to some increase in costs, but this could be a big win for the local flavor.I would vote lets bring these back to America. Cognizant of what this entails- Bringing back the call center could be a huge visible win for appeasing the locals. The call center has become such a part of the Indian sterotype which has led to  a high degree of discontent and highlighted the indifference on part of major utility companies; a potential key factor in fostering racist tendencies.

Then you get into those low skilled mundane work that may be done by a sweatshop culture for little to nothing; highly repetitive by the book work .These are typically jobs that may still serve the consumer a lot better by staying where they are.You don’t really want your youth to take the east way out and get too comfortable with low skilled jobs that can hardly prepare you for a solid future.

Obviously one size never fits all- You can bolster job growth not just by sheer numbers but by the type of jobs that will facilitate long term development of the human resource in America.

 

The Human element- Leaders & teams

Isn’t it always about people?  The human element is not the one that makes projects tick but the qualities in the humans is what makes it click. Leading, requesting, ordering, cajoling, collaborating are only some of the ways to get it moving.

How about spending may be willing to be a real leader rather than running a project like an Army General. Not saying that doesn’t work. In a perverse way I have had some really great leaders who by virtue of running their teams like a platoon delivered. However I have better memories of working for leaders who collaborated and leaned on their experts to come up with solutions that worked more effectively.

Leadership is not something you inherit by virtue of being a senior person in the organization. These are people who are not demigods nor are they untouchable legends; these are people in flesh and blood that just inspire you in several ways. Inspiration is not something you can touch, its that euphoric feeling of wanting to be part of the team, having that inherent desire to always stay ahead, cognizant and secure in the knowledge that what you analyze, what you recommend is going to be paid attention to. So you are not really part of a count but an integral part of the decision making process. That is the kind of leader that will go far. Not the entitlement, not being gray haired, not being a favorite of someone’s.

Then the teams- How about a working in a team that feels like you are in a microcosm of the United Nations! Every culture brings something to the party. Its that pot luck of ideas and concepts; something every member brings to the table. When team members get to be comfortable in a social setting, political correctness seems like a term from the Martian dictionary. We have all been part of sessions where we get told to respect other cultures; I am not even sure if I need to make any special efforts to do that. A person is a person and if they are able to gel into this polyglot team they are obviously comfortable. It is however a highly interesting concept when team members freely exchange nuances about their culture and its this process that makes the team pull their oars in the same direction. Believe it not, speaking to a non Westerner slowly and loudly still does not work. What works is empowerment and space to perform , where linguistic abilities do not matter.

Then the leader has that uncanny ability to bring out the best out of everyone, no exceptions. I have recently come off working in a team that would be classified not just as multi cultural but truly world class. So what makes me say so? The ability of that team to bring out the best out of each other, the obvious lack of king sized egos backed up by a leadership model that stands unparalleled. A leader who did not have to be the “Know all” but a leader who had the ability to be a supporter in the most adverse situations and yet had the humility to lean on their team to get what they needed to make critical decisions.

And what else? Leaders finding time to deal with their team members as humans, not subordinates. It may be a cliche, but true good leaders are a rarity and I am not even mentioning visionaries.

You have nothing to fear..unless you are gullible

Why do some spurious email forwards , press clippings, TV anchors asking leading questions seem to suggest that I feel like I am living in Nazi Germany. Incredibly naive, hard working people are somehow getting caught in this web of propaganda.

Yes I am in immigrant. I came to this country and have not found a better place to live my life. I have served overseas and that actually makes me appreciate America even more. I love these accents and when you get that uncanny ability to laugh at one self, it is actually hilarious. And I know so many of FOB’s that have made it good and continue to thrive, not because of who they are but despite who they are.

And utmost hilarity, if I am stereotyped of running a 7-11 the person next is me is also streotyped of wearing cowboy boots and 50 gallon hats and so is the other person that just cannot get his “B”‘s right. Believe me it is a fun place to be in. No one is advocating racism, bigotry or discrimination against anyone and that my friends is anathema to all of us.

So do not be led by that Pied Piper who came to you from the extreme left or the extreme right. Let sanity and common sense prevail. God Bless America

Baseline vs Change -As simple as it sounds?

You would think its not big a deal. We read and hear about these Management gurus coming up with some outlandish mantras for successfully executing projects. I am certain some of these, when translated into plain English have produced results. Think about this, if you knew about your scope, schedule and commercial conditions you have actually armed yourself with knowledge of the BASELINE.

Baseline is what you have basically signed up to- What you’re going to build or deliver, when you have to deliver and how are you going to get paid.

Then the inevitable happens- CHANGE. What is Change? Define it as any deviation from the Baseline.

The ability to recognize Change and your ability to attribute and apportion it makes the difference between Success and Failure. Dealing with Change is key to Success.

You will read a whole lot more about this in an upcoming book – BRAVING THE STORMS- MANAGING PROJECTS!

BRAVING THE STORMS- PROJECT MANAGEMENT BASICS – IS THIS FOR YOU? LET US KNOW

BRAVING THE STORMS- PROJECT MANAGEMENT BASICS
The intended publication is more of an experience sharing piece of literature; emphasizing more on the experience of professionals from across several industries. With project execution comes challenges and opportunities that a project manager maneuvers through on a day to day basis. From inception to execution to project delivery, myriads of hurdles have to be dealt with and the essence of this book is to bring forth these challenges as faced in real life situations and prepare project managers to address them and more importantly address them in a timely manner.
This book does not intend to be a classic text book that provides “silver bullets” for success; it is written by a team of diverse group of industry professionals, Information Technology, investment Banking, Construction, Government.
As proposals turn into projects, challenges and opportunities evolve and this book deals with the twists and turns encountered during the life cycle of the project. As the project evolves from its early phase through development, peaking and culminating in the home stretch and achieving production, the book takes the reader through the entire journey.
Several sections of the book include “war stories” using real life examples to bring forth numerous success or the not-so-successful factors. The book takes project execution challenges head with focus on with all project phases and includes interesting practical concepts related to baselining, “as-sold” cost and schedule, key real life interpretations of sticky situations, change management and contingency. Furthermore, the book addresses a rather critical issue faced by project managers- Declining project performance; performance of projects can vary depending on the contract type, geography, market conditions et al. The section on performance management provides key insights and offers valuable recommendations for an objective way to evaluate project performance.
The intent of this book is to pass on lessons learned and “tribal knowledge” from thoroughbred professionals to a vast cross section of people ranging from project managers to aspiring managers; from undergraduate students to seasoned members of the academic circle across all industries; IT to construction, banking to manufacturing.

Cost influence- It’s all about timing

 

When the project is in its infancy there seems to be plenty of optimism around; there is time and the budget looks healthy. The team feels upbeat about progress and there is a general belief they will be able to meet deadlines and make a decent profit. If this sounds like a great position to be in, what makes it more promising is how much of an influence the team can have on project costs at this stage. What factors can the team influence-

  • Ability to optimize design to affect raw material – Early on, the design team has flexibility to evaluate several options on design and how design could specify low cost raw material by way of both labor and freight
  • Ability to optimize design for capital cost reduction- Design optimization plays a significant role with constructability options thereby leading to reduced labor cost. This becomes a key cost driver especially for projects in locations where labor costs form a high percentage of project costs
  • Ability to optimize the schedule by managing project float- The early part of the project is always the ideal phase at which time the execution team have the ability to look at options in terms of constructability, sequencing, heavy equipment usage, temporary facility sizing

You got the timing, you got it right. If you now plan to make changes when you are close to half way done, you may be too late! That’s right, its all about timing!