Lean Safety on the Jobsite

3 Ways to Lean into Jobsite Safety

I started in the industry over thirty years ago, setting precast concrete. Back then, construction safety was typically ignored as companies were more concerned about profits than worker safety. That never sat right with me, and it was not long before I switched to the General Contractor side of the business working my way through the ranks up to safety director.

I’ve always been a curious person by nature and, over time, became frustrated by the “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” mentality of our business. Inspection after inspection, jobsite after jobsite, the same challenges plaguing project after project. Superintendents would often complain to me about safety equipment that was inadequate, cumbersome, and time-consuming to deal with. And even though the safety mindset and statistics have changed drastically over the past 15 years, leading many companies to take pride in their safe work practices and strive for zero incidents on job sites, the means and methods are still the same as they were many years ago. There are still dated equipment practices that have not changed.

I knew there were still countless improvements that could be made, and thought If I don’t give it a try, who will? Along my journey, I have learned that Lean and safety are interconnected, and today I’ll share three ways they support each other.

Elimination of waste = Lean Safety

If you know anything about the eight wastes—DOWNTIME (Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Excess)—you know these are all very common on the jobsite. What you may not know is that an increase in waste can lead to safety risk and exposure. If you work to eliminate these wastes, you will notice a direct correlation with improved safety.

For example, when I was a safety director, I would always write up superintendents for issues with wooden guard rails. Leading edge fall protection is crucial in our industry because falls are always near the top for cause of injury and death on jobsites sites. The problem with wooden guard rails is that they are dangerous, error prone, and take a lot of time to install, maintain, take down, transport, and store—touching on quite of few of the eight wastes. Working to eliminate this waste gave me the idea for the safety rails system that I built and patented. The rail system is safer (insofar as no nails or screws are used, which often presents a cut or impalement hazard), less time is spent at a leading edge, and it deploys in minutes instead of hours, while eliminating ongoing maintenance during the construction project.

Think about your jobsite: what opportunities can you find to reduce waste while improving worker safety?

Standardized work

A major focus of Lean is standardized work, or work that is repeatable. Standardized work can remove risks in a process, which will lead to reduction in injuries on a jobsite. When I was a safety director, I would often see injuries that occurred due to craftsman being inexperienced, rushing, or skipping steps and taking short cuts. Going back to the guardrail example, when I would talk with superintendents and equipment managers I would ask for their thoughts around making leading edge fall protection better. They would often reply, “Deb, figure out a way to get rid of these #!$@% 2x4s! Make it simple and easy to install.”

In studying the current state in our industry for leading edge fall protection, it’s easy to see that the work was not standardized. For starters, lumber presents a greater risk of defect due to variability in grade quality and deterioration from exposure to the elements. Another variability is the skill level of the craftsman you have who are building the wood railing system. Also, excess material is common with a wood system, due to buying too much material or the waste associated with cutting the lumber. Finally, the nailing/screwing of the lumber leads to variability with the risk associated with protruding nails and screws. With the metal guard rail system that I created, work is very simple to standardize. The railing is consistent, uniform, and rolls out to the location where it needs to be installed. It does not require nails or screws to install, nor the need for a skilled carpenter.

I am sure there are hundreds of similar opportunities on the jobsite to take out the variation of work being put into place; it is up to our field leaders to be looking for the opportunities to do so.

Respect for People

Respect for people is a core principal in Lean Construction and an essential component of a safety culture. As a superintendent, your primary responsibility is doing everything you can to make sure that workers on your jobsite experience no harm. To truly show respect on the jobsite, workers must feel like they are engaged and empowered as experts who put the work in place. The best way to show that respect is by empowering the field to make the necessary changes to improve efficiency and jobsite safety.

In my career as safety director, I liked to ask the trades for their ideas around making projects safer and more efficient. I would often hear them talk about plugging into outlets where live wires were exposed, so I tried to find a solution, and eventually I got the idea to make a “current cover” product for live outlets on construction projects. The cover protects workers in the live outlet area so they can do their job without the risk of an accidental touch.

Ideas like this come when the field is empowered to ask the right questions and truly listen and respect the craftsman doing the work. Think about how you show respect to the field on your projects and look for ways to empower craftsman on your jobsite.

Our industry is always changing, but the need to work smarter and faster while working safer will remain a constant challenge for builders. But with a focus on safety through the lens of Lean Construction, we can remedy or mitigate some of these challenges and improve worker satisfaction in our industry.

Written by Debra Hilmerson, Hilmerson Safety for The Lean Builder Blog

3 Simple Tips to Deploy 5S Lean on your Jobsite

What is 5S Lean?

According to the Lean Construction Institute’s book, “Transforming Design and Construction: a Framework for Change,” 5S is the disciplined approach to maintaining order in the workplace, using visual controls to eliminate waste. The five Japanese words that begin with the letter S are: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke, and the English words can be translated to:

  • Seiri (sort out)
  • Seiton (arranging neatly)
  • Seiso (clean)
  • Seiketsu (cleanliness, daily practice)
  • Shitsuke (upbringing, daily habit)

There are many benefits to be derived from a clean and orderly project, including higher morale, better safety, and easier production. The side effects of a well implemented 5S Lean program could mean the difference between someone wanting to work on your project or someone else’s.

CANDO Program

I’ve read many blogs and articles citing Japanese companies like Toyota as the inventors of the 5S concept, but that is only partially correct. Ravindranath Pandian explains in his article LOST TREASURE: Ford’s original philosophy of ‘CANDO’ that Toyota’s inspiration for 5S originally comes from studying Henry Ford’s assembly line in 1950, where assembly line workers had applied the “CANDO” program daily since the 1920s.

Here are the terms mapped together one by one:

You may see them on jobsite posters with slightly different definitions, like this one from a project in Las Vegas as part of their site-specific program.

You can apply these principles on your project or in your office any time. Best practice is to apply them in order, one building upon the next, and then repeating daily. Here are my top three tips to put a daily 5S program into action:

  1. Deploy 5S with yourself before you deploy with your people.

“Respect for people” is both the key principle for Lean and to start your 5S program. Spend time learning 5S yourself first, so you fully understand the five words and steps and are better able to teach it. Some subtle distinctions will emerge as you practice that you won’t find via searching online or reading a book.

  1. Start with a pilot, or small team.

Onboard people to 5S, ask and answer questions, show examples of the five steps, and foster teamwork and creativity. Remember that small experiments really help people to learn faster, so celebrate the small wins. As your team learns, scale the pilot further out; you’ll know if you need posters or incentives. Projects and people are unique and have nuanced differences. I find that most people value honest feedback and encouragement over cash and prizes.

  1. Be patient with people but hard on the program.

This will inevitably introduce new processes and expectations with your team. Be patient and start slowly; see tip #1 again if you forgot why. I learned this the hard way by “telling” instead of “asking” in the early days of my construction career. We are imperfect people working with other imperfect people on imperfect projects; be patient, listen more than you speak, learn from each other, and embrace the opportunities to learn that your mistakes will offer. Don’t expect yourself or your team to execute a flawless 5S program on day one or day one hundred. Make your mistakes, learn something with your partners, repeat, and have fun.


By Felipe Engineer-Manriquez, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.  https://theleanbuilder.com/3-simple-tips-to-deploy-5s-lean-on-your-jobsite/


“Driving Collaboration: Leveraging The EFQM Model & ISO44001”

Webinar Title: “Driving Collaboration: Leveraging The EFQM Model & ISO44001”
Speaker: Denis Leonard
Organisation: GRAHAM
Date: 3.00pm, 18th November 2020.

Organizational collaboration has become increasingly important. However, most organizations still lack the knowledge and management capabilities to realize the full potential of collaboration. More formal approaches are needed to manage collaboration to provide structure and competence. The EFQM Model and ISO44001 provide the strategic and tactical tools to help achieve this. By leveraging the links between them we can use them to their maximum advantage.

Presentation Slides Click Here

Lean Construction: Improving Your Team Performance One Habit at a Time

Humans are generally resistant to change. Change requires courage, trust, and faith. We tend to stick to long-formed habits even when we realize that they are hindering progress or create pain. Forming and establishing new habits requires effort and commitment. Sometimes, painful experiences.

How does this relate to Lean construction teams?

Many construction companies use pull planning as their technique for planning construction activities. And research shows that people who plan their work get more done.

What I’ve learned, however, is that when you take one step away from the workface in construction, many of the construction managers, superintendents, designers and engineers, are actually not rigorously planning their own work. There are few individual work planning systems in place–I might participate in planning as a team, but most people don’t roll that work up in their own individual system. This even includes companies that have a strong culture around work planning.

Are you tracking your performance?

As a presenter in front of large audiences of architects, engineers and people working in the AEC industry, I often ask my audience how many have a general idea of what they are going to be working on in a particular week.

Everybody raises their hands.

My next question is:

How many can show someone a detailed plan of what you want to have accomplished by the end of the week?

80 percent of people take their hands down.

Next, I ask how many of those who have kept their hands up have framed their work in ‘yes, no, done, not done’, and even a smaller fraction of people keep their hands up.

My last question is: how many track their performance?

There’s usually only one or two people in the room who keep their hands up.

What I have found is that very few professionals in our industry are rigorous about planning their work on a regular basis.

This is a paradox because we all expect our construction teams in the field to plan their work. So why don’t we do it when we step away from the team scenario?

I believe there’s a couple of reasons:

  1. People see planning as extra-curricular, an addition to their work, and not integral to their job.
  2. People believe they don’t have time to do the planning, because getting stuff done is more important.

Why many designers are resistant to the idea of work planning

As an architect, I understand how designers work. Often, they are juggling several projects. They make a commitment to their team in the Big Room about one project, but how they manage the rest of their work, who knows? Once they leave the big room, their commitment doesn’t flow into a personal work planning system. They might plan for their team, but my experience is that less than 10% of people in our industry actually maintain a rigorous personal work planning habit on a daily and weekly basis.

As these designers are working in a collaborative environment and are making commitments to teammates on multiple projects, this is problematic. If those commitments don’t end up in a personal work planning system, it is far more likely that things fall through the cracks.

The question is: Why are so many designers resistant to the idea of work planning?

Designers often believe that their work is too volatile, too unpredictable. I often hear: “You can’t control design, it evolves and just happens. We can’t squeeze design into a box. It takes what it takes” As a result, when asked to make specific commitments they feel constrained and become deeply resistant.

Ask better questions

One solution is to be more mindful of how team leaders phrase their questions. In other words, to communicate and to frame our requests to designers in ways that are supportive to the nature of the design process. Shifting the focus to the creation of information for decision-making rather than insisting on design solutions is one way to do this.

For example, instead of asking “When will you be done with design?” phrase your questions differently: “Here’s the question we’re trying to answer; what kind of information on this design can you give me on this date?”

By changing our perspective and asking different questions that are supportive of the design process, we will still get the required information to move forward with the project without constraining the creative brains in the team.

In addition to the example above, these questions might be helpful next time you want some information from your designers:

What kind of questions can we answer about the design on a specific date?

What kind of questions can we answer in a certain timeframe?

And, apart from asking better questions, it is crucial for all Lean construction team members to establish a personal work planning habit to become more productive and perform better as an individual, allowing them to be more reliable promisers to the team.

Solutions for work planning systems

Instead of trying to handle multiple to-do lists, which do not have a time component, or numerous unstructured sticky notes, I encourage team leaders, managers, and designers to start a personal work planning habit. This doesn’t need to be complex, there are a range of simple solutions, both analog and digital.

When I teach work planning, I encourage people to start with a paper-based version. Paper is more flexible and less rigid than digital solutions. And there is something about the nature of crossing a task off on a piece of paper. It has a different feeling about how you commit and measure your work.

Analog systems include sticky-note-based Kanban systems (today, this week, next week, future or To Do, Doing, Done), bullet journaling, and many more.

It doesn’t really matter which system you choose as long as you start implementing some kind of personal work planning habit. The first step is to dedicate one hour a week, preferably on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, to plan the next seven days. Answer the question: what are the tasks that I want to have done by Friday afternoon?

Why tracking variances is crucial 

At the end of the week, it’s important to reflect and measure your performance of that system by exploring the following questions:

  • How did it go?
  • Which tasks did not get done and why?

Tracking variances (the reason why a task doesn’t get accomplished) is crucial to understand the systemic underlying problems in your work. If over time you discover that the main reason for not getting tasks done is that you are always waiting for information from others, you have identified a root cause and can reorganize your work accordingly. Or the relationships with the people from whom you are waiting for information.

The benefits of work planning match the frustrations

In my presentations, as part of a quiz, I ask the audience about the most frustrating things in their work.

Many people reply: changing priorities, getting side-tracked, missing information, or lack of communication.

I then ask: What might be the benefits for someone who plans and measures their work?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the answers I get about the benefits of work planning are pretty much a 1:1 match for the frustrations people experience in their work, and yet, personal work planning is not accepted as an important and integral part of success in their work. An interesting fact.

If more people understood that planning their work allowed them to be more productive and get more done, if they saw work planning as integral to their work, not as incidental or in addition, they could experience a real difference.

“That’s the way we do it – overcoming traditional project management limitations”

Webinar Title: “That’s the way we do it – overcoming traditional project management limitations”
Speaker: Felipe Engineer-Manriquez
Organisation: McCarthy Building Companies Inc
Date: 3.00pm, 14th October 2020

Two cross-functional teams separated by a calendar year, demonstrate how a Lean approach with geographically distributed teams exponentially delivers faster with higher quality.  The mission: bring design and construction procedures into standard better practices across a portfolio of projects spanning coast to coast and across contract types.

Presentation Slides: Click Here

22nd Annual LCI Virtual Congress, October 19-23, 2020

The 22nd Annual LCI Congress program is specifically designed for your leadership role in the industry. Each year, LCI Congress brings together owners, trade partners, members of the design community, general contractors and other Lean professionals to get inspired, learn from Lean success stories, build relationships, expand networks and foster collaboration.

  • Owners
  • Design Community
  • General Contractors
  • Trade Partners
  • Other Lean Professionals

Join more than 1,600 of your peers virtually for the premier Lean event of the year!
Developed for the design and construction industry, LCI’s 22nd Annual Congress in 2020 will offer continuous education credits, cutting-edge Lean methods and countless networking opportunities. LCI Congress is beneficial for everyone, no matter where you are on your Lean journey. As an attendee, you can expect to:

  • Learn how to start your Lean journey.
  • Deepen your learning experience.
  • Revitalize your outlook by meeting with other Lean construction thought leaders.

When you attend LCI Congress you learn from others based on their own Lean experiences. You will:

  • Discover how projects have been completed on or under budget using integrated approaches.
  • Hear how others have used Lean project delivery to obtain better predictability, consistent on-time delivery and fewer change orders on their completed projects.
  • Learn from LCI Congress session speakers, as well as other owners, how to avoid claims and costly adjudication on your projects.
  • Facilitate conversations with your peers about obtaining improved design and building performance through Lean project design and delivery.

“TAKT – the foundation for technology revolution in construction”

Webinar Title: “TAKT – the foundation for technology revolution in construction”
Speaker: Janosch Dlouhy
Date: 3.00pm, 16th September 2020

Takt was a main driver for the industrial revolution in barley all production related industries.
Construction never implemented consequently Takt as a core method.
The second Industrialization never happened in construction.
The 3rd and 4th industrialization are rising in all industries and construction is struggling.
This session draws a line from past to future.


Presentation slides to follow.

Request video link: click here

“Facilities in Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities”

Webinar Title: “Facilities in Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities”
Speaker: Amr Abdel-Azim
Organisation: Michigan State University
Date: 3.00pm, 26th August 2020.

On higher education campuses, we have changed the way we deliver education. The relationship between an instructor and students; student interaction in a classroom, meaning and use of a library; new education initiatives, lean approach in planning, designing and construction of new facilities; all have changed. The recent events of the pandemic with switching to virtual learning has even put more pressure on existing facilities in campuses. Planning and designing of facilities on a campus will have to tailor to changes and needs. This is all happening at a time when available funding from national and local government is dwindling down. This session will address the changes in facilities to deliver education on a higher education campus and opportunities in funding projects on campuses.

BIM implementation and management: Changing construction from the bottom up

Construction is an industry that still runs on tradition and relies heavily on pen and paper for many of the processes on the site and the office. The good news is that a digital wave is rapidly approaching the sector.

More and more stakeholders seem to understand the need for a data-driven and agile construction process where everyone involved remains connected and confident that they work on the latest version of the project.

That’s extremely important if we consider that the IT investment in construction is less than 1%. BIM is, of course, one of the areas with tremendous potential which are affected deeply by this stalemate situation in construction.

How is BIM used in construction?

Building Information Modeling could introduce a whole new level of transparency in the industry and transform the way people in construction design, collaborate and build.

For that to happen, an impeccable BIM implementation and management plan is required. That can be much harder than many might think given the confusion that there is still around the topic.

BIM should be seen as a secure, yet open, vehicle for the data of a project. Operating on a Common Data Environment (CDE) can help the different agents to work more efficiently while reacting faster on problems that emerge in the field.

The creation of an open and highly collaborative data ecosystem could play a decisive role in boosting productivity while cutting down delays and budget overruns.

In addition, the creation of a “digital twin” can be a true game-changer in the effort to prevent mistakes during the building process, increase predictability and put an end to reworks in construction. As reported by McKinsey, the efficiency rate in construction is calculated to 30% while 80% of the projects are expected to go over budget.

It becomes clear, then, that there is a lot of room for improvement in the industry. Especially, if stakeholders in construction attack the root of the problem which is fragmented communication and lack of trust between the numerous stakeholders of the project.

BIM implementation challenges

Despite the enormous value that BIM can bring to the table, some parts of the industry are still quite hesitant when it comes to implementing Building Information Modeling. Habit is still a strong force in construction and is seen as one of the main reasons behind the industry’s digital delay.

This isn’t something new for the sector considering that it’s the least digitised market in Europe. People are simply not interested in changing their habits unless they see a tangible example of the value that they can get in return.

With that in mind, it becomes understandable that stakeholders in construction should focus their efforts on digital adoption in order to break down the wall of habit and communicate to the industry why BIM matters.

Training is another factor which hinders BIM implementation. For many organisations, the task of training all their teams, both production and stuff, to the new tools and processes feels like a nightmare.

At first sight, it might indeed be both time and resource-consuming but if done correctly the return is immense. So even if production goes back for a week or two, in the long run, a solid training can make your team work in a faster and more profitable way.

At the end of the day, the initial financial investment that is required for BIM implementation can scare some stakeholders away. Nevertheless, that’s a very short-sighted approach which overlooks the end goal of introducing Building Information Modeling to your processes.

Preparing for BIM implementation: All the steps you should follow

By now it’s clear that implementing and managing BIM isn’t a walk in the park. It requires a collective effort, bold initiatives, and a proactive digital culture. Only then, it will be possible for your BIM strategy to develop and flourish.

To achieve that, there are a number of steps that your organisation will have to follow. In a nutshell, here are the main components of a successful BIM implementation and management process:

Start with some BIM education

Before you start this digital journey, it’s of paramount importance that you get your team BIM-educated. BIM is a vast topic and there can often be a lot of confusion around its true value for a construction project.

Train your co-workers in the core ideas of Building Information Modeling and initiate an open discussion where everybody can ask questions, express their concerns and eventually get on board with your vision for a collaborative, agile and fact-based construction process.

This first step can pave the way for the creation of your BIM strategy and get your organisation one step closer to a profitable data culture.

It goes without saying that at this phase, you should be fully aware of the fact that this investment comes with a high initial cost. That’s a key point that makes many organisations, especially the smaller ones, avoid taking the vital transformational risk.

The secret is again BIM education. Get to know how BIM can help your projects and understand why this investment is worth the money and the effort.

Roll out small

As soon as the training part is over and everything is good to go, a common mistake many organisations do is trying to roll out across the entire company at once. In the case of BIM, this can be catastrophic.

When implementing BIM, it is always a good idea to start with baby steps. Find a small team within your organisation and assign them to test the BIM model. Once they become familiar with the new way of communicating, working and capturing data, it’s time to take the next step and introduce the new systems and processes to the rest of the company.

In that way, you have the time to detect any unpredicted mistakes and resolve them before they have a serious effect on your entire implementation process.

On top of that, by trusting the initial testing to a specific part of your team you have now got some allies across your co-workers. In that way, introducing and developing your BIM strategy becomes even easier.

Focus on digital adoption

The construction industry tends to focus a lot on the value that the 3D model brings to the building process failing to consider the key component of it. That is data and, by extension, digital adoption.

A BIM model is only as accurate and helpful as the data fed to it. In that sense, on-site adoption is one of the most crucial factors for the success of your BIM endeavours. This is where the simplicity of the tools that your organisation uses comes into the picture.

People on site should be able to report progress and submit their latest updates from the field just by using their mobile or tablet device. The easier the data capturing progress is the simpler will be for the on-site personnel to use the new technologies and join the digital revolution that you want to initiate.

At this point, it is important to say that, of course, the 3D visual representation of a built structure can be valuable for the stakeholders of the project. Nonetheless, there are different levels of transparency depending on someone’s role in a project.

A BIM manager could use a well-visualised 3D model but the people on site they can go on with their tasks just fine by using an easy, yet intuitive, 2D version of the model. And that’s why simplicity for the user should be seen as a priority when we refer to digital adoption.

Go back and reiterate

Collecting data is one thing. Learning how to read and analyse it is another. It is no exaggeration to say that data is your biggest ally in the effort to boost productivity, decrease reworks and start building faster and smarter than your competition.

Staying consistently on top of your data and becoming better based on its feedback can pave the way for a standardised construction process which can be repeated again and again in the future, leaving no room for mistakes and costly misunderstandings.

Thanks to this approach, your organisation has the opportunity to invest in replicability. That’s the first step towards predictability which is vital when it comes to calculating the budget, resource and time needs of your project.

A culture shift comes from the bottom up

It takes heavy resource investment and a lot of hard work to drive strong results in construction. Building Information Modeling has already entered the field and made an impact on the industry but it’s still far from where it’s supposed to be.

To some extent that’s completely normal, as a groundbreaking culture shift like this requires time. However, it is important to remember that a BIM, and therefore a digital, culture can’t be “CEO-mandated”.

It should start from the bottom up. People on the site should understand why they need to change their working routine and be able to do so in a simple and straightforward way. That is the secret behind digital adoption and data-driven decision making.

“When people begin to believe in the data, it’s a game-changer: They begin to change their behaviors, based on a new understanding of all the richness trapped beneath the surface of our systems and processes,” says Boeing CIO Ted Colbert.

So the next big mission for the construction industry is to find the culture drivers which will unlock a new way of work and communication in construction. In any other case, your BIM implementation and management efforts will sooner or later fail.

Lean Team Building and Collaboration Among the Trades

Lean team building can sometimes be accomplished by unorthodox methods. Here is how a popsicle changed my perspective & opened up new avenues of communication.

How a Popsicle Changed My Perspective

Building in the South can be challenging because of its extreme climate conditions. New hires, seasoned veterans, and craft professionals can be impacted by heat stress depending on the weather, pre-existing health conditions, or by underestimating their exertion to hydration ratio.

Superintendents in the region have to frequently re-work traditional heat illness programs to fit these conditions leading up to the summer to make sure everybody knows how to stay safe.

Many programs have two elements, focusing on onsite training and procuring and installing heat relief equipment. On my projects, we develop site-specific Heat-Related Illness Prevention Plans, customized to each area’s conditions. Although I have standard protocols for training and equipment that I use for each project, understanding unique elements to the climate can help us decide where to focus our efforts. From there, we purchase controls like misters and use safety, pre-task and daily huddle meetings to reinforce the correct rest-to-work ratios alongside heat-related protocol.

Earlier in my career, these tasks became habit. Then one summer, a popsicle changed my perspective.

The Ice Cream Man and Lean Team Building

It was on that day while constructing a hospital in the desert heat of New Mexico, I went to make my rounds around the jobsite and decided to bring a box of hydration popsicles to hand out to trade contractors to make sure they were keeping cool. After being met with many smiles, I decided to make a habit of this and over time, I earned the nickname of “ice cream man.”. The craft professionals even began to hum the tune from their childhood ice cream truck when they saw me coming. During these “ice cream” breaks, the field team began to connect, share some laughs, and bond in a way that slowly began to break down some barriers. The break became more than just “popsicle time.” It was an opportunity to connect, communicate, and show the trades that we – the general contractor – cared about them.

I noticed improvements in the team’s morale and camaraderie, and it facilitated transparent discussions of what was working on the project and what could use improvement. In my mind, the simple act of giving a popsicle began to build a Lean foundation – a culture of caring – on the jobsite. If you are looking to build a cohesive team on your projects, here are a couple of thoughts on how to start lean team building.

Create Conversation – Collaboration

Step out of your comfort zone. This may mean stepping out of the office and handing out popsicles. It may be taking time out of your day to learn the names of the individuals installing the drywall. It may be asking the plumber how his weekend went and how his kid did in their sporting event on Saturday. The popsicle fostered an experience that allowed me to show the field I cared, but ultimately it broke down a barrier, creating an opportunity for everyone to pause. More conversation led to collaboration amongst team members. When handing them a popsicle, I would also thank them for their hard work. When verbally expressing appreciation to them I started noticing that trades began speaking more amongst themselves and this would initiate their collaboration on workflow as well.

Break Down Barriers – Continuous Improvement

These simple conversations helped individuals feel comfortable giving suggestions and provide feedback that impacted the entire project site. In one of those small talk conversations with a mason, he shared a near miss. He easily could have never mentioned it, but instead, he felt comfortable with sharing with the team in hopes that it would improve the safety of his fellow team members. Days later, I had an electrician point out that handrails by the elevator were now missing. In fact, not only did he point it out, but he also immediately volunteered to help put them back with ideas for better placement.

Lean Team Building

Although no one can prove that a popsicle encouraged team members to collaborate more or inspired the continuous improvement of safety practices on the jobsite, it is always true that people want to be feel appreciated. A culture of caring, established through a popsicle or another kind gesture, will go a long way – especially when things heat up.



by Mitch Rothe
Division Superintendent for Robins & Morton

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