Everyone wants to run a ‘Lean’ operation. But how do you do that when there’s so much work to do, projects to stay on top of, reports to run, etc.? The behavioral challenge most organizations suffer from when it comes to running lean, is what I call the “More means More” syndrome. Put simply, this means: as you grow and get more work, you just add more people to do that work. More work, therefore more people, right? Well, hang on a second.
Maybe if you had a “Lean” strategy, you wouldn’t have to just throw more resources at it to tackle your growth. If you’re ‘smart’ about it, you can structure your teams to be lean, efficient, productive and able to take on the work of many. To be clear, however, a Lean strategy does not mean simply piling unreasonable amounts of work on your existing resources. If you do that, you’ll burn them out and they’ll leave. Or they’ll just pass out. Or both. You need a “Lean” plan for a productive, happy team.
What organizations need to tackle as they grow, is how to grow smart. What often happens, is growth without continuous strategic adjustments to best manage that growth, leads to challenges like wasteful, ineffective effort; inefficient processes; lack of careful prioritization; poor planning, and overall chaos. To avoid that – and enable your construction project execution teams to be high-functioning and efficient – following are 5 key tips for putting together a Lean plan.
1. Eliminate all the Waste
Low-value, wasteful work like re-keying data, formatting reports, wrestling down spreadsheet formula errors, etc. is more than just a purposeless time sink; it’s a soul-sucking strain on people’s value to the project and to the company. Are your project controls experts performing high-functioning tasks like forecasts, progress measurements, trends and project analysis? Or are they stuck wasting their day on compiling reports and trolling through emails to find the latest version of a spreadsheet?
This is where project cost management software can ease the burden of wasteful work and allow your project teams – from field personnel to project managers, and procurement staff to project controls – to get back to the high-functioning analysis and purpose-driven work that delivers project success. With project cost management software, your teams will reduce their wasteful workload by more than 50%.
2. Streamline processes
One of the first things we do with new customers, is to perform an end-to-end blueprinting of current processes, data flow, and a mapping of overall information management. Even before we begin talking about where the software can eliminate redundancies; the act of simply laying it all out for them often inspires clever ideas for process improvements. This is typically a clear result of fast growth without rethinking how things are being done. Recently, we onboarded a new client that had analyzed one of their more costly processes – which was their daily tracking of labor, equipment, expenses, etc. from their construction jobsite – and determined that they were spending 30-hours per-day getting costs & hours input from the jobsite, and routed back to the office. Once they were fully implemented with 4castplus, this was reduced down to 6-hours; and we’re now working with them on how to reduce that down to 3-hours at most.
How did that happen?
The thing is, what they were doing wasn’t unreasonable; it was just out-of-date and badly needed the help of technology to streamline things. They were, for example, able to reduce the data touch-points from 6 down to 1. They now have a one-touch data system requiring fewer resources. They also introduced more automation, vastly reduced errors, and completely eliminated any rework required in re-keying data in multiple places. Critical to empowering a Lean team is to make sure your processes are lean and effective just like your team.
3. Let Technology do the Labor-Intensive Grunt Work
Major construction projects have many moving parts and require the oversight and management of an enormous amount of data. Without a system to do all the work in the planning, input, storage, management, retrieval and reporting on that data, your project teams are left with sorting that out themselves. Manually.
Project cost management software can do many things for you – it’s like having a few extra guys on your team to do all the heavy-lifting work that can otherwise drown people in mundane, manual effort. Software has a tremendous amount of logic, intelligence, automation and is far more well-organized than most people. It connects all the dots for you, so you don’t have to do that yourself. It keeps a history of everything that happened, so you can tap into all the successes and mistakes in the past to learn and improve. It’s a centralized repository for everything you’re doing and have done and likely will do.
4. Better Upfront Planning
Good planning is a cornerstone of Lean teams. It’s truly remarkable how much time, energy and resources you can save during project execution when you shift a bit of effort to the planning stage. It’s during planning that you can setup the project to vastly reduce any errors and omissions in project data capture; and define key areas of automation where the project cost management system can capture, calculate, process and route data for reporting and analysis. A lean team can only be lean when they’re dealing with timely, accurate and complete project data.
You’ll also setup the methods for budgeting, project measurement, forecasting and other project controls analysis. You’ll define the management of change, document management, coding, reporting, etc. Once all the planning is entered into the software, the execution of the project becomes a well-oiled, streamlined machine. One-click reports can be run and distributed in a few minutes rather than taking all day to collate and send.
5. Remove Silos
For your project teams to work lean and efficient, they need a collaborative platform that intrinsically shares data and workflows that benefit the whole team. This eliminates common barriers that emerge from disparate teams working in silos. Your project controls, procurement, construction management, project management, field personnel, etc. all should be accessing the same data and reports. Working collaboratively reduces friction and engenders a high-bandwidth of communication so that everyone is on the same page. Misunderstandings and miscommunication cause unnecessary churn, rework and mistakes.