When I have sat in on trade contractor field coordination meetings over the years, the prime contract (either a general contractor or construction manager) will have his project manager and/or mechanical and electrical coordinator facilitate these weekly meetings. More often than not, there is an agenda and there are meeting minutes, but things still just don’t come together in a timely manner. It seems everyone is busy with what they are doing and are preoccupied with their own “things to do” list. As a result, the meeting facilitator will ask the questions and get the answers, but come next week, things will have fallen through the cracks and they have to revisit the topic again. Three steps forward, two steps back.
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I attribute this problem to the scarcity of a few skills. The first is taking ownership, the second is time management, and third is follow-through. Starting with taking ownership, I’ve found that when you lead the meeting, there can be a tendency on the participants’ part to nod their heads (a.k.a., a “nodder”) in agreement while only half-listening because of other things to do on their mind.
Once the meeting breaks up, the nodder puts that new item into his to-do list and is off to follow up on other tasks that he probably enjoys better (like delegating the problem to someone else). Come the next week, the nodder sheepishly says that the person to whom he assigned this task has let him down. You can bet that in his mind, this problem was not his fault and he is sure everyone will understand. The other excuse is that he was held up by another trade, and so he really couldn’t meet his commitment because of this other person/company. So much for project ownership.
My solution is to not have the meeting facilitator run the meeting but instead provide the agenda for others to lead the meeting — such as assigning the next 15 minutes be led by a trade contractor who will outline the plan to complete the upcoming week’s work, followed by the next trade contractor/facilitator discussion. This trade-by-trade facilitator agenda could be:
- Address on-site safety and security policy and procedures.
- Ensuring that his company and associated subcontractors are adhering to the client’s “in-construction phase” policy and procedures.
- Updating the project schedule status, including work completed this week and work to be complete this coming week, with the key word being “completed” (e.g., complete rough-in of HVAC pipes at 3-AHU’s).
Staying with the schedule, the nodder will also provide a status on shop drawing submittal, subcontractor purchase orders, equipment delivery data, and scheduled completion per pertinent due dates that complements the overall project schedule. There are a few more tasks to cover, but you get the gist of the concept.
Next are time management skills, beginning with my 24-hour rule (send out meeting minutes no later than 24 hours after the meeting). To date, there is only one construction company that I’ve ever worked with that gets their meeting minutes out within 24 hours. For the most part, most companies don’t send meeting minutes out and will hand them out at the next meeting, where the trade contractors will look and realize they had due date commitments that slips and so their excuse will be, “Gee I’m just reading these meeting minutes for the first time and didn’t realize I was supposed to do this task by today.” You want to say to the person, “Didn’t you nod your head in agreement at the last meeting that you would have the task done?”
The third skill needed by trade/nodders when participating in a meeting is follow-through. So often, I’ve sat in on meetings where you have invested your time to attend and participate in the project meeting, only to find that individuals agreed to complete certain tasks and then failed to follow through.
If you stop and think about this, I find it is rude as well as unprofessional to not do what had been promised by this due date. It could be said that the other participants who fulfilled their meeting requirements had to waste a portion of their time sitting in on this segment of the meeting, listening to a discussion on a topic where the other person isn’t prepared to discuss or move forward. In other words, this other person wasted everyone else’s time because of poor follow-through.
Don’t be that person!