“I never make the same mistake twice,
I make it five or six times just to be sure.”
The Global Construction Industry?
Forgive me COAFB for... I really don’t understand why programme seems to be considered more important than quality. And when I say ‘quality’ I’m not talking about making the thing gold plated, I’m just talking about building it correctly.
I moved down under from Europe and I take a lot of pride in what I do - I am a cabinetmaker by trade and have been doing carpentry over here. The first guy that I worked for here was great. He cared a lot about the quality of our work and things were always done right.
I hated the job so much I would wake up in the morning and not want to go to work. Over the Christmas break I dreaded going back in January. In the end I just couldn’t do it so I quit.
I am now working on a residential project for a wealthy client – we are building a deck. We get paid by the hour and there is no deadline – the client is away a lot and we just work on the deck when he is not there. However the crazy thing is that some of my work mates are still in this mindset of ‘programme, programme, programme’. I have caught them trying to cut corners where they know it will not be easily picked up e.g. not flashing properly where the deck interfaces with the house - that sort of thing.
It makes absolutely no sense to me, I mean WE GET PAID HOURLY AND THERE IS NO DEADLINE...!
It’s like they have been so conditioned by working on commercial construction projects that all they care about is speed. It is no surprise to me that there are problems in the industry if people don’t care about the quality of the work that they do OR if the head contractors employing them don’t care.
I hate it.
Cabinetmaker / ‘Chippy’
The Antipodes (Australia & NZ)
Dear 'Chippy who Cares'...
Thanks for the insightful confession. Unfortunately we’re probably not going to have sufficient time to answer it properly. I won’t go into detail but are you crazy - why on earth would you think it important to build the stuff that no one sees properly? Don’t you realise that a ‘fast job is a profitable one’! And note to self for future work – drawings are only intended as ‘loose guidelines’ – you feel free to release your inner creativity and mix it up a bit... ...... ;-)
I suppose we could park up for a moment to address this issue properly... there may be value in that.
It would seem to me that your confession deals with the issue of incentives and priorities.
You prioritise quality over speed because you are incentivised by pride in your work and quite possibly have ‘integrity’ which is, to quote C. S. Lewis (think Narnia) ‘doing the right thing even when no one is watching’. And you are doing the right thing. Because strangely enough I can find no research to confirm that building stuff wrong to go faster is ever cheaper than doing it right the first time. Bob and his mates know this well.
Or is it that simple?
Your co-workers who prioritise speed over quality, despite being paid hourly, may well (as you point out) have been conditioned by the harsh reality of commercial construction whereas:
In short, where’s the incentive to really care, to always do the right thing, especially when no one is checking...?
Because there are clearly many immediate incentives to get away with what you can in order to go as fast as you can. And not just to avoid those nasty LDs, but also to get onto the next fixed price job as fast as you can to make more money; or perhaps just to get the job done full stop, because you under-bid it in order to win it.
Not that these business matters will concern many at the coalface of delivery, who may (through no fault of their own) have little knowledge of the contract itself and are simply responding to the get it done shit travels downhill hierarchical modus operandi of many projects and sites.
Sounds like your gang may lack the intrinsic motivation to want to do the job well, this having been beaten out of them (metaphorically) by the industry. It’s easy to become a cynic. Or perhaps they had no motivation to begin with.
However as you have rightly pointed out, if you are getting paid hourly logic should dictate otherwise. In fact logic would dictate that you might want to work as slowly as possible, dependent on your future pipeline of work of course. Yet behaviours are driven by personal values and once those values are set they can be hard to undo, regardless of logic.
Yet it’s a complex discussion and I’m struggling to find much credible research on the issue of incentives beyond the usual contractual gibberish (although I quite liked this article on LDs authored late last year). It seems that the fundamentals of how to encourage positive behaviours in the construction context are thin on the ground. Distressingly this implies that it's left to lawyers to try and make us do stuff through legal means when an understanding of some basic behavioural psychology by the various project/company leadership would probably be far more useful.
Think of Covid-19 for example. I think it’s fair to say that most of us in lockdown are doing so out of a sense of civic duty and a genuine care for those less vulnerable than ourselves. Many of us are even doing so to our own personal and financial detriment.
Think of what a site might look like if not caring to execute your work correctly - or that which you are responsible for - resulted in something akin to the type of social stigma attached to breaking the lockdown rules. Where people are vocal in their distaste for your non-compliant behaviours and not afraid to say so. Where there are real consequences for not complying. And where there is a real understanding, at a very human level, of the good that can be created by doing the right thing.
On which point, those interested in these things might want to read up on non-financial incentives, against which the concepts like LDs seem like rather blunt instruments.
Bad news however, despite a team's positive behaviours being enabled by effective leadership, research suggests that the industry is lacking that too. Here’s an excerpt from a research piece by the Chartered Institute of Builders:
‘The survey asked respondents to name the person they felt was the most influential within the construction industry. The results have exposed a stark lack of leadership in the construction industry, with the highest proportion of respondents answering ‘none’ or ‘don’t know’.
We. Are. All. Doomed.
Unless you already have integrity. Pride in your own work. Personal quality benchmarks. Stuff like that. Effective and intrinsic motivation.
Seems like you do so we’ll skip on.
Putting incentivised priorities to the side for the moment, in practical terms there are only really two reasons why you personally might need to hurry up:
However you seem like a responsible and experienced soul so we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are not the problem here, noting that even if you were, not building it right is not really the solution to the problem. Again, refer Bob’s amazing business model.
On the second issue one of two things could have occurred:
Conveniently a heap of research does exist on these programme problems. Here are some of the reasons cited from a 2017 research piece. A whopping 78 in fact:
Hopefully you will pleased to see that your role would contribute to only a tiny percentage of these delays (in this study alone). You may also be reassured to know that client-related causes ranked as the most prevalent and perhaps you can console yourself with this when at the receiving end of the metaphorical shit travelling downhill.
However let’s finish with the most important quality concern of all – the quality of your mental health as a result of all these go faster who cares shenanigans.
If you ever feel like you really don’t want to get out of bed again you can always talk things through with people that care. I know it can also be hard in a new place when you don’t have your usual support network around you but organisations exists that can help you when you’re feeling down. Some links below*:
So if there is anything to glean from your tale of genuine (and regrettable) woe it might be that:
In a hurry? (YES, ALWAYS!!!) No problem! Grab an ATONEMENT TAKEAWAY!
ENSURING INTEGRITY REQUIRES EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP!
POOR MENTAL HEALTH IMPACTS THE BOTTOM LINE!
QUALITY OUTCOMES RELY ON QUALITY INCENTIVES!
And remember, ALWAYS take care of your WASTE...
Things to note...
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