How to fix the nation’s faltering economy is a constant debate without a simple solution. All a construction executive can do now is focus on how to fix his own company’s economy. Contractors must think about what’s next and what changes can be made to capitalize on a future recovery. Consider these nine ways to increase profitability and productivity. 1. Be a Thinker, Then a Doer
Though it’s cliché to suggest planning before executing, many leaders work reactively instead of proactively. Today’s economic uncertainty, competitive environment and old work habits have created conditions in which planning is sacrificed for the sake of execution.
Phil Musgrove of the Brookings Institution suggests businesses either can spend 1 percent of a project’s life upfront in planning, or take three times longer to complete the project. In an eight-hour day, that means spending five minutes listing, scheduling, delegating and anticipating—a reasonable investment for a significant return. Plan for each period, and then decide among the “do, delegate, defer or dump” options for each task to be executed. 2. Define Reality
Answers to the following questions provide the basis for making wise business decisions:
3. Create Change
- What is important?
- How is it measured?
- Is the business meeting each measurement?
- Where should the business be?
- What is the value of the difference (over time) between where it is and where it should be?
- What is the plan for moving forward?
- What are the constraints to making the change?
People respond to change in one of the following ways: deny, ignore, react, anticipate or create. The most common tendency is to react, although creating change would be the most effective. Real deliberate progress comes from clarifying the company’s vision, setting goals that relate to and support the vision, and then outlining plans that lead to the attainment of each goal. While this formula is well known and proven, it’s often overlooked. 4. Ruthlessly Prioritize Activities
Once a plan outlines who needs to do what and when, stick to it. Work on the few critical tasks rather than the many trivial, and review everyone’s calendar to ensure work is performed consistently. 5. Make Meetings Meaningful
Insist that every meeting of any size or length follow these guidelines:
- The meeting’s purpose and desired outcomes are defined before the meeting begins.
- The agenda addresses meeting objectives and allots enough time to complete everything.
- Actionable items that arise during the meeting are documented and provided to each participant.
The outline containing what must be done by whom and when establishes accountability and provides a checkpoint for review at the next meeting. 6. Tighten the Chain
Map the firm’s “contact-to-contract” process, identifying the entities that influence with whom it decides to do business and their impact on the project’s success. Assign team members to build meaningful relationships with these entities and understand each party’s needs. 7. Ask High-Impact Questions
Questioning is the No. 1 skill for building relationships and winning business. Giving forethought to a situation reveals missing information that must be sought. Develop questions that drill down to discover insights that drive follow-up actions, while respecting others’ rights. 8. Listen Actively
Communication involves sharing information for mutual understanding. The person who best understands a situation is most likely to guide its outcome—make sure to listen actively when a project partner shares an idea. 9. Follow the Money
By mapping the contact-to-contract process, documenting the value chain and actively listening, the real value associated with each project becomes clearer. Knowing the economics beyond the scope makes it possible to align the company’s capabilities to deliver value that impacts client profitability and productivity while helping achieve its objectives.