The Sum Of Its Parts
FEBRUARY 4, 2020
It is impressive that the construction industry works as well as it does, considering all of its segments and moving parts. Manufacturers, installers, contractors, engineers and architects all come together alongside insurance, transportation, construction management and building owner providers. For the most part, roles are defined and work flows are predictable. But what happens when someone moves beyond their specialty, for instance when an architect becomes a general contractor? To keep you from pulling out your hair at a frustrating jobsite, we offer you some information about construction hierarchy and tips for alleviating tension at work.
TOP DOWN AND BACK UP
Many construction companies are run by a professional who has a bachelor’s or master’s degree in construction management, business or engineering. These professionals typically have hands-on experience in construction too, working many different roles at jobsites. Their degree gives them the benefit of mastering the business aspect of supervising a company and crews. Of course, there are exceptions and many great construction companies are run by people who have not gone to college. Their experience can be supplemented with continuing-education courses that are offered by local and national associations, manufacturers and publishers.
Construction managers are mid-level employees who work closely with architects and design teams. Their focus often is on project planning and bidding, safety and field performance. They are responsible for managing the skilled workers in the field. They too typically have bachelor’s degrees and continuing-education accreditations.
Skilled workers consist of those performing the work at jobsites. This group has its own hierarchy system, particularly within union companies. While college-level education is not a requirement, many workers have various accreditations and credentials from associations and organizations, as well as degrees.
We live in a time where this form of construction hierarchy is not as structured as it once was. Twenty year olds are now CEOs with start-up companies, and college degrees don’t carry as much weight as they once did in some cases. We encourage people to reach beyond boundaries and strive for more. The amount of resources available are at an all-time high, and we consider ourselves one of them. If we can ever be of assistance in terms of education or mentoring, please reach out.
We know an installer who is having a tough time on a job and has thought about walking away several times. This is something that does not fit his high standards of professionalism. What has him bothered is the general contractor is a former architect who decided to expand his role to take on more. While this is fine in theory, the architect is learning by fire and it is not going well. The trades are not coordinated, materials have not been delivered as promised and schedules are falling behind. The architect is forgiving and eager to learn, but he is eating up the time and resources of busy people. So should the installer walk or problem solve?
Sometimes removing yourself from a job is the right decision, even if it means a profit loss, because the overall time and frustration may not be worth it. When you are willing to put in the time and effort to problem solve, consider these tips.
Stop the jobsite or inter-office gossip, and start seeing things from the other person’s perspective. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, there usually is a reason. Help them do better by approaching a problem from their point of view and come up with a plan with your team. In this case, morning calls or even an extended meeting to get the general contractor back on track could save the job. If you find yourself still overcompensating for someone’s shortcomings, track it and bill for it. The installer told us he has driven to the jobsite to perform an install that couldn’t be completed. So he billed for his trip and time. That got the general contractor’s attention that his job and budget are heading in the wrong direction. If a skilled worker needs resources to problem solve, encourage him to speak with his immediate supervisor and follow the chain of command.
Is working within your hierarchy and alleviating tension at work going to take more time? Yes, it will. We encourage you to establish ground rules and protect yourself from taking on too much. Also bring in help from co-workers and other trades so everyone has a shared perspective. We are all in this together to make construction industry function in a phenomenal way.