Are you getting ready for the holidays? Decorations, presents, preparations, holiday parties? Perhaps among your holiday traditions, you have a family event with a Cousin Eddie? The hard-headed one that, while you are speaking, doesn’t even consider what you’re saying, and is simply waiting to speak?
Back to our professional lives, how many meetings do you have with someone who is waiting to speak? Successful teams listen to each other. Between Project Management and Project Controls, there is a cyclical information flow-a give and take-that is built on trust and consistent communication. With good information, HITO can help project management and field supervision’s decision-making process. However, if the information isn’t presented well, they don’t listen; they just wait to speak. In the spirit of Holiday preparations, here’s HITO’s recipe for Project Controls to get them to listen.
We are the newspaper of the job, and the presses will roll. At HITO, we pride ourselves on not missing reporting deadlines. We prefer weekly reporting over monthly, but whatever it is, data has to be collected, analyzed, and reported regularly.
As soon as the rubber band rolls off the paper, my dad goes right to the weather on the back of the front section. Just like the newspaper, people will look for a particular section first. The team should see the same type of information in the same manner with standardized weekly reports. Supplemental reporting is required during different phases or special events.
Don’t kill the messenger! I often equate project controls to a weather report: the almanac and the forecast. Here’s the past performance and here’s the plan going forward. Good project controls explains the driving factors, and, based on the current course, the possible outcomes. The difference is, unlike the weather, project management may be able to change the outcome.
The entire reporting process should be developed in a way that a “C-student” can perform it and understand it. The majority of our reports shouldn’t need an explanation. Regardless, reports should include a simple narrative so that the average person understands. If the process can be performed by most and understood by all, that means it’s very robust and will provide the most value for the project.
Reduce the emotion. You don’t want a scheduler that is wrapped up in the results to the point that their perception is skewed. I tell our employees, “I’ve never seen a weatherman upset that someone didn’t bring their umbrella.” At the other extreme, “You’re late, you suck” doesn’t work either. Providing options and/or production goals that allow outcomes to be achieved makes the process objective. “We need to install 2,500 lnft of pipe per week to finish by June.”
It’s a con game. Not in the felony way, but in the confidence way. The project team has to be confident in the plan and the way it’s depicted in the schedule. Once credibility is lost, a scheduler’s tenure will be short. The trust that is developed by consistent reporting and good communication can be destroyed with one bad report.
Be at team. Project management has to instill trust and not allow the credibility to be eroded. When the other side of the table disagrees, they often go after the credibility of the messenger. If the information isn’t correct or as expected, figure out why before attacking.
If a project team doesn’t have a consistent reporting protocol, communication will suffer. If it doesn’t reflect the team’s effort, they won’t trust it. Once those are in place, and you sit down to discuss it, take the initiative to listen to someone else. Allow your opinion to be changed. You might not know what you think you know. You might not agree with Cousin Eddie, but if you start listening to him, he might listen to you.