Quick leadership tools or QLT can help you demystify construction quality and make it the top priority. In the previous post I explained what makes quality mysterious and in this post I will tell you how to move forward.
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Construction quality is unique for one reason: the Owner, the Designer, and the Contractor, are running sprint race and trying to outsmart each other in managing quality of one project by using incompatible systems, e.g., ISO 9001, Total Quality Management or something else. In an ideal case, the construction project quality ought to be a relay race among the three partners by sharing a common baton, which is rarely happening. That’s why you will see the checklists used in construction quality control program are not able to prevent the risk-triplet scope creep, schedule slip and cost overruns. If the vision for delivering quality was not on the agenda during program stage, having hundreds of checklists during construction may look very smart, but they cannot deliver fitness for use or a quality that the Owner needs.
How quick leadership tools help?
Because the current situation in construction is not conducive for delivering quality, we need to introduce a big change in the practice of how the Owner, the Consultant and the Contractor engage with each other early on. But, when people smell change, the tendency is to either run away or create roadblocks. That’s why we need leadership tools to inspire and bring people back to join the relay race for quality. It’s not hard, believe me- it’s fun! And you can do it.
Keep in mind that the leadership we are talking about here is not a position; it’s a set of tools. This is how you can check if you are a leader- if you have the courage to enjoy collaboration, you’ve made it, regardless of where you stand on the corporate ladder. You may read my post #1 to get an idea how I used courage and collaboration in a particular situation.
There is good explanation why leadership tools work for quality. Bill George argues in his article The New 21st Century Leaders published on Harvard Business Review that the top down hierarchical model of leadership is obsolete and it is now replaced by knowledge workers who seek bottom up leadership. These people search for genuine satisfaction and meaning from their work, not just money. The quick leadership tools do the magic and provide people pride of what they do and there comes the satisfaction.
You may think we can’t do anything big without the support from high positions. It’s true, but nothing to worry about it. Support from high positions will come automatically if they see you have A) leadership tools in your back pocket and B) a business case. The business case for quality is simple- when quality goes high, risk goes low.
Structure of QLT (quick leadership tools):
I compare practice of leadership to riding a bike. It runs on two wheels and you need to ride it regularly to maximize the benefits.
The courage wheel:
The wheel at the front is the courage wheel, which will inject confidence in you to stand up for the cause. Too many of us are afraid to be on the spot. Too many times we see things going sideways and walk by the other side, because that is someone else’s job. A lot of time we do not stand up because no one listens. Also a lot times we don’t do that because it’s convenient to avoid. So long as we get our paychecks and the retirement is ensured, we chug along with why bother attitude. All it needs is a little courage to come out of that mind-set and stand up for the cause. You may visit the site of Stanford professor Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D to get a few handy tip on how to change mind-set.
There are three tools in the front wheel that will help you build courage: 1) visioning, 2) communication, and 3) creativity. The visioning tool allows you to bring people together to a common cause. The communication tool allows you to connect with people actively with clarity, empathy, respect and open mind. And creativity tool will help you draw new ideas out of the people.
The collaboration wheel:
The wheel at the back is the collaboration wheel. If you engage collaboration with courage, your team will be in motion and will put quality on auto-pilot for your project. You will make people feel important and they will be happy to work with you and deliver quality without you pushing them around with checklists so much.
There are three tools in the back wheel that will help you get into action of collaboration: 4) critical thinking, 5) leading, and 6) following. The critical thinking tool will help you analyze the creative ideas and compare them. Leading tool will allow you to use your judgment to make preliminary decisions. The following tool will allow bounce your decisions back and forth with your team and come to conclusions or lead to the right actions.
Once you master these two wheels with six quick leadership tools, you can add or replace tools as you feel necessary and build you own bike. Also note that when you pedal the bike, back wheel is the one that drives it and the front wheel acts to steer the way.
The change needed for quality:
Using the QLTs, the Owner, the Consultant and the Contractor can make the following changes in practice happen:
- Through partnerships, establish a vision around quality and fitness for use
- Outline a clear path on how the vision will be carried through from beginning to end of the project life cycle
During design and documentation:
- Through partnerships, follow through the vision to ensure high quality design and documents that translates the fitness for use into accurate requirements
- Outline a clear path for roles and responsibilities to achieve conformance to the requirements for all three parties
- Through partnerships, analyze the vision, fitness for use and conformance to requirements
- Prepare and enforce a quality management program throughout construction.
Leadership sounds like a lot of work but actually when you try it out you will find that its much less work! QLTs may take a few hours upfront but saves hundreds down the road. It has the power to prevent the risk-triplet, scope creep, schedule slip and cost overrun, and save a lot of agonizing time down the road. When you will see your courage and collaboration in action, you will never want to go back to the old ways. All you need to move forward is switch to your mind-set that you can do it and you are good to go!
In the next post I will launch the project I have been talking about- “Quality is My Job”. Until then- thank you for reading and by the way- please send your feedback- long or short.