Sometimes when I look at the pressures encroaching on jobsite performance, I wonder how construction crews and their companies can even come close to succeeding. It's no wonder that quality levels can come into question: Time constraints, physical barriers, jobsite politics, technical issues, and just dealing with raw materials dumped onto raw ground are enough to challenge even the best crews. And that's not even mentioning the economic pressures. One of the best carpenters I ever worked with used to say, at least a half-dozen times a day, "I should've been a shoe salesman."
Yet here we are day-in and day-out, because there is something about working in construction that hooks us and makes us choose this work every day. Remember that. Every time you get out of your truck and strap on your tool pouch, climb onto that staging or step into a dimly lit furnace room, remember that you have chosen to do so. And along with this choice comes a responsibility to do the best work you can do?until you choose to do something else.
Fighting for quality is nothing new, but the environment in which we are expected to deliver it has changed immensely. New building materials and techniques require new ways of planning and training for their proper installation. And in light of recent moisture and mold problems, the pressure is on to manage risk, a responsibility that often comes down to that $10-per-hour guy with the $5 caulk gun in his hand.
Attitude is everything when it comes to monitoring your own work, but your morale and your company's culture also have tremendous effects on everyone around you?right down to the mason's tender. How many times have you witnessed a disgruntled worker carelessly bang something into place after something or someone upset him, dropping his quality level almost out of spite? Well this guy just dropped your quality level, too, whether you know it or not, because you will be judged by the work everyone does on your project. And I would add that the word "quality" applies not only to the final piece of work in place?but also to the experience you and your crew have in putting it there.
Is quality on the rise, as many industry observers say? I think that's pretty hard to answer given the kinds of problems you can pick up in a walk-through or the numbers of complaints that haunt the industry. We take a close look at this very question in our feature "Quality Check."
So what can you do to improve and maintain your level of quality? Make it a team sport. Feed on the assumption that everyone basically wants to do good work and train them how to do excellent work. You're going to have to set the stage, set the standards, share the praise, and dole out the consequences, but if you communicate your intentions, get the buy-in from anyone who steps onto your jobsites, and develop a way to measure your quality, you'll be on your way to doing what you set out to do when you got into this business.