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  • timreallifelean

If You Tolerate It In Your Presence, It Becomes Your Standard

As a young field engineer, and as I grow in my role as a superintendent I sometimes struggle between being a stickler for quality and pushing the job to stay on schedule. Sometimes I feel like I have to choose one or the other, which is 100% wrong. If you let a trade partner get away with some sloppy work and end up coming back at punch list to complete it right. The famous John Wooden quote rings true “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over”. The schedule you thought you were bringing in is now blown and you have lowered your quality standard. In the short term you may get your hand slapped and have some talks with management, but if you let this become a habit, you may find yourself looking for a new career!


It can be very hard to break out of this mindset and once your crews start to see what you tolerate, they bend to match that standard. I heard a quote once on a podcast where the host stated “If you tolerate it in your presence, it becomes your standard”. I can’t think of a better application to this quote than in the quality we see in our projects. If you lower your quality standards, even for a day, you risk that lower standard becoming your new standard. This mindset can be applied across the board to numerous things - safety, quality, schedule, etc. Out of respect for your team AND for yourself, you need to hold all of your standards high.


I think a few great ways to break out of this cycle and to keep your quality standards high are to have precon meetings with your foreman where you implement first install inspections, and by making quality part of your pull plan. Utilize your entire team for this work and use this as an opportunity to help younger team members grow and learn on the job skills.


Precon Meetings and First Install Inspections - In my mind, precon meetings are not just for the week before a new trades starts on site. Some of your trades will be on site for weeks, months or even years depending on the size of the project. If you only have one precon meeting at the beginning of a multiple year job, imagine what can slip through the cracks! When a crew starts a new task (ie. moves from underground to overhead or exterior to interior) you should meet with the foreman to understand their game plan. You should be checking in to ensure they have what they need (material, permits, prerequisite inspections), that they know the means and methods and that they have a plan to ensure quality on this scope. Part of that quality should include a first install inspection or a mock up of the work. This first install inspection does not have to slow the crew down or bring their flow to a stop. Build this into your schedule so the proper people can review and make comments as needed. This gives everyone involved confidence and an understanding of the direction this scope should be heading.


Quality In Pull Plans - An easy way to keep quality stands high, remind yourself and your team of what is needed and to properly incorporate your quality plan into your work is to add your quality tasks to your Weekly Work Plans. By incorporating quality in your weekly work plan you are ensuring that your team is aware of the upcoming quality task. If your team is not utilizing the Last Planner System, maybe this will encourage you to try it. This is one of a million benefits LPS can have on your project!


When I am struggling to enforce anything onsite, be it quality, safety or any other site protocol or procedure I always come back to the quote "If you tolerate it in your presence, it becomes your standard” and think of what I want my standard to be on my site. If you truly respect the people you work with, you will hold them to a standard that you know they can achieve.

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