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PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together

May 2018






















... it’s up to you how you want to paint it

PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together

JOSEPH SELLERS, JR. JACK KNOX Co-Publishers KAARIN ENGELMANN editor@pinpmagazine.org Editor-in-Chief

8 Photo by / Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 Apprenticeship Training


May 2018 - Volume 12, Number 1


JESSICA KIRBY jkirby@pointonemedia.com Editor POINT ONE MEDIA INC. artdept@pointonemedia.com Creative Services ERIC WESTBROOK Cover Illustrator

 Conference summary, photos, and quotables capture a memorable event focused

Partners in Progress is a publication of the Sheet Metal Industry LaborManagement Cooperation Fund.


All contents ©2018 by the Sheet Metal Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Fund, P.O. Box 221211, Chantilly, VA 20153-1211.

on collaboration.


 Catie Rogers aims to introduce the trade she loves to women and to students who believe they have no chance at a brighter future.


 Spreading the word about the trades to the younger generation opens the door to a well-kept secret.


Find Partners in Progress online at pinp.org or at issuu.com/ partnersinprogress. An archive of all issues is available and printed copies may be ordered for a minimal fee. For comments or questions, email editor@pinpmagazine.org.

 The D.R.I.P. method creates positive change in Salt Lake City and beyond, day by day and week by week.


 Never before has positive and constructive communication been this important.

S HE E T M E TA L | A I R | R A I L | T R A N S P O R TAT I O N


Communicate. Now Commit and Deliver. Earlier this year leaders from both labor and management joined forces at the 2018 Partners in Progress Conference and accepted the challenge to work together to strengthen the industry and create new opportunities. “When contractors and local unions have healthy working relationships, our market share increases, our work opportunities materialize, and our day-to-day working relationships improve,” said SMACNA president Jack Knox in the conference’s opening session.

Remember, according to John Foley, retired Blue Angels pilot, “if you are an optimist without a plan, you are screwed. You actually have to do something!” We are all more similar than we are dissimilar, and though we aren’t going to agree on everything, as Michelle McNew, business manager for local 464, said at the conference, our different perspectives can make us stronger.

SMART General President Joseph Sellers echoed Knox’s thoughts, encouraging the teams to commit to moving the industry forward and taking advantage of the knowledge and the experience assembled at the meeting. “If we don’t shape our future, our future will be shaped for us,” he challenged.

As we face new technologies, workforce shortages, and ever-increasing non-signatory competition, expertise from both sides of the aisle can make all the difference. In this issue and the rest of the year, we will be covering topics raised during the 28 sessions and workshops, talking about how to create successful labor-management teams, make progress on market recovery and expansion, recruit quality applicants, and develop critical communication skills for the 21st century. Whether or not you attended the meetings, these issues are vital. Nothing in the construction industry is standing still right now. As we face new technologies, workforce shortages, and everincreasing non-signatory competition, expertise from both sides of the aisle can make all the difference. At the end of the day, most of us know that we need to build relationships and trust, but the health of our industry is not a hypothetical exercise. We need to follow though, make the connections, build relationships, coordinate our efforts, and implement effective programs. Use the information generated at the conference and covered in these pages, as well as the success stories and resources made available via the SMACNA-SMART Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force and pinp.org, with your labor or management partner to start a dialog. Meet regularly, look at each other across the table, and listen to what the other has to say. Jointly come up with a plan to address long-range issues and move forward, making a difference.

Presentations and handouts from the 2018 Partners in Progress Conference are available at pinp.org/conferences/pinp18/ schedule. While you are at pinp.org, register for credentials to enable full access to the increasing number of resources made available to SMART locals, SMACNA contractors and chapters, labor-management cooperation trusts and committees, and training centers.

Urgent. Please Reply. As part of your efforts, please take time to complete the State of SMART-SMACNA Labor-Management Cooperation Survey by Aug. 15, 2018. SMACNA and SMART’s Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force is continuing to identify, promote, communicate, and support industry best practices. In order to pinpoint which areas around North America have established labor-management cooperation organizations, determine the perceived value of labor-management cooperation, and find success stories, the task force annually conducts this survey. It is available at surveymonkey.com/r/YCBLH8L and via Partners in Progress at pinp.org. Results will be shared only in aggregate in SMACNA, SMART, and Partners in Progress publications.  Partners in Progress » May 2018 » 3

2018 Conference

Partners in Progress

Photos by / Carl Cox Photography

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HEARD OUT AND ABOUT “All things change, and we change with them. Not only do we need to change with reality, but we also need to get in front of that change.” ~ Marc Norberg, assistant to the SMART general president

“Don’t let the information you have received in the past two days get bogged down in your inbox when you get home.” ~ Nathan Dills, Best Practices Task Force co-chair

“It starts with meeting regularly.” ~ Joe Sellars, SMART general president

“At the end of the day, we all pretty much know what to do. It is all about communication, relationships, and building the trust. But you have to actually make the connection.” ~ Chris Walker, CAL SMACNA

“We need to do a better job of projecting where the net growth in the industry will be so that we are not trapped three years from now operating the same way we do today.” ~ Richard McClees, general secretary-treasurer for SMART

“We are only as good as the team around us.” ~ Neal C. Ernest, a general superintendent with Balfour Beatty

“I believe in this process, but it doesn’t work if you just return home and go back to normal.” ~ Charles Ruegge, business agent for Local 265

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Partners in Progress Conference

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HEARD OUT AND ABOUT “To compete in this market, you have to think like a non-union contractor.” ~ Kenneth Fritze of KF Mechanical

“I believe in this process, but it doesn’t work if you just return home and go back to normal.” ~ Charles Ruegge, business agent for Local 265

“You can’t by accident become successful.” ~ Aldo Zambetti

“We were not one the same page for many years, but we realized that we need to face issues as partners.” ~ Michael Coleman, business manager/president of SMART Local 33

“Everybody feels like this is a man’s job. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.” ~ SMART Local 464 Business Manager Mechelle McNew

“Make a commitment that something is going to change.” ~ Guy Gast, former SMACNA president and president of the New Horizons Foundation

“I believe everyone can be a sheet metal worker. This is what I told a cosmetologist who successfully became a sheet metal worker. Her hand-eye coordination made her a great welder.” ~ Leah Rambo of SMART Local 28.

“Contract bargaining is about taking care of today’s business. Labor-management cooperation is about looking to the future and getting set for what is coming next.” ~ Trainer and facilitator Mike Gaffney

“Most people listen with the intent to reply. They do not listen to understand.” ~ Stephane McShane, a director at Maxim Consulting Group

“The last thing I want is a member to get into business who is unprepared.” ~ Rob Biedermann, director of SMART Capital

“Be a difference-maker in our world.” ~ Jack Knox, SMACNA president

Partners in Progress » May 2018 » 7

Mission: Recruitment By / Tiffannie Bond Photos by / Sheet Metal Workers Local 20

If you happen to live in the Indianapolis area

and are approached by a spunky, 5-foot-2-inch-tall young woman about considering unionized sheet metal as a career path, you’ve officially met Catie Rogers, apprentice for SMART Local 20 and self-proclaimed recruiter of female apprentices to building trades. Rogers’ current mission is smashing stereotypes in the gender arena, and her long-term goal is to help disadvantaged high school kids see the myriad opportunities in trades careers. She brings optimism and confidence to the table with a clear message: “Your life is a blank canvas and you have a paint brush. You can paint it any way you want.” Her passion is her guiding force. As a fifth-year apprentice, Rogers is the only female apprentice at her local in Indianapolis. She believes women can do the work, but they don’t know it exists and is readily available to them. “Sheet metal work isn’t for everybody, and I’m not going to push it because that’s the career path I chose,” says Rogers, who is 25. “The goal is to get more women into the building trades as a whole.” Along her daily travels, Rogers’ friends and family aren’t surprised when she stops a waitress or female mechanic who has 8 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org

provided good customer service to encourage her to consider the building trades as a career. Rogers also works with local female journeywomen and women’s organizations such as Oregon Women in the Trades, Chicago Women in Trades, and others to put her energy behind the movement. She volunteers as a cast member for Built to Succeed, a collective partnership between building trades in Indiana to showcase the education and opportunities behind apprenticeship. “I want to be the girl I needed when I got in the trade,” Rogers says. “I want to make it easier for women to get information about construction.” When she isn’t working, going to school, or participating with other organizations, she compiles pamphlets and folders for women she meets and delivers the information to them wherever they need. In 2017, Rogers spoke to 30 women about the trade and conducted a tour at the Local 20 training center and at Poynter Sheet Metal. The USG and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index released its 2017 fourth quarter numbers on Dec. 11. The index showed 57 percent of contractors expected to hire skilled workers in the next six months and a large number reported stable or increased revenue expectations for 2018.


However, 42 percent of contractors predicted that, although they will need to hire, finding skilled workers to fill those positions would be increasingly more difficult in the next six months, and 92 percent were concerned about available workers’ skill levels. Joseph Lansdell, president of Poynter Sheet Metal and immediate past president of SMACNA, sees potential in what Rogers is doing. “We’ve gotten in a rut over the years—a son gets into the trade because his dad did it; a niece gets into the trade because her uncle did it. That’s the only way we’ve recruited,” Lansdell says. “If more people were involved like Catie and recruiting their friends, we wouldn’t have that shortage.” Mentoring, in general, also helps retain and recruit union members. Along with Rogers’ one-woman crusade, Poynter also supports a youth leadership program at the company to help retain and recruit new members, Lansdell adds. Rogers’ long-term goals consist of one day working for the union as an apprentice recruiter and visiting high schools like the one she attended in East Indianapolis, where many kids grow up to have far less than she does, to educate them on what they can accomplish if only they put in the work. After all, as a kid who came from an impoverished neighborhood, she is proof it can happen. “I didn’t want to be a product of my environment. My family didn’t put me through school. It changed my life to become something other than a drug dealer,” Rogers says. “It changed my life to have benefits, to have a pension. I want to go to the schools where people think ‘those kids aren’t going to amount to anything.’ These kids have no other options—or so they think.”  Rogers was on hand at the Diversify the Workforce: Recruiting Women and Minority Workers session at the Partners in Progress Conference, where Mechelle McNew, a member of the SMART Women Team; Julie Muller-Neff, a member of the Women in Construction Leadership Council; Leah Rambo, a member of the NYC Coalition for Women in Construction; and Angie Simon, who formed SMACNA’s Women in Construction Leadership Committee, explored why diversity and inclusion are key to our future sustainability as an industry, how to overcome barriers to achieving greater diversity, and developing a culture of inclusivity.



There are approximately 939,000 women employed in the U.S. construction industry, accounting for 9.1 percent of that sector’s workforce. Although in 2015 women in construction only accounted for 1.3 percent of the country’s entire workforce, the numbers climb each year. Part of recruitment success is pay equity—while in the rest of the workforce, women make 81.1 percent of what men make for equal work, in construction the disparity is only 4.3 percent. But pay isn’t everything. Successfully recruiting women also means addressing barriers such as inappropriate workplace culture, inadequate training, and ineffective policies and procedures. Source: NAWIC Builds Leaders, 2018

According to the Construction Sector Council’s Women in Construction Engagement Strategy, success in recruiting women hinges six important factors: Industry leadership: Addressing barriers begins at the top. Leaders must drive behavioral change, develop policy to encourage respectful and welcoming workplace culture, provide straightforward avenues to report abuse, and consider family-friendly workplace policies. Apprenticeship: Women need opportunities to complete the full range of trade-related skills and responsibilities, strong and relevant mentoring opportunities, and assistance building strong and useful relationships with industry agencies and training entities. Training: Diversity/cultural sensitivity training should be available to all management, supervisors, and tradespersons, and diversity should be a strong component of mentoring and supervision practices. Technical training should also be specific to women’s requirements, including general orientation in the construction workplace and accessibility focused on family responsibilities. Outreach, Recruitment, and Retention: Examine and articulate a strong business case for women in construction. Share best practices to promote the use of successful programs, resources, and tools. Look for industry heroes and tradeswomen to act as mentors and spokespersons. Policies and Procedures: These should be developed to address intrinsic, ingrained barriers to recruiting women. Support internal best practices that can influence labor groups in developing overarching inclusion policies. Be sure safety policies and equipment are appropriate for all employees, including women. Partnerships with regional stakeholders: Seek opportunities to partner with national and regional stakeholders in support of women in the construction industry. Communicate the importance of diversity to all construction stakeholders, and work with them to integrate women into the construction industry.

May 2018



Youth Apprenticeship Program Spreading the Word about the Trades to the Younger Generation By / Cairine Caughill Photos by / Amanda Braun-Total Mechanical

Knowing employment in the trades is a well-kept secret, Wisconsin’s Plumbing Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors’ Alliance was intrigued by the possibility of a youth apprenticeship program to introduce teens in the Milwaukee area to the industry’s opportunities. They looked to the program created by the state of Wisconsin through its Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards about 25 years ago. Lauri Rollings, executive director of the Plumbing Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors’ Alliance, felt it was important to start small with a core group of contractors who really bought in to the concept of youth apprenticeship, were supportive of it, and understood the potential it had.

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“This is an investment in the system, an investment in their education, an investment in the school, an investment in parents, to make a program successful, said Jack Schirpke, vice-president for Total Mechanical in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.

Dajen Bohacek, associate director of Plumbing Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors’ Alliance, took the lead in promoting the program and recruiting students. She focused on schools that had construction curriculum already in place. “We knew [the students] had an interest in construction because they were enrolled in a class,” says Bohacek. “We knew they had teachers who were interested and supportive of a career in construction … If a school has construction in its building, that means the principal is supportive, and that means the superintendent and the administration are supportive, so getting your foot in those doors is easier.” Students had to be on track to graduate on time or early to be considered for the program. Each youth apprentice went through an interview process with the contractors. Once the match had been made, the school, contractor, and youth apprentice worked together to develop a schedule that met everyone’s needs. Total Mechanical in Pewaukee, Wisconsin was one of five contractors who were part of the pilot program. The company took on two youth apprentices. Jack Schirpke, vice-president of the Environmental Services Division, says the company understood there would be some short-term sacrifices for the chance at long-term gain—the journeyman mentor would slow down, and some office resources would also be used for the program. “This is an investment in the system,” he says, “an investment in their education, an investment in the school, an investment in parents, to make a program successful.” Safety training is paramount. Before the youth apprentices started work, they participated in 40 hours of paid pre-employment training that included OSHA 10, first aid, CPR, along with use and care of tools, union heritage, and more. Mentors play a crucial role in the program and are chosen carefully by the contractors. “They have to have good communication skills and be patient,” says Rollings. “It’s got to be somebody who has the qualities of a good teacher but is also a good tradesperson and has enthusiasm for the trade.”

Gaven Post participated in the inaugural year of the Youth Apprenticeship program sponsored by SMACCA Milwaukee and Local 18. Post is a senior at Brookfield Central High School in Brookfield Wisconsin and spent much of his senior year working at Total Mechanical.

Journeyman Matt Weid of Total Mechanical was asked to be a mentor and readily agreed. “I thought this program would be a good way to get more high school kids to join the union building trades,” he says. Weid was impressed by his apprentice who was “always on time, paid attention, and did a great job.” Gaven Post did a youth apprenticeship at Total Mechanical. When he heard about the program, he thought it was a great opportunity to see if the trades were really for him. Turns out they were. As Schirpke says, “We took the risk, and there are two individuals that are now educated, their schools are educated, their parents are educated, their friends are educated, and they’re going to be employees.” The Alliance is planning to expand the program next year, bringing on 10 youth apprentices. If they can repeat their level of success, the “well-kept secret” of the trades may not be a secret for much longer.  Cairine Caughill is a freelance writer based in Ontario, Canada. During the Regional Breakouts at the Partners in Progress Conference, regions discussed the different ways they are addressing workforce and recruiting. Share your success stories with us at editor@pinpmagazine. org.

Partners in Progress » May 2018 » 11

The D.R.I.P. Method Creates Positive Change in Salt Lake City By Cari Bilyeu Clark

The hard skills sheet metal workers need are easy to teach

and test. After all, a good weld is fairly easy to compare to a bad weld. However, other skills – the so-called “soft skills” workers need just as much – are harder to teach, quantify, and evaluate. Professionalism, perseverance, conflict resolution, a positive attitude, the ability to accept criticism, and strong leadership are essential to every job. But how to get these messages across in a consistent, clear manner that creates real change? Jim Paull, executive director of SMACNA Utah, found workforce quality was topmost on the minds of both the Utah Labor Committee and Local 312 during contract renewal conversations in June, 2016. “Management Baby Boomers [workers born between 1946 and 1964, who are retiring soon] and Union Generation Xers [born between 1965 and 1985] expressed difficulty understanding Millenials [born between 1986 and 2000]. They also voiced apprehension about the work ethics of upcoming Generation Z [those born between 1995 and 2012].” Local 312 Business Representative Mark Kaufman, concurs. “We currently have four generations in the workforce. Behavior that was no problem 30 years ago will not be tolerated today,” he says, citing such things as yelling at subordinates and 12 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org

© Can Stock Photo / olechowski

Direction, Responsibility, Integrity, Productivity:

being impatient with new hires. Some younger workers need to be told they are required to be at work on time every day. The generational differences can lead to conflict, and there were problems retaining new apprentices. “We definitely saw a need to develop better communication between the generations,” says Local 312 Business Manager Tony Ericksen. “We could see a trend, and it was getting worse,” says Local 312 Apprenticeship Coordinator Gordon Hyde. “The apprentices are a captive audience for soft-skill training, but they often do not see a need for it.” Thus, when Paull ran across the leadership concepts of Nic Bittle, founder of Work Force Pro and author of several books about workforce leadership, who has worked with Local 24 apprenticeship in Oklahoma, he called and introduced himself. “But before suggesting his programs to my board, I introduced Nic to SMACNA and to Local 312 leadership through a conference call. I sensed a genuine connection.”

In March 2017, Bittle went to Utah, presenting two wellattended seminars and attending working dinners with leaders from the JATC, Local, and labor-management group. What Bittle took away was that while workshops and seminars are great, they are expensive and time-consuming. They also take a lot of personnel away from job sites. He was also concerned that it is difficult to maintain the momentum from a seminar over the long term.

“This information is great, but what I want is for you to follow me around the job site and whisper in my ear,” said a foreman who participated in the program. “One foreman said to me, ‘This information is great, but what I want is for you to follow me around the job site and whisper in my ear,’” Bittle says. “So I cut the information up into bitesize pieces.” He created the D.R.I.P. (Direction, Responsibility, Integrity, Productivity) system, designed to train people to improve productivity and perform at their best on a daily basis. Rather than receiving information in one concentrated dose, participants receive weekly micro-lessons delivered through text, email, video, and audio channels. Leadership from both SMACNA Utah and Local 312 agreed to share funding and implement the D.R.I.P. across the board. The Success D.R.I.P. (sent each Thursday) is geared to apprentices and workers, and the Leadership D.R.I.P. (sent each Wednesday) is oriented toward those who are managing and supervising others. Hyde requires his apprentices to participate. “One workshop a year won’t cut it,” he says. “The weekly D.R.I.P. helps reinforce their skills in the field.” A recent D.R.I.P. covered the topic of the Dominance leadership trait. The email provided a link to a quick test to determine personal traits and defined how Dominant persons tend to lead and communicate. This D.R.I.P. was applicable to both managers and workers. “If we are going to teach apprentices how to follow, we need to teach managers how to lead,” Bittle notes. “Sometimes, even if a foreman is not so good at leading, apprentices can learn to be good at following.” Bittle believes that the training method is not only kinder and gentler than lectures or uncomfortable confrontations with company brass, but also it is more effective. “It helps that the messages are non-threatening, friendly, and positive; come in small bursts; and are delivered by a third-party source,” he says. Whenever there is a fifth Wednesday in a month, which happens four times per year, Bittle pauses to get feedback. “I want to know the problems and struggles my clients are facing. The field guys drive the content. The information is always fresh. The

Nic Bittle facilitating “A Foreman’s Field Guide To Developing Your Crew - Step 1” at SMACNA Mid-Atlantic chapter in Greenbelt, Maryland. Photo submitted by / Nic Bittle.

industry is changing so fast, it’s important to keep it flowing.” Bittle is creating an archive of previous D.R.I.P.s and videos that will create a custom stream of topics for any client who wishes to spend more time exploring the information. Garrett Yates, project manager at A-J Sheet Metal in Sandy, Utah, has seen welcome changes in his work force. “Even one little thing is enough to make a change,” he says. Yates tells the story of a foreman with a strong personality who initially was resistant to Bittle’s seminar. As time went on, the man became engaged. “I ran into one of his apprentices at a store one day, and I asked how work was going. He said that after the D.R.I.P. presentation, this foreman was like a different person. He was explaining things and being clear about what was expected. I was impressed that he could change.” Business Manager Ericksen sees positive results. “Both the labor and management sides support with the D.R.I.P. program, and that makes it much more effective. The information is nothing we haven’t heard before, but the program reinforces it and keeps it going. It helps to hear the messages weekly.” Ericksen has seen really good response from his people. “They recognized that there were things they could work on. Journeymen and foremen can incorporate the messages into their weekly Safety Toolbox talks. The information is always at their fingertips. I am behind this program 100 percent,” Ericksen concludes.  Cari Bilyeu Clark is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia. The Partners in Progress Conference provided many opportunities to find out what members of our industry are doing to enhance workforce development. Look for more in our next issue. Read a Partners in Progress article about Bittle’s work with sheet metal apprentices in Oklahoma at pinp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/PINPVol11No01-09.pdf. For additional information on D.R.I.P. training, visit NicBittle.com.

Partners in Progress » May 2018 » 13

COMMUNICATION REFORM Driven by Industry Demand By / Stephane McShane The construction market seems to be evolving at a speed unmatched in history. The demands for collaboration, problem solving, and rock solid planning processes are driving changes in communication means. It is critical to address the cultural and operational hurdles – created by ineffective communication and conflict resolution skills – that can hinder the forward progress of your organization. Today’s construction industry and the clearly defined path forward include pull planning, multi-trade design and fabrication, modularization, and increasingly accelerated schedules. All of these items have one core value in common: collaboration. To accelerate the schedule, the industry is demanding that trades work together to solve problems more rapidly. The era of the dictatorship model where the general contractor openly orchestrates every move is coming to an end in favor of the lean, team-engaged environment. This model thrives where input and active participation are held paramount. That said, it begs the question: How can we deliver a fully collaborative product to our external clients (those outside of our walls) if we don’t have that same level of collaboration occurring with our internal clients (those inside our walls)? In the world of construction, the lack of clear communication between management, staff, and the field is still common. The reason for its continuance cannot be, “It’s been that way 14 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org

for years.” As quickly as we are seeing the delivery methods, design strategies, and operational plans evolve, so does the need to become very agile internally and leverage the strengths of many parties to meet the common goals of timeliness, safety, and profitability. So, what causes a serious breakdown in communication and, ultimately, productivity and profitability? It could boil down to three very important factors: lack of defined roles and responsibilities, inconsistency in business practices, and poor culture.

Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Highly successful and progressive contractors understand the need for defined roles. To create a scalable, replicable model, each person in the organization must understand what their role is in generating a predetermined deliverable. For example, if you took a hard look at your process that ends in a prefabricated assembly, skid, or product, how many people in your organization are involved in the success or failure of that product being done correctly, per design, on time, and on budget? To have any sort of predictability of cost and timeline, it becomes necessary for each person in this chain of events to understand what information or product they receive, what they are expected

to do with it, and the expected outcome. If we have variances in the roles of those handling the submittal, purchasing, design, fabrication, logistics, or installation processes, the cost, quality, and timeline are unpredictable. In this particular instance, the use of value stream mapping involving those parties who create or use the product (management and labor) would be recommended to define the process. This would include documenting each role and deliverable needed by each position in the workflow, to create the standardization, clarity, and lean transformation most organizations seek.

Consistency and Discipline

Trust is the cornerstone of culture, and it must be seen at every level in the organization and exist between work groups. A simple way to explore the overall culture of an organization is to test the relationship and trust that exists between project managers, superintendents, and field foremen. If that relationship displays trust, aligned vision, shared ambition, and a team spirit, then it is likely the culture of the firm is well intact.








departments, or “silos” within the organization

Consistency in business practices has everything to do with standards. Standards range from the soft skills such as how we do business, how we treat our clients (both internal and external), and what we stand for in the industry, to the hard skills of having defined systems and processes that set the stage for consistency and productivity.

should not exist. Management, labor, and staff

An example of a lack of standards and consistency came from a consulting client that was creating installation drawings using the skill set of the foreman running the job as the barometer to dictate how much detail to place on those drawings. As a result, each job was designed to a completely different standard.

It might be said that this level of utopia does not exist in our industry. Perhaps perfection isn’t the goal. The target moves daily, and organizations must be agile enough to respond. The goal of any organization should be to ensure its members are engaged, aligned in the vision of success for the company, and productive in working together to solve the many challenges ahead. The battle lines in the sand between departments, or “silos” within the organization should not exist. Management, labor, and staff should be focused in their efforts to attain common goals that support all parties.

This is in stark contrast to those firms that have design levels standardized with specific detail about what is contained on the backgrounds, what extraneous information is removed, what level of information is created for field use in installing, and how this information flows through to fabrication. To determine what this process should look like, those involved in creating and using the information, both staff and labor, should be teaming up to define best practices. Only with consistency in standards, and the discipline to ensure standards are followed, can we reduce the friction and delays that come from the inconsistencies that exist in the organization.

Positive Culture

Culture plays a key role in the success of communication within a firm. The common pitfalls to culture are lack of structure, micromanagement, poor leadership, and lack of discipline. For example, working on improvement initiatives with a company with a positive, energetic, supportive culture allows those changes to become adopted and accepted at a significantly higher rate than those firms with a negative or distrustful environment.

should be focused in their efforts to attain common goals that support all parties.

As an industry, we face ongoing pressures regarding schedule, quality, and cost. The solution lies in a coordinated effort of defining roles, creating consistent deployment of business practices, that has a positive, supportive culture to ensure success for all. You cannot change an organization. You can positively change the culture and processes to benefit the people within the organization to gain the results desired.  Stephane McShane is a director at Maxim Consulting Group in Denver. She has worked in the field as an apprentice, electrician, foreman, and worked her way through each operational chair within a successful electrical construction firm. She gave several presentations at the Partners in Progress Conference, including how to negotiate conflict, build teams, and develop critical communications skills. Download her presentations at pinp.org/conferences/pinp18/schedule/. For additional information about Maxim Consulting Group, visit maximconsulting.com.

Would you like access to additional resources to make your labor, management, or training team more successful? Sign up for a free members-only account on pinp.org to get access to professionally designed ads, a photo library, best practices guides, and more. Contact kaarin@pinpmagazine.org for assistance. Partners in Progress » May 2018 » 15

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