FCA’s quality partners share the six most common mistakes they encounter when starting a construction quality program.

By: Ed Caldeira | First Time Quality

We’ve helped a lot of companies start a quality program, so we know the many pitfalls that can be avoided. While it’s likely that you’ll make a few mistakes along the way—who doesn’t?—understanding the most common errors before you get started can keep them to a minimum. Although every new quality program rollout is a little different and has its own unique bumps in the road, these six mistakes are the ones we see the most:

1.) Not Setting Measurable Quality Goals

Goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely—are more effective than those that are not. For example, “We want to get better at first-time quality” is not a SMART goal. It’s on the right track (and a sentiment that we strongly support), but it is too vague to be effective.

On the other hand, “Our goal is to reduce deficiencies by 50 percent in the next six months” says a lot more about what you’re actually trying to achieve with your quality standards and that it is worthwhile endeavour. Each member of the team will have a specific metric to work toward. It can be measured, it has a timeline connected to it, and with the right systems in place, it is both achievable and realistic.

2.) Creating Goals in a Vacuum

You can set all the goals in the world, but if you do so without input and buy-in from key stakeholders, you could be wasting your time.

Achieving first-time quality requires a team effort, and everyone must be on board in order for a quality program to be successful. Work with company executives to set goals that are meaningful to the company’s success. For example, if a 60 percent reduction in closeout punch can generate more business, then go for it!

Involve superintendents and project managers in the process as early as possible to ensure that your quality program is designed around their goals and challenges. Not only will you garner more support for the program, but your goals will be aligned with everyone else’s goals.

3.) Treating Your Quality Program as a Cost Center

Is quality free? Not everyone may see it that way. Introducing additional costs will likely cause some ripples, and these ripples can turn into waves if key stakeholders are not fully invested in the idea of first-time quality as a cost-saving program.

Budgets are a primary concern for project managers, superintendents, and top management, so it is important to address any concerns about cost and resources before they arise by demonstrating that a quality program can actually save money on projects and contribute to higher profits for the company.

Yes, a quality program requires a financial investment, time, and other resources, but when key stakeholders understand that it can actually be a profit center, they are more likely to fully embrace it.

4.) Implementing Too Much, Too Soon

Rolling out a construction quality program takes time. People have to learn new systems and change their behaviors. Many people also need to see the system in action before they’re fully convinced they should adopt it.

Start with one project, one tech-savvy, open-minded superintendent, and a limited number of inspections, and add on to your quality program from there. It won’t feel as intimidating to employees, and you will be able to refine the processes as you continue to build the program.

Your quality program won’t be perfect the first time—or even the second or third time—but you will eventually have a system that works like a well-oiled machine.

5.) Doing Too Much Yourself

If I knew then what I know now….!” Starting a construction quality program comes with a lot of unknowns that can waste your time. Tap into the expertise of your software supplier and ask them for help and advice for getting your quality program started. Identify one or two people on your team who can provide administrative support for your quality program. As the quality manager, you must keep your eye on the big picture and not get buried in the minutiae.

6.) Understanding the Need to Build Consensus

No matter how good your construction quality program is, if you don’t have buy-in from all of the other stakeholders in the organization, it won’t reach its full potential.

Top management, superintendents, project managers and more must be fully on board when implementing a new program. Building consensus for your quality program begins well before you start rolling out new systems. Educate stakeholders about the many benefits of first-time quality and generate excitement about creating a quality program that can help you get there.

Starting a new construction quality program is an onerous task, but you don’t have to do it alone. Get coaching from other quality managers and people with industry experience so you can learn from their mistakes.

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