MANAGING THE HUMAN RESOURCE

INTRODUCTION

A mong the numerous resources that the supervisor manages—dollars, tools, equipment, job site space, and time, as we have discussed them—the most important, the most valuable, and the most complex resources are the craft workers on the project. No other aspect of management presents as many complexities and challenges as managing the human resources, the individual human beings who compose the construction workforce.

In addition to managing craft workers, the supervisor also interacts on a daily basis with numerous other people within the company, as well as with a great many others from outside it. It can be said, therefore, that the supervisor spends a great deal of time interacting with all kinds of people.

It is a fact that construction supervision involves the application of human relations skills, and supervisors should recognize that the longer they remain in a supervisory capacity, and the further they advance in supervision and management, the less they will rely upon the skills of their craft in their work, and the more important their human relations skills will become. The supervisor’s development of human relations skills is absolutely vital to success in management.

It follows, then, that understanding some of the elements of human behavior, leadership, and motivation will be extremely valuable to the supervisor throughout his career. In this chapter, we will examine some of those concepts.

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Supervisors and other managers do not typically think of themselves as leaders. Yet the concepts of leadership and the management of construction share many elements in common. Leaders make plans, for the both the short term and the long term: so do supervisors. They devise methods to implement those plans; so do supervisors. Leaders get their goals accomplished and their plans fulfilled through managing and directing other people; so do supervisors. Leaders make decisions, and they have responsibility for the outcome of those decisions; so do supervisors. The more aspects of leadership one examines, the more parallels one discovers between leadership, and supervision and management.

How Is Leadership Defined?

Leadership can be defined and characterized in many different ways. Numerous books and references have been written on this subject. Perhaps one of the best ways for supervisors to develop the concept of leadership is to think of a person, or perhaps several people they have worked for, whom they intuitively recognized as good leaders as well as good managers. This person would have been very effective at all aspects of leadership, supervision, and management, would have been a great manager, and would have been very successful. Almost without exception, people genuinely enjoyed working for this person. This person may well have been a role model and/or a mentor.

Next, the supervisor should develop a list of the attributes or characteristics that this person demonstrated that caused the supervisor and others to recognize him or her intuitively as an effective leader. These attributes can be thought of as defining characteristics that distinguished that person being thought of as an effective leader.

As was discussed in Chapter 2, a large number of supervisors and people aspiring to become supervisors have been asked to perform this exercise in supervision and project management programs conducted in numerous venues over a long span of time. The list of attributes that were cited most commonly are summarized in Figure 7.1.

The responses are those of several thousand participants in construction project supervision courses in various parts of the United States and Canada, in response to the instruction: “List what you consider to be the distinguishing attributes or characteristics of a person whom you have worked for, whom you intuitively thought of as a great leader and a great supervisor.” This is the same list of defining characteristics of outstanding leaders and supervisors that was examined in Chapter 2, and it represents the most commonly cited attributes that were shared by these people as they thought of their role models in leadership and supervision.

While no rank order is ascribed to the characteristics in this listing, and while no statistical analyses were performed with regard to the responses provided, it is noteworthy that these attributes were provided with an amazing degree of consistency. Further, those who provided the responses consistently noted that they

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ATTRIBUTES OF THE BEST LEADERS AND MANAGERS AS DETERMINED BY PRACTICING CONSTRUCTORS
Good People Skills Teacher
Good Communicator— Verbal and Written Dedicated
Respectful—Treats People with Respect Develops People
Charismatic Consistent
Organized Problem Solver
Knowledgeable Goal Oriented, Goal Setter
Leads by Example Good Planner
Earns the Respect of Others Disciplined
Open Minded Optimistic
Confident Calm
Honest Fair
Good Decision Maker Motivator
Delegator Humble
Sincere Provides Recognition
Follows Through Trustworthy
Visionary Accessible, Approachable
Willingness to Share Information Team Builder
Crisis Management—Can be Counted on in a Crisis Sets High Expectations
Good Listener Personable
Figure 7.1 Attributes of the Best Leaders and Managers

and others absolutely loved working for a leader and manager who demonstrated these characteristics. They noted additionally, that they and others considered these mentors and role models to be extremely effective as leaders in addition to being great managers, and these leaders and managers were, almost without exception, very successful. Many described the leader whom they portrayed with these attributes as being “the best of the best.”

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It is suggested that effective leadership in the construction industry can be defined in terms of these attributes, as provided by practicing constructors, far better than in a definition drawn from a text or reference on leadership. It is suggested further that the logical conclusion for supervisors to draw is that, if they wish to improve their human relations skills, and that if they wish to become admired and emulated as a successful leader and manager, they would do well to consider the attributes described in this listing as specifications for further growth and development toward fulfilling that goal.

The assertion is that people can aspire to the cultivation and practice of personal attributes and traits that they wish to incorporate into their lives and into their relations and interactions with other people. People can develop their leadership and management skills in the fashion they aspire to. Cultivating these qualities in his or her daily life could very well contribute to having the supervisor being described by those whom he or she leads, as the best and most effective of supervisors, “the best of the best.”

STYLES OF LEADERSHIP

Those who have studied leadership have defined and described a number of different styles of leadership, and have described some advantages and disadvantages that are inherent in each style. Four styles of leadership are described here, along with some of the benefits and drawbacks of each style: autocratic leadership, democratic leadership, participative leadership, and situational leadership.

It is suggested that, as you read about the characteristics of each style of leader, along with the associated benefits and drawbacks of that leadership style, you think of leaders and managers whom you have known who demonstrate that leadership style. Next, it is suggested that you look inward to determine your own personal leadership style, or the leadership style you would most wish to emulate. Leadership styles, like other personality traits and human relations attributes, can be developed and cultivated in the fashion the supervisor thinks best, and in the direction in which he wishes to grow as he develops the style of leadership that he believes will be most effective for him.

Autocratic Leadership

The autocratic leadership style has been, and remains today, very commonplace in the construction industry among leaders and managers. Those who lead with an autocratic leadership style frequently utilize expressions such as, “I am in charge, and subordinates will do as I say.” They believe that leadership, authority, and management decisions, and management responsibilities, are centralized in the leader. There is no doubt who is in charge, and everyone knows what the expectations are. While autocratic leaders may sometimes take advice and input from others, more commonly they act on their own beliefs. Usually they are convinced, and often they are absolutely convinced, that their analyses and decisions are the best. Additionally, autocratic leaders usually do not like for their authority, or their decisions or actions, to be questioned.

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Many successful construction industry leaders, company owners, and managers have practiced this style of leadership. Autocratic leadership has been found to be quite successful at times and, in fact, offers a number of advantages that some people find very attractive. For example, there is never any doubt as to who is in charge or where responsibility and authority are vested. Decisions are quickly made and implemented. People know what to expect, and they know where they stand. People know exactly whom to look to for direction and for decisions.

Autocratic leadership has also been shown to be very effective in emergencies and in crisis situations. When someone needs to take charge, and when quick and unhesitating decision making and immediate strong action are required, autocratic leadership is very effective.

However, it has also been found, especially in recent times, that autocratic leadership may not always be the best leadership style. With changes in society and changes in the workforce, many workers today are not willing to accept autocratic leadership. Some people grow weary and intolerant of constantly being given direction, and constantly being told what to do and how to do it. Many people prefer to be able to voice their opinions regarding their assignments, work methods, and other aspects of their performance in the workplace rather than simply following directives that they have been given.

It has also been demonstrated that autocratic leadership may stifle initiative on the part of workers, and it may lead to such attitudes as, “The boss does all the thinking; I do not get paid to think.” Such a mindset deprives the workforce, as well the project and its management, of the creative and innovative thinking and the initiative that many workers will demonstrate if provided the opportunity.

It has been shown that those who perform skilled craft work every day frequently develop methods and processes that are quite effective. They develop insights into doing the work that others, including those in management, simply do not possess. Autocratic leaders, by the fact that they always believe their methods and decisions must be the best, frequently do not provide an opportunity to tap into this wellspring of useful information, nor for the workers to be able to bring forth and express what they know.

Moreover, autocratic leaders frequently generate frustration and demotivation in the workers, which may manifest itself in a number of different ways. It has been shown that demotivated workers are not as productive and do not work as safely as motivated workers.

Although autocratic leadership decidedly has some benefits to offer, many believe that it may not be the most effective leadership style for use in all situations and with all people today. As the workforce and the work environment have evolved and changed, so have other management styles. Autocratic leadership is not the only leadership style supervisors have at their disposal today.

Democratic Leadership

As leadership styles evolved, many believed that the solution to the shortcomings of autocratic leadership was in democratic leadership. Democratic leaders consistently take input and advice from those whom they lead. They hold discussions,

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conduct focus groups, hold committee and task force meetings, and in other ways seek to gather information and input from workers. They usually base their decisions on what the workers think is best. They operate by seeking consensus from those they lead.

This leadership style has the advantage of allowing workers to express their opinions and to be able to bring forth their knowledge. It allows workers to feel involved in decision making. Further, it allows the workers to feel empowered and to feel they have a voice in decisions that affect them. Many workers are happiest in such an environment, because they feel motivated by this philosophy.

While democratic leadership has a number of noteworthy advantages, it has also been found to have some significant shortcomings. For example, decisions often take a long time to be made as discussions take place and as consensus is built. Additionally, the workers who are contributing to the decision making often do not have all of the information necessary to be able to make the best decisions.

In addition, democratic leadership has actually been found to cause some workers frustration, because they believe leaders should make decisions and workers should follow directions. Some workers have expressed this attitude in terms such as, “I get paid to work. Others get paid, and get paid more than me, to provide direction and to make decisions. Additionally, they have the title of supervisor. Why am I doing their work?”

So, despite the advantages inherent in democratic leadership, many have evolved away from this leadership style as they have sought the best method for leading and managing. Many managers have gravitated to the participative leadership style, which is the topic of the next section.

Participative Leadership

A leadership style that has been shown to be quite effective, and that a great many leaders and managers have adopted today, is participative leadership. This leadership style appears to provide a blend of characteristics and advantages that results in leaders who practice this style being extremely effective. Participative leadership and management are very widely recommended today in leadership development programs of all kinds.

Participative leaders regularly make it a practice to seek input from those whom they lead, with regard to decisions that affect them. They seek, and genuinely consider, the thoughts of the workers with regard to work layout, methods, and procedures to be followed. They ask for the workers’ input, counsel, and guidance on matters of all kinds in the workplace.

Such a leader carefully cultivates communication channels with the workers so that the workers feel comfortable in sharing their thoughts and in bringing forth their ideas. The leader is at ease, and the workers are comfortable providing their input as to work methods and other decisions that affect the workplace environment. This allows the craft workers to feel empowered and provides the leader with the benefit of their experience and judgment.

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When decisions are to be made in the workplace, participative leaders do thoughtfully consider the input received from the workers. Moreover, they let it be known that the workers’ input is valuable, and that this input has been taken into account.

However, participative leaders also let it be known that, when decisions are to be made, they will make them, and that the responsibility for those decisions rests with them. Sometimes they may agree with recommendations that have come from the workers and may implement those recommendations. At other times, they may act counter to what has been recommended.

Everyone knows where the decision will ultimately be made and where responsibility for the decision resides. When things turn out well, it is the workers who receive the credit; when the outcome is unfavorable, it is the leader who accepts responsibility, for both the decision and for the outcome.

When decisions turn out well, the participative leader is quick to point out that the workers’ skill and talent are the cause of the good result. The participative leader is careful, however, never to say that he or she acted on the recommendation of the workers when the result was unfavorable and that, therefore, the responsibility for the bad results is the workers’. Rather, the participative leader would be sure to make it understood that the responsibility for making decisions, as well as the responsibility for the outcome of those decisions, is solely his or her own.

The participative leadership style has the advantage of centralized authority and decision making and responsibility. It also offers the important advantage of allowing workers to feel as though their knowledge and their opinions are valued, and to know that they have a voice in matters that affect them. This allows the workers to feel empowered. They are motivated by the fact that management values their opinions, and that they have the freedom to speak their mind, and to input their suggestions, and to apply their knowledge. Often, they will commit to decisions that have been made based on their input and will dedicate themselves to ensuring that the decisions turn out well.

Leaders who can maintain the balance between allowing workers to voice their input into decision making and the mindset that decisions are made by the leader are the most effective at participative leadership. Participative leadership combines some of the features of the autocratic and democratic leadership styles to form a style of leadership where all can be involved but where the leader takes on the mantle of leadership and makes decisions and accepts responsibility.

Participative leadership is very popular today, is very widely practiced, and has been shown to be very effective. Many consider participative leadership to be the best leadership style.

Situational Leadership

A leadership style born of modern management thinking, and one that is increasingly being applied today with great effectiveness, is situational leadership. The essence of situational leadership is the leader’s applying the style and method of leadership that is most appropriate for the situation at hand.

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This leadership style, which was first defined by Dr. Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey, is described and summarized in the book Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, and Drea Zigarmi (Harper Collins Publishers, 2004), and in the book Management of Organizational Behavior by Paul Hersey, Ken Blanchard, and Dewey Johnson (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008). Both of these books are very highly recommended for further reading by the supervisor.

The description of situational leadership provided here is based on and is paraphrased from these books. Dr. Blanchard describes the essence of situational leadership in these words:

Effective managers have a range of leadership styles they can use comfortably. They have developed some flexibility in using these styles in different situations. Effective managers also have a knack for being able to diagnose what their people need from them in order to build their skills and confidence in doing the tasks they are assigned. Finally, effective leaders communicate with their people—they are able to reach agreements with them not only about their tasks but also about the amount of support they will need to accomplish these tasks.

Implied in the descriptive definition of situational leadership is the thought that the application of this method relies upon the supervisor knowing his people and their capabilities and their preferences in the workplace. Some would describe this logic as “different strokes for different folks.” However, this thought can be broadened to include the concept of “different strokes for the same folks, as the situation indicates.” For example, some people are more developed in some areas of their job than others; they can function independently and without a great deal of direct supervision on some tasks, but on other tasks they may need a great deal of direction and support.

Additionally, supervisors need to have available for their use a variety of leadership styles that can be applied as the situation warrants. In addition, they need to have established, and to continuously maintain, open communication channels with the workers. The importance of effective communication is emphasized in a number of other sections of this book and is a key component of situational leadership.

The situational leadership model holds that the situation at hand is the determining driver for the style of leadership the manager will employ. Four styles are defined as subsets of situational leadership: directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating.

When the directing style of leadership is utilized, the leader provides specific direction for the task assigned and then closely monitors task accomplishment. The leader lays out a step-by-step plan for how the task is to be accomplished. The leader makes the decisions, and the person receiving the direction carries out the assigned task.

Such a style would be appropriate for use by the supervisor with a person who is new to the job site or who is new to the task to be performed. As this worker gains proficiency and arrives at a comfort level with this set of tasks, the supervisor might

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transition to a coaching style. For those workers not motivated to move forward with advancing their skills, the supervisor might continue to employ a directing style.

The directive style is also appropriate when a decision has to be made quickly and when the stakes are high. In these situations, strong directive leadership is the way to achieve success.

Directive behavior involves clearly telling people what to do and how to do it and then closely monitoring their performance. Watchwords for the supervisor with regard to utilization of the directive style are: structure, organize, teach, and supervise.

It should be noted that the directing style, and the other three leadership styles as well, are based in the assumption that the supervisor believes his workers are responsible and self-motivated, and that they have the desire and the potential to become high performers. This rationale continues with the thought that the workers will be given direction by the supervisor so that they can begin developing their full potential.

This philosophy differs radically from the assumptions that many managers frequently made about the workforce in the past, wherein the presumption was that the workers are not inclined to work, do not seek responsibility, are not reliable, and do not seek to advance. These assumptions provided the rationale in the past that, therefore, the workers needed close supervision and that an autocratic directive style was the best way to manage. We will further discuss assumptions that managers make with regard to the workers who compose the workforce in the section on motivation later in this chapter.

When she employs a coaching style of leadership, the supervisor continues to direct and closely monitor task accomplishment, but she also explains decisions, solicits suggestions, and supports progress. Thus, the coaching leadership style involves both some direction and some support on the part of the supervisor.

When utilizing the coaching style the supervisor engages in two-way communication by asking for suggestions and getting input from the workers, recognizing that the workers frequently have good ideas. This style involves listening to people, and providing encouragement and support for their efforts, and then facilitating their involvement in problem solving and decision making. However, in the end it is the supervisor who makes the decision and who provides the directive with regard to what is to be done.

For workers who have some amount of experience and who demonstrate reasonable competence at performing a set of tasks, a coaching leadership style might be indicated. Additionally, for workers who have progressed from needing a directive style, and who have indicated that they wish to continue to grow and advance, a coaching leadership style on the part of the supervisor might provide the next step in their evolution and growth.

When utilizing a supporting leadership style, the supervisor facilitates and supports people’s efforts toward task accomplishment, and shares decision making with them. Keywords characterizing supportive leadership are: listen, ask, explain, facilitate. A supervisor utilizing this supportive style, supports and encourages people’s efforts, listens to their suggestions, and facilitates their interactions with others.

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When employing a delegating leadership style, the supervisor turns over responsibility for decision making and problem solving to people whom he trusts with the responsibility. The supervisor relies upon the workers’ experience and know-how, and provides very little directive leadership. Rather, he realizes that the workers have the ability and the motivation to make independent judgments and to solve day-today problems in the workplace. The supervisor allows these talented and motivated workers to exercise their own initiative and to apply their experiential learning in the workplace.

While four different leadership styles are defined by Dr. Blanchard and his colleagues, he is emphatic in noting that no one of these styles is inherently better than the others. Rather, the most effective leadership style the supervisor can employ is the one indicated by the situation—the environment and the tasks to be performed and the people available at that time. Situational leadership has many advantages and many appealing features to offer—it is highly recommended for consideration and adoption by the supervisor.

ELEMENTS OF MOTIVATION

Along with understanding their role as a leader, supervisors do well to consider the concept of motivation. The more fully they understand the factors that motivate them to act and think the way they do, and the more fully they understand what motivates or demotivates those around them every day in the workforce, the more effective supervisors can be in getting their objectives accomplished through other people.

There are a number of questions that thoughtful people have posed and wondered about for a long period of time. Why do we go to work? Why do we continue to go to work day after day, and year after year? Why do some people excel in the workplace, while others attain only minimum levels of accomplishment? Why do some people exhibit drive and determination in the workplace, while others are satisfied with minimally meeting the requirements in their work? Why do some people seek to advance themselves, while others are content with the status quo? Why do some people aspire to become leaders and managers, while others shun and avoid leadership roles?

Questions such as those noted above have perplexed those who study people and work situations for a very long time. The findings of some leading psychologists and research scientists will help us to better understand. As has been emphasized a number of times, the better supervisors understand the human elements of the workplace, including their own motivation and behavior, as well as that of the people with whom they interact in the workplace, the more effective they can be.

Some of the most significant findings in this regard are summarized in the book, Management of Organizational Behavior mentioned earlier. Some of the information in the following paragraphs is adapted from this work.

It has been found in many studies that most of human behavior is goal-oriented. People do what they do, or they avoid the things they do, because the behavior is directed at achieving some significant result, or goal.

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Activities are the basic element of human behavior. People perform activities of all kinds every day, and often they perform more than one activity at a time. In the workplace, people vary considerably in their ability to perform various activities, and also in their willingness or motivation to perform various activities. People’s motivation varies with the strength of their motives. Motives are, in turn, defined as needs, wants, drives, or impulses in the individual that are directed toward the accomplishment of goals which that person has. Motives, which are also referred to as needs, are the drivers for people behaving the way they do and engaging in the activities they do, as they strive to fulfill their goals.

Freud and Subconscious Needs

While many of people’s motives are based in their response to identifiable needs, it has been found that frequently people are also motivated by subconscious needs, as well. It was Sigmund Freud who first pointed out that people are not always consciously aware of everything they want. Therefore, they may do certain things in response to motives or needs which they are not aware of at the time, at a conscious level of thought. This subconscious motivation, when it leads to action, sometimes evokes the thought, “Why did I do that?” as the conscious mind seeks to determine the reason for the action. We will focus most of our attention on the conscious motives or motivations for people’s behavior, while realizing that some activities are driven by the subconscious mind and its determination of a person’s goals.

Mayo and the Hawthorne Studies

Among the earliest studies that (although indirectly) concluded that management needed to study and understand relationships among people were the Hawthorne Studies, which began in 1924. Elton Mayo of the Harvard Graduate School of Business conducted studies at the Hawthorne, Illinois, manufacturing plant of the Western Electric Company.

The first study at the Hawthorne plant was aimed at determining the optimum levels of lighting in the workplace, in order to achieve maximum production from the workers who were assembling electric components. This study was typical of a number of others that were being conducted at the time, where efficiency experts were concerned with finding the optimum blend of working conditions so as to ensure maximum productivity from factory workers.

In the first of Mayo’s studies at the Hawthorne plant, workers were divided into two groups. One group, which was called the control group, would continue working under the existing conditions of lighting. The other group, the experimental group, would work under varying conditions of illumination. The productivity of both groups would be measured. It was believed that the productivity of the control group would remain constant and that the production of the experimental group would vary with different illumination conditions in the plant.

When lighting intensity was increased in the experimental group, production increased, as expected. However, the researchers were surprised to find that the

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productivity of the control group increased also. Another study was conducted in the plant, with the same result. In fact, when the lighting level in the workplace of the experimental group was eventually reduced to the levels of moonlight, the productivity still increased, while that of the control group increased also. The researchers concluded that something other than illumination levels was affecting the changes in the workers’ productivity.

In an effort to explain their findings, the researchers decided to continue their studies at Hawthorne and to conduct additional research. They thought that in addition to studying the physical changes in the work environment, they should also examine some of the behavioral considerations in the workers at the plant.

The researchers learned that it was the human behavioral considerations, and not the changes in the physical environment, that were primarily responsible for the production changes that they had observed in the plant. They learned that the workers were pleased with the attention that was being paid to them during the conduct of the research. The workers felt this indicated that management believed them to be an important part of the company.

Additionally, because the workers were studied as a group in the two study groups during the research, they no longer felt that they were working alone and in isolation but rather that they were participating members of a congenial and cohesive work group. The relationships they developed with their fellow workers brought forth feelings of affiliation, competence, and achievement. These needs had not previously been fulfilled in their workplace, and so the workers worked harder and more effectively than they had before. Additionally, since the workers were paid on a piecework basis they discovered, to their delight, that their additional production was earning them additional money.

Mayo was, thus, the first to realize that human factors and group interactions were an important contributory factor to worker productivity in the workplace. He concluded that workers wanted more from the work environment than being treated as insensitive machines capable of producing. Mayo came to believe that management needed to move away from the commonplace presumption that workers were unorganized individuals whose only concern was their own self-preservation and self-interest. He came to believe that management style and structure needed to be responsive to social, and esteem, and self-actualization needs of the workers. Further research regarding this hypothesis was later conducted by others, and they reached the same conclusion as Mayo.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow was one of the first to conduct credible research that showed that people’s behaviors are motivated by their desire to fulfill various kinds of needs that they feel. Additionally, he was one of the first to research the humanistic, as opposed to task-based, elements of management. Maslow summarized his findings in his “Hierarchy of Needs Theory,” which was first published in 1943, and was subsequently incorporated into his book Motivation and Personality in 1954. His work is often quoted and referred to today.

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Maslow’s research indicated that people are motivated to act in order to satisfy needs that they perceive. He noted that the behavior of individuals at a particular moment is usually determined by their strongest perceived need. He found that people act first to fulfill the needs that they feel most strongly. Then, as those needs become satisfied, other levels of needs become important, and then these needs motivate and dominate people’s behavior.

Maslow arranged the needs that people respond to into sets, and he organized these sets of needs into a hierarchical array. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is most often represented on a triangular framework today, although Maslow himself did not depict it this way—Maslow’s publications simply indicated the hierarchy of needs in a stair-step arrangement.

As the supervisor reads and seeks to understand the needs that Maslow identified, he is urged to “internalize” his considerations, and to recognize how he perceives these kinds of needs in his own life. Additionally, it is recommended that the supervisor “externalize” these findings, in order to see how he perceives these needs serving as motivators for the people around him in the workplace.

The needs that Maslow identified are indicated below. These needs are shown in a triangular arrangement in Figure 7.2.

The five levels of needs that Maslow identified, survival needs, safety needs, social needs, ego or self-esteem needs, and self-actualization needs, are listed below and are defined in the terms in which Maslow defined them.

Physiological or survival needs: These are the most basic of all needs, consisting of the need for air, food, shelter, clothing, warmth, and sleep.

Safety or security needs: These are the need to be free of physical danger and from threats and harm. These needs have been extended to include the

MASLOW’S HIERARCHY

OF

HUMAN NEEDS

/ \ SELF-ACTUALIZATION NEEDS

EGO OR ESTEEM NEEDS
SOCIAL NEEDS
SAFETY NEEDS
SURVIVAL NEEDS
Figure 7.2 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
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/
SELF-ACTUALIZATION NEEDS

/ V^

/  EGO OR ESTEEM NEEDS

/ ^

/ SOCIAL NEEDS

/ ^

/ SAFETY NEEDS

PHYSIOLOGICAL OR SURVIVAL NEEDS

The need to be alive and stay alive.X The need for air, food, and shelter. \

Figure 7.3 Physiological or Survival Needs

need for an orderly and predictable world and also the need to provide for financial security and job security.

Social or affiliation needs: These are the need to belong and to be accepted by others. These include the need to belong to and to be accepted by various groups, including work groups.

Ego, status, and esteem needs: These include the need to be held in esteem, both by oneself and also by others.

Self-actualization needs: These include the need to maximize one’s skills and talents and to maximize one’s potential.

Physiological or survival needs are indicated at the bottom of the triangle in Figure 7.2 and Figure 7.3, because they are experienced at the highest strength by everyone, or nearly everyone. While some exceptions are sometimes observed, such as when an artist ignores the need for food, water, and shelter while engrossed in capturing a scene on canvas, the physiological needs eventually become dominant and strongly motivate people’s behavior. Until these needs are satisfied, they tend be felt most strongly and, therefore, to dominate behavior. As long as these physiological needs remain unsatisfied, people’s activities will be focused at this level, and other needs will provide little motivation.

Safety or security needs usually become predominant for a person after the survival needs are fulfilled. They appear in Maslow’s hierarchy just above survival needs as de picted in Figure 7.4. After survival needs are met, until an individual feels he has provided for his safety and security, other things seem less important. These needs are characterized as self-preservation needs, and they also include a concern for the future.

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SELF-ACTUALIZATION NEEDS
EGO OR ESTEEM NEEDS
SOCIAL NEEDS

SAFETY NEEDS: The need to feel free from threats and harm; the need for an orderly and predictable world. \

SURVIVAL NEEDS

Figure 7.4 Safety Needs

Social or affiliation needs that people feel are based in the fact that humans are social beings and feel the need to affiliate and interact with a group, or more typically, with numerous groups of various kinds. As indicated in Figure 7.5, social needs typically begin to become dominant after survival and security needs have been satisfied. When social needs are dominant, people will seek meaningful relations with others. This is one of the needs that Mayo found the workers responding to in the Hawthorne Studies.

Ego, status, and esteem needs are next in the hierarchy, as indicated in Figure 7.6, and include the need that people feel to be held in high regard, both by

SELF-ACTUALIZATION NEEDS EGO OR ESTEEM NEEDS
SOCIAL NEEDS: The need to be with others one likes; to be accepted by one’s group and peers.
SAFETY NEEDS
SURVIVAL NEEDS
Figure 7.5 Social or Affiliation Needs
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SELF-ACTUALIZATION NEEDS

EGO OR ESTEEM NEEDS: The need to be respected by others, to have self-respect, to have self-esteem and recognition.

SOCIAL NEEDS

——————\—————

SAFETY NEEDS

\

SURVIVAL NEEDS
Figure 7.6 Ego, Status, Esteem Needs

themselves and by others. People seek recognition and respect from others, and when they receive it this produces feelings of self-confidence, prestige, and control. People feel as though they are useful and that they have some influence on their environment.

Self-actualization needs are the highest on the hierarchy of human needs, as shown in Figure 7.7. These include the need to maximize one’s skills and talents, and to move to self-realization and self-fulfillment. These needs are also felt as the need to reach one’s full potential and to be all one is capable of being.

/SELF-ACTUALIZATION NEEDS: The need to do what we want to do; to have increasing influence, power, or wealth; to do something to improve the world.

EGO OR ESTEEM NEEDS

SOCIAL NEEDS
SAFETY NEEDS
SURVIVAL NEEDS

_____\

Figure 7.7 Self-Actualization Needs
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SELF-ACTUALIZATION . 11
ESTEEM_________
\i|
SOCIAL_____

11
SAFETY_____

PHYSIOLOGICAL

Figure 7.8 Social Need More Dominant Than Others at the Present Time

The way this need is expressed may change over the course of a person’s life. A person beginning his career may seek to self-actualize by being the best craft worker he can be. In later years, he may be self-fulfilled in becoming the best supervisor and manager he can be. Later in his life, this person’s self-actualization may shift to being a respected and experienced member of a construction company and/or a wonderful grandparent and/or a respected elder in society.

It should also be noted that while Maslow did indicate that people’s needs are in a hierarchy, he also said that people might be most strongly motivated to fulfill one need or another that they felt most strongly at some point in time, regardless of its level on the hierarchy. For example, when the social need is most strongly perceived, it well may be the dominant motivator for a time, until it is satisfied or until another need comes to be felt more strongly. This concept is illustrated in Figure 7.8, where the social need is (for the present) occupying the broadest region of the triangle(s) of the person’s perceived need.

Later in his career, Elton Mayo endeavored to determine whether his findings at the Hawthorne Plant were in consonance with Maslow’s theory, and he concluded that they were. He determined that initially only the physiological and safety needs of the workers were being fulfilled at the plant and that, because there was no avenue for them to fulfill their higher-level needs, they were frustrated and unhappy. Later, as the study proceeded, more of the workers’ social and self-esteem needs were being addressed, and they felt much more content in the workplace, and that contentment motivated them to be more productive.

Similarly, the supervisor who can recognize that people in the workplace are motivated in response to various categories of needs that they are feeling has acquired a valuable tool for better understanding the people around him or her, as

128 SOFT SKILLS

well as for recognizing why people behave the way they do. And the supervisor who can help people grow toward fulfilling their highest level of needs by helping them satisfy their lower-level needs may very well find the workforce much more content and thus much more productive.

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor, who was a professor of industrial management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was another researcher who made extensive studies of management and labor practices. He published the results of his research as “Theory X and Theory Y,” and included these theories in two of his books, The Human Side of Enterprise and Leadership and Motivation. Both of these books are recommended reading for the supervisor.

McGregor believed that the traditional structure and management of organizations, with their pyramidal structure, their centralized decision making, and their external control of the work environment, was often employed because it was based on certain assumptions that management makes about the workforce, human nature, and human motivation. His research indicated that many managers believe that most workers prefer to be directed, are not interested in assuming responsibility, and want safety (as defined in Maslow’s work) above all.

He concluded that the extension of this philosophy was the belief that money, fringe benefits, and the threat of punishment are the elements that motivate people. Theory X assumptions about the workforce also seem to imply that autocratic leadership is the way to manage people in the workplace, with the keys to success being to ensure control and close supervision of the workers, and to provide structure in the workplace and in work assignments. Figure 7.9 summarizes the Theory X assumptions that many managers, both past and present, make about the workers in the workplace.

McGregor came to believe that Theory X assumptions about the workforce, and about human nature more broadly, are often inaccurate and that they do not apply to all people and should not be universally applied. He reasoned the management by direction and control might not always be best and, in fact, might not succeed, because some people’s physiological and safety needs are already reasonably satisfied, and their social, esteem, and self-actualization needs are far more important to them.

McGregor developed an alternative theory of human behavior, which he called Theory Y. This theory holds that management can believe the following about human behavior and about human motivation in the workplace: many people are not lazy and unreliable, and people can be self-directed and creative at work if properly motivated. The assumptions that characterize McGregor’s Theory Y are summarized in Figure 7.10.

McGregor believed that the objectives of management should be to help people realize these potentials, and that properly motivated people can best achieve their own goals by directing their efforts toward the accomplishment of the goals of the organization. He believed that in organizations where management operates

MANAGING THE HUMAN RESOURCE 129
DOUGLAS MCGREGOR’S THEORY X ASSUMPTIONS, WHICH MANAGERS MAKE REGARDING PEOPLE IN THE WORKFORCE
1. Work is inherently distasteful to most people.
2. Most people are not ambitious, have little desire for responsibility, and prefer to

be directed.

3. Most people have little capacity for creativity in solving organizational problems.
4. Motivation occurs only at the physiological and security levels of the needs/motivation

hierarchy developed by Maslow.

5. Most people must be closely controlled and often must be coerced to achieve

organizational objectives.

Figure 7.9 McGregor’s Theory X Assumptions
DOUGLAS MCGREGOR’S THEORY Y ASSUMPTIONS, ALTERNATE ASSUMPTIONS THAT MANAGERS MAY HOLD ABOUT THE WORKFORCE
1. Work is as natural as play for many people, if the work conditions are favorable.
2. Self-control is often indispensable in achieving organizational objectives.
3. The capacity for creativity in solving organizational problems is widely distributed

in the population.

4. Motivation occurs at the social, esteem, and self-actualizaton levels, as well as at

the physiological and security levels.

5. People can be self-directed and creative at work if properly motivated.
Figure 7.10 McGregor’s Theory Y Assumptions
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on these theories, there is high productivity and that people will gladly come to work because the work itself is inherently satisfying. McGregor wrote, “Supervision consists of helping employees achieve these objectives: to act as teacher, consultant, colleague, and only rarely as authoritative boss” (The Human Side of Enterprise, McGraw-Hill: 1960).

It is important to understand that McGregor also noted in Theory Y that many people have the potential to be independent and self-motivated and to work toward the goals of the organization. This does not mean that every worker will be motivated by this management attitude.

Further, he said, Theory X and Theory Y are attitudes or predispositions by management toward people. For example, while a manager may be centered upon Theory Y beliefs, he may find it best to behave in a very directive and controlling manner (typical of Theory X attitudes) at some times and with some people in the workforce, because of these people’s attitudes and motivations. Note how this conclusion dovetails exactly with the principles and tenets of situational leadership, as developed earlier in this chapter.

Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg was a behavioral scientist whose work in the 1950s is still widely accepted and frequently quoted today. Herzberg developed a two-factor theory, called the motivation-hygiene theory.

Herzberg’s theory resulted from his research in which more than 200 professional workers in 11 different industries were interviewed. These workers were asked about the kinds of factors in their jobs that made them unhappy or dissatisfied, and the kinds of factors in their workplace that made them happy or satisfied.

The conclusions that Herzberg drew from his research were that people have two different categories of needs. These categoriesofneeds are essentially independent of each other and they affect people’s behavior, and their satisfaction, in different ways. He termed these two categories of needs hygiene factors and motivational factors.

The needs that people cited in their responses to Herzberg’s surveys that were referred to by Herzberg as hygiene or maintenance factors are those whereby the person is focused primarily on surviving. People are motivated to satisfy these needs, Herzberg concluded, in order to keep alive, and also to avoid pain and unpleasantness. Herzberg’s hygiene or maintenance factors are summarized in Figure 7.11.

Herzberg found that when people felt dissatisfied about their jobs, they were concerned about these elements with regard to the environment in which they were working. Factors such as working conditions, job security, reasonable company policies and administration, and the like serve to maintain the status quo for the worker, and dissatisfaction will result if they are not present. However, they do not serve as motivators, nor do they produce satisfaction in the workplace. A person who is dissatisfied because of the absence of one or more of these hygiene factors may look for employment elsewhere where these factors are present. Or, a pay

MANAGING THE HUMAN RESOURCE 131

DOUGLAS MCGREGOR’S THEORY Y ASSUMPTIONS

ALTERNATE ASSUMPTIONS, WHICH MANAGERS

MAY HOLD ABOUT THE WORKFORCE

1. Work is as natural as play for many people, if the work conditions are favorable.
2. Self-control is often indispensable in achieving organizational objectives.
3. The capacity for creativity in solving organizational problems is widely distributed

in the population

4. Motivation occurs at the social, esteem, and self-actualizaton levels, as well as at

the physiological and security levels.

5. People can be self-directed and creative at work if properly motivated.
Figure 7.11 Herzberg’s Hygiene or Maintenance Factors

increase may prevent employees from quitting, but it will rarely make them work harder.

Herzberg identified another set of factors in the workplace that serve as motivators, spurring people to higher levels of productivity and accomplishment. These were factors that had more to do with the work itself and the opportunities available in the workplace than with the work environment. These motivational factors are summarized in Figure 7.12. Herzberg said in an interview “The things that people said positively about their job experiences were not the opposite of what they said negatively about their experiences. The factors that make people happy all are related to what people did: the job content, and what made people unhappy was related to job environment, job content, and the way they are treated” (“Managers or Animal Trainers,” Management Review, 60 [1971]).

The supervisor can benefit from this information by noting those factors in the workplace whose presence will cause people to be dissatisfied and unproductive. The supervisor can then seek to minimize or eliminate as many of these factors as possible within his sphere of control.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the supervisor can carefully assess the factors from which employees derive satisfaction. These factors produce motivation, higher levels of satisfaction, and higher levels of productivity and accomplishment. The supervisor can make it a goal to avail himself of opportunities to provide or enhance these factors, which Herzberg terms “motivational factors,” insofar as he possibly can.

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HERZBERG’S MOTIVATIONAL FACTORS IN THE WORKPLACE

1.

Interesting and challenging work

2.

Recognition for achievement

3.

Increased responsibility

4.

Sense of importance to the organization

5.

Access to information

6.

Opportunity to do something meaningful

7.

Potential for growth and development

8.

Involvement in decision making
Figure 7.12 Herzberg’s Motivational Factors
MANAGER, LEARN TO BETTER UNDERSTAND YOURSELF AS WELL AS THOSE AROUND YOU

As they think in terms of better understanding the concepts of leadership and motivation, supervisors should also be mindful of the value in developing their human relations skills in another dimension. They will do well to seek to better understand aspects of their own personality, their outlook on life, and their approach to life’s situations. Additionally, they will benefit in more fully understanding the role that emotions play in their decision making and in their everyday work. Further, the more fully supervisors understand themselves, the more likely it

MANAGING THE HUMAN RESOURCE 133

becomes that they will develop the skills to better understand others in the workplace around them, thereby further enhancing their all-important human relations skills.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality indicator survey that has been utilized by a great many people, in order to gain a better understanding of their own personalities and thought processes. The indicator is based on the fact that normal people consistently prefer to use their perception and judgment in certain ways, and these trends can be identified through analysis of a survey questionnaire that the person completes.

The indicator was developed by psychologist Katherine C. Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, following their 20 years of study of the work of another psychologist whose name was C. G. Jung. Myers and Briggs were interested in and were studying the variety of ways in which people achieve excellence in their lives and were seeking to develop a typology to describe the behaviors of highly successful people. They found Jung’s work to provide a means of establishing a characterization of people’s innate personality types and the way in which people relate to the world around them.

First published by Educational Testing Services, the MBTI form has been available since 1956. The indicator has been used by millions of people and has consistently been shown to be valid, that is, to measure what is says it will measure. Additionally, the indicator has also been shown to be reliable, that is, to produce the same results when given more than once. Validity and reliability are two very important bases for measuring the usefulness of a research instrument, and the MBTI demonstrates high values for both of these factors.

The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator consists of a questionnaire that the respondent completes, based in how he or she perceives and prefers to interact with the world. The determinations made from answers to the questionnaire provide useful information for the respondent with regard to his or her own personality type, which may be characterized as any of 16 different variations. The indicator profile emphasizes that there are no “right” or wrong,” or “normal or not normal,” answers to the questionnaire. Further, the indicator emphasizes that when the respondent’s type has been indicated as the result of the survey, no one type is better than any other. These are simply indicators of and names for the person’s personality type.

It is recommended that the supervisor complete the MBTI. The objective should be for the supervisor to utilize the MBTI to gain some insight into his own perception, and his own view of the world. This can help him better understand his own thought processes, as well as adding insight as to how he relates to others, both in the workplace as well as in his personal life.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is available from a number of different sources. It is recommended that the supervisor review information that is available on the

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Internet at the website of the Myers-Briggs Foundation (). The website describes the indicator in more detail, and also lists a number of ways in which one can take the MBTI instrument.

Temperament Theory

A logical accompaniment to the Myers-Briggs Type indicator and its 16 personality types is a school of thought that is referred to as “temperament theory.” This theory has been published in many forms for centuries. However, in 1978 psychologist David Kiersey developed a temperament theory that integrated the ideas of the past with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Kiersey published a book titled Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence (Prometheus Nemesis Book Company; 1st edition, May 1998). It is recommended for reading by the supervisor.

4-Dimensional Management

An accompaniment to the situational leadership concept, which was presented earlier in this chapter, is the concept of “4-dimensional management.” This management style is referred to as “DISC Strategies®.” The concept is described in a book titled The 4-Dimensional Manager, by Julie Straw (Inscape Publishing/Berrett Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2002). The descriptions of DISC that are included here are adapted from this book.

DISC is based on a theory of human behavior that was first developed by American psychologist Moulton Marston. Marston was interested in knowing more about how normal people felt and behaved as they interacted with the world around them.

Inscape Publishing, a Minneapolis-based research and publishing firm, published a book called Personal Profile System after conducting further research based on Marston’s work. This book was intended to provide people with access to an understanding of their own feelings and behavior in almost any situation.

The research by Inscape Publishing continues today and has included further refinement and development of the Personal Profile System. The research has included thousands of subjects from all kinds of backgrounds. This research has likewise been shown to be both valid and reliable.

The book The 4-Dimensional Manager is intended to make available to managers of all kinds and at all levels of management, the findings of the research. DISC helps the manager identify how he personally responds to situations around him, as well as how others use various dimensions of their own perception in their everyday environment. DISC reveals how our personalities help us respond to the environment in which we find ourselves. It notes that people demonstrate four different types of behavior: Dominance, Influence, Supportiveness, and Conscientiousness (DISC). It holds that all people have within them elements of all four of these types of styles. However, people tend to utilize one style as their primary

MANAGING THE HUMAN RESOURCE 135

response, depending on their assessment of the situation in which they find themselves.

Understanding which style he is most likely to utilize will help the supervisor to better understand elements of his own thinking and behavior. In addition, having characteristics of the other styles available for review will help the supervisor determine the style he might elect to utilize in various situations. Finally, knowing the styles that others may be demonstrating in the workplace, will help the supervisor understand how best to relate to them. The 4-Dimensional Manager is recommended for the supervisor’s further reading.

Emotional Intelligence

The concept of emotional intelligence offers the supervisor a new way of thinking about life success. The concept is based in groundbreaking research by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey, who first published the terms emotional intelligence in an article in 1990. Their research has been advanced by Daniel Goleman, who has for many years been conducting his own research directed to modeling competencies that set star performers apart from average performers in the workplace. Goleman has published a book titled Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Dell/Random House, New York, 1995).

Goleman’s book defines and explains the role our emotional brains play in our response to and our handling of everyday situations and in our decision-making, as well as in our aspirations for success and excellence. Mr. Goleman traces the fundamentals of emotional intelligence—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, ability to manage relationships, zeal, persistence, empathy—and our development of the competencies to apply them to best advantage, which are huge components of our self-satisfaction and of our success. The book is highly recommended for the supervisor.

SUMMARY

As supervisors continue to advance their competencies and their management skills, so too should they be constantly seeking to learn more about and advancing their human resources and human relations skills. Certainly the management of the work in the construction industry is multifaceted and complex. However, the variability and complexity of the industry pale in comparison to the diversity and the intricacy of the human beings who function within the industry.

This chapter has provided a degree of insight into the concepts of human leadership and motivation, and goal-oriented behavior, and a better understanding of oneself and the other people the supervisor works with. The human dimension of management is a critically important component of the supervisor’s learning and development, and it is also a major determinant of his effectiveness and success.

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Learning Activities

1. Ask your supervisor or your company management whether it is possible for you to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test.

If it is not possible for you to take the test through your company, you may wish to investigate enrolling to take the test from one of the sources referenced in the chapter.

2. Read at least one of the books recommended in this chapter:

Leadership and the One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard, Ken and Patricia Zigarmi, Patricia and Drea Zigarmi

Management of Organizational Behavior, by Paul Hersey, Ken Blanchard, and Dewey Johnson

The Human Side of Enterprise, by Douglas McGregor

Leadership and Motivation, by Douglas McGregor

Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, by David Kiersey

The 4-Dimensional Manager, by Julie Straw

Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman

3. Observe those in the workplace around you, and others with whom you come into contact on a regular basis, to see the elements of motivation taking place, as described in this chapter.

Think about your own behavior, and about the things that motivate you to do what you do, in terms of the learning from this chapter.

4. Think about what you can do, within the sphere of your management control in your company, to eliminate or reduce factors that serve as demotivators for the workers whom you manage, and additionally, to enhance motivating factors (as defined by Herzberg) for the workers.

5. Think about what you can do to apply Theory Y motivation factors as defined by McGregor in your workplace.

CHAPTER 8
INTRODUCTION

R isk management and problem solving are critical skills required for construction supervisors at all levels. Supervisors are in a unique position to protect the company from risk. They must, therefore, keep a lookout for risks that could be damaging to the company and its operations. Once identified, the risks must be eliminated, mitigated, or managed.

One role that the supervisor takes on is being the shield that stands between workers executing the work and any problems or disturbances that might impede workers in any way from doing their job. The effective supervisor will identify and remove or mitigate any problems that serve to impede production.

Risks and problems are similar in nature. In fact, risks that come to fruition become problems. Early identification, together with clear and complete definition, is the critical first step in effectively dealing with both risks and problems.

This chapter begins by defining risk and then discussing a process for dealing with it. The chapter then moves on to problem solving, starting with problem identification, and then considering selection and implementation of solutions.

IDENTIFYING AND DEALING WITH RISK

Unidentified risks are the most dangerous kind of risk. If a risk is detected, there are ways to deal with it, either eliminating it or mitigating it. However, an unidentified

137

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risk often leads to problems that cause damage before they can be addressed. The problems, and resultant damage, may quickly grow beyond the ability to control them.

This can be illustrated by considering a house fire. We have learned over the years that if a house fire can be detected early, in many instances it can be extinguished relatively easily. If the fire is growing too fast to enable it to be extinguished, at least people in the house can escape, saving injury and death. As a result of this knowledge, codes have been changed to require extensive use of fire alarms and, in many cases, fire suppression systems in homes.

Timely identification of business risks is just as important to the health and vitality of a business as timely detection of fire in a home. So managing risk starts with risk identification.

Definition of Risk

Risk: The possibility of loss or injury.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Construction, by nature, is risky. It involves working with dangerous tools, materials, and equipment, so it is physically risky. It is highly dependent upon people, which means that it involves a great deal of variability, leading to an entire class of performance risk.

Construction work is accomplished through tasks that may or may not be repetitive. The work environment on any job differs from that of any other job and on the same job it differs from day to day and even from hour to hour. Hence, the work can involve the risks associated with repetitive activities leading to boredom, but at the same time, it is afflicted with risk associated with unique, nonrepetitive activities replete with many unknowns.

A construction project brings together many different entities that must be focused on producing distinct elements that are integrated into a common product. This merging of a variety of elements produced by diverse entities leads to substantial risk. Often the supervisor and the supervisor’s company are in a collaborative, not a controlling relationship with the other entities, which leads to another category of risk. Finally, construction is highly competitive, so it has many business risks.

The following is a review of some common construction risks, together with a discussion of the supervisor’s participation in managing them. The risks will be classified in the following six categories:

Financial risk

Schedule risk

Incident risk

Design risk

RISK MANAGEMENT AND PROBLEM SOLVING 139
Quality risk


Business risk

Financial Risk

The most common financial risk is that the cost of executing the job will exceed the budget. Mitigations for this risk include making sure that the cost estimate is accurate and complete and then making sure that the cost control system is effective in detecting at an early stage when actual costs are exceeding those budgeted. Although the primary responsibility for estimating typically rests with others in the company, the supervisor can influence the accuracy of the estimate by providing accurate (or inaccurate) costs for use in the company’s cost database. However, once an overrun is identified, often through the cost control system, it falls to the supervisor to bring the cost back within the budget.

Another common financial risk is the risk of nonpayment. This can be the result of many factors outside the supervisor’s span of control, such as a burdensome contract or the financial condition of the entity with which the contractor is contracting. However, delayed payments are often the result of dissatisfaction on the part of a client, which may be influenced significantly by the supervisor. Nonpayment may also be the result of an erroneous billing because of inaccurate information provided by the supervisor on completion status of the work. Nonpayment may also be associated with extra work, which was executed without proper authorization, or authorized extra work for which appropriate and complete costs were not documented or were not provided by the supervisor. Thus, much of the risk of nonpayment falls on the shoulders of the supervisor.

Finally, since construction finance is so closely linked to cash flow and hence timeliness of payment, another financial risk is inability to get to the money earned on a timely basis. Though this may well not be a field problem, it could be a field problem associated with lack of or inappropriate documentation from the field, inaccurate estimates and projections of completed work, or customer dissatisfaction because of field operations.

Schedule Risk

Much of the risk associated with schedule is related to field operations. Though some of it is outside the control of the supervisor, much of it falls within the span of control of the supervisor. Schedule risk that is outside the control of the supervisor still has an impact on the supervisor’s work.

One of the most common schedule-related risks is that the project, or elements of the project, cannot be started when scheduled. Since completion dates are much less flexible than commencement dates, this schedule risk often results in the requirement to accelerate the project, or certain activities within the project, which becomes the supervisor’s responsibility.

Another schedule risk, one that is often not understood, is disturbance to the work flow. If the schedule is modified, changing the sequencing of activities, or if

140 SOFT SKILLS

some activities are executed out of sequence, many other activities are affected. This results in disturbances to resource planning for materials, equipment, and craft workers, which the supervisor must deal with.

Finally, scheduling risk may simply involve inability to complete work as scheduled. If this is the case, the supervisor must determine what the impediments are to completion on time, remove them, and ensure that the work will be completed on time.

Incident Risk

Although the goal of any project is to be free of accidents and incidents, they do happen. The risk here may be in the form of damage to, or loss of, materials or installed equipment, or it may take the form of human injury or even death. No matter what the form of the risk, if it is realized, it will have impacts on many aspects of the job, not the least of which are cost and schedule. Chapter 9 expands upon the safety risk on a construction job.

Design Risk

Design risk does not fall to the contractor, unless the project is executed under a design/build project delivery system. However, the impact of design risk is often strongly felt by the supervisor. Design errors and omissions occur on all projects. These can be dealt with in appropriate ways on most projects, however, when an error or omission is identified, the process to obtain a clarification or a redesign can delay the job. Also, changes might be called for that impact work already installed or that affect later work.

One of the biggest design risks to the contractor is lack of constructability; that is, the designer provides construction details that appear in the office to work well, but when considered within the project as a whole or in the context of field operations, the details are inefficient, unsafe, or just do not work. At this point, the supervisor has two options. The first is to request information or a design modification from the designer. The second is to figure out how to make the design work in the field without disturbing the integrity of the design. Both options engage the supervisor and both incur risk to field operations.

A third design risk to the contractor is lack of responsiveness. The designer might take a long time to respond to requests for information or clarifications. The designer might delay the approval process for materials and equipment or the approval process for changes or for payments. All of these can be very disruptive to work flow and require intervention by the supervisor.

Quality Risk

Risks in terms of quality fall into two categories: workmanship and materials. The first risk is that work was not installed in an acceptable manner. It might not have been installed according to the design. It might not have been installed according

RISK MANAGEMENT AND PROBLEM SOLVING 141

to code. It might not have been installed in such a way that subsequent work could be completed. Or, it might not have been installed to the satisfaction of a higher-level contractor, the designer, or the owner. Ensuring high-quality installation is a supervisory responsibility.

The other quality risk relates to flaws in materials and installed equipment. The wrong material or item might have been supplied, or an inferior quality item might have been substituted. A damaged item might have been installed, or a dysfunctional piece of equipment might have been installed. It is a field responsibility to identify and deal with obvious defects in material or equipment and ensure that such equipment is not installed. In the case of latent defects, which by nature cannot be detected until later, field operations will be affected when the defect is identified and must be corrected.

In the case of either workmanship or material, quality is a risk that directly impacts field operations and falls under the responsibility of the supervisor.

Business Risk

Business risks focus not on the project but on the company. Although all of the other categories of risk do impact the company, this category relates specifically to risks to the company. Business risk is primarily concerned with the company’s reputation. This might be its reputation with a specific customer on the project. (See Chapter 3 for a discussion of customer relations.) Or, it might be the reputation of the company within the industry or for the general public.

Customer relations suffer when a customer is not treated well or not respected, or when the service or product provided is perceived to be inferior. Supervisors must ensure that their behavior, the behavior or performance of the workers for whom they are responsible, and the behavior or performance of a supplier or subcontractor is not perceived as negative by any customer.

Construction projects are often highly visible. The supervisor must ensure that the appearance of the project and the behavior of the workers on the project demonstrate superior quality to anyone observing the project, whether another contractor, another entity associated with the construction industry, or simply a casual observer.

MANAGING RISK

Proper risk management is proactive, not reactive. Some risks can be controlled directly because they fall within the scope of authority of the supervisor. Other risks lie outside the scope of authority of the supervisor, and these risks need to be recognized, tracked, and influenced to the extent possible. The supervisor must be continually vigilant to recognize new risks as they arise or as they become discernable.

The supervisor’s risk management plan should have the following elements. Identify a risk as soon as possible. Analyze the likelihood of occurrence and the

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potential impact if the risk is realized. Eliminate the risk if possible. If the risk cannot be eliminated, allocate risk to the entity most able to control that risk. To the extent a risk cannot be eliminated or allocated, acquire protection from financial ramifications. Determine and implement mitigations for consequences and side effects associated with risks that cannot be eliminated or allocated. Monitor ongoing risks to determine whether the risk management plan is effective.

Risk management begins with the estimator during the pre-bid process. It continues during project planning by the project manager. The supervisor continues risk management throughout project execution. Risk management for the supervisor ends only with the end of field operations on the project, although risk management by other company employees may be required well beyond the completion of field operations on the project.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Problem solving is a key competency required of any supervisor. Eliminating and resolving problems is of fundamental importance to supporting workers, maintaining a safe and positive work environment, improving production, and enhancing customer relations.

A systematic problem-solving process is needed to deal with problems, especially the complex problems found on construction jobs. The systematic problem-solving process will incorporate the following steps:

Detect the problem early

Define the problem properly


Analyze the problem

Develop and analyze creative solutions

Select the best solution


Identify side effects and mitigations

Implement the selected solution and mitigations

Monitor the effectiveness of the solution


Redesign or improve the solution

Learn from the process

Having a problem-solving process is extremely important for many reasons. Problems often arise suddenly. Many problems are acute and a quick response is important. Construction problems are often addressed with a quick or standard solution that does not resolve the problem, but incurs the investment of resources that are wasted and often adds to the problem or causes detrimental side effects.

RISK MANAGEMENT AND PROBLEM SOLVING 143
Throwing Labor at a Schedule Problem

Consider the situation where an electrical contractor has fallen behind schedule in installation of light fixtures. Since the permanent lighting system is to be used in this large, dark building to support the finish work of many of the other specialty trades, installing light fixtures is on the critical path. If not completed when scheduled, it will delay a number of other activities and other specialty contractors, resulting ultimately in delayed completion of the project. The general contractor has become aware of the delay in installing the light fixtures. He has ordered the electrical contractor to use the “standard” solution for a schedule problem by putting more electricians on the job.

This situation creates a number of new problems. First, adding electricians to the light fixture installation activity by starting a second crew will create congestion, as well as requiring additional man lifts and other construction equipment. It will either draw electricians off of other activities, or require bringing more electricians to the job site, both of which introduce additional inefficiencies. So, even if this solution does increase the rate of production, it will cost more per unit to install the fixtures, and although it might fix the scheduling problem, it will have a negative impact on the electrical contractor’s profitability.

Further analysis of the problem indicates that the light fixture distributor is working in a just-in-time delivery environment and is providing fixtures at a rate designed to keep a single crew supplied. Increasing the installation rate will require expedited delivery of fixtures at additional cost because of the need to use air freight for some of the fixtures.

An analysis of the cause of the delayed installation of light fixtures shows that the delay resulted from late commencement of installation of the ceiling grid, and speeding up installation of the fixtures will cause the electrical contractor to run out of prepared grid in which to place light fixtures, so the improvement expected to the overall schedule would be only temporary.

If the electrical contractor were to implement the schedule problem resolution required by the general contractor, it would be costly, it would not resolve the problem, and the root cause of the delay would not be addressed, so the problem would not be resolved.

A functional problem-solving process will tend to lead to better solutions that are more likely to resolve the problem more quickly with less investment of resources and fewer damaging side effects. Each step of the process is discussed below.

Detect the Problem Early

Although sometimes problems are anticipated, often they occur undetected and unanticipated. The first indication that a production problem has occurred will often be through the reporting system. An experienced supervisor will have a feeling generated by observations as she walks the site when a production problem begins

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to manifest itself, but the reporting system, specifically cost and schedule reports, verify that the feeling is real.

Early detection of problems is based upon establishing means to detect the problems as soon as they occur. The supervisor has at hand two powerful tools to detect problems: observation and documentation.

Most supervisors are experienced craft workers. By observing work in process, given their experience, they can identify the existence of a problem or a risk that could become a problem if not eliminated. When they identify the existence of a problem, they might see the problem itself, but it is much more likely that they will see symptoms that indicate that a problem exists. If they see a problem, they can move quickly into the problem-solving process. If what they see is a symptom, they need to go through steps to identify and define the problem before moving into the solution phase.

Another way of detecting problems through observation occurs when supervisors interact with other project participants. These interactions provide an opportunity to identify potential problems relating to the sequencing or coordination of activities. Purposes of the regular planning and coordination meetings include giving all participants an update on current status and the opportunity to review and/or develop the project plan over the next few weeks. Potential or incipient problems can be identified in this environment and either addressed directly in the meeting or noted for future action where they can be dealt with in a more appropriate environment.

In addition to directly observing the work, supervisors also can observe documentation that will reveal an incipient problem. A review of the construction documents, including the drawings and specifications, can reveal potential production or safety problems. These may take the form of errors, omissions, or ambiguities that require clarification. The construction documents may also reveal constructability issues that will impact either production or safety.

Other examples of documentation that can be used to identify potential or incipient problems are progress reports from site operations and submittal and shipping documentation for materials and equipment. In fact, the supervisor should be looking at any documentation available as a source of information enabling detection of potential problems.

Two types of reports are of particular value in detecting problems. Cost reports show when unit production costs are exceeding budgeted production costs, or when projected item costs vary significantly from budgeted costs. Refer to Chapter 13 for more information on cost reports and how to use them. Schedule reports are valuable in determining which activities are on schedule and which are lagging behind. Refer to Chapter 14 for a discussion of schedule reports and how to use them. A third type of report, based upon earned value analysis, enables an evaluation of the current status of the project in terms of both cost and time. Earned value analysis can be valuable to supervisors to help them understand where tradeoffs can be made between cost and schedule to protect the project objectives of being within the budget and on time.

A critical factor in problem detection is timing. Problems, incipient problems, and potential problems need to be detected as early as possible in order to have

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time to develop appropriate solutions and mitigations. As a rule of thumb, problems affecting ongoing activities need to be detected when the activity is between 5% and 50% complete. If an activity is less than 5% complete, mobilization inefficiencies associated with that activity cause data to be inaccurate. As an activity approaches 50% complete, delays in reporting and the time required to go through the problem-solving process, including implementing the chosen solution, render any solution too late to make a difference. At that point, the problem becomes a history lesson, and it will be a waste of resources to try to implement a solution.

Define the Problem Properly

Since problems often are not detected directly, but rather through their symptoms, the supervisor must determine the problem or problems that are causing an observed set of symptoms. This is typically the case when detecting problems based upon a cost or schedule report. These reports do not show problems directly; rather they show the effects of a problem. That is, cost and schedule reports show symptoms not problems. That the project is behind schedule is a symptom of problems not indicated in the report. When a cost report indicates that production units are not being met, this lack of production is caused by one or more problems, but the report does not reveal what the problem is.

A response that addresses the symptoms without understanding the underlying problem is rarely effective and, generally, costly.

Solution That Addresses Symptoms

The cost report may indicate that a contractor is not meeting the budgeted unit installation costs for an item. The project manager detects this incipient problem and visits the site to inform the superintendent that this work item is over budget, and he must take some of the craft workers off this task and push the rest to work harder. An analysis of the work activity would have shown that the crew is the right size, but they do not have the most effective construction equipment to complete this task. They are using ladders to complete a task that would be completed much more effectively with a man lift; however, the company man lift assigned to this job is being used in another part of the job. Without proper equipment, the diminished crew is not working more efficiently and is also causing the task to lag behind the scheduled time frame. Had the supervisor been able to properly analyze the problem, he could have rented an additional man lift for a couple of weeks, maintained the initially assigned crew, and completed the task at lower cost and more quickly than scheduled.

It is important to recognize that symptomatic solutions generally are not effective in resolving problems. This is clearly demonstrated with a medical example. If a patient has a headache and the doctor suggests taking aspirin to relieve the headache when the problem is a tumor, the headache may be relieved for a time, but the long-term outlook for the patient is not good.

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Symptoms are not benign. In many cases, they must be dealt with, as well. Continuing the medical example, if a patient has a high temperature, this is an indication of an infection in the body. The doctor needs to deal with the infection, but a high temperature can also cause damage to the human body, and it can even be fatal, so the high temperature needs to be dealt with while working on the infection or the patient may suffer permanent damage from the sustained high temperature.

In construction, cost overruns, although generally considered symptoms, are detrimental to the job and ultimately to the company. Schedule delays are also symptoms that can be detrimental to the project and to other contractors on the job. Sometimes a temporary fix (a band aid) may be needed while the problem analysis process is ongoing to relieve some of the symptoms and the immediate damage they can inflict while the permanent solution is being sought.

To determine the problem (or problems since the symptoms might be the result of multiple problems) a root cause analysis is often effective. A root cause analysis starts by looking at the symptom or symptoms and asking, “What has caused this?” When that cause has been identified, the question must be asked of that original cause: “What caused this?” The questioning process is continued until the most basic or root cause has been identified, at which point the root cause can be dealt with. If the root cause is dealt with, the problem should be resolved and not return. If a subcause is dealt with, but the root cause remains, it is highly likely that the problem will persist.

This process is a fundamental tool in lean manufacturing that grew out of the Toyota Manufacturing Process. Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno called the process the 5 Whys method because he found that repeating “why?” five times was required to understand the nature of the problem as well as its solution. The application of lean production principles to construction is discussed in Chapter 15.

Improper problem identification is one of the most important causes of ineffective problem solving. A solution thrown at a symptom without proper analysis will rarely be effective but will generally require additional investment of resources and may cause additional problems and further complications. However, if the problem analysis is correct and an effective solution is implemented, the problem should go away and not return. If either the analysis or the solution is not correct, the problem will continue.

Analyze the Problem

Once identified, the problem must be understood. It is important to recognize the nature of the problem.

The first consideration is whether it is an isolated problem that occurred once, as in Figure 8.1, or a trend that occurs repeatedly, as in Figure 8.2.

An isolated problem becomes a history lesson. The negative impact of the problem has already been felt, and it will not have future detrimental effects. Two questions might be considered for this type of problem. First, can the negative impacts that have already occurred be overcome and, if so, is it worth the investment to gain the recovery? Second, what can the supervisor learn regarding why it

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Figure 8.1 Isolated Problem

happened in order to make sure that it does not happen in the future? Other than that, the isolated problem that has already occurred does not merit a significant investment of time.

A trend problem is ongoing. The negative impacts will continue and the effects will accumulate over time. Therefore, this problem merits study and investment in removing or mitigating it. If a problem is determined to be a trend, the supervisor should continue through the problem-solving process.

Figure 8.2 Trend Problem
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The second consideration relates to the severity and immediacy of the problem. The following questions should be answered when a problem is detected:

How likely is the problem to have a negative result?

How intense will the negative result be, if it occurs?

How imminent is the negative impact?

Based upon the responses to these questions, the problem may or may not merit significant investment in seeking and implementing a solution, it may be a problem that needs attention but not immediately, or it may be a problem that must be addressed immediately. This part of the analysis should help the supervisor prioritize the response to this problem within the context of other duties and responsibilities she might have.

The third consideration focuses on the source of the problem. An understanding of the source will often lead to an effective solution. As stated in the introduction, when a risk turns into reality, a problem is created, so one source of problems is risk. Problems also arise from mistakes or oversights. They arise from lack of performance either within the supervisor’s own sphere of responsibility, or by others outside the sphere of responsibility, but affecting the supervisor’s area. Another source of problems is lack of communication or lack of understanding.

Understanding the source of the problem will shed light on who can, or must, deal with the problem and what resources might be needed to develop and implement the solution.

Develop and Analyze Creative Solutions

Once the problem has been identified and determined to merit attention, a variety of solutions can be applied to deal with it. Some time should be spent in creative thinking to come up with as many solutions as possible. This can be done by the supervisor, but it often works best as a team activity. Chapter 5 provides more information on developing effective team solutions.

A team with diverse members can come up with a much wider variety of solutions than an individual can. The composition of the team should reflect the nature of the problem. Depending upon the nature of the problem, the team might be composed of members from within or outside the company. Within the company, participants might be drawn from various levels of management and supervision, company craft workers with various skills, or different support personnel, such as safety specialists or cost estimators. External to the company, members might come from supervisory, management, or craft representatives from other specialty areas, material suppliers, or subcontractors. Representatives of the design team or even representatives of the owner might also be important to have on the team.

The result of this team creative thinking process will be a family of solutions. This family of solutions must be analyzed to determine which solution is the best to apply to solve the problem that has been detected and defined within the context of the specific job conditions.

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Select the Best Solution

Before the best solution can be selected, thought must be given to what constitutes the best solution. Some examples of criteria used to evaluate the quality of the solution are:

Easiest to implement


Quickest to implement

Least expensive

Most effective


Quickest to show results

Least side effects

After determining the appropriate criteria for quality of solution, a simple evaluation form can be developed so that each solution can be evaluated for each criterion to determine which one comes out on top. To the extent possible, a numerical basis should be used. Each criterion should be evaluated on a numerical scale, and a second number, a weighting factor can be applied if the criteria are not considered to be of equal importance in the evaluation. To improve the evaluation process, guidelines should be provided to help evaluators assign the most appropriate numerical value to the various criteria under consideration. Figure 8.3 provides an example of an evaluation sheet that might be used.

Identify Side Effects and Mitigations

Solutions generally cause side effects. Part of the consideration of a solution is to determine what side effects will be produced when it is implemented. In evaluating solutions, considerations with regard to side effects include whether these side effects are acceptable and how they can be managed, mitigated, or eliminated.

After a solution has been selected, a more extensive analysis of these side effects is required. Side effects will often result in disturbances to budget and schedule, but as with problem identification, the primary focus in terms of analyzing side effects must be on root causes. Some common side effects to the contractor when solving problems include inappropriate or inadequate materials onsite, the wrong tools or construction equipment onsite, insufficient labor availability, or the craft workers that are available are not sufficiently skilled in the appropriated areas. The solution may well produce side effects that impact the performance of other contractors on the site, as well, so other contractors might need to be involved in the analysis. For example, using float time on an activity to resolve a labor resource problem for my company can have an effect on other contractors later in the job by delaying start of their activities or denying them access to the float time that I use earlier on the job. The use of float time to manage labor resources will be dealt with in Chapter 14.

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Problem Solution Evaluation Sheet

The purpose of this sheet is to evaluate potential solutions determine the most appropriate solution for a problem. to a problem to
Problem

Criteria Weight

Value

Weighted Value

Easiest to implement

Quickest to implement

Least expensive
Most effective

Quickest to show results

Least side effects

Total Weighted Value
Figure 8.3 Problem Solution Evaluation Sheet

To mitigate these side effects, common solutions might include expedited material delivery, provision of different or additional tools and equipment, increased labor, adjustments to the schedule, and increased supervisory time necessary to coordinate with other contractors on site.

Implement the Selected Solution and Mitigations

Once the solution has been selected and side effects analyzed, unless the solution is simple and uncomplicated, an implementation process must be designed. The implementation process will consider a number of factors. Are adequate and appropriate resources (tools, equipment, materials, labor) available? If not, they must be procured prior to implementation in the field. Who is involved in the implementation process? Are simple instructions adequate or is some training required? How will other entities be affected and how will they be brought into the process? How will the implementation process be monitored and the level of success be measured? How will improvements to the process be identified and incorporated?

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When the implementation process design is completed, implementation can begin. Since time is critical in dealing with an ongoing problem, implementation of the solution should begin as soon as the solution has been selected and the implementation process has been designed. The implementation process should be monitored to ensure that it is working effectively to resolve the problem that was determined to be the root cause. Side effects should be reviewed, as well, to ensure that the mitigations have been effective. If the solution is ineffective or if it is not as effective as anticipated, the problem solution process should be repeated to develop refinements or to select another of the proposed solutions.

Learn from the Process

The final step in the problem solution process is to document what has been done so that others can learn from the success of this problem-solving cycle. Such documentation will help avoid similar problems in the future. It will improve the problem detection process by alerting others that this type of problem can occur and explaining how to detect it early. It will provide a model for resolving such problems in the future.

Problem-solving exercises that have been particularly successful should be formatted briefly as a case study for the company archives. The case can be distributed to other supervisors on the current job and on other jobs. It can be entered into the company’s “lessons learned” file to become part of the company’s supervisory training program. In this way, resolving a problem on one project can become a valuable component of the corporate knowledge that enables the company to work at a higher level.

SUMMARY

In this chapter, the following key points have been presented.

Risk management and problem solving are critical supervisory skills.

Construction risk can be classified into six categories.

The supervisor should have a risk management plan to identify and analyze risks as they arise.

Risks can be removed, assigned to others, mitigated, managed, or protected against.

Problems on the construction site arise from many sources.

Early detection and proper analysis are critical to resolving problems.


Applying an appropriate solution to the root cause of a problem should eliminate it.

The supervisor should be adept at identifying, analyzing, and resolving problems affecting field operations.

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Learning Activities

1. Risk analysis

For this exercise, either use the company and job on which you are currently employed or a fictitious company and job. Specify the company’s name and work sector, and the general characteristics of the company and job that might be critical to risk analysis.

Pick one of the six categories of risk enumerated in the chapter and identify a specific risk within that category that would be likely to occur on your job. Determine how best to detect the risk. Develop an analysis sheet to evaluate that risk should it develop on your job. Determine the best way to deal with the risk, whether that is elimination, reassignment, mitigation, management, or procuring protection. Write a brief report to your supervisor about the risk and how you propose dealing with it.

2. Developing a problem resolution process

For this exercise, either use the company and job on which you are currently employed, or a fictitious company and job. Specify the company’s name and work sector, and the general characteristics of the company and job that might be critical to problem resolution.

Using the steps presented in the chapter, develop a procedure to identify, analyze, and resolve a problem that might come up on your project. It might be easier to start by identifying a specific type of problem, such as a cost overrun, develop the procedure for that specific type of problem, and then consider how the procedure can be adapted to address other problems, such as schedule problems or safety problems.

Finalize the exercise by laying out your step-by-step process for dealing with problems on your job that you can keep and refer to in the future. If you do use this in the future, you will probably be able to continuously improve the process as you use it so that what you develop now will be the starting point for an ongoing problem solving process for your jobs into the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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