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Structural Engineer
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm frustrated this morning, so I'm venting. Please pardon the length.

I provided a foreman with mechanical piping runs, hookup details, equipment cutsheets & submittals, and a written sequence of installation. They still went over hours, and they're hanging it on the fact that they didn't have enough information. They received a work package that was 42 pages long, plus 5 drawings, and I did a kickoff meeting the day they started, then I was there each day when each phase started (demo into concrete, concrete into rigging, rigging into pipe, pipe into startup). And I was there for the inspections. Now that I think of it, I even gave them cut lengths for some of the critical sections of threaded piping.

I practically held their hands. Am I being too much of a micro manager, too little, or is this guy just soft? I'm finding it hard to believe they didn't have enough info, unless the foreman was blowing his horn too hard when we interviewed him 2 years ago. He also badmouthed the guys on his crew, and I admit one of them was weak in the knowledge and productivity department. But why hang it on "not enough info"? There was no other info to provide, from any corner of the globe, short of standing there telling them how to do their job (which I had to do the last 3 days of the job). At some point, you have to take the information on the drawings, the information in the specs and cut sheets, and apply your experience to efficiently execute the job.

We consciously went down this road of flooding them with info because a few years ago we were really lean on PM help, and relied heavily on the foremen to order materials, ask questions, and be proactive if they needed help. It didn't work out well, because the foreman basically refigured entire projects in the order they wanted to build them out, and didn't stick to how they were estimated, which lead to waste on a biblical scale. So now we plan, plan, plan, and expect them to follow the plan.

So I have a question: How much info do you pass onto the foreman, and how much do you plan, and how much do you loop back and check on progress?

Here's what we do:
1. At kickoff, they get:
Drawings, specs, submittals & cut sheets, work sequence, sequence step labor counts
2. They get a visit from a PM as often as we think is necessary, but at least once a week. We base visit decisions on the vibe we get from the foreman, on pace of work versus plan, etc. And a PM is there for the inspections and job meetings.
3. We "loop back" and check the week's progress on Fridays (labor and materials), and adjust as needed the following week.

My great fear is that we're over planning and turning them into zombies, where they feel every decision can made by someone else higher up. No initiative.

We tightened our belts last winter and laid off all of the helpers and kept the foremen and leadmen (guys who can run the work on a floor, but not necessarily the entire project), so we should have the cream of the crop right now. I'm not so sure anymore.
 

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People who are weak in their own profession always point the finger at others and say 'it's your fault.'. It makes them feel better.

Just meet him in a parking lot and show him some, as we said in the military, "Some wall-to-wall counseling".;)
 

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General Contractor
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I've found, over the years, that it works out best for everyone if a man (worker or foreman) is told what is needed, and not so much how to do it. And on some jobs, I have honestly gone through almost 250 people to get the right teams in place.

I know that's not much help when a certain process or order is necessary. Have you considered trying to include the foremen right from the beginning of the planning stages? If they are part of the decision making process, they seem to better understand the need for certain things to be done a particular way. At least better than if they are just told "they have to do it this way".
 

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If I was in your situation I'd ask for a very specific list of what information the foreman needed, but didn't have. Not generalizations but details.

In our work I'd be pretty happy to have the level of info you listed. We usually spend a considerable amount of time seeking or clarifying missing or vague info.

JTMcC.
 

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This is a productivity issue not a lack of understanding issue isn't it?

I'd start to get to the bottom of it (the productivity issues) by first eliminating this "lack of info" wild goose chase by having this foreman give you step by step what was missing, when and where and how that lead to the over runs, and also his steps to eliminate this issue from the next job. Also part of that conversation should be some discussion of the lack of comminication of letting somebody know they were lacking information and what it was doing to the schedule.

I think that conversation will pretty much run its course pretty quickly and the real issue will show itself in no time and you can then get on with the real problem.
 

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Just curious. You stated that you were there when each phase started. Did each phase of the project run over, or just one. If each phase was over I see two problems, 1 your foreman should have communicated his need for more information sooner and 2 you should have seen the problem building and worked to get the project back on schedule.

Is this foeman known for bringing in jobs overbudget, or was this a one time thing?

I agree with the other posters, I would have the foreman give me specifics on what info he felt he was missing.
 

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Structural Engineer
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
TxElectrician,

The schedule started slipping at the point we were doing final hookups. The rough in and everything before it (demo, concrete, rigging) went well. What kills me is that the hookup details came right out of the vendor manuals, which I provided.

This guy is like a freight train. He can pull a giant load and initially can get it moving in the right direction. And he personally does great work. But if the wheels come off the tracks at any point, it's not pretty. My experience tells me that's the kind of guy that did great work as a field tech, then decided he wanted to be a foreman, his employer said great but not with us, he quits, then interviewed with us and blew smoke up our butt.

I also found out today he's borderline literate. I asked him to write down his concerns so they get in the file and tackled for next time, and he could barely write. Also found out one of the guys on the crew was doing all of his paperwork. It always drove me nuts when I'd try to explain a piping iso to him over the phone to him (me with my copy, he with his), and it would invariably end up with him asking me to stop by at some point to go over it again.

I think the issue is his ability to read and write. I'm looking into it further, but I think he just didn't read all the sequencing notes and vendor installation instructions. I kind of feel bad for him, actually. But not bad enough to take it in the rear end on jobs, that's for sure.
 

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Just meet him in a parking lot and show him some, as we said in the military, "Some wall-to-wall counseling".;)
let me dig up the reg on that really quick, don't want him to miss anything.
 

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here you go...

BY ORDER OF THE AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION 22-102
SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE
Leadership
WALL TO WALL COUNSELING OF AF PERSONNEL

COMPLIANCE WITH THIS PUBLICATION IS MANADATORY

OPR: 99 SFS/SFX (SSgt Sauser) Certified by: 99 SFS/CCE (Capt America)
Approved by: 99 SFS/CC (Major Attitude)
Pages: 4
Distribution: F

This instruction details the actions Air Force NCOs must take in order to achieve great success when counseling subordinates. If you are an Airman or Lieutenant stop reading now, this instruction will be made available to you later in your career. If caught reading this, you will receive an immediate and brutal a$$ beating.
1. GENERAL. Most military leaders are able to accomplish their mission and correct Airman deficiencies with simple verbal counseling. Some Airmen however, fail to respond to this approach, and a more direct corrective action is required. With the Air Force not yet fully recovered from the "Quality AF" ***** up, the need to develop sound effective wall to wall counseling techniques is more important now than ever.
1.1. The higher percentage of liberal, college-trained airmen enlisting in the Air Force has resulted in not only more intelligent Airmen, but also Airmen who want to know "why" every time they are told to do something. Until now many leaders, upon being asked "why" has had to control the urge to slap the sh!t out of the Airman. The Air Force has recognized controlling these urges only results not only in high blood pressure and unexplained nervous twitches for the leader, but has denied Airmen the opportunity to learn the effectiveness of this style of leadership.
2. WHEN TO COUNSEL. This will be broken down into several different categories. This section is not all-inclusive, and the leader should not hesitate to initiate wall to wall counseling whenever or wherever it seems appropriate.
2.1. Minor offenses. Simple infractions of the rules can be dealt with quickly by a simple a$$ beating. Most Airmen appreciate this in the long run, as it saves them a visit to the Commander in their blues for UCMJ action, and has the added benefit of saving you paperwork. Some examples of minor offenses are as follows:
2.1.1. Lateness. A leader should evaluate this infraction prior to initiating wall to wall counseling actions. To conduct wall to wall counseling for a first offense, for example, would probably be counter-productive, and cause the Airman to lose motivation (possibly causing you to counsel at a later date for further infractions). If, however, the Airman has been late every day for a month, wall to wall counseling will not only be effective, but enjoyable.
2.1.2. Incompetence. If an Airman consistently proves themselves incapable of performing duties required for there given career field, he may indeed be a candidate for wall to wall counseling.
2.1.3. Challenging or defying authority. Airmen who harass or ignore your guidance are prime candidates for an a$$ beating. This philosophy has two goals, to correct the Airman's deficient behavior and to serve as a deterrent for others who challenge your supreme rule.
2.1.4. Goofing off. Airmen are naturally prone to goof off when a supervisor is not around. This is detrimental to unit morale and effectiveness. This activity must be corrected immediately. A quick slap to the back of the head is usually the most effective, especially if the Airmen doesn't know you are in the area, and is caught totally off guard. Of course, Airmen who are repeat offenders may require more extensive counseling.
2.2. Major offenses. Includes, but is not limited to: rape, murder, arson, burglary etc. These crimes usually result in court martial action, and no supervisor counseling is required. In certain circumstances, however, a supervisor may want to initiate an a$$ beating until the arrival of a Law Enforcement patrol.
2.3. Other offenses. These are simple offenses that may be compounded into major headaches if not nipped in the bud immediately. Most of these apply to flight level personnel.
2.3.1. Failure to make fresh coffee for the day shift. This happens only on mids flights. Experience has shown that day shift flight chiefs who are submitted to coffee deprivation for this reason will spend their entire duty day in the superintendents or operations officers office, creating totally messed up things for the mid shift to have to accomplish.
2.3.2. Excessive errors in reports and blotters. Any NCO who has been called in after a mid, or on their break, in order to fix administrative errors, knows it is vital to correct this activity immediately. If you kick the sh!t out of the offender at the soonest available opportunity, preferably in front of other potential offenders, it is most effective.
3. WHEN NOT TO COUNSEL. Wise leaders know there is a time and a place for everything. Wall to wall counseling is not an exception to this rule. Here are some potential circumstances when slapping the crap out of an airman might not be appropriate.
3.1. In front of your chain of command. This rule only applies to commissioned officers. Senior NCOs will fully understand and support your need to conduct wall to wall counseling in their presence, but a commissioned officer may not be familiar with the contents of this instruction, and you could find yourself in your blues at your own court martial. This is especially true of senior leaders (i.e., if you slap an airman in front of the Wing Commander).
3.2. In the case of overly large Airmen. Common sense should dictate this. If the Airman is twice your size, and can bench press a posting vehicle, wall to wall counseling should be postponed. You might want to find a partner or two to assist you in counseling this type of Airman. Also consider using specialized tools (ball bat, 2x4, tire iron)
3.3. In consideration of an Airman's hobbies. This is not out of respect for his feelings, but for your health. If, for example, the Airman is a black belt in karate, or was a finalist in the last Ultimate Fighting Championship, you might find yourself looking at the ceiling tiles in the emergency room wondering what the hell happened.
3.4. When the Airman in question is armed. This applies both to on duty Security Forces Airman, and those gang member wannabes. In this case, it is imperative you disarm the Airman prior to administering the beating. If the Airman voluntarily gives you the weapon, he is potentially retarded, and deserves to have his a$$ kicked. If not, the best thing to do is find an assistant who has a bigger gun than the Airman.
3.5. After drinking binges. Wall to wall counseling should never be conducted under the influence of alcohol. There are three main reasons for this rule:
3.5.1. You may be unable to articulate properly the reason for the session. The Airman might come away thinking you just got wasted and kicked the sh!t out of him for no reason.
3.5.2. The Airman might not recognize this as a leadership action, and file assault charges against you. This problem is worse if the counseling session occurred off base, say at a bar.
3.5.3. Most importantly, you may be so drunk, that the Airman is able to turn the counseling session around and kick the sh!t out of you. Your problems will be compounded when the hospital labels your treatment as an "alcohol related incident", and you are enrolled in alcohol rehab program.
4. PREPARATION FOR COUNSELING. Like any other successful military operation, wall to wall counseling relies on proper preparation.
4.1. Find the best location. Location is very important. Not only do you not want to be interrupted during the session, but you also do not want any large objects the Airman can use to evade you or use as a weapon against you. Modern construction standards must be taken into consideration, as you could easily put an Airman through a wall. The condition of the Airman is not a real issue here, but you might have to pay for the damage to the wall.
4.2. Inform the Airman. Be careful about what you tell him prior to the session. If you inform an Airman, "you are a goof up, and I am going to kick the crap out of you at 1530 hrs today" it may be counter productive. The Airman will probably not show up for the meeting, causing you to schedule a second counseling session. You should instead disguise your true intentions with something like, "I need you to come to my office at 1530 hrs to conduct your performance feedback session".
5. SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS. There are several special considerations not previously covered in this instruction.
5.1. Counseling up your chain of command. The Air Force recognized sometimes it might be necessary to counsel individuals who outrank you. The following is some basic guidance for use in these circumstances:
5.1.1. Commissioned officers. As a general rule of thumb, this activity will land you in jail. With some creative thinking though, you can effectively correct officers behavior. This risky move should only be attempted by Senior NCOs experienced at the art of covering up their tracks. NOTE: This does not apply to Lieutenants, who will usually need a daily a$$ beating. Don't worry too much about it, Lieutenants are raised to expect it, and it is a vital part of their military education.
5.2. Counseling fellow NCOs. There are bound to be times when even fellow NCOs f#ck up, and deserve a good a$$ beating. While this occurrence is rare, you should be prepared for the possibility. In the case of a Senior NCO, you should not try this alone. Senior NCOs have years of experience, and could very well put you in traction. In a case like this, you should enlist the aid of another Senior NCO. If the counseling session is justified, a Senior NCO will be more than happy to help straighten out any potential problem children. SAFETY TIP: Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you attempt to conduct wall to wall counseling on a Chief Master Sergeant. You will probably wind up in the emergency room with some large blunt object jammed up your a$$. To add insult to injury, when the Chief is done beating the sh!t out of you, he will probably have your a$$ thrown in jail, where you will become a sex toy for an ex-Marine named Brutus.
6. CLOSING COMMENTS. This instruction should enable you to improve the morale and ability of your unit to accomplish its mission. Wall to wall counseling enables the NCO to establish standards of conduct for Airman to follow, and provides a clear example of the penalty for violating those standards. It also has the added benefit of giving you an outlet for your frustration, leading to lower blood pressure and fewer visits to the commander's office in your blues when one of your boneheads goofs up.
 
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I'm thinking what a loyal asset you have the opportunity to cultivate in this man. Be straight and square with him. Tell him what you think you know, and see if there's not a way to pair him with a tutor/supervisor at a reduced pay rate till he gets up to speed.

As for the BSing to get the job. He's got a set that could prove valuable to you in the future. And you've been BS'd before. You survived it.

I had an employer provide me with a lot of educational benefits when I was younger. I honestly think I would still be with him to this day if he had not retired.
 

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Structural Engineer
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Aggie67,

From your description it sounds like the Peter Principle is at work in full force with this guy.
I agree, but he is good at the trade he works in. I've got some thinking to do. I don't really want lose that skill.
 

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Micro-managing only happens when the authority has no respect and lack of trust of the people working for them.

Your OP doesn't come off as anal to me...perhaps you were suckered in your fella's interview, but it sounds as if you like his work and need to find a niche for him or more.....

Micro-managing is BS....lighten up, find someone else, or adapt!....IMO no it's not you.
 

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perhaps the foreman is a great mechanic, but a terrible foreman. In my experience, being a foreman involves a lot more than just understanding the work. He/she should understand how to manage the crew, track materials, and communicate with all parties. I read somewhere that the two most important people in a construction company are the foreman and estimator.
 

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All the speculation in the world won't provide definitive answers as to why this man is good in some areas and not in others. It's kind of like The Story of The Old Man and The White Horse. We can only truly say what we see.

If, indeed, the breakdown simply seems to occur when he is expected to perform according to written instructions, then you may have a place to effect correction. But no one will know without digging deeper.
 
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