Cutting Waste Inside Out
Although it is the last thing most would consider as important in the construction industry, moral- the way workers feel about their work- affects real outcomes. Our consistent theme on the blog thus far has been cutting waste. Negative feelings about one’s work or a sense of powerlessness within a company create waste in terms of general work quality and also lost problem-solving initiative. Our focus on high morale and team buy-in is what makes people want to work here and what helps us build strong relationships with subcontractors.
Unforeseen problems during jobs are the main challenges to morale. How companies deal with these issues determines success both short and long-term. Can the company keep its composure and solve the problems without derailing the schedule or scapegoating individuals? If not, morale suffers. There are three key processes through which moral is maintained at Golden.
The Golden Production System: Certainty of Responsibilty
GPS allows management to pinpoint workflow and other issues. It is our way of controlling everything that we can count on and giving the entire team accountability to one another. Part of keeping high morale is having clear responsibilities.
GPS allows a level of transparency that could be intimidating to employees in other company cultures. “Our philosophy, however, is to be hard on the issue and soft on the person,” says Brad Condray Vice President of Operations at Golden. “We are family-centric and have true concern for each others well being: no problem belongs to just one person.” When we respond positively to the problem solving process that means we don’t lose our heads the next time something unforeseen happens- “there is momentum to tackling issues the right way,” he emphasizes.
Accountability is empowering in our company. “Because of GPS, the expectations are so clear that most of our employees become quite autonomous, even raising the bar on themselves, ” says Condray.
Continuous Improvement Operating System: Empowering Employees for Solutions
Continuous Improvement is another way that morale is built by empowering employees to see the results of their ingenuity.
“When I got into this business 30 years ago I was told exactly what to do and what not to worry about- ‘you don’t make decisions’ they’d tell me,’ says Condray. “But here, we thrive on everyone being engaged and considered for solutions.”
Further, he says that a “bottle-necked power structure” shuts down the productive side of the brain for employees. While GPS imparts all possible consistency into projects, the idea of continuous improvement is to stay open to unique solutions.
Multifamily homes can become especially challenging because of their complexity and aggressive scheduling. Our attitude toward continuous improvement allows us to respond effectively to the uncertainties introduced by long chains of command and extensive trade coordination. According to Condray, “multiple times we have had a laborer or carpenter offer the best solution- even outside of their area.”
“If you call yourself a team, everyone has to have a voice,” notes Condray. The Golden Values- Unity, Respect, Innovation, Communication, Commitment, Humility- reinforce morale in two ways. First of all, they were drawn from the entire company’s input: we collectively know there is a buy in for these values. Second, they encourage a sense of individual empowerment and clear expectations that we discussed in the previous processes.
At Golden we define and reinforce these values weekly. Each week, in a round-table meeting, we identify team players who have demonstrated one of the values (this is not canned corporate praise). Values are part of everyday operations.
We know from experience that many companies are not as focused on morale. It is difficult to build a morale component into each process, and the anxiety of tight deadlines often drives people into bad habits. Our subs tell us how excited they are about our structure and approach after the first meeting.
Each person in our company (as well as those subs we become part of the team) has the power to improve the way we do business. Condray states, “we don’t care who the best solution comes from, and we give them credit for their ideas- we just don’t have managerial egos around here.” He adds “our pride comes from our culture, from doing the best job up and down.”
We have found that morale is contagious. It is a perception that ultimately either costs or saves money.