By Eric Brown, Project Executive
Have you ever thought to yourself, “that meeting could have been an email”? That’s actually a great example of a Delta to bring up in a Plus/Delta meeting. If you haven’t taken part in a Plus/Delta meeting, it’s a quick debrief after a meeting, project, task, or any event to break down what went right (Plus) or what could be done better next time (Delta.) Even for routine meetings, we find it’s valuable to quickly discuss as a group things like, “Did we waste time?” “Was everyone prepared?” “Do we need to meet more often or less often?” The point isn’t to embarrass anyone but to improve. That’s something we do a lot of in our company — take time after the fact to find ways to do it better next time. We talk a lot about pre-planning in the early phases of construction. I mean, a lot. You can read about that here, and here, and here. But the post-planning is just as important and can deliver better cost certainty and efficiency to our clients.
Those Plus/Delta meetings I mentioned — we do those on a grander scale after every bid and project. We hold estimate post-mortems to analyze the budget. We want to see how our estimate stacked up against what was actually spent. We look closely at every budget line item used and discuss why it was used and if it was the right choice. We look at every purchase made and look for ways to improve, if possible. Then, we gather up all that information and enter it into our cost database to help the people who make decisions on our future estimates deliver reliable budgets to our clients based on our actual lessons learned and proven information.
In the field, we look for ways to improve and work more efficiently every day. Every time our teams meet to plan the next days’ work, they take time to discuss the day before and ways they can improve. Those meetings are documented and ideas for improvement are saved. When we have our more formal post-project meeting with the entire team after the building has been turned over, we can use those documentations to discuss the Plus/Deltas for every phase of the project. We work through trade partner performance, successes, the major challenges, our solutions and their effectiveness, and any lessons learned. The best lessons learned and most impactful scar tissue moments are saved via our company-wide intranet or pushed out through email from our Operations leaders. This commitment to finding ways to build better is how we developed our company-wide lean construction initiative SmartBuild®. The program allows our project teams to share ideas to improve efficiency, safety, quality, and workflow across our divisions through our SmartBuild® database. The ideas are even searchable by project type, schedule phase, or types of waste the idea prevents. If a team on a higher education project in Texas develops a way to eliminate time off a schedule during overhead MEP installation, they can share it with the entire company so one of our project teams building a healthcare facility in Florida can incorporate it and deliver that value to our client.
I think a lot of builders meet after a project is complete to gather the information and archive it for future reference. But what value does an archive deliver to our clients? We believe holding post-planning meetings after critical path tasks, meetings, and project conclusions allows us to not just catalog our lessons learned but use every scar tissue and success story to better serve all our clients — current and future. Maybe on your next project, you can ask your potential builders to hold a post-bid Plus/Delta meeting to get a better idea of how they identify successes and room for improvement. If they can openly and honestly find ways to improve their own bid, they’ll be able to apply that same approach to your project, most likely resulting in a better project outcome.