Better Choices, Better Outcomes

Timing is everything. June 2018

Last issue, we discussed monitoring the use of time and materials to keep a focus on improving project and business profitability. But what about timing? Sometimes – in fact, quite often – despite the best made plans, we end up working overtime or having “gaps” in production due to tight or shifting deadlines.

In many parts of the country, the building industry is still working at its limit or beyond its capability. There seems to be little room for flexibility, and the desire for more volume is creating inefficiencies.

When we break promises to our clients, and our integrity comes into question, it’s easy to feel compelled to begin a project just to save face, and then return later to complete it.

Starting before you’re ready or trying to finish without everything you need is unlikely to produce an outstanding result or customer experience, nor the optimum profit. The problem can exacerbate itself too, as the unfinished list keeps growing and more time is lost, potentially resulting in remedial works and dissatisfied customers.

How do we get off to a better start with regards to timing?

It’s easy to be “busy” – but I would urge you to try and stop your people from using this four-letter word! If they say they’re busy, ask them about their priorities and commitments. “Busy” may actually mean “unfocused” or “out of control”, which flies in the face of the “do it once, do it right” goal.

I believe that there are three key things to focus on:

• Understanding and improving your own estimating, planning and operating performance so you have the best possible plan (refer March 2018 issue).

• Having a proactive, trusting relationship with your clients, their project managers, their builders and your own suppliers and subcontractors, so you have the most realistic, up-to-date information regarding timing and lead times.

• Ensuring a disciplined review of dates and the plan is an everyday activity.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower summed it up:

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

We can apply this thinking to our furniture and joinery businesses by dedicating more proactive time to understand the risks to project timelines, including our clients’ own ability to predict site measure and installation ready dates. Every customer is different, so think about how often you should be reviewing dates in your sales pipeline, as well as confirmed forward work.

Become a project management expert in your network. Your clients, sub-contractors and suppliers will thank you for it. Consider what would you have to do to become known as the most organised company on every project you are involved with?

To quote a CEO I used to work with, “a good plan is a flexible plan”.

Do more planning – not to create a long-term schedule, but make short, daily or weekly plans. Then you can steadily adjust as you go and as more information comes to hand.

Ian Featherstone is a business and leadership coach, and owner of Glass Half Full. He specialises in the construction industry, particularly the joinery and cabinetry sector. For more information please visit