Some time ago, I had the opportunity to build a house. My builder told me that the typical house takes 160 days to complete – from groundbreaking to moving day. He then warned me that because the house was 700 feet off the main road, construction would take longer. Just how much longer, he would not commit.
I determined to reduce construction time. My plan was to stay engaged with the general contractor and treat the subcontractors like royalty. During construction, I went out to the house nearly every day. Often it was after work to evaluate progress and report findings to the general contractor. Normally the reports were positive. Occasionally there were small issues for him to address. One time there were electrical outlets in the wrong place; he fixed it. Once I found a wall six feet from where it was planned. The general contractor made it right and thanked me for identifying the issue so quickly.
At times, I would go to the site early in the morning before work, or during my lunch break. During these times, I took coffee, water, donuts, cookies, or pizza for the subcontractors. Later, I learned that these gestures created a sense of purpose and appreciation among the subcontractors. They wanted to help people build their dreams. They wanted to do good work and they wanted to feel like they were a part of something bigger than 8 – 10 hours of labor a day. I also discovered later that this worked to my advantage as many extras were added – at no cost.
There are two major lessons here. First, the sponsor of the project must be actively engaged in monitoring and guiding progress. Can you imagine the costs and delays if I hadn’t found the misplaced wall as early as I did? The second lesson is to engage and inspire your employees during change. I used donuts and coffee to share my passion for building the house in the woods, and in turn, the subcontractors felt like they were part of something bigger.
You might say, “Well, Steve, this is a nice story, but so what? You expended a lot of time and energy to supervise the construction, a job you delegated to the general contractor. But what were the real benefits?” We moved into the house in 140 days, the house met specifications, and the project came in under budget. How many of your projects achieve these kinds of results?
Call to Action: When you consider your next change initiative, be sure your sponsor plans time in her calendar to stay engaged with the project. Be sure she does more than attend the regular status meetings to stay informed. Instead, she can make a difference. She can talk to the employees doing the work or ask the project manager informally about progress. She can schedule lunches or other events during the project and not just to celebrate the end of the project.