We often talk and hear about accountability in construction. Crew members, project managers, and contractors all have to answer to owners when something goes wrong. For example, the original foundation design of the John Hancock Center in Chicago, Illinois caused the building to keep sinking—costing the original project owner a lot of money and, ultimately, delays in the project’s timeline. The original project owner had to walk away.
When something unexpected or unintended happens during the construction of a building, someone must explain what happened. This is accountability.
Unfortunately, no one asks how or why when something went better than expected or an innovative way to solve problems is discovered. For these reasons, the word accountability can leave people shaking in their steel-toed boots.
Certainly, accountability is essential in the field. Not only because it can cost money and time, but there are also serious safety concerns when something goes wrong. But accountability is also just as essential during the preconstruction process, as well.
One wrong number can cost your company the loss of a bid and struggling to find all the data you need and checking its accuracy might mean you miss deadlines. Though there are things beyond an estimator’s control—like working in multiple outdated and siloed systems—someone still must explain what went wrong. This is accountability.
Using the Dictionary.com definition of accountability— “the obligation to explain, justify, and take responsibility for one’s actions”—then, yes, estimators should be held accountable, but not only when something went wrong. Estimators should also be held accountable for things that went right.
What happens when we stop focusing on the ‘what if we don’t…’ and start focusing on the ‘what if we do’…?
According to Gallup research, only 14% of employees “feel their performance is managed in a way that motivates them.” (Harvard Business Review) If you’re constantly under accountability scrutiny, your anxiety and stress levels will harm work performance and efficiency. How to Actually Encourage Employee Accountability (hbr.org)
It’s a vicious cycle.
Instead of using accountability as a blaming mechanism or a fear-mongering system, let’s turn the tables and make accountability mean the desire to succeed. What does success look like for you? Ultimately, it’s winning projects, right? Reframing how we use the word accountability can lead to a higher level of engagement and dedication to the job and your company.
What does this look like? It looks like a precon team fully vested in not just meeting but exceeding your company’s overall goals.
Accountability in preconstruction happens through:
Let’s say your aging parents need help mowing and trimming the lawn. You volunteer but lent your lawnmower to the neighbor who hasn’t returned it. When you get to your folks’ house, they have a 10-year old weed eater whose trimmer line was discontinued a while ago, rusted garden shears, and a push mower with a missing wheel. Now imagine how that’s going to go. And how long it's going to take. You can do the job. But you won’t do the job well.
To succeed, you need the right tools. To succeed efficiently, you need the right tools that are also well maintained.
Providing your precon team with the right resources—like Join and Beck Technology’s DESTINI Estimator estimating software—to perform at their very best allows estimates to be completed accurately on time and better decisions are made.
Supporting Creative Solutions to Problems and Challenges
Estimators are so much more than number crunchers. They are quick-thinking, creative problem solvers. When given the right data leveraging tools to get the job done, you are also giving your team space and time to come up with workable solutions to challenges. Whether that be fluctuating material costs or labor shortages, preconstruction pitfalls are easier to overcome when estimators are supported by management to take ownership of productive problem-solving. Being accountable for solving problems builds a team that is eager to tackle the next challenge with creativity.
Last, but definitely not least, is fostering teamwork and a culture of collaboration. Your precon professionals are probably already working as a team as much as they can, especially when it comes closer to bid day. Everyone is making sure their i’s are dotted and their t’s are crossed. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
Multiple offices and multiple platforms make wrangling scattered data feel like your herding flying cats.
When you’ve made the changes discussed above—implementing efficient and integrated tools and supporting your team’s ownership over projects—collaboration comes naturally.
In the end, you have a single source of data from which everyone draws and the assurance that estimates are accurate.
Now, that is accountability.