Working relationships and team dynamics have emerged as the leading variables affecting the cost and schedule of industrial projects, according to a research report from the Construction Industry Institute, presented at the group's annual conference in Indianapolis on July 21-23.
The performance-assessment effort "really could be a game-changer for us and for the whole industry," said J. McM. "Jim" Backes, CII vice chair and Hargrove Engineers + Constructors executive vice president.
Research staff took all the data from CII's benchmarking program—2,820 projects worth $424 billion—and identified the 10 attributes that had the highest correlation to project success.
Now, a streamlined program allows members to do quick performance assessments as projects advance. Users answer simple questions that don't require data and concern the health of a project in the 10 attribute categories: planning, organizing, leading, controlling, design efficiency, human resources, quality, sustainability, supply chain and safety.
Users get back a report that forecasts project outcomes, such as cost efficiency, schedule efficiency, total project cost and the total recordable incident rate. Backes says, based on the forecasts, "you get the benefit of doing course corrections."
Anna Franz, CII 2014 chair and planning director to the Architect of the Capitol, says members "are motivated, they have drive, and they want to do something more than themselves. We connect collective intelligence with drive, and that equals transformation."
One transformation that CII has made a priority is safety. Franz points out that members set safety records this year, including an average total recordable incident rate (TRIR) of just 0.37. To continue to push that rate down, a team reported on research that validates the correlation between reporting near-miss incidents and preventing injuries and identifies the best practices that can be used to boost such reporting.
Jeffrey G. Ruebesam, vice president for health, safety and environmental at Fluor Corp. and study member, said the team ended up with a broad definition that includes both unsafe practices and actual hazards that could have caused an injury but did not. Members developed near-miss reporting guidelines and measured safety performance on projects that implemented them. The bottom line is that, as the number of near misses reported increases, the OSHA TRIR decreases.
The research identified "fear of retaliation" as the most significant barrier to reporting near misses. Removing that barrier takes education and "making your motives clear," Ruebesam said. "The only motive is to prevent those things from happening—not to retaliate."
Another big barrier is lack of training, when workers just don't know how to use a near-miss program. But the killer is lack of follow-up, the research shows. "If you ask your employees for information, and they provide it to you, and they don't see you taking action to address those issues, that will kill the program," he says.
On the "enabler" side, it's all about communications, which have to be consistent, repeated and on the mark. Also, communications have to reassure employees about what the company "plans to do with the data and how it will help everyone in the long run," Ruebesam adds. "Ultimately, it will help save lives."
Another research team reported on the true impacts of late deliverables at the construction site, considering impacts on safety, quality, cost, schedule and organizational capacity—issues such as teamwork and morale. The research team developed cause-and-effect diagrams to link 10 late-deliverable categories to 24 associated impact categories.
The team also surveyed 350 members of CII and the Construction Users Roundtable and offered problem projects that involved at least one late-deliverable category for in-depth case studies. Team member J.D. Slaughter, vice president of S&B Engineers and Contractors, said, in a "snapshot of the findings," 81% of the projects that experienced late deliverables reported impacts to the critical path schedule; 100% said there was some type of "reactionary mode" during the projects; 78% said there was an impact on project cost, and 55% of those respondents noted a contingency inadequate to cover those negative impacts.
Slaughter said, "We also plotted late deliverables by commonality and severity. No. 1 on the chart was late engineering," which includes documents, approvals and responses. If projects focus on prevention of late deliverables in that one area, he added, "we'll have a huge improvement in the predictability of our projects."
The team built a database of 600 late-deliverable impact descriptions that can be used to predict the effects of various late deliverables and refers users to definitions and case studies. They created a tool called the Late Deliverable Risk Catalog that can help a project team identify the risks and outcomes for specific scenarios, develop risk-avoidance and mitigation strategies, and address owner-contractor disputes over change orders.
|How to Boost near-miss reporting|
• Fear of retaliation
• Fear that reporting reflects poorly on performance
• Absence of a trusting environment
• Lack of training
• No follow-up
• Leadership and motivation
• Guidance and resources
• Near-miss reporting training
• Reward strategy