That question and answer came up during our lunch break at a convention seminar. We were talking about a jobsite foreman’s decision-making responsibilities. The question came from an open shop plumbing contractor with 14 employees; the answer from a union HVAC contractor who had 84 employees at that time. The HVAC contractor added that he was not even aware of the “power of attorney” that he delegated to a foreman until his foreman attended one of my seminars at the contractor’s shop.
The plumbing contractor interjected, “I don’t even use a foreman on our jobs. I will send one or two plumbers, as well as a helper or two, and they only need to do what I tell them. They don’t have to make any decisions for my company!” The HVAC contractor smiled as he said, “Paul, you need to explain the facts of life to this guy.”
Let me share those “facts of life” with you, and I hope you will, in turn, share them with your employees:
1. Jobsite Liability And Responsibility. Your foreman is classified as a “white collar” management employee with delegated authority to execute and control everything that happens on his or her jobsite. If you do not designate or appoint a foreman, the government will assign this foreman status to the employee who reports back to your office!
2. Profit-Producing Jobsite Efficiency And Control. Your foreman should use a one-week schedule to ensure lead time for all necessary manpower, materials, tools and equipment. He or she also should maintain a P.E.P. (predict emergency preparation) checklist to maintain progress when something goes wrong.
3. Team-Building Human Relations And Motivation. Your solution to our critical skilled manpower shortage is completely in your jobsite foreman’s hands. He or she is in a position to train, develop, motivate and maintain all of the proud and productive quality craftsmen you will ever need.
As you read these basic facts of life, I’m quite sure that you will agree that you have to have a CEO on every jobsite.
Construction, as with all trades, is a very informal industry where no one is called sir or mister. We use first names and nicknames like Fuzzy, Spike, Buck, etc., without regard to position, authority or responsibility. However, that does not eliminate your legal and financial liability in this great, competitive profit-making industry.
Union contractors negotiate “work rules” that define the role and responsibility of a jobsite foreman and also the chain of command. Unfortunately, a union foreman wears two hats. He or she is legally a white-collar management employee as foreman, but a blue-collar labor employee as a member of the union.
Although your foreman is unofficially your chief executive officer on the jobsite, I am not recommending that you give him the working title of CEO; but you should definitely discuss the critical decision-making responsibilities that he must make.
We can use those same initials - CEO - with regards to your foreman concerning each situation and/or problem he or she faces on the job, and that is “consider every option.”
You also could call this value engineering to remind your foreman that there is always a better way. By considering what the positives and negatives are of every possible option before he makes a decision that will cost time, materials and company money, he will definitely fill that role of chief executive officer.
I hope you will share and discuss this article with each of your foremen. Establish and abide by a written chain of command with proper and complimentary titles for all of your critical decision makers. You will be very pleased and proud to have a CEO on every jobsite.