Construction Management Stairs

A colleague recently shared with me the below graphic from a Caterpillar presentation he attended, which got me thinking about how managers and owners run their construction businesses. I know the way I’ve managed my company over the years has changed. As we’ve grown we’ve put more formal processes in place and my focus has shifted more toward the bigger picture.

Management Steps

As my perspective on business management has evolved, I’ve also learned that the stages I’ve gone through are not ones you can simply leave behind. I may not be the person paying the light bill anymore, but it is my responsibility to make sure that this and hundreds of other similar tasks are properly managed.

Comfort Zones

I see this graph as representative of the three comfort zones that managers pass through as they grow. Coming from Caterpillar, it is of course specific to heavy equipment and construction management, but I believe it applies to most businesses. The horizontal axis represents level of management responsibility while the vertical axis represents the primary management objective.

As your responsibilities grow, your objectives change. People tend to find their niche in an organization at the point where they are most comfortable operating: in a task-oriented position, a process-oriented position, or a strategy-oriented position. In this chart, these correspond to managing resources, construction sites, and the enterprise, respectively.

Building Blocks

What I find most interesting, however, is that in order to move up and to the right on this graph you can’t afford to skip any steps. If your job is to run the whole show, then your primary objective is to focus on optimizing business results. But you can’t do this without accurate business information.

Information is data that has been filtered, organized, and correlated in order to paint a clear picture of your situation. With this, you can “call the plays” that keep your projects on track. But without the raw data, you’re operating in the dark.

And so the weight of responsibility for the success of your business falls ultimately on the shoulders of the humble piece of data—the fuel consumption of a front-end loader, the number of labor hours impacted by a change request, the ever-changing amount committed costs for a project, and so on. These and thousands of other pieces of discrete data need to be reliably, consistently and accurately gathered. Only then can your managers who are “up and to the right” do their jobs.

Where is your management comfort zone? How solid are the blocks on which you build your business strategy?

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