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5 Ways To Raise Quality Awareness At Your Site – How Many Of These Are You ACTUALLY Doing?

So you are the new Quality (or QA/QC) Manager of a new amazing construction project. Great!

But you want to make things different this time.

You probably want to build a great relationship with your Client and his representatives, you  would like to focus on engaging your workforce into a “quality” and “Right First Time” culture, promote a proactive approach within the construction teams and finally handover and complete a great project.  Awesome!

But…how could you achieve all these after all…?

Here’s 5 things you could actually start doing  :

1. Carry out “Quality Induction” briefings to everyone working on site (yes, from day 1)

Till recently I wasn’t sure if that really helps. But believe me…it does!

Safety inductions are (in many places of the world) a legal requirement for everyone entering a construction site. But what about Quality?

How would you expect an Engineer to close an NCR if he/she doesn’t even know what an NCR is or how to report it??

How would you expect people on site to follow the ITPs when they have never seen an ITP before? How would you expect people to be able to follow the Design Drawings when they don’t even know where to find them?

And it’s not only about terminology of course. It’s more about creating a culture of being proactive, transparent and continuous improving.

Here’s a very simple slideshow with some of the subjects that probably need to be covered in a Quality Induction (depending on the project or the organization that could definitely change , so don’t take these 8 slides as the holy bible of quality inductions…!)

A 30 minutes Quality Induction briefing on ITPs, specs, Document Controlmajor processes/ proceduresNCRs and inspections could really give the people who work on site a good introduction and actually make them more comfortable with things they have (probably) never heard of. Try it out!

2. Carry out Quality Stand-Downs

There is probably not even one construction site in the world without any (minor or major) quality issues ( I know that many folks out there would probably argue that statement but I invite any of our readers to show me that unique amazing project that the Client’s reps have never picked up any issue…).

One of Toyota’s most revolutionary way of engaging their workforce into a proactive culture was the (unthinkable till then) stoppage of the whole production line in order to identify a nonconformity, discuss it with the relevant section/department and finally take actions in order to avoid it from happening again.

Yes, you read it properly: the whole production line of the factory was shutting down till the issue was resolved and till all the people involved had taken part in the discussions on how to sort it out, find ways to avoid reccurence and finally eliminate the root cause.

They had probably lost a few hours of production (which in the automotive industry could easily be translated to millions of dollars) but they had actually made sure that the issue wouldn’t happen again.

How easy it is to implement something similar in a construction site?

Not that easy we have to admit (unless you have great support from your management…).

But it’s always a great experience to hear what went wrong from the people who were actually involved. Most of the times these are the guys who would actually provide the best way to avoid the same “mistake” in the future.

So, a weekly 15 minutes open discussion – StandDown with the construction teams (or in general any teams involved) regarding all the latest major NCRs is indeed a great idea.

This is why such Quality StandDowns works so well:

  1. People involved have a say! They take responsibility and feel important.
  2. An open discussion on “what went wrong” could provide some great ideas for corrective actions. These guys know better than anybody else, what went wrong and how they can avoid it in the future.
  3. People who were not directly involved but are carrying out similar tasks, are also having a say and prepare themselves for potential issues and are now aware of how to avoid these.

3. Show them the money!


Forget about KPIsNCRs, Policies, AuditsProcesses and fancy charts.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these have to be there.

But there are only 3 things that could cause the biggest headaches to the Senior Management of any construction project in the world:

  • Delays
  • Cost
  • Safety.

That may sound cynical but it’s true.

If , as the Quality Manager of a major contractor, you want your management to listen carefully to you and not bully you, then you have to report to them on a weekly basis, how much money the project is losing on rework/repairs and how many working hours have been lost.

Another great idea could be a big board like the ones used to report safety incidents on site (e.g. 20 days since the last NCR in our project, 5 hours lost on rework/repairs this month etc).

When the cost of repairs and rework starts rising up every month, there would definitely be some unhappy faces in the management meetings…

4. Stop using “quality” vocabulary (eliminate the boring stuff…)

Devil’s advocate: Hang on a second! How are we supposed to do that? We should talk about quality stuff all the time on site! It doesn’t make any sense…!

Answer: Well…for many reasons (that we should probably analyze in another article) “quality” in construction has become a synonym for boredom and for things we have to do for our Clients. Nobody really wants to deal with it apart from the Quality professionals.

Everybody knows the joke where during the pre-qualification for a tendering of a new project, the Client asked the Contractors’ representative to describe in a few words their future quality management system.

The Contractor’s senior rep quickly replied with confidence:

“We are gonna have great quality in our project. We have a great Quality Manager!”.

Bottom line:

  • stop talking about “NCRs” and start discussing “things that went wrong”
  • stop talking about “processes” and instead discuss “how we work”
  • forget about “Corrective Actions” and better chat about “how can I help you to avoid that in the future”
  • stop scaring people with Audit notifications through emails. Have a chat with them in the kitchen/canteen first.
  • stop having exhausting full day management review meetings every 6 months or every year. Have a strict 45 minutes meeting every month with 2-3 senior managers. Its much more effective and follows the progress of the project.

People working in construction are practical. It’s the way they are used to work. They want practical solutions to get the job done and move on. And they want simplicity and speed.

Tip: With all due respect to all great Quality Gurus of the past, but don’t even think of introducing your foremen to “Deming’s Cycle” or the “System Approach to Management”… 

5. Take everyone on your side!

You really don’t want people on site to feel you are spying on them trying to find lapses and mistakes all the time, do you?

Instead, prove to everyone that you are helping, supporting and working together with them, instead of judging all the time.

Make people on site trust you by making their lives easier and simpler.

Eliminate bureaucracy and paperwork as much as possible. Engineers and construction professionals hate paperwork and there is a good reason for that: it doesn’t help them to get the job done! It’s an obstacle to them.

So why don’t you try to use new technologies that would make their lives on site easier and simpler?

Finally, make your Client trust you by acting quickly on his observations and by showing him that you want to work with them as a team.

He is not the enemy, right?

Let us know in the comments if you have ever tried any of the above ways in your project, or even if you are trying something similar that works great for you.

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Pavlos Inglesis
I am a Chartered Civil Engineer (CEng-MICE) and a Chartered Quality Professional (MCQI CQP) working in the construction industry for about 20 years. My specialty is Quality Control and Quality Assurance Management in Construction Projects. I have worked on projects in the Middle East, and Greece and am now based in the UK.

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