By Nadim Sawaya, CPP- Enterprise Performance Consulting in partnership with the PSA Project Management Committee.
The field implementation of security projects is the most critical and risky phase of the project flow cycle. During this phase, most of the project resources (labor and material) are effectively deployed (meet plan) or wasted (cost overrun). The installers and the field team are the key project stakeholders during this phase of the project. They play an important role, which goes beyond the physical installation of wire, devices and panels. They are on the front line interfacing with the general contractor, customer, and other project stakeholders. How they look, communicate and act on the job site could have a measurable impact on the project outcome and the company’s relationship with customers and future work. This article focuses on the installation team conduct and behavior on the job site and addresses the job site etiquette, they should observe.
Impact on the Contractual Aspect of Projects
Let us start with defining the elements of a construction contract and by reviewing the two types of contracts.
The following are the basic elements of a contract:
- Offer and Acceptance
- Consideration (monetary value)
- Legally Enforceable
- Responsible Parties
The two type of contracts are explicit and implied contracts. Explicit contracts are usually written and well defined.
The most common explicit contracts are:
- Signed contract between your company and the customer
- Your company’s proposal accepted and signed by the customer
- Signed purchase order (PO)
- Approved change order
On the other hand, the implied contract as defined by the “business dictionary”, is a “legally enforceable agreement that rises from conduct, from assumed intentions….”
Simply stated, the conduct, action or verbal communication of the project team including the installers and field technicians could constitute an implied contract and will hold your company legally liable.
Examples of implied contracts:
- Delays to other trades
- Indirect damages to other trades (consequential damages)
- Performing tasks outside the scope of work
- Not following safety practices and instructions
- Volunteer assistance or give advice or opinion to other trades on the job site
- Verbal promise of completion dates of certain tasks (unrealistic or not)
- Verbal assurances of security system performance or integration to other building systems
- Verbal instructions to your subcontractors or other subcontractors on how to do their work
The installers and field technicians should be aware of the contractual aspect of the project and how their conduct on the job site could affect the project and the overall company risk.
Impact on the Project Stakeholders
In addition to the project’s contractual implications, the field team could unintentionally create distractions or serious issues for the project stakeholders (internal and external) by what they say or do on the job site. The internal project stakeholders include the project manager, other project team members and company office staff as well. External stakeholders are the customer, consultant, architect, general contractor and other trades on the job site. For instance, an installer or technician could make a casual statement to a customer on the job site such as “This NVR is too expensive and very hard to program” or “This Alarm System Keypad is being discontinued and I don’t why we are installing on this project”. Statements like this, true or not, should not come from the installer or field technician. These kinds of statements could create unnecessary issues for the project manager and/or the sales person to deal with and might delay projects and affect customers relationships.
Impact of Verbal Instructions
Another potential problem is when the field team follows verbal instructions given on the job site without proper documentation. This is a common practice on many projects. The customer or end-user might direct the Installers to move devices to different locations or ask them to stop working in certain areas of the building without written instructions. These verbal instructions not only could delay the project but could also create “job documentation” issues later on the project such as inaccurate as-built drawings or who approved what and when or why devices are installed not according to approved drawings, etc.…
Let us start with what the installers and field technicians should never do on the job site:
- Do not do any work outside project scope without a written instruction and checking with the project manager
- Do not volunteer information or opinions on security system performance or job completion dates or task durations
- Do not assist other trades (outside your project scope) without checking with your project manager
- Do not comply with any verbal or written instructions which could be in violation of life safety codes
And conclude with the following list of job site etiquette to be followed by installers and field technicians:
- Show up to the job site 10-15 minutes early. Meet with your team leader and understand what planned for the day
- Look professional, clean, neat and always wear your company’s uniform
- Don’t show up with your personal problems. Your attitude matters to others
- Don’t talk on the cell phone, text or tweet on job site unless for business purposes and only on breaks
- Wear your safety uniform at all times
- Don’t complaint to other trades about the company or your team members or being a non-union shop (or union)
- Don’t blame or badmouth other company team members in front of customers or others
- Saying “I don’t know but I will get you an answer” is not catastrophic to your self-esteem
- Be a self-starter and don’t wait to be given directions on what to do next
- Practice good housekeeping. Don’t leave tools and material laying around. Clean after you and put away garbage
- Don’t spit inside of buildings and smoke (cigarettes) only in designed spaces
- Use good and expensive tools and take care of them
- Take a break and have a strong cup of coffee if you are tired or had a bad night sleep. This how bad accidents happen
- Be polite and respectful to everyone on the job site or at a customer’s premises
- Do not socialize after you get your work done- avoid unnecessary chitchatting
And above all, have fun in what you do!!!
This topic will be covered in more details in the Advanced Project Management Training Course at PSA TEC 2017.