Construction Leadership Insights

How Construction Professionals Achieve High Performance

Achieve High Performance

He stood alone, surrounded by a hostile crowd, 40,000 strong.

It was the seventh and deciding game of the 2014 baseball World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. Madison Bumgarner, the star pitcher for the Giants, entered the game in the fifth inning, with his team clinging to a one-run lead.

The Giants were the visiting team, and the 40,000 Royal fans that filled the stadium fervently hoped Bumgarner would fail. The crowd’s hopes were dashed. He pitched brilliantly and held the Royals scoreless over the final five innings. In a pressure-packed “winner take all” environment Bumgarner performed at a high-level and led his team to victory.

The link between construction and baseball.

Construction is similar to baseball in that success demands high-performance in the midst of pressure, conflict, and complexity.

Understanding high-performance.

In the context of business, high-performance is the act of concentrating on the few tasks that, if done with excellence, really make a difference in the results of your job and in the performance of the company.

Success in construction demands high-performance.

The purpose of every business is to make a profit. In construction, you make a profit as you focus on the tasks that widen the gap between revenue generated selling your services, and costs incurred delivering your services. This requires everyone associated with a project to consistently execute their tasks at the highest possible level.

If performance is inconsistent, profits will be inconsistent.

Average net profit in construction is around 3%. You can survive being average for a while, but is it worth the hassle? And what happens if you dip below average and start to lose money?

Fortunately understanding how to achieve high-performance is simple.

The process is broken down into three questions:

Question 1: What are the top three outcomes I’m expected to achieve in my position?
Question 2: What are the top three tasks that lead to my most important outcome?
Question 3: In what specific ways can I improve my performance of this task?

A real-life example.

Recently, I taught this process in a leadership class with a construction client. They pre-fabricate some of the materials that they use on job sites. One of the participants, Dave, is in charge of Quality Control (QC) in their shop. Here’s how he answered the questions.

Question 1: What are the top three outcomes I’m expected to achieve in my position?
Good quality work
Educated fitters and welders in building codes
Have inspectors here when needed

I then asked each of the participants to pick their most important outcome of the three. Dave chose: Good quality work

Achieving high-performance is challenging, so narrowing focus to only one outcome helps to avoid overwhelm. This leads us to the next question.

Question 2: What are the top three tasks that lead to my most important outcome?

Dave wrote:

  • Accurate measurements
  • Attention to detail
  • Knowledge spread

After a bit of reflection, he realized that “attention to detail” related to “accurate measurements”. This helped him when I asked him to pick his most important task. He chose: accurate measurements

Then we moved to the final question.

Question 3: In what specific ways can I improve my performance of this task?

I set a timer for 2 minutes and asked the participants to come up with as many ideas as they could.

Dave came up with:

  • Take time to read and understand what I’m measuring
  • Establish running dimensions (this is a technical term)
  • Ensure my equipment is up to par
  • Have the correct equipment for the job

As you’ve figured out by now, I asked the class to pick their best idea from their 2-minute brainstorm that would help them improve their performance.

Dave chose “ensure my equipment is up to par.”
Here’s a summary of Dave’s process:

What is my most important outcome?
Good quality work

What is the most important task that leads to my most important outcome?
Accurate measurements

How can I improve my performance of this task?
Ensure my equipment is up to par

Using the three-question formula helped Dave.

In a short time, he built a simple, powerful action plan that concentrates him on the task, “ensuring my equipment is up to par”, that, if done with excellence, will make a real difference in his performance and results.

You may think this sounds like too much effort.

The three question format makes it easy. It is designed to help you clarify and focus on the simple tasks that need to be executed in order for you to achieve high performance. In the leadership class, I went through this entire process with a dozen people in about 15 minutes.

Understanding high-performance is easy, achieving it is difficult.

Patrick Lencioni says it well: “Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence.”

Madison Bumgarner had common sense.

As he stood on the pitcher’s mound, he controlled his emotions and blocked out the noise of the fans. He understood the most important outcome that he was responsible for: getting Kansas City Royal batters out.

He also understood the most important task that would lead to the outcome: “throw hard strikes”.

For five innings, under intense pressure, he concentrated on excellent execution of that task. He performed at a high-level and has gone down in history as one of the most successful World Series pitchers of all time.

progress to high-performance.

Making progress to high-performance.

Figuring out how to improve your performance is simple. Just use this three-step process described above.

To help you I’ve put together a one-page PDF template that outlines the process, that you can use to build your own high-performance plan.

FREE Downloadable Resource:
Construction Leaders Dashboard

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