The leader of a corporation or project is the individual who must ultimately be willing to take
responsibility for results. Within the context of an organization or team made up of individuals, it
is the collective performance of the individuals, as a team, that defines the results of the whole.
While it can be said that the best motivation is internal motivation as opposed to external
motivation, the leader is ultimately the one responsible for creating the conditions where
motivation can thrive.
In any job, there are circumstances which motivate and those which demotivate. It is up to the
leader to be aware of which is which. According to the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule), it is
essential for the leader to know what factors most contribute to results, to help guide his or
This article discusses: (i) typical motivators and demotivators on construction sites; (ii) the
Foreman Delay Survey, which is a good way to identify and eliminate obstruction factors and
demotivators; (iii) Herzberg's principles concerning motivators and demotivators; and (iv) my
experiences from managing construction projects and life in general.
This article is a slightly modified chapter from my book, On Time and Under Budget: The
Ultimate Power of Team Leadership, published in 2014.
2. MOTIVATORS AND DEMOTIVATORS
Below is a list of motivating factors from a survey of twelve construction sites. If you work in
construction, make sure that you have these things in place:
- Good relationships among all people involved;
- Good orientation program;
- Good safety program;
- Overtime pay;
- Defined goals;
- Open house and project tour;
- A well-planned project; and
- Suggestions solicited.
The demotivators, things to avoid and/or eliminate, are as follows:
- Disrespectful treatment;
- Lack of material and tool availability;
- Having to do work over;
- Crew discontinuity;
- Project confusion;
- Lack of recognition;
- Ineffective utilization of skills;
- Incompetent personnel;
- Lack of cooperation among crafts;
- Poor inspection programs;
- Communication breakdowns;
- Unsafe conditions; and
- Lack of participation in decision making.
3. FOREMAN DELAY SURVEY
In the construction industry, the Foreman Delay Survey is a way to identify and eliminate
obstructive factors and demotivators. The following are the steps:
First, the foreman completes a daily survey of project delays for a week so as to identify what is
causing the holdups.
Second, the delays are evaluated, solutions brainstormed, and improved working methods
Finally, the results of the new ways are analyzed, and the cycle starts again, if necessary.
Foreman Delay Survey Cycle
One might think that a good supervisor does not need to do this, but I have applied these principles
to projects thought to be going smoothly and has always found that the Foreman Delay Survey
makes a difference. Even the front-line foremen are surprised when they quantify their delays.
For example, on a recent project, I had a superintendent who, for some reason, did not want to hear
about problems from the workers or the foremen. People were pulling me aside to tell me, the
project manager, about problems they were having in the field. I noticed the superintendent's
behavior whenever a problem was raised by someone under his command. He took it as a personal
attack, instead of a call for help. This was an ideal situation for the Foreman Delay Survey.
Smaple Foreman Delay Survey Results
Figure 2 shows the results from the first week of that survey. The total delay time was 9% of the
total available working hours. Frustrating delays can have a compounding effect on labor
motivation. This is because as workers become more frustrated, they lose focus on safety and their
jobs, leading to more frustration and more delays. In addition, frustration is one of the four mental
states that leads to accidents. Most delays are management controlled, so management should use
this technique as a listening tool to uncover problems. Once the problems are identified, the root
causes can be identified and eliminated.
Having used this process on multiple projects, I have found that it takes about three weeks to achieve the organizational alignment necessary to eliminate most of the delays. The process should be used frequently, if not continuously, as a project moves through various stages. Most delays are management controlled, so it is absolutely critical that management uses this technique as a listening tool to uncover the root of the problems.
When combined with goal setting and the other principles, the Foreman Delay Survey is a simple and effective way to remove the problems, which lead to frustration and low morale, and consequently, a way of eliminating one of the root causes of accidents.
4. HERZBERG'S PRINCIPLES
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