7 Reasons of Why Everybody Hates Quality Managers in Construction Industry

Argument

If you are a Quality Manager who has worked in at least 3 construction projects you would have probably started recognizing a pattern: other people on site (even your management sometimes…) hate you!

They don’t hate you personally but they hate your role and what you are trying to do.

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Being a Quality professional in Construction involves fights, arguments and constant battles for “doing the right thing”…

Let’s face it and be honest with ourselves:

Programme is the king and money/profit is the queen in construction in industry.

There is only one strategy in this industry: the so-called “Fire fighting Strategy” which basically means extremely poor project management, short term planning and “winning-new-projects-is-all-we-care-about” strategies.

Quality Management on the other hand is all about proper planning and thoughtful risk assessment.

If these 2 are not done properly, you end up having a Quality Manager who is just there because the contract or the Client requires him to be there.

And that’s how others see him/her in reality.

But there are some other reasons too:

1. Shortcuts

As QM, you have to establish some rules and procedures that every function/department/person has to follow. Many people would easily countersign these procedures/documents but how many would actually want to follow them? Who wants to follow rules and procedures after all?? Shortcuts is the way to go!

2. Shoot the Messenger

As QM, you will obviously need to carry out inevitable internal Audits to your colleagues from other departments. Eventhough nobody would deny to be audited , you are not really making their day, right? Who wants to be checked on their job after all?? Moreover, if the outcome of the audit is not good then…big arguments could start on what is an NCR, Observation etc. and what is not. People tend to perceive that as judgement of their job and you are the messenger of that critique after all. Messengers are usually shot…

3. Finger Pointing

You will be the first to be blamed when something goes wrong. By default. And then everything will become a finger pointing exercise on Quality professionals. Quality departments are always the easiest target , right?

4. The Paperwork Manager

Most of the times you will become the “Paperwork Manager” , instead of the Quality Manager. You will become the department from which everyone is expecting to compile the paperwork for them. Who likes paperwork in construction??? Nobody, right?

5. Quality Resources

You will always be asking for resources and you will never get them (ok…that applies to every role in every company but still..) . You will only get them when things have already gone wrong. Typical way of micro-managing and lack of pro-activeness in a construction project. Most of the times, things don’t go wrong and when they do go wrong (quality wise) there will be some commercial arrangements in place to work things out and come to an agreement with Clients and other stakeholders. Commercial Managers, QSs and Directors will find a way to settle things down. It’s not a secret that Quality professionals are never involved in such discussions… At the end of the day everyone will be happy and move on to the next without learning anything actually…Job Done!

6. Unnecessary Bureaucracy

People would always think that you waste their time with unnecessary things like NCRs, Audits, Management Review meetings, procedure writing and ITPs. It is true that these necessary things to a QMS are normally perceived as an unnecessary bureaucracic pain. Everybody believes that they must do these things because they have to. Only a few people will try to understand the real value in them. You have to make sure that these people belong to the Senior Management.

7. Lack of Awareness

People are not used to proper quality management in construction industry. It would be unthinkable to be on site without a Method Statement nowadays but can we say the same about ITPs for example…? That’s probably the biggest issue in my opinion and it’s all a matter of awareness.
I am obviously exaggerating… Construction is the most creative environment someone could work in. Engineering can be one of the most challenging and diverse areas someone can study.

Quality Management in construction suffers and several actions must be taken in order to change that.

ASQ in the USA and the CQI in UK are working towards that directions but they have to bring in the discussions the main Engineering and Construction institutions (Institution of Civil Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineer etc).

In my honest opinion the first thing that needs to be done is to introduce quality management in the civil engineering schools/universities.

The new civil engineers must know the value of ITPs and the benefits of “right first time” .

How many of the new graduate Civil Engineers know what an ITP is…?

In my experience, none!

They must be taught proper project and quality management and how to be proactive.

An Engineer is not necessarily a good Project Manager and this is something that nobody seems to accept or understand.

What’s your view on that?

Have you experienced any arguments and resistance from people at your project?

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  • Sian Dunne

    This all sounds so familiar and its not just confined to construction either, other industry sectors such as manufacturing and logistics suffer exactly the same issues.
    I lecture at Liverpool John Moores and I can proudly say that Quality Management is featured within our Construction Management undergraduate degree programme.

  • PIN

    That’s very promising Sian.
    Glad to hear that it is even included in the undergraduate scheme.
    It will make a big difference to everyone working in construction.

  • Steve Black

    In my experience it is all in how the message is delivered. You can try to be a “bad cop” and write every little nit picky item up and leave a pile of items for the project team to follow up. This is away to cover your @$$ and may be effective for a short while, ultimately no one likes “seagull management.” You can try and be a “nice guy”, which is not very effective. Most effective is to be a coach to help the teams perform better. Depending on the team it can be a simple conversation, other situations may require a paper trail, not so much to create work but to prevent items from getting “lost” in the pace of the project. Working to point out the potential issues in a timely fashion through peer reviews, mock ups and first installation reviews is the path to a more proactive form of management. Making yourself available to help them work through the issues that inevitably arise, despite everyone’s best effort is key to earning team’s trust and respect.
    Having resources in place to help the team members become better educated and solve their own issues is also crucial to long term success. Storing them on a web platform for ease of access in the field is standard operating procedure.
    I am fortunate to have worked for companies that view Quality Managers and processes as resources to help them succeed rather than obstacles to work around.

  • PIN

    I agree 100% with you Steve.

    However, in order for you to be a coach you have to be allowed
    to and you need to have people with “open ears”…who are open to discussion.

    Unfortunately, being proactive is not something you see very
    often in construction.

    It’s more like : “here is a problem, I now need to sort it out…”
    rather than “what problems I may have in the future that I need to take
    measures before they actually appear…?”.

    Quality has always been a fire-fighting exercise for me in
    construction…that’s just my personal experience though.

  • Darragh Doyle

    I don’t necessarily agree that as suggested ‘to be a coach you have to be allowed to and need to have people with “open ears”…….’
    I find when creating a Quality System on-site for the first time there is huge resistance to it.
    However when you show the system in place and running smoothly its very easy to show the benefits of the system through issues such as efficiency (Reduced paperwork, due to removal of duplicate forms and procedures), all site personnel working to the same system. Enhanced Safety due to systems being in place and therefore no Engineers missing information such as Risk Assessments.
    Its very easy to show a Project Manager and his team the benefits of the system once its up and running by comparing the previous system to the current one.

    If the benefits can’t be shown, well then the new system is not needed and the old one is better.

  • Raquel Almeida

    Having been in Quality for the last 9 years, I could have written the seven points
    above with very little if any change at all!
    I agree with Steve on what I believe to be the best and most effective
    approach, however that is only possible where Quality is enforced by top
    management…we all know how tempting a shortcut is and how commercial grey
    decisions tend to prevail.