News & Press: President's Letter

May 2019 President's Letter

Tuesday, September 17, 2019  
Posted by: Trish Moss
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30,000 feet up, or how to avoid being the proverbial
Whack-a-Mole

Many commercial projects start with pre-construction meetings at the job site. The general contractor and tile contractor’s project manager, field manager and a variety of other players usually are there. These meetings typically occur months before the tile activities are scheduled to start.

I love these meetings: the initial posturing, the formality of an organized meeting to discuss ideal construction processes that fit together perfectly – on paper. Everybody is getting along with high hopes that accompany high expectations. At that time, there is plenty of float in the schedule and adequate time for you to do what you need to do. Everyone has clear direction and expectations. You have identified all the activities and tasks and who owns them. It all makes sense. It’s perfect. It looks great from 30,000 feet.

Then the work is finally ready to start. The project is already months behind. There is no float and your durations are being compressed. There are stacked trades and activities in the same room while you are supposed to do the tile. Things like blocking were missed in the shower walls. They are tearing out cement board, then creating giant bumps where they put the board back. The drains are buried or too low, the
walls are not plumb or square, there is gypsum mud and paper tape in the showers. The project is already projecting liquidated damages and working from a “recovery schedule” that you had no input into creating. You get the idea – You have not laid
the first tile – now what to do?

If you are not prepared and if you do not have your documentation organized, be ready to be the Whack-A-Mole. To protect yourself, you need to be the one armed with proper documentation and a high level of organization. When you are, you cannot be rolled because the schedule or issues beyond your control have overtaken the project and prohibited you from properly doing your job. It will be your burden to prove why you could not meet the schedule or do your job properly, especially if you are asking to be paid for the delays and disorganization caused by others. One of the frequent sayings in our office is, “If it didn’t happen in writing, it didn’t happen.” And, pictures, pictures, pictures! They need to be carefully organized and categorized just in case the job goes sideways. Your exposure is real and if you are not prepared to protect yourself, you will certainly be the Whack-A-Mole.

I am blessed and fortunate to work with a company that has learned through almost 100 years in business how to protect itself. Plus, being in the business for over 30 years, you learn to trust your Spidey Sense when you're getting a vibe that says you need to be extra cautious about a GC or an owner. It can happen no matter what size your company.

The single most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to invest in technology that organizes and tracks your project’s daily reports, pictures, correspondence etc. This can work from your phone, iPad/Surface tablet etc. It can keep track of details you could never remember on a multi-month project without some type of tool. The technology keeps the visual history and documentation organized for your project; change requests in the field, conversations with direction to proceed (sometime against your advice) etc., documentation coming and going. Problems are often poorly documented on both sides. It may become your burden to prove why this or that happened months later when the people who were originally involved are long gone onto another project, or are exercising selective amnesia (a syndrome my wife swears I suffer from). The technology and project management software are easy to procure and relatively easy to use. It may be the single most effective tool you have if you are engaged in any project where keeping a record of the installations progress could be valuable to you in the future.

Chris Walker
NTCA President

Vice President, David Allen Company
Chairman - ANSI A-108
ChairmanUS TAG ISO T-189
Board of Directors ABC-VA
Voting Member TCNA Handbook
Voting Member NTCA Reference Manual
chriswalker@davidallen.com