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By Duane Craig
March 11, 2019
Do you ever feel like you're on a treadmill, running after every new thing that comes along in your search for business and project answers? To break free, you need a strategy based on asking the right questions. And, for construction businesses that requires seeing your company for what it really is.
As a general contractor, you create one-off projects with help from a group of partners. A set of project best practices might work on one project, but not necessarily on the next. If your business best practices aren't tailored to your unique business, they aren't likely to serve in the long run either. Instead of chasing and adopting generic best practices, consider what practices would work best for your business.
From Questions to Innovation
When seeking out the practices that align with your business, you tap into solutions that fit your business culture and project types. Answering the right questions also inspires innovation. Nowadays, innovation is a competitive necessity.
For centuries, innovation was considered an affront to the status quo and a heresy in religious circles. It posed a threat to the entrenched power structure. Today, innovation is often necessary as it helps businesses keep their competitive edge. For general contractors, innovation comes in at least three types. The first type includes features for which the client is willing to pay. Energy-saving items are one example.
The second types of innovations are those that reduce your costs, like adopting a construction project management solution or improving your estimates. Improving your reputation or boosting your credibility places third. For example, you might decide to set up public relations events to showcase new methods used on a project or increase your social media engagement to attract new recruits.
From Right Questions to Better Questions
However, those aren't the only places where asking the right questions can lead to innovative strategies. In every phase of the project, you have opportunities to innovate. In the planning stage, you might use new processes to identify alternative materials or methods. During construction, you might set up performance models to see whether you can speed time to completion on critical activities.
The best solutions for your business are less likely to arise from asking questions like:
— "What are the best practices for recommending materials and methods?"
— "What are best practices when designing performance models?"
But, you can discover better solutions by asking better questions like:
— "How can I change materials or methods used in this project to better balance client needs and cost?"
— "What kind of performance model fits with my company culture and the unique aspects of the projects I build?"
To come up with better questions, try looking at issues from different angles. Then, you will naturally start asking different questions. The answers often lead to insights and innovation.
Suppose you spent 10 hours preparing a bid only to lose out to a new competitor in your area. If you assume that losing the bid was a bad thing, you might go seeking answers to a question like, "Why did we lose out on this bid?" However, then you'll be focusing only on the negatives, with your efforts focused on preventing the event from happening again.
But, what if losing the bid was a good thing? A good thing because you weren't really ready for that type of project. Your estimate might have been too low, or the client saw what you didn't. By asking, "How did losing this bid affect the company?" you leave the door open to see the event from all sides, the good and the bad.
The Better Questions Advantages
Asking the right question means getting specific to the need, and specific to your business. As you start answering these more relevant questions, you'll find answers that fit your business. You'll get deeper insights into how your business functions, and that often leads to innovative ideas for improvement.
Asking the right questions will have several positive outcomes.
— It causes you to focus on what you can control, so you can see how you might change the outcomes next time around.
— It also helps you see situations where you didn't have the control you needed to get the outcome you wanted.
— When you are open to a range of perspectives as you consider issues you get insights into any skills or experience shortages behind the problem.
— When you decide to really see something with an open mind, you will see the situation in its true light, balanced for both the good and the bad.
— When asking the right questions, you set yourself up to uncover solutions that fit your business.
Best practices make a good framework from which to explore improvements. It's also time to start asking better questions.
If you’d like to learn more about how to gain better insight to ask the right questions, be sure to check out these free ebooks:
Stay Ahead of Risk
Top 6 Rework Offenders Killing your Margins
Uncover the Hidden Cost of Project Silos
construction project management solution
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