The Tribes on a Jobsite

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Reading a post from Seth Godin (a fav for us marketing geeks) today started me thinking about the tribal nature of construction jobsites and the depth of knowledge that they represent. The tribes of the carpenters, masons, electricians, etc. have been around for over a hundred (if not hundreds) of years, much longer than most of the principle organizations in construction. Tradition runs strong in these tribes and often triumphs over other forces (design guidelines, management directions, etc.) to the detriment of productivity.

Unfortunately, collaboration is not a tribal tradition. If it were, the improvements in jobsite communication, quality control and productivity would be mind-blowing. What if the tribes smoked a peace pipe and agreed to a treaty that would place the good of the project above all else? What if all tribes watched out for one another, alerting each other to potential problems before they lead to delays, rework and rescheduling. Every day on every jobsite in America (and many other places), there’s a steel worker who notices a misplaced junction box or a mason who sees a carpenter’s apprentice using the wrong tool. What if those rival tribe members took ten seconds to give a quick “heads up”, then moved on. What kinds of improvements would we see?

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