I was winding down the section of a communication training on “how to be certain you got your point across” when a man suddenly looked at his watched, jumped out of his seat and ran out of the room.
My client, a quality commercial builder in San Diego, had engaged me to do a series of trainings for their top managers including project managers and site superintendents.
Their specific goal was to reduce errors, do-overs, and accidents. On this particular day the training was on communication.
About twenty minutes later the man came back into the room. He was the project manager on a new job for a large energy company in Southern California, re-asphalting one of their energized substations. He had given the crew detailed instructions, asked for and gotten assurance from them that they understood every aspect of the job, and left the site to come to the training.
At the “how to be sure you got your point across” part of the training he looked at his watch and realized that crew was minutes away from starting the job, and he couldn’t be sure that he actually had gotten his point across.
Here’s a little background: electricity enters the sub-station through the high tension wires at a very high voltage. That voltage is then stepped down for distribution to customers. This generates lots of static electricity. Now remember, lightening is static electricity!
So electricity sub stations have something called a safety ground-grid, a web of wires under the asphalt that grounds the large amount of static electricity in the station, so that it doesn’t discharge and wipe out equipment and people.
When the project manager called his crew he found that he had not gotten his point across. In fact they were just moments away from dropping the big claw of their wrecking machine onto the asphalt to begin ripping it up along with the safety ground-grid!
A few years earlier another construction had made this same mistake: they had ripped up the asphalt and all the electrical wires underneath. Besides having to bear the huge cost of replacing the grid, the construction company was forever banned from working on their sites.
That day my construction client got back their investment in manager training a hundred fold, thanks to their great commitment to quality.
What they hadn’t expected to get out of these trainings was the answer to a problem that had costs the construction industry hundreds of millions dollars, miscommunications.