Craig Durosko: Measuring the design-to-production handoff

Sometimes we don’t realize it at all because we are so busy trying to make an unsatisfied client happy, wondering why the gross profit of a job is off, or speculating why a project is delayed waiting on parts.

June 11, 2013
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Often, we don’t realize how bad a handoff to production was until it is too late.

Sometimes we don’t realize it at all because we are so busy trying to make an unsatisfied client happy, wondering why the gross profit of a job is off, or speculating why a project is delayed waiting on parts.

Let’s start at the end and work backward. Imagine the perfect project: The client is ecstatic and just referred your remodeling business to their friend; the job’s gross profit came in 2 percent higher than estimated; the project finished one week ahead of schedule; and you were never interrupted by an upset client or project manager other than the scheduled meetings.

Executing the handoff

When remodeling homes, we usually focus on the technical parts such as tying the roof into the existing structure and determining the floor heights. There are other questions the project manager may have, such as, why did they buy from you? Why are they doing this project? Why now? Do they have any past remodeling experiences, good or bad, that they are concerned might happen again? 

These questions are often answered in the sales process of the project. However, if these answers are not passed along during the handoff to production, it could lead to an unhappy client, and the project manager may never know the reason.

To ensure the process works correctly, the handoff from design to production should be the complete package and ready to produce.

Start by creating a checklist of all the processes that must be done to make the successful project happen. Of course, there might be different criteria for success based on the type of project. For example, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a whole house remodel will have completely different project needs. 

Your basic checklist could contain:

  • Client information, expectations, and a map to the project site
  • The EPA lead sign-off sheet if the home was built before 1978
  • The signed contract scope, terms, payment schedule, and selections sheet if separate from the drawing
  • Allowances included and any outstanding change orders
  • Copies of the trade contracts for each trade and each vendor special order
  • Copies of the as-built pictures and drawings
  • A copy of the permitted plans, tile layouts, fixture layouts, and appliances specifications
  • A list of any client purchases and a list of any materials that are going to be re-used

Now, measure your checklist. It is hard to measure the improvement when the measurement is “pretty good” or “terrible,” so you must create realistic benchmarks. For example, you could assign a number percentage to each section, totaling 100 percent.

The first section could be named “due diligence” and include items such as the lead sheet, map, and client expectations. Assign it a total of 10 percent. If there are five items, you could give each 2 percent or you could weigh the importance to you by giving them different percentages.

The next step is to track the progress. After the handoff, there are usually a few open items. This typically is not a problem as long as the problems are quickly resolved. But people are human. They have other projects they may be working on, and they may forget to make that last special order. Or they may forget to produce a change order for the allowance prior to ordering the material.

Create a list of all the outstanding items, agree on who is responsible for getting it done, and agree on the deadline. Now you can review your list of projects and outstanding items weekly to make sure everything gets done on time. Sometimes a client may be purchasing items, such as light fixtures. Make sure that gets on the checklist with a deadline.

Identifying checklist challenges

One way is to debrief projects after they are complete, and the other is to perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) on your handoff from design to production. Finally, don’t expect the checklist to be perfect the first time. At your debriefing or postmortem of the project, bring the original checklist and look at each grade at the time of the handoff.

Were there any learned lessons? Do you need to add anything to your checklist? Keep improving the handoff checklist until you feel it works for you. PR

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