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Are Tier One Companies really Over and Above?.
Back from a break overseas and give my project manager a call, and first question I get “Mick where is my car”
“Well how are too” I said “I have no idea where your car is Parth, I thought you would have been up here checking on jobs and collected it. Anyway whats going on?”
“Well three jobs are nearing completion and are fully manned, The other one we have near you are is nearly done for this stage, so not much, but we have a big one starting early next year, 2 years work in it. Only it is for PL.”
“Yeah… right. .. I just finished one with them and it wasn’t a good experience, with the project managers they had running the show”
Other supervisors I know, were now refusing to work with them. It is hard to blame them when we do similar work for other clients as a principal contractor, then work as a subcontractor under a project management company, who represents the principal, who also has input into overseeing the work and emailing any breaches of safety protocols (no matter how minor), back to head office and putting black marks against the project management company, which then flow onto us.
Subcontractors are always the culprits if you didn’t know.
Tier One companies, we were told at one morning prestart, by the project managements company new site manager are “Over and above”. A few under breath comments like “they are full of shit” could be heard, I did ask if they are more bureaucratic than the government.
Head and down scratch dirt with his feet for a couple of moments then back into his spiel. Anything to be learnt from yesterday, incidents, breaches?.
And so begins another half hour of argy bargy, “we have been doing it this way years, your turning around a proven process to a slower method.” “ W T F, You approved our quote, the work methods were included, your now saying it is no good because your safety officer did another review and something did’nt comply with your process’s ?”.
“How does that work? what is his qualification?
Build a Bridge Upside Down.
I heard a story once, where a crew of very experienced bridge builders were ready to toss a safety officer over the side of the structure. He was annoying them so much with protocols and procedures they had finally had enough.
Management got wind of the threat and acted, it was revealed that the safety officers previous job, was as a hair dresser. There wasn’t much they could do, sacking would cost them. But what was HR thinking?
It is true, when we quote we include our work method statements, we have our process’s that have worked well over the years, with various tweaks added as required. We didn’t re-invent the wheel. To do what they wanted was like, “lets build the roof before we put the frame up”. So, “OK, that is a change of method we want a variation” ———-Stalemate.
Tier one companies with subsideries in different industries, some making some money, many not, and only the main component of their core business is making enough to keep the others alive.
Not all are like this though, often when a recession hits, bigger companies in similar type industries are merged and consolidated under the umbrella of stronger company.
Mining and construction for example. A mining company buys up weaker miner then looks at the that companies contractors. The contractors might be multinational, with tentacles into construction. But the problem with construction is, it notorious for low margins.
The take over company know, this but go ahead anyway. Then load the subsidery up with their top heavy stuff like, enviromental, safety and other rules, feel good fuzzy social stuff, call it “Company Culture” (over and above remember),
and all built into their overheads.
So no matter how dominant the subsidery was in its niche previously its margins were not that great to sustain it in a downturn, it is going to struggle a bit more to hold its margins, unless it finds other ways to complete its jobs.
Winners and losers
Who loses? well the compny now runs a top down approach, generally means, less permanent employees, more utilization of labour hire and subcontractors.
If the subcontractor is an expert at his work with long serving employees, little reliance on labour hire, and good relationships with their contractors, the project management company’s job should be basic, some QA, requests for information, submission of variations and if they have a scope of work to complete once the subcontractor has compelted their sections then co-ordination should be a cinch.
But that is in a perfect world. In the real world it is those whose boots get muddy or dusty, who have to tolerate this top down “feel good culture” which is little more than “if you work for us, you do so in a straight jacket”.
Every job has a time limit, expect it to extend out as becomes a game of politics between supervisors, workers taking time off, accidents (even though they have safety designed to the nth deg. ),or unmotivated workers, contractors who forget to show up. And workers suffering depression, putting up with stifling conformity rules, which do not help with whatever else is going on in their lives.
Finally Seeing the Trees.
When the CEO of a large Australian retail chain says he is concerned about the high rates of suicide within his company, I suggest he spend some time on the shop floor, working to his own rules and living off the same wage, for a couple of weeks at least.
A couple of weeks later we find out they have been underpaying staff and owe about $300million in wages.
Construction also has a high suicide rate. Lunch rooms with “safety alerts” ie: bad news and gruesome photos, enviromental “castrophes” and rows of rules, stuck along the walls is hardly a place giving off good vibes. The signs are generally just glanced over, but viewing gruesome graphics on a daily basis is hardly going to promote a feel good atmosphere.
Add a “D” to anger and you have Danger!