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The secrets of being on-site

That on-site life

We’ve all had our share of installation experiences, probably mostly comedic and crazy in nature. There’s constant chaos, shifting deliverables, mix-ups and confusion…and in all that, we’re still expected to get everything done without delays or additional costs. So how can you still be an on-site professional?

Learn names (and be nice)

The first thing you can do to immediately level up your on-site prowess is make a real effort to learn the names of everyone on site working on what you’re working on. This extends outside of your immediate surroundings of your team and sub-contractors and includes:

  • Any systems integrator working on anything you’re involved with
  • Any site chiefs or team leads related to the general site
  • Agency project managers
  • Architects on-site
  • Building managers
  • General contractors
  • Security guards

It won’t take you more than a few minutes to learn some names on site, and even if you forget, it’s easy to ask again and say “Sorry, things are hectic and your name is slipping my mind…” Once you start addressing the people you work with by their names, you’ll immediately find an instant sense of camaraderie where they may have previously been resistance and distance. This means when you’re stuck on something and need their help or guidance, it will come a lot easier, smoother, and without a ton of push-back or back and forth.

It may sound silly thinking “learning some names will really make my on-site game that much better?” Yes, yes it will. If you’ve learned the security guards names and are friendly with them and ask how they’re doing as you come and go, they’ll return the kindness and remember you if for some reason you get stuck in/out of the building or don’t have a pass for some reason. If you’ve learned the names of the contractors on-site and they need you to leave before they can work, they will be more flexible and might even re-organize their schedule to try to match yours. These little gains that you can make from something as simple as learning names adds up over the course of an installation.

The same applies for just being a generally nice person to people who aren’t on your team. If you see a bunch of people working hard on something you’re also working on and you’re going to go get a bottle of water or a drink, ask if they’d like one too. If there’s another team working on troubleshooting an issue they’re having with their system, ask them if there’s something you can do on your system to help them troubleshoot. These little ways of reaching out and being a team player with people who might not even be on your direct team will really level up your on-site skills.

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Communicate regularly

This may be a “duh” thing to do, but you’d be surprised how often people become quiet and introverted in stressful or hectic situations. We all know what it’s like to have a ton of things to get done and not enough time to do them. You try to block out the world around you and put your head down to work. While this is definitely needed in a lot of situations where you have to make sure you take time and finish what you need to finish, a lack of clear communication and on-site progress can be the downfall of a client-supplier relationship. Even if things are going terribly/smoothly/somewhere in the middle, you need to communicate to those directly around you, as well as those not around you about how things impact you and your deliverables. This ties into the larger professional skill of managing client expectations, but for now, something practical.

Setup something like a daily morning status update and/or an end of day status update. You’ll probably want the most thorough one to go to internal team members. This status update should have a healthy amount of detail so that everyone on your team is essentially sharing the same amount of knowledge. The goal here is to prioritize your available resources to make sure you’re doing the most optimal things you can do to move your closer to meeting your deliverables.

Then you should generalize and prioritize your existing status update and create a much lighter version of the same update for external team members or partners you’re directly working with. If you’re a software developer, then you may be wanting to send this reader’s digest version to the systems integrator, production crew, tour staff, or anyone else that may be working in the same regions or on the same final deliverables you’re working on. The goal of this report is to let the other teams directly working on the project know what you need, what might be holding you back at the moment, and what you’ve achieved and can hand off.

The final type of status update you should make, should be even more generalized than the last and should mainly concern itself with the high level goals and deliverables of the project. This is the status update you’ll send to your clients or further down the chain to people who are either paying for the project or have a vested interest in it but are not directly working on it. The goal of this status report is to make clients feel good about the progress you’re making and/or flag them as soon as possible if there’s something happening that might negatively impact any part of the project.

If you can allocate a small portion of time to make these kind of reports happen while you’re working on site, you’ll have a transformed on-site experience where:

  1. Your team is working optimally
  2. Your direct partners on-site will start to try and prioritize their work schedule in a way that doesn’t create roadblocks for you
  3. The client is aware of both good progress and able to make informed recommendations (or put pressure on the right people for you) when things aren’t going well

Wrap up

You probably thought when I started this post that I’d have some kind of secret technical voodoo for leveling up your on-site game, but that is not the case. Most people are technically proficient and doing their best within available resources. The secret to being exceptional on-site, and not just decent, lie in learning names, knowing your scope but being helpful, and communicating openly and on a regular schedule. Sounds a bit anticlimactic but I would bet money if you gave any one of these a real try, or even all three of them, you’d feel like you run the job site and can get everything you need to get your work done without any extra stress.