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The PFCS Weekly Planning Method

Who, What, and Why

Getting the right things done is hard. I have never met a professional who does not struggle with it. The pace of modern life and business has quickened, the margin for error is smaller, and the pressure to produce results has increased.

I have studied the subject of personal productivity extensively. Mostly because being focused and productive do not come naturally for me. I've joked since the 90s that "If it weren't for spell-check and my day-planner, I would have to push the hamburger buttons at McDonald's." FranklinCovey company has a great system for Daily Time & Task Management, and we have been sending our employees through their programs for almost two decades. But I have yet to find a fully "engineered" system for translating "big-picture" goals, project management milestones, and individual action steps, into a reliable system for getting the right things done in our business; so I created my own.

Living in a way that integrates our values, big picture goals, plans and projects with your daily time and task management system is hard. I hope this helps. It's the best I have come up with so far. 

Everyone should agree that it is better to do the right thing slowly rather than doing the wrong thing fast, but how do we know if we are “digging in the right place” or not? The answer is Weekly Planning and daily focus on that plan. I have found that the best time for me to do this is the weekend before the upcoming week (except for Sunday night right before bed, which is a terrible idea if you're really busy), but any regularly scheduled time is probably OK.

All PFCS staff are obliged to come to our Weekly Staff Meeting with the following information:

  1. What you are doing during business hours for the following week
  2. What you have due (Deliverables) during the next week or in the near future
  3. How much time do you have available during the next week

How: Summary

Let's be clear: This is "a" system, not "THE" system. It is one way that works for some people. If it does not work for you, then this system should at least be some help in developing your own system that allows you to exercise dominion over your schedule, rather than being a victim to the million little pieces of our work lives that can enslave us. For PFCS, the measure of success is simple: Can you consistently show up to our Weekly Staff Meeting with a plan for the next week that includes a schedule of where you are going to be, a list of what you have due, and an estimate of your available time.

Definitions for Key Terms

  • Milestone: An event that marks the completion of a Deliverable, a Hold-Point on a schedule, or a flag in the Project Plan to highlight completed work; often used to ensure project progress. 10.
  • Deliverable: A measurable, tangible item produced during project execution. Some are external and subject to approval, but some are internal only.
  • Big Rocks: The most important things you have to accomplish. If you have not watched the Big Rocks Video by Franklin Covey, do so. It's awesome and 10-minutes very well spent.

To use this weekly planning system, first set aside time to plan the week ahead, print the Weekly Planning form, and either print a Weekly Calendar or use your normal calendar. Quickly review and summarize your (1.) Values, (2.) Mission and big-picture (3.) Goals. (4.) Compile and review your previous Weekly Plan, calculate the percentage of success for the last period, Project Plans and (5.) Master Task List (MTL), adding critical activities, Deliverables and Milestones to your Weekly Planning form as you go. Make sure all your (6.) "Hard Calendar" appointments are blocked-out on your Weekly Calendar and calculate the amount of (7.) "Discretionary Time" available for completing your critical Deliverable and Milestone activities. (8.) Estimate the duration of time required to complete each of the Deliverables and Milestones identified on the Weekly Planning form, and prioritize each, first by categorizing with an A, B or C, and then sequentially numbering within each category. (9.) "Soft Calendar" (apply) each of the activities required to accomplish the Deliverables and Milestones identified on the Weekly Planning form, to the Weekly Calendar. Finally, exercise discipline on a daily basis to in taking (10.) action in working toward accomplishing what is most important.

How: More Details

  1. Values: Same every week. Write Values as a weekly reminder.
  2. Mission: Same every week. Write Mission as a weekly reminder.
  3. Goals: Annual and Quarterly goals.
  4. Plans: Project Plans and Goals / Plans with many Actions. Review the previous week's Weekly Plan. Calculate your percentage of successes based on completion of Milestones / Deliverables. Forward incomplete items to the Master Task List (MTL) for re-prioritization. As an example, you should have a Project Plan for every PFCS project under management. In addition, you might have a plan to get a certification or degree that has many incremental steps. You might have a Fitness Plan that has many steps. Any multi-step project that is worth doing is worth having a written plan. In order to make sure you decide well which tasks you will get accomplished, you need to collect all of your plans and review them from "above the game". Get perspective on where you can and should spend your valuable time.
  5. Master Task List (MTL): Keep a separate list of all the tasks you need to complete. This is not the same as your Daily Tasks or the Weekly Plan.
  6. Hard Calendar: Hard Calendar items are those which are set and would be considered unacceptable to miss. For us, hard calendar items are the Weekly Staff Meeting, a Quarterly Review, Inspections, Meetings, Testimony, etc...
  7. Discretionary Time: Calculate the number of work hours you have available, subtracting Hard Calendar items. For example, if Monday of next week is a holiday (40-8=32), you have an inspection all day Tuesday (32-8=24), a half-day meeting on Wednesday (24-4=20) and the Weekly Staff Meeting (20-1=19), you only have 19 hours of discretionary time.
  8. Milestones: Milestones, Deliverables or "Big Rocks" as Stephen Covey says: Add them to the Weekly Planning sheet. Include an estimate of how much time this task will take. Once you have all of the items you think you might be able to accomplish in the week, during your discretionary time, prioritize them; first with letters A, B or C. A is critical and you should not do any thing else until this is complete. B is a really important milestone or deliverable and should be completed but the world would not stop spinning if you did not. C would be really great to do, but not until all of the A and B items are complete.
  9. Soft Calendar: Put blocks of time (in pencil) on the Weekly Calendar to complete the activities from your Weekly Plan list of Milestones / Deliverables / Big Rocks.
  10. Action: Exercise the discipline to return often, at least once daily, to the Weekly Plan. Stay focused on the tasks as you prioritized them.

Weekly Planning Forms

Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks & Planning Steps

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Weekly Calendar View & Daily Tasks

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Sample Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks

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Weekly Calendar View

These tools operate as both sides of a valuable coin. The Weekly Planning Form is a simple task list with columns for prioritizing Milestones or Deliverables and a place to estimate the time needed to accomplish the desired end. The Weekly Calendar View is for blocking out time so that we avoid the dreaded “over promise and under deliver” syndrome that so many of us suffer from today. The Weekly Calendar View is best for Weekly Planning but if you have a planner with a calendar, then respect the fundamental planning rule of “use only one calendar.”

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Practice

The 10 Weekly Planning Steps

These steps are repeated weekly and daily.

  1. Values
  2. Mission
  3. Goals
  4. Plans
  5. Master Task List (MTL)
  6. Hard Calendar
  7. Discretionary Time
  8. Milestones
  9. Soft Calendar
  10. Action

How: Deeper Thoughts on the Planning Steps

Remember: The Weekly Planning process is iterative.

1. Values

  • If you have been through the Franklin Covey Focus course, then this will be easy; just review your list of personal values.
  • Everyone will come face-to-face with difficult situations. Sometimes we have to tell people no. Values help us to make hard decisions. Making explicit our values makes the decision making a little easier. We all have values that we will not violate for money or career advancement. What are yours? The funny thing is, we earn more respect in the end for making hard decisions that are consistent with our values.
  • Consider reviewing PFCS Core Values.

2. Mission

  • Why are you here (both in general and here at PFCS)? This is the question that is answered with your mission and purpose.
  • If you have been through the Franklin Covey Focus (or similar) course, then this will be easy; just review your Personal Mission.
  • Naturally, almost every person and business will have to spend some significant amount of time doing the work that “pays the bills.” For some, this is directly “on-mission” but for most, we have to squeeze in the work of moving closer to the fulfillment of our mission. When we have a written mission, we can look at our Weekly Plan and decide if we are dedicating enough time to the fulfilling our mission. We are more apt to take the many steps in our 1,000 mile journey toward fulfillment of our mission if we revisit that mission every week.

3. Goals

  • If you have been through the Franklin Covey Focus (or similar) course, then this will be easy; just review your Personal Goals.
  • Some of your Professional Goals with PFCS have been identified already in your Job Description and KPIs: Project Planning and Management, shipment of Deliverables, Billable Hours, Training Milestones, etc… Keep this list handy and review it every week during your planning time.

4. Plans

  • For each Goal or PFCS Project you should have a Project Plan that identifies the Objective, Method, Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks, and Actions required to achieve it (see PFCS Project Planning for a step-by-step method).
  • Review and prioritize your Plans.
  • Add Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks to the PFCS Weekly Planning Form

5. Master Task List (MTL)

  • You will or should have a Master Task List (MTL) in your planner for things that you need to do which are not on a Project Plan.
  • Review and prioritize your MTL.
  • Add items from your MTL to the PFCS Weekly Planning Form.

6. Hard Calendar

  • Hard Calendar items are items blocked out on your calendar for things like meetings with clients or other activities with firm dates and times (also see Soft Calendar items below).
  • Review your Hard Calendar items and confirm them.
  • This includes standing meetings.
  • These items are time specific and relatively inflexible.
  • Include travel time in your calendar. 

7. Discretionary Time

  • Discretionary Time is working hours that are not consumed with Hard Calendar items.
  • Calculate Discretionary Time by adding up your working hours that are not consumed with Hard Calendar items.
  • This is time you have available to work on Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks.

8. Milestones

  • The milestones should come from the Deliverables section of your Project Plans, Life Plan, Annual Plan, Quarterly Plan, and from your Master Task List (MTL).
  • Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks are what you need to accomplish this week.
  • When you see house movers load a truck, they always put the big stuff in first (i.e Big Rocks) and then fill in the truck with the smaller items. If done in reverse, the big stuff simply won't fit very well, if at all. Don’t put the small stuff in first. That is how life and success works too.
    • A = Critical and Must Be Completed
    • B = Really Important
    • C = It Would Be Great
  • Within each category (ABC), assign a number corresponding to the chronological order things need to happen in.

9. Soft Calendar

  • Soft Calendar items are time you block out of Discretionary Time to work on Deliverables / Milestones / Big Rocks that you need to accomplish this week. This is in contrast to Hard Calendar items, discussed above.
  • If something critical comes up, it is easy to re-shuffle Soft Calendar items, as long as the deadline is not too close for that that Deliverable / Milestone / Big Rock.
  • These are items that are time-flexible; that is, they don't need to be done at the time set on the calendar.

10. Action

  • Exercise discipline in keeping to the plan.
  • Refer to and revisit the Weekly Plan and Daily Task List many times per day and throughout the week to help you stay focused.
  • If something comes up that makes you vary from plan, then change the plan.
  • Document what you spend your time on.
  • This is really hard.

Schedule Crashing

"Crashing is the technique to use when fast tracking has not saved enough time on the schedule. It is a technique in which resources are added to the project for the least cost possible. Cost and schedule tradeoffs are analyzed to determine how to obtain the greatest amount of compression for the least incremental cost."

So what if we plan our week, but we realize that we don't have enough Discretionary Time to accomplish what needs to get done? Do we just use "The Prayer Method"? I had a great mentor who used to say to me "Pete: Hope is not a strategy." My smart aleck retort was always that "hope" IS a strategy; it's just a terrible one! So our choices are limited if we realize we don't have enough Discretionary Time to accomplish what we need to get done:

  • We can decide to just lower our expectations;
  • we can work overtime;
  • we can renegotiate our way out of other "Hard Calendar" obligations to free up Discretionary Time; or
  • we might "add resources" (a project management term and strategy) by delegating some of the work to others. 

What ever you decide, neither The Hope Method or The Prayer Method are acceptable. 

Planning and Managing a Life 

Components of A Life Planning & Management System

  1. Life Plan: A document that memorializes your Values, Mission & Life's Goals
  2. Annual Plan
  3. Quarterly Plan (Optional for personal, MUST have for business) 
  4. Individual Project Plans with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assertive, Realistic, and Timed) Milestones
  5. Master Task List (MTL)
  6. Calendar
  7. Weekly Plan: Without this, you can get lost in the forest of daily planning. 
  8. Daily Task List: This is on our Weekly Planning Form, but if you don't use it, you'll need a permanent place that you look to often throughout your day to keep focused (or in my case, to constantly re-direct myself back to the plan). 
  9. Journal (Permanent record that's carried with you virtually everywhere you go)

How I Do This Now

This material was originally written and published as an internal company training back in 2007, or maybe even before. So of course there are changes in technology. Also, my role has been evolving from individual contributor, with a BUNCH of little tasks that needed to be accomplished, to the leader of a larger group. As the leader of a larger group, it's become more important that I accomplish a small number of critical things, compared to my role as an individual worker. 

Components of MY Life Planning & Management System

  1. Life Plan
    • I have a written Life Plan in Google Docs that gets updated every few years (It's 3 years old right now. 
    • I have done this many times throughout my life.
    • The more I plan and the more I revisit my plans the more successful I am. During the times in my life that I have not looked at or updated my Life Plan, I have been less successful. 
    • I highly recommend using Keith Ferrazzi's 6 Steps to Set Your Goals for Success.  
  2. Annual Plan
    • I have a Daily Meditation that I review often, although not daily. When I find myself off-track, reviewing this every day is a great way to get me focused.
    • I used to spend some time between Christmas and New Year's to review the previous year's plan and update the plan for the year to come. I am going to get back to doing this. 
  3. Quarterly Plan
    • I have sometimes done this for my personal planning, but I get too busy to update them every quarter. 
    • For business, we create Quarterly Plans for the Business, Marketing & Sales, and Information Technology, each with a list of the 3-9 Big Rocks from the previous quarter on a single PowerPoint slide and how we performed compared to those goals, then we list 3-9 SMART Big Rocks for the current quarter on a single PowerPoint slide, then each of the Big Rocks gets it's own individual presentation slide with sub-items, actions or milestones that will lead or contribute to accomplishing that objective. 
    • In 2018 we will have quarterly plans for each of the following: Business (over-all), Marketing, Finance, Operations Management, Technical Management, Information Technology. 
  4. Individual Project Plans with SMART Milestones
  5. Master Task List (MTL)
    • I am using SimpleNote (simplenote.com). See notes in Weekly Plan below. 
    • I am seriously considering going back to a paper journal 
  6. Calendar
    • I now use a shared Google Calendar. 
    • For many years I used a paper calendar, and if I were working alone and the calendar did not need to be shared, I would return to it.
    • I have gone back and forth from electronic to paper planning and back many times. I don't know that I will ever stop going back and forth. I think I might just be a person who needs something new from time to time.  
    • When I  am using a paper journal, I screen shot and print the weekly view of my Google Calendar and tape it into the paper journal on the page opposite my Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks page.
  7. Weekly Plan
    • Right this minute I am using SimpleNote (simplenote.com). It synchronizes with cloud so I can open it as a tab on my desktop or laptop, as well use it from any hand-held device (I use an iPhone). It's like a really slimmed-down version of Evernote. It's text only, and I like it that way. I have had a couple instances where I lost some data due to synchronization problems, but I think those qualified as "Operator Errors." The point is that it, like any other system, is not foolproof. 
    • My Weekly Plans and Daily Task Lists are in the same page or file in SimpleNote. 
    • This is not ideal for me, and I am seriously considering going back to a paper journal, because paper is more visual and my learning style is to write things out and look at them. 
    • When I was last using a paper journal, I would purchase various hard-bound journals with lined pages. I draw the Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks & Planning Steps on a full page and I screen shot and print the weekly view of my Google Calendar and tape it into the paper journal on the page opposite my Milestones/Deliverables/Big Rocks page. 
  8. Daily Task List
    • I am using SimpleNote (simplenote.com). See notes in Weekly Plan above. 
    • I am seriously considering going back to a paper journal.
  9. Journal
    • I am using SimpleNote (simplenote.com). See notes in Weekly Plan above.
    • Each month gets it's own Journal page/file/document in SimpleNote. 
    • I number each note I take throughout each day. The second note I take on the 15th day of each month would be numbered "15 b." So if I write down thoughts about a new blog post, and I want to make a note in my MTL for easy reference I would write "Blog Notes: See 2017-10-15 b." And I would know to go to the second journal note from 10/15/2017. 
    • I am seriously considering going back to a paper journal.

Awesome Resources

This is in no particular order (which is SO unlike me!). 

  1. Weekly Planning and Weekly Calendar Forms (Blank)
  2. Getting Things Done from Ivy Lee via Mary Kay
  3. Dr. Stephen Covey's Big Rocks Video. (FranklinCovey keeps having this video removed so if the link does not work just search YouTube)
  4. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. Drucker is the Godfather of management theory, and this book is his seminal work. If you're a manager or trying to be more effective as an individual, and you have not ready it, then you're not trying hard enough. Here is an interesting 7-minute summary video.
  5. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey
  6. The Ten Natural Laws of Time and Life Management by Smith
  7. First Things First by Covey
  8. What Matters Most by Smith
  9. Time Management from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule -- and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern
  10. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  11. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller 
  12. Keith Ferrazzi's 6 Steps to Set Your Goals for Success
  13. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses: If you're a business owner, I HIGHLY recommend this program. I have done lots of executive education and it's the best so far; and it's FREE! The conclusion of the 4-month program is that you compose a business plan focused on growth that they call your "Growth Plan."
  14. One-Page Personal Plan (OPPP) from Scaling Up and Verne Harnish. 
  15. To Do Doing Done by G. Lynne Snead and Joyce Wycoff. I love this book and think it's awesome. 

How To Write by Meyer & Meyer

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I have been inspired significantly by this book called How To Write by Meyer & Meyer. It’s excellent and the paperback can be purchased for as little as $1.99 or downloaded to your Kindle for $5.49 on Amazon. I assure you: This is the very best ROI on an investment in yourself in human history. Buy the book. Read the book. Do what the book says to do.

The Meyer & Meyer Writing Process

1.0 Preparation & Organization

1.1 Choose your format

1.2 Identify your points

1.3 Collect data regarding the points

2.0 First Draft

2.1 Compose your theme (Introduction)

2.2 Draft your outline (from the points identified in 1.2)

2.3 Write first draft

3.0 Polishing (make multiple passes to improve the previous draft)

3.1 Be accurate

3.2 Be precise

3.3 Be consistent

3.4 Be brief

3.5 Be Fair

3.6 Keep a steady depth

3.7 Keep a steady tone

3.8 Use an established layout (corporate look & feel)

3.9 Use good grammar

Here is My Book Summary

Writing is critical. Writing is a process. The writing process is always the same 3 steps (organize, draft, polish). Don’t try to do step 2 until you have completed step 1. Some of the steps in writing involve not writing. Figuring out the theme (in a few short sentences) is a critical step and might require some time. Writing takes tenacity. We are entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. Be clear and concise and cut unnecessary stuff. Use an established layout. Read the work out loud to check for grammar. If there is time, always review the work one more time. Communicating your intended meaning to the reader is the most important thing.

Recommendation

Buy this book. Read it. Use this process as a checklist when you write. Literally: Print out the list and tape it to the wall at your desk. 

Contracting 101

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Explain It Simply

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." - Albert Einstein

The building industry is terrible at explaining how it does what it does. And this is coming from a guy who has a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management! It’s so bad that I was once working on a construction litigation matter and needed the most basic of organizational charts to explain to a jury the most common roles, relationships, and responsibilities of the various parties involved in a typical construction project; but there was none to be found. I would have loved to have had a reliable source like American Institute of Constructors, The Construction Specifications Institute, the American Institute of Architects, or some similar organization to rely on, to tell my story to the jury. I searched and searched and there was just nothing simple enough to use for a group of people with no construction experience. Everything was overly complex, attempting to account for every possibility. So I locked myself in my office alone one weekend with a pile of flip-chart paper and made iteration after iteration, and finally I nailed it. That was more than a decade ago. Since that time almost every trial or arbitration I have testified in has included some version of this org chart to explain the roles of the parties to one another and to the physical work.

The Contracting 101 Framework

  1. An Owner wants a project, similar to anyone who wants to buy something, such as a car, but with a construction project the product being purchased is not something that is already built.
  2. The Owner goes to an Architect (or in some cases a non-architect designer) to translate his/her desires into a set of documents. This process is intended to “define” what the Owner wants to buy (often from a General Contractor).
  3. The Architect works with Specialty (Sub) Designers such as structural engineers, mechanical engineers and interior designers to further detail the Plans and Specifications (also referred to as Construction Documents) because buildings are so complex that many specialized professionals are required.
  4. The Plans and Specifications are sent to qualified and interested General Contractors, who submit proposals to the Owner. Ultimately the Owner and a General Contractor compose an Agreement (or Contract).
  5. An Agreement for construction is simply a promise by the Contractor to deliver what is described in the Plans, Specifications, and other contract documents, and a promise by the Owner to pay for it.
  6. The Agreement refers to the Plans & Specifications and should include clear definition of the Scope, Budget, and Schedule, including at Scope of Work document that includes: Inclusions and Exclusions, Allowances, a provision for handling Change Orders. The Agreement should include a Schedule of Values and Payment Milestones (for management of the Budget). And finally, the Agreement should include a Progress Schedule. 
  7. GCs usually hire specialty trade contractors, commonly referred to as Subcontractors when they are working for a prime (or general) contractor, who are specialists in their respective trades, to help deliver what has been promised in the Agreement. This is, again, because buildings are so complex that many specialized professionals are required.
  8. There is nothing in this scheme that prohibits the Owner from directly hiring Specialty/Trade Contractors (that are called Subcontractors if they are working for a General Contractor) for work that is not in the Scope of Work in the Agreement with the GC. In this situation they are Prime Trade Contractors.
  9. Most of the Subcontractors, and Prime Trade Contractors, have their own suppliers and subcontractors: these are called Sub-Subcontractors. (See diagram below)
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Using the Contracting 101 Framework

So the point of the Contracting 101 Framework is to foster understanding of the project at hand. Begin by printing the diagrams above and writing the names of the project players over the generic descriptions. Virtually every project will be different than the Contracting 101 Framework, so you might have to compose multiple iterations, moving the boxes around to fit the peculiarities of your project. I often do this in my office where we have multiple whiteboards and I move back and forth from one to the next until I get my organizational chart to accurately reflect the complexity of the roles and relationships of the current situation. The "compare and contrast," from the simple "Contracting 101 Framework," to the complexity of the real world, is often incredibly instructive. 

Sample Project: Custom Single Family Residence

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This project was a train wreck. 

The Architecture firm and the General Contracting firm were both owned by the same person, but the Owner did not know that (which is unethical and illegal without following strict consent laws). By the time the Owner tried to get control of the project, the two firms had taken $3.5 million dollars to turn a $2.9 million home (initial purchase cost) into a lumber pile. The contract called for distinct design phases but the design was never finished, and it called for the Architect to serve as the Construction Administrator (Owner Representative), but that was a sham since the entities are so closely related and have employees who work for both businesses. The construction work, based on an incomplete design, was executed negligently at inflated prices. The construction work onsite should have been halted long before it was. When the Owners finally asked for a legitimate halt to the construction work, to sort our a plan to go forward, both entities terminated the agreements (using the same lawyer) and engaged in a scorched-earth litigation policy that ensured the maximum economic damage possible from this terrible situation.

Sample Project: Construction Site Accident

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Above is a slide from a 2010 trial presentation. This case came precariously close to trial. 

The project was a four story 445-unit apartment community. The property Owner was also the developer. The General Contractor entered into a cost-plus prime contract with Owner. The General Contractor entered into an agreement with the Plastering Contractor for $6.5 million. When asked by the General Contractor to perform scaffolding work outside their scope, the Plastering Contractor contracted with a specialty Scaffolding Contractor to furnish a system to access the interior walls of the air shafts at the project. So the key parties included the Owner, General Contractor, Subcontractor (plaster), Sub-Subcontractor (scaffolding), and all of their respective staff. 

The injured individual was the crew lead for the Sub-Subcontractor. That day he was part of a three-man crew setting up scaffolding in an air shaft of one of the buildings. The crew was removing the temporary wood flooring previously installed by another subcontractor and the injured employee fell approximately 35 feet to the concrete floor below. 

Sample Project: Claim for Nonpayment / Counter Claims for Defects & Delays

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This project was the complete renovation of a commercial retail center. The Owner entered into a direct contract with our client, a Paving Company, as well as many other contracts with prime and trade contractors. The Owner had an independent contractor, who was a formerly licensed general contractor, on-site as a supervisor. Our client's initial complaint and mechanics lien were filed to collect $282,400 in work performed. The Owner cross-complained that the work was not completed in the 30-day agreed time limit, that some items were not completed ever, that some work was performed that was outside the contract scope of work (all of which had very sensible explanations).

The primary argument the Owner / Developer was trying to make was that they were NOT playing the role traditionally played by a general contractor or construction manager (which was RIDICULOUS). The Contracting 101 / Roles & Responsibilities Analysis PFCS performed in this matter, particularly the organizational chart above, made their argument seem silly (because it was). 

Sample Project: Condominium Conversion

This project arose from construction defect allegations related to the conversion of a 32 unit apartment complex originally built in 1975 into condominiums. The Developer/Converter purchased the 32 unit apartment complex and almost immediately began the conversion to a condominium complex utilizing a Specialty General Contractor (our client) and many other other contractors. Plaintiff alleged that the Specialty General Contractor's scope included defective work. Our client was a general contractor who, according to invoices, performed property maintenance, repair and improvement work related to the conversion including demolition, work in garages, on balconies, stucco, fences/gates, finish carpentry, doors, and electrical totalling $186,165.00.

One of the key allegations was that our client was THE General Contractor, which was not the case. You will see from reading two and a half pages from the 56 page report that our Roles & Responsibilities analysis made clear that the Owner/Developer was in the drivers seat for all important decisions on this project. 

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A Sensible List

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The rumors are true. I am a crazy person. Anyone who knows our company knows that we are REALLY into training. And this training module, called "A Sensible List," has been included in more of our training programs than any other. BY FAR! And the reason is (as Charles Kettering said): "A problem well stated is a problem half-solved." And our job, above all else, is to solve problems. 

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So yes; I am a crazy person. Any time someone brings me a collection of data that is not first organized into A Sensible List (or some sensible order), it makes me feel sad. So sad that people who won't stop bringing me "project piles" rather than sensible project files, are invited to work somewhere else, where they might better thrive. 

But people protest: "'Sensible' is SO subjective!" 

No it's not.

Organizing our world "sensibly" has been obvious since the dawn of civilization, and ultimately research psychologists figured out why. When you get bored or need a sleep aid, read "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two." This is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. It was published in 1956 and argues that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. This is why SO many things are arranged in groups of 5-9. It's not a miracle. It's just how humans think. 

So over time the folks who manage big, complex projects made some rules about making lists that conform with the way the human mind works, and they called their Sensible List a "Work Breakdown Structure." I highly recommend you study the subject, even further than I will go in this post. 

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As it says on the slide above, I highly recommend you Google (search) each of these Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) terms. Until then, take my word for the following: 

  1. A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a decomposition of a project into smaller components.

  2. 100% Rule: This means your list needs to add up to 100% of whatever it's summarizing. Not 99%. Not 101%.

  3. The magical number seven, plus or minus two: In general, each level of the WBS should be no more than 9 items long. In construction cost estimating, this rule gets broken. It's OK in this circumstance because most of the audience for construction cost estimates are people who deal with them often and can conceptualize these longer lists due to this familiarity. But any time we can't get the list on a single sheet of paper, we should usually "chunk" it down to size. At PFCS we usually arrange our WBSs using numbers at Level 1 (L1) and capital letters (A, B, C...) at Level 2 (L2). That way, if you get past Z at L2, you know you're in trouble and should consider re-thinking your list. 

  4. Mutually Exclusive Elements: In addition to the 100% rule, it's important that there is no overlap in scope definition between different elements of a work breakdown structure because this ambiguity could result in duplicated work. But sometimes an element of your list could fall naturally in two locations on the WBS, so from time to time we have a "zero value" item that refers to another element, just so everyone is clear. An example of this might be if we decided to sort documents first by "Who," then chronologically, where the name of the person or organization (Who) = L1 and the individual documents, that are listed in order by date, are each a L2 item (a common organizational scheme). If a document in this collection was authored by two parties we might list that document in both places (under both names), but refer from one of those items to the other so that we don't need to duplicate the document. 

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So the only thing I don't like about the diagram above is that they call the entire bike "WBS Level 1". Bit it's NOT broken down yet! So I call their "WBS Level 2," a Level-1 WBS because it's the first level of breakdown. It's a sensible 100% list. That is: A Sensible List. 

The PFCS Standard WBS numbering-lettering scheme for this example would be: 

1. Frame Set

A. Frame

B. Handlebar

C. Fork

D. Seat

2. Crank Set

A... 

The numbering scheme used in the slide above is appropriate for highly technical documents, like codes and standards. But our work at PFCS needs to be consumed and understood by smart but NOT technical people. Literally, our job is to help our clients make smart, informed decisions about buildings and property, and we know that if they don't understand our work, then we have not served them well. My experience is that some people get confused when you refer to section 1403.2.2.4. So we prefer an approach that is as simple as possible (but no simpler), conforming with the way humans best understand things. 

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If you've studied project management then you know "The Golden Triangle" includes the project "Scope, Budget, and Schedule." These are the big three aspects of getting a complex project planned and done.

In addition, if we layout our WBS just right, then we can manage all three aspects in lock-step, as depicted (in a simplified way) below. 

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“No plan can be considered complete - or satisfactory - until it produces measurable outcomes and incorporates mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results.” - Judith Rodin

That is my favorite management quote (well... I have lots of favorite quotes :). It's so true! Most people's plans are more "hopes" than plans. I have worked on many projects in litigation, where the owners had no idea how far over budget they were until they had already paid MORE than 100% of the original contract price, because the plan did not "incorporates mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results." I had a mentor who used to say to me "Pete: Hope is not a strategy." I would always retort: Yes it is! It's just a terrible one!! I recommend you NOT use hope as a strategy in your planning. 

As you can see from the slide above, with the right WBS (Sensible List) we can summarize the scope, budget and schedule, then we can compare actual performance compared to the plan throughout the life of the project, so that we can "incorporate mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results." This is the promise of professional project management. And the foundation of project management is a well designed WBS. And a well designed WBS is the most Sensible List. 

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In a construction project it's not only the scope, budget, and schedule that should be connected using A Sensible List (WBS). Most construction documents will either be organized or filed using the Sensible List (WBS). Often this is simply by Who, then When; that is, by party (name) and then chronologically (by date). That would be a 2-Level WBS (who-when). Other schemes go another level deep. 

An example 3-Level WBS for Construction Document Organization: 

1. Name 1

A. Contract Documents

1. YEAR-MO-DY Document 1

2. YEAR-MO-DY Document 2

3. YEAR-MO-DY Document 3 

B. RFIs and Change Orders

C. All Other

D. Correspondence

1. YEAR-MO-DY Document 1

2. YEAR-MO-DY Document 2

2. Name 2

By the way: If we adhere to this scheme electronically, with individual electronic files organized with the date first and the format of the date YEAR-MO-DY, or 2017-10-20 for today's date, then we always know the most current version of any electronic file is the one at the bottom. Any other scheme adds complexity, which adds the likelihood of error. Even if the file has lots of different files, you can easily scan from the bottom to find the most recent version of a file (Ex. 2017-10-20 Change Order 17). So I highly recommend this scheme. 

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And the same goes for construction claim and litigation matters: A Sensible List often makes the difference between order and chaos. 

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I said above that people protest that "'Sensible' is SO subjective!" And that I totally disagree. This is not to say there is only one way to be "sensible." There are lots of ways to be sensible... And even more ways to be NOT sensible. So suffice it to say: Use one of the sensible ways. Think about how your Sensible List might get used before you begin, and work backward. Planning backward from a successful end is the essence of excellent planning. 

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When PFCS is making lists of building elements, we use Uniformat, unless there is a compelling reason to use some other scheme *. "UniFormat is a standard for classifying building specifications, cost estimating, and cost analysis in the U.S. and Canada. The elements are major components common to most buildings. The system can be used to provide consistency in the economic evaluation of building projects. It was developed through an industry and government consensus and has been widely accepted as an ASTM standard."

Lots of construction professionals use CSI Masterformat because most specifications manuals from architects are often written using this scheme, but since PFCS does so much building performance analysis, and we store building data (forever, for free) Uniformat is a better standard for us. 

* In claims and litigation, we need to be very careful about making our Sensible List(s) because so much of the work is about comparing and contrasting. If we are on the plaintiff side, then all the other parties will likely use our list to respond to our claims. When we are on the defense side, and someone else has created a reasonably sensible list, then it's usually better to adopt their's, rather than re-inventing the wheel. Unfortunately, the work of others is sometimes so poor that we have to create our own organizational scheme. But we only do this as a last resort. 

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Unifromat's Level-1 structure is a simple, Sensible List that categorizes all aspects of any building project, using capitol letters at Level 1 (because there are WAY more than 26 Level 2 options, and they wisely switch from letters to numbers when going from L1 to L2): 

A. Substructure

B. Superstructure

C. Interiors

D. Services

E. Equipment & Furnishings

F. Special Construction & Demolition

G. Building Site work

H. Other (This is added by PFCS because lots of our projects are in litigation and the issues don't always fit into Uniformat's building element codes. 

The actual building elements nest comfortably at Level 2 under the respective L1 categories. 

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In lots of what we do, we explain things by "working from large to small." I have explained this hundreds of times by asking people if they ever used Google Earth, where you start with an image of the entire Earth. You type in your address and the globe turns to orient toward your hemisphere, then it starts moving in toward your continent, then the your country, then your state, county, city, neighborhood, and ultimately your rooftop. And in going from large to small way we have been oriented perfectly to where in the world we are. First explain the forest we are in, then talk about trees. 

So buildings are, for the sake of consistency in naming, composed of "Elements" like foundations, walls and roofs. A "masonry wall" is a particular type of building element (at Level 2 in Uniformat). The bricks and mortar are "Components" of that building element, that would be at Level 3 or deeper. 

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This project was a Property Condition Assessment for twin high-rise condominiums, so virtually all of the building elements were addressed in our report. 

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This project was a construction defect litigation matter with discrete problems and repairs for all of those issues. 

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Even our Core Values are laid out in a 2-Level Work Breakdown structure! 

And from there, so, so many of the things we do have to be arranged in a sensible list: 

Contractor Pre-qualification Checklist

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Introduction

Background checks are necessary. There is a reason you are screened before buying a car, a gun, or getting hired for a prestigious new job. Pre-qualifying contractors and subcontractors is one of the most important steps in reducing risk associated with construction projects. A system needs to be put in place along the lines of what is expected of a contractor in order to make sure they can handle the work you want them to do.

At PFCS we have found that pre-qualifying contractors is an important step in our own unique system for hiring. In a blog post called "Avoid Bad Contractors: Basic Due Diligence in Hiring," Pete Fowler outlined 17 crucial steps in order to hire a good contractor. Pre-qualification falls on number 8. It is such an important step that it has seven sub-steps for ensuring the pre-qualification process is done thoroughly.

The following is a checklist compiled by FIRST, VERIFY that details the important steps in pre-qualifying a contractor.

The Checklist

Business

  • Business Attributes
  • Corporate Officers and/or Shareholders/Partners/Proprietor
  • Parent, Affiliate, and/or Subsidiary Companies
  • Employees
  • Operations
  • Equipment
  • Litigation/Bankruptcy/Judgments

Insurance

  • Contact for Insurance Information
  • Insurance Information
  • Surety Relations

Financial

  • Job History
  • Largest Contracts
  • Capacity
  • Anticipated Annual Volume

References

  • Banking Relations
  • List three (3) major suppliers
  • List three (3) General Contractors for whom you have worked in the last three (3) years

Bidding Interests

  • Add Bidding Interests

Safety Statistics

  • Experience Modification Rating
  • Workers Compensation
  • OSHA Recordkeeping
  • Safety Performance History
  • Regulatory

Safety Programs & Procedures

  • Written Safety and Health Program
  • Written Safety Program Administrative Procedures
  • Site-Specific Safety Plan
  • Policies
  • Substance Abuse Policy
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Management
  • Utilize Services
  • Medical
  • Benefits
  • Accident Investigation Procedure
  • Safety Inspections
  • PPE, Equipment Inspections, Audits
  • Meetings
  • Subcontractors
  • Safety Training/Orientation
  • Training Records
  • Safety Orientation Program for Newly Hired or Promoted Foremen/Supervisors
  • OSHA Construction Safety Courses
  • Craft Training
  • Comprehension

Supporting Documents

  • Certificate of Insurance
  • OSHA 300 log
  • NCCI Letter (EMR)
  • Contractor General Conditions Agreement
  • Other Desired Documents  

We've Moved!

Introduction

For the past 15 years, Pete Fowler Construction Services' San Clemente office has been located in a small business park on Calle Negocio. We've been thinking about moving spaces for years, and the time has finally come.

With the recent expansion of the marketing team and purchase of Marc C. Viau & Associates, our little office was getting a bit crammed. Last time Pete was in, we had to set up a make-shift desk in the corner (see photo). So began our hunt for the perfect office space.

After searching high and low, we are eager to announce that on Monday (8/28), we will be moving to an office space a whopping 0.2 miles down the road from the current location to 905 Calle Amanecer, San Clemente, CA.

The outside of our new San Clemente office building!

The outside of our new San Clemente office building!

While we're sad to leave the space PFCS has called "home" for more than a decade... We aren't really all that torn up about it. How could we be?! Our new office is beautiful and has room for us all.

In the past week, we've had movers and painters come through to help make the space feel like a true PFCS workplace. On Friday, our San Clemente employees will pack up their desks and return to the new office on Monday morning. How exciting!

 

The foyer in our new building

The foyer in our new building

Photo Update - 9/6/2017

We've been in our new office for a little over a week now and we are in love. Here are some photos of the PFCS team enjoying the work space:

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Now that's what we call a conference room!

Now that's what we call a conference room!

Clean, new workspaces are exciting

Clean, new workspaces are exciting

Mike V. and Orchid getting a feel for Mike's new office

Mike V. and Orchid getting a feel for Mike's new office

Pete in his new space

Pete in his new space

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Farewell old office, you will not be missed!

Farewell old office, you will not be missed!

Additional Information

New Address: 905 Calle Amanecer San Clemente, California 92673

Article of the Week: "Turning Negative Thinkers Into Positive Ones"

Introduction

In a recent article from The New York Times, Personal Health columnist, Jane Brody, explores the advantages of positive thinking – even if only for a few moments a day.

Summary

Barbara Fredrickson is a psychologist at the University of North Carolina. She has done extensive research on fostering positive emotions and came up with a theory called "micro-moments of positivity." These micro-moments refer to events from everyday life. Fredrickson's research shows that people who are able to generate positive thoughts and feelings towards everyday tasks are more likely to succeed than those who do not.

Negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions are normal phenomenon of life. However, Fredrickson's research proves that "chronically viewing the glass as half-empty is detrimental both mentally and physically and inhibits one’s ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable stresses." The amygdala is the part of the brain which processes negative emotions. Another researcher and neuroscientist, Dr. Richard J. Davidson found that people who recover slowly from negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, or threat are more likely to develop health problems.

Both Dr. Fredrickson and Dr. Davidson found that practicing mindful meditation with a focus on kindness and compassion generate changes in the brain that increase positive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Aside from mindful meditation, Dr. Fredrickson and other professionals recommend trying a few of the following things to promote a more positive mind:

  • Do good things for people around you - even if it's as small as opening the door for someone!
  • Appreciate the world around you. It's the little things that make life great. Take a detour to watch the sunset or admire the trees swaying in the wind.
  • Develop and bolster relationships. Surrounding yourself with friends and family increases self-esteem.
  • Establish goals that can be accomplished. Being un-realistic about goals can be a downer when they don't come to fruition. Aim high, but keep yourself grounded.
  • Learn something new. Again, be realistic! Don't frustrate yourself by trying something you're going to fail at - ease into it. The more you learn, the more you want to learn.
  • Choose to accept yourself, flaws and all. Narrow in on your positive attributes. The rest are pesky details.
  • Practice resilience. Use your negative encounters as learning experience for how to better handle your emotions in the future: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
  • Practice mindfulness. "Let go of things you can’t control and focus on the here-and-now. Consider taking a course in insight meditation.

Why We Care

Here at PFCS, we strive to keep a positive environment. To maintain an upbeat atmosphere, it is important that each of us exercise a positive attitude. The more positive feelings and emotions harvested in the workplace, the more productive we can be! The list above is a nice, concise summary of best practices we can use both in our work and in our personal lives. 

Article of the Week: "For Want of a Comma, We Have This Case"

Introduction

Earlier this month, the FindLaw blog posted an article highlighting the importance of grammar and editing, especially in the legal field.

Summary

This article discusses the state of Maine's case of O'Connor v. Oakhurt Dairy. In this case, dairy delivery drivers were fighting their employers for overtime pay. However, Maine's law requiring employers to pay workers time and a half after 40 hours a week exempts a variety of jobs in the food production industry.

The law excludes "canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution." This case was brought to court to settle the dispute over a misinterpretation due to the lack of an oxford comma. The dairy drivers argued that the grammatical format of the law required they be paid overtime, while the Oakhurt Dairy strongly disagreed.

Both parties referred to the Cannons of Construction in their defense, but there was not enough evidence to fully support either side. In the end, the courts settled in favor of the drivers because of the unclear interpretation of the law.

Why We Care

"Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Albert Einstein

Clarity of written communication is critical. Construction is not theoretically difficult to understand; it's not much more than sticks and stones stacked neatly. If we, as contractors, can't communicate our message clearly to someone who does not have much background in construction, it is a problem with the communicator (us), not the communicatee.

Hollywood U2 at The Canyon - 3/18/2017

Introduction

On Friday, March 18th, PFCS and friends gathered at The Canyon in Agoura Hills for the World's Greatest U2 Cover Band, Hollywood U2.

Here are some highlights from the night:

The Canyon is a spacious, yet intimate venue. We heard one of the original players from U2 was in the audience with us!

The Canyon is a spacious, yet intimate venue. We heard one of the original players from U2 was in the audience with us!

Hollywood Bono totally tore up the stage! Did you know he's preformed alongside the real Bono?

Hollywood Bono totally tore up the stage! Did you know he's preformed alongside the real Bono?

So much fun with Pete Fowler and friends!

So much fun with Pete Fowler and friends!

Making Drive Time Productive: Getting Your iPhone to Speak to You

Introduction

Are you getting tired of listening to the same silly pop songs on the radio while you're stuck in traffic on your way to and from work? So were we! Ever since one of our employees discovered the "Speak Screen" feature on the iPhone, sitting in traffic has never been the same.

To make the best of time spent commuting (and to keep yourself from having to look down at your phone while driving!), have your iPhone read out loud to you. By enabling the setting called "Speak Screen," your phone will read the words on your device out loud.

Speak Screen

Follow these step-by-step instructions to enable your iPhone to read aloud to you:


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Step one:

Open the Settings application on your iPhone. It looks like the image on the right.


 

 

 

Step Two:

Under Settings, click General, located at the bottom of the page.

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Step Three:

Under General, click Accessibility, located towards the bottom of the page.

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Step Four:

In the Accessibility folder, click on Speech. It is located in the middle of the page.

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Step Five:

Finally, to get your iPhone to read to you, turn on Speak Screen. All of the settings within the Speech folder will help to adjust the speed and tone of voice your phone will use to speak aloud.

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Final Step

Last, but not least, close out of Settings and navigate to a page with text (ex: a web article, your text messages, etc.). Drag three fingers from the top of your screen and your iPhone will begin to read to you.


Other Applications for the Car

Audible

Audible is an Amazon application that allows you to download and listen to audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio editions of newspapers and magazines. To use Audible, make sure you have an active Amazon account. Then, simply download the Audible application to your phone or computer and browse the shop – the first 30 days are FREE!

Pocket (the iPhone App, not your pants)

Pocket is an application that our president, Pete Fowler, swears by. This app was originally intended for desktop computers and went by the name "Read It Later." Once you have downloaded Pocket, it allows you to search for articles across the internet that interest you. The best part is that you can save the articles to read at a later time (hence, Read It Later...) or as we prefer – to listen to later!

Pocket has features to adjust the size of the text for easy reading, but more importantly, it can play the articles aloud for you.

Why We Care

Using your phone and driving is dangerous. Using Speak Screen or applications like Audible or Pocket keep you entertained while your eyes remain on the road. Next time you're in the car and need something to listen to, sign in to PFCS Client Access and tune in to one of our past webinars!

Bill Gates' Favorite Books of 2016

Article of the Week

He's done it again! In a December 2016 posting of Gatesnotes: The Blog of Bill Gates, he personally summarized the six books that he considered the best he read during the year.

One Minute Summary

In the article "My Favorite Books of 2016," Gates claims that although there are more ways to learn today than ever before (ie. online), books are still his favorite way to obtain information about a new topic.

String Theory by David Foster Wallace is a collection of five essays on tennis - however, it is not important to play or watch the sport to find the book interesting. Gates claims, "The late author wielded a pen as skillfully as Roger Federer wields a tennis racket."

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is a memoir that reflects the trials and tribulations of building a successful business.

The Gene by Siddartha Mukherjee delves into the past, present and future of genome science.

Why We Care

Bill Gates is (A.) one of the richest and most successful men in the world and (B.) known to be a voracious reader. So, when he takes his valuable time to summarize the books he says are the best he read all year, everyone eager to expand their knowledge should sit up and listen. These books touch on "how things work," the physical world, and offer insight into the human condition. These are all things we are interested in.

Resources

Click here to see our post about Bill Gates' Favorite Books of 2015

Video

"National Safety Council 2016: OSHA's Top 10 Violations for 2016"

Article of the Week

As the year comes to an end, we tend to see a lot of "Top ___ of 2016" articles floating around. This week, we are taking a look at the preliminary list of OSHA's Top 10 Violations for 2016. The list consists of violations through September 30, 2016.

One Minute Summary

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1. Fall Protection - While the data shows that 39.9% of deaths in the construction industry are fall-related, this citation remains one of the most common violations year after year. In 2016, there were just under 7,000 violations.

2. Hazard Communications - This year, there were a total of 5,677 hazard communications violations. When two parties work together on a project, it is both parties' responsibilities to ensure worker safety. Violations included inadequate training, outdated data sheets and lack of programming to address hazard chemical exposure.

Scaffolding

Scaffolding

3. Scaffolding - With about 3,900 violations, fall protection plays a large role in scaffolding. The most common violations were improper assembly and insufficient access.

4. Respiratory Protection - OSHA found various instances where companies failed to provide medical evaluations of employees who wore respirators in situations with overexposure to contaminants and  instances where respirators were not property fit-tested. There were a total of 3,585 violations in 2016.

5. Lockout/Tagout - 3,400 citations were given for improper, inconsistent and nonexistent lockout/tagout training procedures.

Powered Industrial Trucks

Powered Industrial Trucks

6. Powered Industrial Trucks - There were about 2,900 instances where trucks were being operated in an unsafe manner, including being driven by uncertified workers.

7. Ladders - Citations were given when ladders were not being used according to design specifications. There were about 2,600 violations in 2016.

8. Machine Guarding - Machine guarding is hazardous and if machinery are not anchored/fixed, it can lead to amputation. There were almost 2,500 violations.

Electrical

Electrical

9. Electrical Wiring - Violations included unsafe substitutes for permanent wiring and dangerous use of extension cords.

10. Electrical, General Requirements - Improper installation of electric equipment was the most common electrical violation of 2016 with 1,700 citations.

Why We Care

PFCS is dedicated to provide an environment that is free of accidents and to ensure that every employee is provided safe and healthful working conditions free from recognized hazards.

Analyzing & Monetizing Construction Claims & Defects: Claim Analysis 101

Introduction

PFCS President, Pete Fowler, presented the first webinar of 2017 on January 12 at 10 a.m.

“Analyzing & Monetizing Construction Claims: Construction Analysis 101” is a free webinar that delves into the basics of what we do here at PFCS. This program covers a variety of subjects and could go by many titles:

  • Building Performance Analysis and Budgeting 101
  • Analyzing and Monetizing Construction Defects
  • How Building Owners and Managers Should Decide What Needs Fixin’... and More Important, What Doesn’t
  • Level 1 Analysis
  • Making Smart, Budgeting-Conscious Decisions About Construction

Pete Fowler has been a professional cost estimator for more than 20 years and through this webinar, he will follow up on one of our previous webinars about Building Performance Analysis by discussing how is related to the budgeting process.

Virtually all construction or property-related decisions should be made with costs in mind, but some people are afraid of math. We can help.

Whether you are a lawyer, insurance professional, property owner or manager, you need to be able to focus on the “vital few” issues and ignore the “trivial many.” That means knowing how much things cost; Not to the penny, but rather a reasonable approximation.

The best place to start when working to make smart economic decisions is on the big, expensive issues. You begin by chopping a project into logical parts and estimating the cost of those chunks so you can see both the big and small pictures. The earlier in the process you accomplish this, the better!

Learning Objectives

  • Why decision making about buildings needs to include performance analysis and cost analysis.
  • How to do a “Level 1” performance and cost analysis so you know the big picture early in the process.
  • Review case studies and real world examples of projects related to analysis and monetization of construction claims.

Program Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. A Sensible List
  3. Evaluating & Prioritizing
  4. Analyzing Construction Defects
  5. Budgeting Construction
  6. Roles & Responsibilities
  7. Conclusion

This program is approved for one hour of CLE for attorneys in California and Nevada, pending in Oregon, and pending for insurance adjusters registered with the California and Texas Departments of Insurance.

Finding the Best Social Media Managing Site for Small Businesses

Pete Fowler Construction Services is trying to improve our social media presence by incorporating the use of a social media management tool for the Marketing Team's convenience. As PFCS's Social Media Manager, I spent some time researching the best platform for the company to utilize.

It is important for the company to use a program that is both cost and time-effective and allows some flexibility and creativity with the content of the posts.

After scanning multiple articles, it became clear that Hootsuite is the highest ranked and most popular, overall. Hootsuite is preferred over similar programs because there is a feature that allows the user to interact with their news feeds directly inside of the application.

Throughout my research, I was keeping a close eye on Buffer because it had been recommended to PFCS by another company's Social Media Manager. However, I wasn't consistently seeing Buffer in the top three websites listed in articles, like I was with Hootsuite. The article "15 Tools Every Social Media Manager Should Use" listed Buffer at number six saying, "It's particularly useful for small businesses that don't have the time or resources to update their social media channels regularly, but would still like to maintain a social presence." Upon reading this article, I realized I needed to narrow my search and get a closer look at which site would be best for a small business like PFCS.

After limiting my search, I found that the top three social media management sites for small businesses were consistently Agorapulse, Sprout Social and Buffer. In the cases where Agorapulse and Sprout Social were favored, it is because the two sites allow feed browsing and interaction inside the application. On the other hand,  Buffer's simple intention is to build a social media queue and the user is required to open the specific social media platform to browse and interact with the news feed.

A screenshot of Buffer's Tweet Schedule feature

A screenshot of Buffer's Tweet Schedule feature

Following my research, I decided that Buffer is the best social media management site for PFCS because it allows freedom to customize posts and still set up a consistent queue on all relevant social media forms. I will start using Buffer to manage PFCS's social media and report back in a month!

End of Month Update

After messing around with Buffer and doing further research, I have chosen to accept defeat make the switch to Hootsuite.

Hootsuite is the #1 recommended social media management site for a reason. The "Professional" account package on Hootsuite offers more posts, more account access and better analytics for the same price as Buffer's "Awesome" account package. Sounds like a deal to me!

Berlin at The Coach House

On Friday, December 8th, 2016, PFCS and friends gathered at The Coach House in Orange County to see 80's Synth Electro-Pop band, Berlin.

Here are some highlights from the night:

The Coach House is an awesome, intimate venue with a great atmosphere. Awesome for a group gathering! Teri Nunn is still super talented.

The Coach House is an awesome, intimate venue with a great atmosphere. Awesome for a group gathering! Teri Nunn is still super talented.

Aurora Spine CEO and PFCS friend, Trent Northcutt, with Berlin's drummer, Chris Olivas, before the concert.

Aurora Spine CEO and PFCS friend, Trent Northcutt, with Berlin's drummer, Chris Olivas, before the concert.

The group enjoyed some food and drinks together during the show.

The group enjoyed some food and drinks together during the show.

The group got to meet and talk with Terri Nunn after the show for Trent's birthday. All smiles!

The group got to meet and talk with Terri Nunn after the show for Trent's birthday. All smiles!

Pete was lucky enough to spark up a conversation with Terri after the show!

Pete was lucky enough to spark up a conversation with Terri after the show!

Case Study: Slip & Fall Outside of a Nightclub

The Problem

A man was attending a comedy show at a shopping center in California. After the show ended, he stepped out onto the patio and slipped on a wet metal strip that was the transition between the wood and concrete walking surfaces of the patio, and suffered serious injuries. He alleged that several patrons had slipped and fallen on this metal strip before, also resulting in injuries, and that the Owners of the building had been made aware of this prior to his incident. He also alleged that the Owners and their Property Managers were negligent in their use and maintenance of the building, in that they knew the metal strip on the decking caused an unreasonable risk of harm and despite this knowledge, took no steps to repair, protect against harm, or give adequate warning of the condition.

The Solution

PFCS was hired by the Owners on a tight schedule with depositions coming within two months of retention, so we put our limited time to good use. We conducted a forensic inspection, documenting site conditions with photographs, field notes and diagrams; analyzed the available documents including plans, leases, incident reports, and deposition testimony from various parties; researched and analyzed applicable building codes and standards; and collected climate data for the day of the incident. Based on the totality of our analysis, we drew our conclusions and presented them at deposition:

  1. The pedestrian walkway was not a dangerous condition.
  2. The deck assembly complied with the applicable building code.
  3. The deck assembly was constructed of quality materials, in a workman-like manner, and remained in good condition after almost a decade in service.
  4. The metal transition between the wood and concrete walking surfaces was not a defective condition.
  5. Light rain was recorded on the afternoon and evening of the incident. Dry concrete and dry wood would absorb the precipitation immediately, within a few minutes. There were gaps within the dissimilar material which would facilitate drainage from the flat surface of the metal channel. Capillary action will cause water to run off the edges into the gap.
  6. There was no evidence that the Owners had been informed prior to this litigation that the metal transition between the wood and concrete walking surfaces was the cause of a fall leading to injury.
  7. There was no evidence that the Owners were negligent in their use or maintenance of the exterior walking surfaces generally, nor specifically related to the metal transition between wood and concrete walking surfaces.
  8. The exterior walkway was the location of regular public events with many people safely using the walking surface without incident, and the deck assembly was in service as is for nearly a decade without a similar incident related to the metal transition between the wood and concrete walking surfaces.
  9. The Owners had standard operating procedures in place to warn users of the walking surface that it was slippery when wet.

Ultimately, the case went to trial, and based on our testimony, the Owners received a verdict in their favor.

Case Study: Construction Cost Estimate for Water Damage in Condo

The Problem

This project concerned water-related damages to a unit in a low-rise condominium building in Encino, CA. One morning, a second-floor resident, the Plaintiff, heard noises from upstairs that sounded like someone was working on the plumbing system. That evening, the downstairs neighbor, informed the Plaintiff that water was coming through the ceiling and dripping down the chandelier in the lower unit. The Plaintiff then noticed water gushing from her own sink and spreading into the kitchen, dining and living rooms. The resident on the third floor (Defendant) in the apartment directly above the Plaintiff’s had hired a plumber to clear a clog in the pipes. The plumber used a device that forced highly pressurized water through the pipe which, in turn, caused the Plaintiff’s pipe to burst. After the incident, the Plaintiff hired an “Expert” who estimated the cost of repair for the damages at over $170,000.

The Solution

PFCS was hired by the Defendant to conduct a site inspection at the Plaintiff’s apartment and deliver our own cost-of-repair estimate for the damages observed. During our inspection, we learned that the Plaintiff’s Expert had considerably overestimated the cost of certain items, including cabinets, flooring and content storage. We delivered an inspection summary of the damages caused by the water event and a corresponding estimate totaling around $45,000. The case went to trial and due to our Expert witness testimony, the Plaintiff was only awarded about $46,000 for construction-related damages and another $14,000 for non-construction-related issues. The Plaintiff was awarded a total of $60,000; Over $100,000 less than what was originally proposed. The jury found that our estimate reflected what the Plaintiff had already been paid and would be a sufficient amount to address the damages.

Case Study: Plumbing Leaks in High-Rise Condo

The Problem

This project involved a mixed-use 12-story art building that was built in the early 2000's. The first four levels of the building are a combination of retail and parking, and the upper eight levels are residential units. Beginning in January 2008 and continuing for the next year and a half, leaks from burst pipes in the CPVC plumbing system were discovered in the fourth-floor garage, residential and commercial units. The Owner spent $575,000 repairing the damage, so the subcontractor that installed the CPVC plumbing system in the building was served a "notice of defect". The Owner then retained an Expert who recommended a full water distribution system replacement.

The Solution

PFCS was hired by the plumbing installation company, and applied our Building Performance Analysis (BPA) Process to the problem:

  1. Document & Information Management
  2. Meetings & Interviews with Key People
  3. Building Information Management
  4. Inspection
  5. Analysis
  6. Testing
  7. Estimate
  8. Report / Repair Recommendations

PFCS reviewed the original design documents, product installation manuals, product testing, and required code compliance. Conflicts between drawings, project manuals, product manufacturer literature and code were discovered and then resolved through numerous expert meetings. PFCS also attended testing by a 3rd-party forensics company, and surveyed and mapped out the building plumbing system, with isolated issues noted throughout. A favorable resolution was negotiated between the original subcontractor repair scope and the full system replacement as recommended by the Owner's Expert, with the value of the negotiated repair scope being less than 10% of the system replacement! PFCS was notified afterwards that, "The case has settled, in no small part because of your help."

Case Study: Nightclub Construction Audit

The Problem

A historic 1921 downtown Los Angeles building was converted into a 4-level, above and below-grade nightclub. The repairs and retrofitting of the above-grade structure, as well as the build-out of the nightclub, were paid for by the Tenant. A dispute arose between the Tenant and Owner related to the $3 million cost of the work claimed by the Tenant, who was in bankruptcy, for the retrofit/repair (Owner responsibility) versus the nightclub build-out (Tenant responsibility).

The Solution

PFCS was hired by the Owner to review the project documents and to prepare a report regarding the costs and expenses that could reasonably be attributed to the retrofit of the structure compared to the costs associated with the build-out of the club. PFCS carefully reviewed all of the documents subpoenaed from an accountancy firm, consisting mostly of checks and invoices related to the retrofit process and expenses incurred in updating and refurbishing the nightclub. Following this detailed review, PFCS clearly outlined the costs that were relevant to the nightclub build-out versus the costs associated with the building envelope and structural repairs. PFCS presented the financial analysis in a deposition, which ultimately resulted in a favorable settlement for the Owner.

 

Window & Door Installation

Introduction

On December 8, 2016 at 10 a.m., Alex Prokop presented a FREE webinar called "Window & Door Installation". Window & Door Installation introduces principles of design, construction, and installation of window and door components. Improper installation of windows and doors is one of the leading sources of building performance failures that lead to construction defect litigation.

We will begin by explaining the basics of modern window & door installation techniques, and how variation from these fundamental principles can lead to problems and defects. Next, we will discuss different types of windows and doors, factors that can complicate their installation, the basics of how materials react together, and the damage that these reactions can cause. Finally, we will review the most applicable codes and standards related to window and door installation, performance, testing and evaluation. 

This program is important for architects, attorneys, insurance adjusters, general contractors, trade contractors and building industry professionals because many factors and players must come together to properly execute durable window and door installations.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the basics of modern window & door installation techniques
  • Review of window & door types
  • Discussion of most commonly alleged construction defects
  • Discussion of the evolution of building codes
  • Review applicable industry and trade standards
  • Examples of how to analyze construction defects
  • Estimating costs for repairing defects
  • Allocating responsibility to applicable partners

Program Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Window Installation
  3. Common Window Defects
  4. Door Installation
  5. Common Door Defects
  6. Codes & Standards
  7. Conclusion

This program is approved for one hour of CLE for attorneys in California, Nevada and Oregon, and insurance adjusters registered with the California and Texas Departments of Insurance.