Job-cost reports are invaluable tools for keeping projects on schedule and on budget, and for improving remodeling processes. If a report shows that the project is starting to lose money, try these constructive responses.

Don't react. This is not about blame; it's about profitability and system-refinement. The job-cost report is an opportunity to learn, identify weaknesses, and do it better the next time.

Analyze the facts. Take the time to see what the report really says and how you got there. Are there mistakes? Where is the overage and why? Is the slippage the result of a system error, an estimating oversight, a production mistake?

Identify solutions. Don't just bag it; there's always a course of action. If the problem stems from an estimating error, help the estimator prevent it from happening again. If it's a site mistake, what can be done to avoid it next time?

Seek advice. Ask others to identify tasks that need to be done more efficiently and to share ideas for getting there. Invite suppliers and trade contractors to weigh in. Develop a plan for streamlining your production process. See this as an opportunity for growth, yours and the company's alike.

Follow up. Neither you nor your company will see much improvement unless you check in to see how the relevant parties are making the changes discussed. Invest in books, magazines, and software that will improve efficiencies. Challenge workers to watch out for “dead time” on site, or other seemingly small inefficiencies.

You do affect the profitability of your jobs, and you can stop slippage. Use job-cost reports to be constructive rather than negative, to discuss problems and find solutions, and to move forward through active change. — Tim Faller, Field Training Services,