“Focus is everything. As soon as you have two goals, even one that is minor … your product deeply suffers.”

This wonderful quote stunned me with its simplicity. I found its message so powerful that, at a recent roundtable, I plastered the walls with notes declaring that if attendees took away nothing else from that meeting, they should learn to focus on the one goal for increased success during the next six months.

When the inevitable question surfaced, “How can you choose one when we have so many things we need to work on?” we set to work to define one overarching goal. We came up with this: “To create an efficient system that delivers construction projects to the field capable of producing consistent and sufficient net profits.”

It’s simple, yes. But behind that simple statement lies a wealth of complexity just waiting to bite good intentions in the foot. For instance:

  • What sort of system creates well-defined and written processes that allow the right hire, well-trained, to produce consistent results over time?
  • How can we be efficient, delivering the desired results without excessive waste of either time or money?
  • What type of construction projects, for which clients, at what price and schedule?
  • What constitutes sufficient net profits? Enough to barely eke out a living or sufficient to provide employee benefits, owner retirement, and community involvement?

After struggling through the definitions, the task doesn’t get any easier. Clearly, producing “consistent and sufficient net profits” requires a long period of focus by many people deeply involved in the organization’s success.

Where Should You Start?

I suggest that you take time to stand back from the day-to-day demands of your company and determine where to focus your efforts. Here are some possibilities:

  • Increase production efficiency, thereby enabling more consistent and sufficient net profits;
  • Develop stronger team integration, thereby increasing the team’s ability to deliver better construction projects;
  • Resolve financial insufficiencies, thereby improving accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of financial information to allow all team members to better track progress;
  • Clarify leadership vision, thereby allowing all team members to communicate clearly about progress toward the now-crystal-clear targets in each department.

Of course, tactics for each are essential, as are the development of related metrics, timeliness, and assigned responsibilities. So let’s drill down on the first strategy—increase production efficiency—by outlining several tactics and listing who would be responsible for those tasks. For instance:

  1. Reduce slippage from 5% to 3% by 9/1 (production manager).
  2. Buy out all trade contractor bids before final contract signing (estimating).
  3. Write zero punch list process and test on next two jobs before finalizing system and implementing departmentwide by 8/1 (production manager and sales).
  4. Perform complete job autopsies on all  jobs for the next three months to identify and correct estimating variances greater than 3% or $1,000–whichever is greater (production and estimating).

Whatever your company’s model, creating one goal matters. And by doing so, you’re also identifying the company’s current obstacles to success. Ultimately, you’ll sharpen both short-term focus and get onto the path of consistent and sufficient net profits. That’s a good goal, indeed!