We're running leaner and meaner at Mark IV Builders because remodeling indicators and most financial business signs have been pointing to a slowdown. Projecting ahead, we saw that dropping job sizes would require either a few layoffs now or more drastic measures later, so we let four people go and reinforced to the rest of our staff the importance of quality work in a timely manner with a constant eye on efficiency.

One tool we use to monitor efficiency is the Production Pride Tracking Sheet (an abbreviated sample is below). This tracks the schedule on every job by the person who sold it, the supervisor managing it, and the time it takes for each of three phases: job start to close-in inspection; close-in inspection to substantial completion; and substantial completion to punch list completion. We constantly review this information, along with separate charts used to track data such as job size, gross profit, slippage, and monthly income. Viewed in bite-size pieces, the data quickly reveal whether a job is moving as scheduled, which super needs help where, and how effectively sales-production teams are performing.

Production efficiency is a concern in times like this, so sharing the big picture is key to success. When shown objective data about where they're doing well and where they might improve, my supers understand why an increased workload over the short term is better for them and the company. The sharing of quantifiable information makes this a real team effort, and effort is contagious.

—Andy Hannan is production manager of Mark IV Builders, Bethesda, Md.