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“Time Out” For the Win

Taking five minutes just before a project starts to double-check that the full team is ready to go can prevent trouble later.

I just spent a great weekend in Sandusky, Ohio, competing in an Ironman 70.3 triathlon. The challenge around training and having a big race to work toward fits nicely into my “Okay, what’s next?” never-content-with-anything personality. My training partner is a medical doctor named Bart. Needless to say, countless hours spent running, cycling, and swimming together lead us down conversational paths ranging from the mundane to wildly bizarre.

Time Out
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As we bathed in the afterglow of finishing the race, I wondered aloud if there was a point in his operating room where everyone stops for a second and double-checks that they’re about to amputate the correct appendage (visions of a nurse saying, “I thought you meant your right,” danced in my head). “As a matter of fact,” Bart said, “we do. It’s called a ‘Time Out.’” He then went on to expound on the 22-item checklist, explaining the process of all movement ceasing in the operating room, making introductions, going over the plan, and essentially double-checking everything before proceeding. That certainly gave me some peace of mind as a potential patient, but also got me thinking about applying the Time Out concept inside the CI industry.

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Our businesses are so oriented around movement and action (sometimes in the wrong direction). No matter how much effort I’ve put into racks being built at our shop first or taking the first few hours of the job to pre-connect everything in-house, we always seem to be ever-hurtling back toward loading up the van and just going for it. As one of my good friends shared, “We never seem to have time to do it right the first time, but we always seem to have time to fix it.”

What if we all decided to implement a Time Out in our CI businesses? I could see it going something like this:

  • Who: Installers, system designer, project manager, and sales rep.
  • What: Anyone can initiate the Time Out, but ideally the project manager begins the process.
  • Where: In the field, in person, or virtually — doesn’t really matter. If virtual, cameras should be turned on given that the majority of communication is non-verbal.
  • When: Before any work begins on the project, potentially Day 1 of the installation.
  • Why: The Time Out might take 5 minutes. Odds are there will be issues uncovered that would have taken much longer and cost the company precious profit dollars.
  • How: The project manager initiates the Time Out and gives the opportunity for each member of the team to introduce themselves. If it’s a known team, this can be brief. If there are team members occupying new or unique roles for the project, this can be a great opportunity to over communicate.

The project manager, sales rep, or system designer can review the scope and accompanying design documents. Since there was a likely project management handoff meeting earlier, this shouldn’t necessarily reveal anything new, yielding a great “measure-twice, cut-once” opportunity.

The project manager asks everyone for questions and concerns. Everyone (installers especially) is challenged to affirmatively acknowledge they’re ready to proceed and that all concerns have been resolved. Work can then begin.

Also by Henry Clifford: Buddy Check FTW

Five minutes. That’s how long one of these Time Out meetings should take.

What are you doing in your business to intentionally ensure everyone is on the same page before work begins on each and every project?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.