Project Management — Dignity, Satisfaction and Profit

By Mario Guertin – Past President, PDCA Craftsmanship Forum
President, Painting in Partnership, Inc.

As Painting Contractors, we are in the business of delivering painting and decorating services to a wide array of clients. The process starts with estimating the time and materials necessary to complete the project at hand. If our proposal is successful, we then proceed to the execution of the work we anticipated having to perform to meet our promises. When it all gets said and done, we hope to have achieved our profit target for the project. Sounds familiar so far?

However, we believe that there is an additional dimension to Project Management, which is often overlooked. The dimension is this:

    People have an intrinsic need to know what is expected of them as they embark on a new project. If they do not get this information, the productivity and morale of the workforce suffers greatly. I will go as far as saying if that input is missing, the craftsmen doing the work, experience a loss of essential Dignity about their work. In other words, something of critical importance is lost. However, if the workforce gets that information, people can plan their work, set goals and use their creativity to contribute their best to any given situation. Is this an outcome you desire? If so, read on.

It is also important to emphasize that Profit is generally seen as the GOAL of Project Management. In the system that we will present to you, profit is the RESULT, not the goal! Focusing on people’s basic needs for Clarity of Expectations, Measurability of Progress and Feedback allows for the emergence of:

      – Goal setting by the craftsmen


      – Creativity in meeting project expectations


      – High employee Satisfaction


      – Dignity in work


      – Teamwork


      – High Customer Satisfaction


      – Amazing




The Project Management System I am about to describe enabled Painting in Partnership, in 2005, to bring in its projects an average of 9.2% Under Budget, with nearly perfect Customer Satisfaction and Team Feedback. Is this a result you would like to achieve in your own company?

I will now share with you the Project Management System that we have developed at Painting in Partnership. The system has been in use for 4 years and is the center-piece of our Promise Delivery process. It is completely computerized and is fully integrated from the Proposal to the Final Project Performance Report.

    • Creating Task and Room Codes


      The first step in creating this Project Management System is to create a set of codes for the Tasks expected to be performed and the Rooms (or spaces) expected to be worked in. For illustration purposes, we are giving you the lists of codes we use at Painting in Partnership in the Residential sector. They can be found by going to the “tool” section of the Forum’s website at

       (click “room codes” and “work codes”). These codes can be modified to suit any sector of our industry. These codes are used at the Take-off stage, when you prepare your Estimate for the project. Each Work Code is assigned a labor Factor, for each room to be worked on. These labor factors and the supplies needed become the basis for the Painting Estimate. If our Proposal is accepted, this information becomes the input needed to prepare the Field Budget for that project,
    • Creating a Field Budget


      This is the heart of the system. The purpose of a Field Budget is to communicate the time estimates and other specs of the project to every person involved on the project. These time estimates are given by Task and by Room (or area) to be worked in. A sample of a Room Budget and a Summary Budget can be viewed by going to the Tool section of Forum’s website (click “Field Budgets”).
      How do you make the system work? First: Honesty! People’s natural tendency is to not to want to “upset the boss”! In other words, people are going to naturally want to avoid making


      estimates look bad, as well as hide a performance that might be substandard. In other words, people have a tendency to want to “fudge” the numbers at the beginning. How does it show up? By moving the time from “over items” to “under items”. Clever? No! It took me about 2 years of operating this system to weed out this problem. What is it that solved the problem? Proof that honesty benefits everyone: honest feedback enables better estimates, less pressure to meet unrealistic estimates, a more relaxed boss, high-fives from the boss, a sense of accomplishment, success! Another challenge you can expect in successfully implementing this approach is this: making it a habit, before a task is started, to “look at the field budget”! It seems to be a deeply ingrained habit for painters to just pick up a tool and go. It takes time and patience to overcome this problem. How do you overcome it: the same way as stated above.
    • How do you Operate the System?


      As I mentioned above, two essential ingredients to a successful implementation of this system are Honesty and a Habit of checking out the Field Budget before a task is started. This ensures that, as any task is performed, time and efficiency expectations are known by all and immediate feedback is provided on individual performance, for any given task.
      At this point, it is important to point out that this is a double-entry system. People record their time on their Time Card and also on the Room Field Budget. Time is first recorded on the individual Time Cards (for a sample, please go the Forms section of the Forum’s website and click “Time Cards”). At least twice a day (lunch time and at the end of the day), people transport their time entries to the appropriate Room Budget and the proper Work Code. At the end of the day, the Project Leader consolidates the entries and gets a quick read on where the project stands in relation to the budget. What do you get as a business owner from this kind of system: the ability to compare “Budget” to “Actual” at ANY point in the project and get better at Estimating! Sounds good? This is just the beginning! What happens when you give such a useful tool to a workforce: they start working as a TEAM to achieve extraordinary results! What if someone bucks the system: zero tolerance; they are fired (after appropriate warnings), no exception!
    The benefits do not stop there. What about Estimator forgetfulness? Yes! Even the sun goes down! When you give your workforce this kind of information, you enable them to spot Errors and Omissions in the original estimate of the job. Why: because they do not want to be held accountable for “your” mistakes! With a little training, they will learn to communicate the mistakes early enough in the project, so you still have time to “save the situation” with your client and get an “Add-on”! That means Profit, right? What about Completion Time for the project? Is it important for you to communicate to your client when, exactly, the project will be completed? Is it important for you to know when to “wind down” the project and start pulling people off a project and when you can plan to start the next project? With some training, this system enables your Project Leader to expertly perform these functions for you. That means added Profit, greater Customer Satisfaction. Right? Foremost: TEAM Satisfaction and Dignity for the Craftsmen! That is the Business Philosophy of Painting in Partnership, Inc.