5 Tips for Conducting an Effective Pre-Installation Meeting

As someone who loves studying history, I have always been a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. Years ago, I read a book entitled Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald T. Phillips. In it, Abraham Lincoln's diverse leadership abilities are examined for application to successful management styles in today's complex world.

At Cleveland Construction, we understand that Quality Management is critical to the success of any project. And the key to maintaining a high level of performance is an effective pre-installation meeting where all relevant parties gather to discuss the proper installation of systems for the project.

So...what’s our 16thpresident have to do with pre-installation meetings”, you ask?

Simply put, I see Lincoln’s leadership style as having a correlation to each of the five components of an effective pre-installation meeting. 

See for yourself:

1. It’s All About Timing

Lincoln knew the timing was critical. His Emancipation Proclamation was strategically timed for release after a major Union victory. That opportunity came five days after the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam.

Any pre-installation meeting has to be timed appropriately. Conducting one too early in the process results in everyone forgetting the information presented. Conversely, delaying the meeting until the last minute eliminates the window of opportunity to resolve any conflicts or questions that arise.

2. Have the Right People Attend the Meeting

Lincoln always had the right people in his meetings. He established regular meetings of his Cabinet in his office every Tuesday and Friday. He kept in close contact with individual Cabinet secretaries. While some of his own Cabinet members secretly despised him, Lincoln knew the importance of having their collective knowledge gathered in one room. If nothing else, it made them feel good about their jobs.

The success of any pre-installation meeting is largely dependent on the guest list. You have to have the right people in the room. This includes the contractor’s Project Manager, Field Superintendents, and Foremen of the trade partners. It is also a good idea to include the manufacturer’s reps, architects, engineers, testing lab, etc.

3. Set the Stakes

Lincoln knew the stakes were high at a critical time in our nation’s history. His Gettysburg Address expressed a clear, but stark, picture of what was at stake for the divided country - “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

Every pre-installation meeting represents an opportunity to eliminate or minimize mistakes down the road. Use the time to make sure everyone understands how high the stakes are should rework occur. Establish a clear game plan on the best way to achieve “ZERO REWORK”. Get everyone’s attention early on by discussing the overall cost of work to be installed and how much more time and money would be wasted should rework happen.

4. It’s in the Details 

Lincoln realized the importance of having a detailed understanding of how the war was progressing at any moment. In fact, it was a daily ritual to walk over to the telegraph office at the War Department and read the latest telegrams coming in from the front.  His pertinent documents were the battle maps, which he studied for hours on end. He would often telegraph his generals for updates and details on the latest troop movements.

The pre-installation meeting is where the “nuts and bolts” details are discussed.  It’s the time when a thorough review of the specifications, installation instructions, and other pertinent documents and made. Expectations and understanding of how the work will be accomplished are agreed upon.

5. Get out into the Field

Lincoln practiced getting out of the White House and going to where the action was. As remarkable as it may seem, in 1861 Lincoln spent more time out of the White House than he did in it. Lincoln established lasting connections with the troops by visiting the battlefield and hospitals. It gave him an understanding of the morale of the people and how the war effort was going.

While pre-installation meetings often take place in the job site office trailer, don’t forget the critical importance of getting out into the field at some point during the meeting. Much can be learned from a visual inspection of the construction site. Review substrates or prior work-in-place materials that might be covered or built upon. Is the work correct, within tolerances, compatible, etc.? Going to where the “action” takes place pays huge dividends and could prevent potential conflicts and questions.

Cleveland Construction knows the value of pre-installation meetings. We will use this time to resolve schedule and access issues and review submittals and QA requirements and responsibilities. We see it as time well-spent in minimizing costly rework, which negatively impacts productivity and causes unsafe work practices.