Make a list and check it twice!
If you’ve been estimating long enough, I’m sure you’ve received that fateful phone call that puts that sick feeling in your stomach. The general contractor or construction manager on the other end of the phone wants to know if you understood the scope of work. You know you’ve made a mistake. It’s embarrassing, it’s costly, and you’ve wasted your company’s time and money and potentially put both companies at risk if they used your number to win the job.
I can’t help you out of that situation but I did come across something that may help. After watching a TED Talk video, about the state of healthcare, by Atul Gawande entitled “How do we heal medicine?” I was curious about what new technological advances or financial cost-cutting solutions he might propose. What I wasn’t expecting was a solution that could be applied to just about everything you do, including estimating.
Sometimes the best solutions are also the easiest to implement and require no financial investment at all. His solution was to create checklists, like the ones airline pilots go through prior to takeoff. Atul Gawande claimed the checklist they developed reduced complications from surgery by 35% and deaths by 47%. It’s not just about writing a list of things to check, but should be several lists and put into the best possible order. Finding out you estimated the job with the wrong wiring method just before submitting the bid will help you avoid the mistake of submitting it, but it isn’t going to help you win that job.
Most estimators already do these lists in their heads and know what to look for, but occasionally, something gets forgotten, misinterpreted, or assumed. Create your checklists, add checks for mistakes made in the past, and keep updating them. Whenever you find a mistake, update your checklist. The most successful estimators have systems in which several people are involved in checking the job before it goes out. Without the checks and balances of other people, it’s easy to become complacent and gloss over the list.
The result will be higher quality, more reliable estimates which will increase the confidence of everyone involved, and the reputation of your company.