THE CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULING COMMUNICATION PROCESS:
PROBLEMS, FOREMAN'S ROLE, MEANS OF IMPROVEMENT,
AND USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
BRENT R. ELLIOTT
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Brent R. Elliott
I am grateful to many individuals for their support in this research effort. Without
their wise counsel and dependable assistance, this study would not have been possible.
My supervisory committee was an excellent source of direction, both during
preparations for this research and throughout the study's performance and documentation.
Dr. John Alexander provided valuable guidance in setting up the research project and
organizing the final manuscript. His ability to maintain a broad perspective on the study was
extremely beneficial, as was his skillful assistance in analyzing the results. I am also grateful
for his consistent support and motivation. Dr. Jimmie Hinze provided significant help in
refining the focus of this study, and he continued to be an excellent resource throughout the
course of the research. His detailed review of working drafts was extremely beneficial, as
were his insightful suggestions concerning data analysis. His encouragement is also much
appreciated. Dr. Ron Akers provided key assistance pertaining to data organization and
statistical analysis. I am very thankful for his scholarly advice and willingness to help. The
recommendations and insights of Dr. Pierce Jones were quite helpful in defining the scope
of this project and exploring methods of conducting the research. Dr. Leon Wetherington
gave helpful advice in refining the survey instrument, and he provided a very practical
perspective to this study.
Other contributions outside the committee must also be acknowledged. Dr. Rick
Coble provided considerable advice and direction in determining the subject matter of this
research. His energetic inspiration and continued support are much appreciated. Dr. Amarjit
Singh and Dr. Steve Rowlinson offered helpful insights toward defining the scope of the
study. John Kane provided guidance with data coding and approaches to statistical analysis.
The many foremen interviewed in this research are recognized for their essential
contributions. This study would not have been possible without their cooperation and
willingness to answer questions and openly discuss the issues investigated. It was certainly
a valuable and enjoyable experience to meet these individuals during the field interviews.
On a personal note, I am very grateful to my parents, who taught me by example to
strive for excellence in my work. Throughout this research, I have greatly appreciated my
father's consistent encouragement, love, and positive attitude. Finally, I give thanks and
praise to my Heavenly Father, the source of every good and perfect gift, for His eternal
faithfulness and unmerited blessings.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............................................. iii
LIST OF TABLES ................................................ ix
LIST OF FIGURES ................................................ xi
ABSTRACT .................................................... xv
1 INTRODUCTION ............................................ 1
Purpose and Overview of Study ............... ..................... 1
Scheduling Communication Process ........................... ..... 2
Research Questions ......................... ...................... 10
What Problems Exist in the Scheduling Communication Process? ..... 10
What Is the Role of Foremen in the Scheduling Communication
Process? ......... ............. ....... ........... 11
How Can the Scheduling Communication Process Be Improved? ..... 11
Research Objectives .......................................... 12
Investigation of Problem s ............................. 13
Examination of Foremen's Role .............................. 13
Exploration of Process Improvement ..................... 14
Summary of Research Design ................................... 15
2 METHODS ................................................ 17
Questionnaire Design .................... ..................... 17
Demographic Information ............................ . . 18
Initial Planning Practices ............................. . . 19
Use of Written Schedules .................... ............. 20
Use of Look-Ahead Schedules .................. ............. 20
Attitudes About Scheduling .................... ............ 21
Scheduling and Safety ..................................... 22
Documentation Practices ............................. . 23
Sources of Delay ......................................... 24
Computers and Technology .................... ............. 25
Sample Selection ............................................... 27
Data Collection ................................................ 32
Analysis Techniques ........................................... 34
3 RESULTS ................................................. 37
Characteristics of Forem en ................................. 37
Project Demographics ........................ ........... 38
Demographics of Foremen ................................ 39
Initial Planning Practices ...................... ........... 47
Use of Written Schedules .................... ............. 51
Use of Look-Ahead Schedules .................. ............. 54
Attitudes About Scheduling .................... ........... 58
Scheduling and Safety ..................................... 64
Documentation Practices ............................. . 68
Sources of Delay ......................................... 76
Computers and Technology .................... ............. 82
Comparison of Main and External Samples .......... ................. 96
How Foremen's Characteristics Correlate with Acceptance of Technology .... 97
Formal Education .................. .................... 104
Age ............................................... 104
Use of Written Plan .................................... 105
Frequency that Written Schedules are Helpful ................... 105
More Information About the Schedule .................... . 105
Suggestions to Improve Scheduling ..................... 106
Safety Activities in the Schedule ....................... . . 106
Time Spent on Record Keeping ........................ . 107
Separate Log Book ................. .................... 107
Records Used to Evaluate W ork ....................... 107
Asked Questions About Records ....................... . 108
Access to Information ............... ..................... 108
Waiting for Information ................................. 109
Delays Due to Scheduling Issues ....................... 109
Delays Due to Changes .......... ..................... 110
Openness of M management .......... ..................... 110
Computer Use for Work ................................. 110
Computer Use at Home .......... .................... 111
Video Games ...................... ................... 111
Electronic Organizers ................................... 111
Benefit of Computers to Construction Companies ................ 112
Whether Computers Would Help Foremen Do Their Jobs Better ..... 112
Attitudes Toward Using Computers as Part of Jobs ............... 112
Opinions About Computers Replacing Part of the Foreman's Job .... 113
Notable Variables Without Significant Correlations ............... 113
Regression Modeling: Foremen's Characteristics and Their Acceptance
of Technology ................ ........................ 114
Demographic Characteristics (HI) ............................. 119
Proactive Habits and Attitudes Concerning Scheduling (H2) ........ 119
Stringency of Record Keeping Practices and Accountability (H3) .... 120
Access to Information and Experience with Delays (H4) ........... 120
Exposure to and Use of Computers (H5) ................... . 120
Overall Multiple Regression Models .................... 121
Summary of Regression Analysis ...................... 124
4 DISCUSSION ................................................ 126
Problems in the Scheduling Communication Process .................... 126
Role of Foremen in the Scheduling Communication Process .............. 129
Partial Exclusion of Foremen from the Scheduling
Communication Process ................. ............ 129
Foremen's Role in Documentation ....................... . 131
How the Scheduling Communication Process Can Be Improved ........... 132
Increasing Foremen's Involvement and Enabling Access
to Inform ation ............... ......... ............ 132
Handheld Digital Communicators ...................... 135
Research Limitations ......................................... 138
Further Research ........... . ...... ......................... 139
Other Sectors of Construction Industry .................... 139
Other Project Participants .......... ....... .. ............ 140
Cost/Benefit Business M odel ......................... 140
Productivity Study ..................................... 141
Software Development .................................. 141
Stereo Imaging ........................................ 142
A QUESTIONNAIRE ..................... .................... 143
B FOREMEN'S RESPONSES TO OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS ........... 153
C AS-BUILT PROJECT DOCUMENTATION SYSTEM .................. 222
REFERENCES ................................................. 226
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................... 231
LIST OF TABLES
1 Number of Companies Employing the Foremen Surveyed ................. 40
2 Comparison of Foremen Education Levels with 1977 Study ............... 46
3 Foremen's M ain Sources of Delay ............................ . . 80
4 Communication Devices Used by Foremen ....................... . 85
5 Variables with Significant Differences Between Main andExternal Samples ... 97
6 Correlations with Handheld Computing Acceptance Using Kendall's Tau-b ... 99
7 Hypothesis Testing with Single-Step Multiple Linear Regression .......... 116
8 Overall Model Testing with Stepwise Multiple Linear Regression .......... 122
9 Overall Model Testing with Single-Step Multiple Linear Regression ....... 124
10 Foremen's Responses: Do You Follow the Schedule? ................... 155
11 Foremen's Responses: How Do You Feel About the Schedule? ............ 160
12 Foremen's Responses: Do You Wish You Had More Information
About the Schedule? ........................ ............ 167
13 Foremen's Responses: Do You Have Any Suggestions on How
to Improve Scheduling? ...................... ........... . 172
14 Foremen's Responses: What are Some Typical Kinds of Information That
You Have to Wait for Which Are Needed to Perform Your Work? ... 181
15 Foremen's Responses: What Causes You Delays on the Job?
and How Can These Delays Be Reduced? ....................... 185
16 Foremen's Responses: If Your Employer Told You a Computer Would
Help You Do Your Job Better and Wanted You to Start Using
One as Part of Your Job, How Would You Feel About That? ........ 194
17 Foremen's Responses Regarding the Usefulness of a Stereo Camera ........ 201
18 Foremen's Responses Regarding the Usefulness of a Handheld
Computer/Communication Device for General Job Applications ..... 208
19 Foremen's Responses Regarding the Usefulness of a Handheld
Computer/Communication Device Specifically for Scheduling
and Coordination Purposes ........................... . . 215
LIST OF FIGURES
1 Distribution of Sample by Project Name ........................ 38
2 Distribution of Sample by General Contractor .......................... 39
3 Distribution of Sample by Trade ...................... ............. 41
4 Foremen's Overall Construction Experience ..................... 41
5 Construction Experience as Foremen .......................... . . 42
6 Current and Previous Union Affiliation ........................ . . 43
7 Duration with Current Employer ................................... 44
8 Average Crew Size .......................................... 44
9 Level of Formal Education Completed ......................... . . 45
10 Trade School Training ........................................... 46
11 Age of Foremen ............................................ 47
12 How Often Foremen Are Asked About Methods at Start of Job ............. 48
13 Who Asks Foremen About Methods at Start of Job ...................... 49
14 How Often Foremen Are Asked About Duration of Construction Activities
at Start of Job ............................................ 50
15 Who Asks Foremen About Duration of Construction Activities
at Start of Job ............................................ 50
16 Use of Written Plan to Organize Work ......................... 51
17 How Often Projects Have Written Schedules ...................... . 52
18 How Often Foremen See the Schedule ............................... 53
19 How Often Written Schedules Are Helpful to Foremen ................... 53
20 How Often Look-Ahead Schedules Are Used on Projects ................. 54
21 Duration of Look-Ahead Schedules ........................... . 55
22 Who Makes the Look-Ahead Schedules ........................ . . 56
23 Types of Look-Ahead Schedules Used ......................... . 57
24 How Often Foremen Help Plan Look-Ahead Schedules ................... 58
25 Whether Foremen Follow the Schedule ........................ . 59
26 How Foremen Feel About the Schedule .............................. 60
27 Whether Foremen's Crews Know the Schedule ......................... 61
28 How Foremen Think Their Crews Feel About the Schedule ............... 62
29 Whether Foremen Want More Information About the Schedule ............. 63
30 Whether Foremen Have Suggestions Regarding How to Improve Scheduling . 64
31 Effect That Following Safety Rules Has on Production ................... 65
32 Frequency That the Schedule Causes Difficulty in Dealing Properly
with Safety Issues ........................................ 66
33 Whether Foremen Think They Can Make Good Job Progress
While Working Safely ..................................... 66
34 Opinions of Foremen Regarding the Inclusion of Safety Activities
in the Construction Schedule .......................... . . 67
35 Foremen's Practices of Taking Pictures ........................ 69
36 How Important Foremen Think Their Job Records Are ................... 70
37 Why Foremen Think Their Job Records Are Important ................... 71
38 How Often Foremen's Records Are Used to Evaluate Their Work ........... 73
39 How Often Foremen's Records Are Checked .................... . . 73
40 How Often Foremen Are Asked Questions About Their Records ............ 74
41 How Often Foremen Keep Written Notes in the Event They Have
to Move Their Crews ...................................... 75
42 How Often Foremen Keep Records of Time Spent Remobilizing
Their Crews ............................................. 75
43 How Foremen Rate Their Access to Information Needed to Do Their Jobs .... 76
44 Whether Waiting for Information Often Slows Production ................. 77
45 Whether Foremen Find it Difficult to Get Their Questions Answered ........ 78
46 Why Foremen Think it Is Difficult to Get Their Questions Answered ........ 79
47 How Foremen Ask Their Questions ........................... . . 79
48 Whether Management Is Willing to Listen to Foremen's Suggestions ........ 82
49 Whether Foremen Use Computers to Perform Any Part of Their Jobs ........ 83
50 Whether Foremen Use Computers at Home ....................... . 84
51 Whether Foremen Like to Play Video Games .................... . 85
52 Whether Foremen Think Computers Are Beneficial to
Construction Companies ...................... ............. 86
53 Whether Foremen Think Computers Could Help Them Do Their Jobs Better .. 87
54 Foremen's Responses to Using Computers as Part of Their Jobs If So
Directed by Their Employers .......................... 87
55 Whether Foremen Think Computers Could Ever Replace Part of Their Jobs ... 89
56 Whether Foremen Think Stereo Camera Would Be Useful to Them ......... 90
57 Gator Communicator Mock-Up .............................. . 90
58 Simon PDA / Cellular Phone, by IBM and BellSouth ..................... 91
59 Shared Database for Communications ......................... 92
60 Shared Data Communications Between Foremen and Project Participants .... 93
61 Whether Foremen Think Handheld Device Would Help Them Do Their Jobs. 94
62 Whether Foremen Think Handheld Device Would Help with Scheduling
and Coordination ........................................ 95
63 As-Built Project Documentation System ....................... 224
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULING COMMUNICATION PROCESS:
PROBLEMS, FOREMAN'S ROLE, MEANS OF IMPROVEMENT,
AND USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Brent R. Elliott
Chair: John F. Alexander
Major Department: Architecture
The purpose of this study is to improve the construction scheduling communication
process. The study focuses on construction foremen working on general commercial building
projects, and explores how the construction scheduling communication process may be
improved through the role of foremen. A key objective is to investigate the concept of
foremen using handheld computer/communication devices as a means of improving
effectiveness and efficiency in the scheduling communication process. Several primary
research questions provide a framework for exploring how the construction scheduling
communication process may be improved through the role of the construction foreman:
1) What problems exist in the scheduling communication process?
2) What is the role of foremen in the scheduling communication process?
3) How can the scheduling communication process be improved?
Procedures used to answers these questions include survey instrument design, sample
selection, personal interviews, and statistical analysis. Data collected includes demographic
information about the project and individual being interviewed, foremen's role in the initial
planning process, use of written schedules on projects, attitudes about scheduling,
documentation practices, sources of delay, and exposure to and use of computer technology.
Consistency of results between two sample groups is evaluated with the Mann-
Whitney U and Wilcoxon Wtests. Correlation testing is performed using Kendall's tau-b in
order to identify the independent variables which are correlated with foremen's acceptance
of handheld computer/communication technology. Multiple linear regression analysis is
performed to identify characteristics of foremen which predict their acceptance of
technology. Results are found to be highly significant (P<0.01).
This study identifies problems in the scheduling communication process. Results
show that foremen are partially excluded from the flow of information within the scheduling
communication process, thereby reducing their efficiency in coordinating the work, and that
delays often occur due to problems involving the flow of information. Results suggest that
the scheduling communication process can be improved by increasing foremen's
involvement in the scheduling process and by enabling foremen to access the information
they need to coordinate the work. This study also demonstrates foremen's general acceptance
of existing computer technology which has the potential to facilitate such improvements.
After first presenting the study's purpose, this chapter reviews the literature
concerning the scheduling communication process. It then specifies the primary research
questions explored, outlines the study's objectives, and summarizes the research design.
Purpose and Overview of Study
The purpose of this study is to improve the project scheduling communication
process in the construction industry. The study focuses on construction foremen, and
explores how the construction scheduling communication process may be improved through
the role of foremen. It seeks to examine the characteristics of foremen related to their role
in the scheduling communication process and to develop a profile of these characteristics.
It also considers foremen's perspectives on problems involving the scheduling
communication process and how the process may be improved. A key objective is to
investigate the concept of foremen using handheld computer/communication devices (also
referred to herein as handheld digital communicators) as a means of improving the
effectiveness and efficiency of the scheduling communication process. The research is
therefore designed to learn about foremen's experiences with computing technology, to
discover their attitudes toward the concept of using handheld digital communicators, and to
enable identification of any relationships that may exist between particular characteristics
of foremen and their assessment of whether using handheld digital communicators would
help them perform their jobs more effectively.
Scheduling Communication Process
The scheduling communication process is the flow of all information that pertains
to project planning and coordination. It is a dynamic process which requires timely
interaction among multiple project participants. Ideally, the process begins well before
construction activities are underway and involves a gradual transfer of responsibility from
preconstruction managers to operations managers. The process reaches its peak activity level
during the construction phase, which is the focus of this research. Although the as-built
record is established by documenting progress concurrentlywith construction, the scheduling
communication process concludes with emphasis on organization of project records as the
job is closed out and documentation is finalized.
At the inception of a new project, the construction schedule is the "beginning of the
potential to communicate the required information to all participants" (Birrell, 1989, p. 35).
The schedule becomes "the hub of a communication system" which links together a myriad
ofproject participants, each with diverseresponsibilities inthe construction process (Birrell,
1989, p. 34). This communication system must be efficient in order to ensure success in the
dynamic environment of a project under construction. It has long been recognized that the
efficiency of construction operations is directly related to the quality of communications
employed (Fletcher, 1972). As Parker (1980) states, "construction productivity is directly
related to the amount and quality of the communication that flows between the people who
are managing and those who are doing the work" (p. 173). Failure in the communication of
the schedule will result in inefficient construction despite the integrity of the schedule
Computer technology has led to the development ofbetter field management systems,
and such systems have enabled construction contractors and managers to monitor field
operations more effectively. Despite such advances, however, there is much room for
improving communications and project information flow (Boles et al., 1998). Errors in
information exchange, coordination, and communication are blamed for many of the
problems that arise during construction (Arnold and Teicholz, 1996). In fact, lack of
communication among project participants has been suggested as the main cause of
fragmentation and low productivity in the construction industry (Meyer and Russell, 1991).
In a study which surveyed over 100 construction executives, Birrell (1989) concludes that
lack of communications or poor communications is a major impediment to labor flow
efficiency on site (Birrell, 1989). Abou-Zeid and Russell (1993) conclude that the
communication of project information needs to be improved. In their study of Electronic
Data Interchange (EDI) conducted through the Construction Industry Institute (CII), Bell and
Gibson (1990) also point out the industry's communication problems:
There is a need in the construction industry for more efficient communication
mechanisms for transferring data between and within owner, engineer, contractor and
supplier/subcontractor organizations, e.g.:
1) Design data from owner or designer to the contractor;
2) As-built data from contractor to owner;
3) Procurement-related data between contractors and their subcontractors and
4) Construction and project control data between contractors and owners and
within project and contractor organizations. (p. 4)
Communication of the construction schedule, most closelyrelated to the fourth point above,
is again recognized as an area needing improvement
At the beginning of a project, throughout its construction, and in post-construction
analysis, the schedule is considered the "dominant information tool for managers of
construction operations" (Barnes, 1993, p. 404). As defined in this study, the schedule
includes both the as-planned schedule (planning of upcoming work) and the as-built schedule
(documentation of actual progress). Cost and schedule functions are two of the most
important elements of a construction control system, and "control depends on data acquired
on the site during the execution of the project" (Abudayyeh and Rasdorf, 1991, pp. 679-680).
Although most construction projects employ some means of cost and schedule control,
"many projects suffer from ineffective control due to inefficient flow of information"
(Abudayyeh and Rasdorf, 1991, p. 680). The scheduling communication process is usually
disjointed and often fails to promptly and accurately capture construction progress data that
managers need to make informed decisions. In addition, addressing the immediate demands
and problems concerning work in progress consumes the bulk of field management's
attention, resulting in historical documentation which is frequently either inaccurate or in a
format which is extremely difficult to utilize effectively.
Foremen are closer to the actual construction work than any other supervisors or
managers on a project, and thus are recognized as a valuable source of information about the
project (Coble, 1994). In Borcherding's (1977) study of participative decision making,
management realized the value of foremen in field decision making. They reasoned that
foremen make good decisions since they are close to the work. Managers in that study found
it especially valuable to involve foremen in the preconstruction phase, when bidding or
scheduling a project.
However, inefficient means of communication between foremen and management
during the construction phase can lead to reduced productivity and poor documentation.
Despite the development of more advanced project management software packages, "project
participants still have difficulty receiving project data in a useful form" (Boles et al., 1998,
p. 131). Although the most direct source of detailed information about work being performed
is the construction foreman, construction managers often lack an efficient means of
communicating as-planned schedules to foremen and receiving accurate and timely field
productivity information from foremen. It is well known that "accurate, complete
documentation and efficient communication are critical to the success of a construction
project," and that the current "lack of accurate documentation causes confusion and
difficulties with regard to claims and disputes" (Liu, 1997, p. 399). Also, field problems
which require collaboration with management often involve site visits by management and
take excessive time to solve. Inefficient means of communication results in problems during
construction (e.g., delays and productivity losses) and problems after construction (e.g.,
claims and litigation). There is a general need in the construction industry for improved
methods of disseminating information to project team members (Boles et al., 1998; Parfitt
et al., 1993).
Construction researchers have contemplated how to use computing technologies to
improve communications between the field and the office, and also within the project itself.
Oglesby, Parker, and Howell (1989) discuss the use of computer terminals placed at strategic
locations on the job to augment communications via portable radios. They suggest that if
verbal information exchanges via portable radios were enhanced by communications via field
computer terminals, such use of computers could "both support and formalize these
information exchanges" (p. 444). These authors point out that one potential use of such a
system would be to communicate the schedule to field personnel. They suggest that the
details of the schedule, such as crew assignments and changes to the schedule, could be
accessed by all interested parties at the computer terminals in the field. They conclude that
such a scheduling communication process would be "far better than relying on word of
mouth or written plans, some of which may relay out-of-date information" (p. 444). There
is a recognition in the industry that "paper-based jobsite construction processes are becoming
obsolete as they are unable to deliver just-in-time information" (De la Garza and Howitt,
Oglesby, Parker, and Howell (1989) also discuss how computers could be used in the
field for tracking resources, such as drawings, ordered or stored materials, tools, and
supplies. They point out that proper coordination of such resources is essential for
productivity, but that the superintendent or foreman often ends up "hunting through written
records"which are "incomplete, not in usable order, or not readily accessible" (p. 444). They
conclude that "computers can make the process of finding things quicker and easier" (p.
444). Foreseeing the growth of the Internet, electronic mail was identified as another specific
application of utilizing computer terminals in the field, and the authors state that "the list of
potential uses for such communication is almost endless" (p. 444). Productivity can be
greatly enhanced by the reuse and transfer of data in electronic format (Parfitt et al., 1993).
An emerging means of improving the transfer of scheduling and coordination
information to and from the field is the implementation of handheld
computer/communication technology. Various construction research projects during the
1980's and 1990's have investigated the use of such technology (including radio frequency
identification, radio frequency data communication, optical character recognition, voice data
entry, magnetic stripe and smart cards) to improve field communications and information
transfer (Bell and Gibson, 1990; McCullouch, 1991b; Pan, 1996; Stukhart, 1995; Stukhart
and Berry, 1992). Research involving radio frequency technology in construction was
pursued because of the obvious information-flow benefits of "real-time, interactive
communication with a computer without being physically attached to that computer"
(McCullough, 1991b, p. 677). Using handheld computers for field data collection has been
recognized as beneficial, partly since "their use would help avoid dependence on site
personnel memories at the end of the day when much of the paperwork is normally done"
(Russell, 1993, p. 392). In addition, electronic documentation offers a solution to the
problem of underutilized daily log information collected by foremen (Tavakoli, 1990) by
enabling managers to access such data more efficiently. Coble (1994) points out that foremen
are the most appropriate individuals to use such devices since "the most accurate information
about a construction project comes from those actually embroiled in the day to day activities
on site" (p. 1451). Pen computing provides a simple means of data entry which actually
emulates the earliest means of written communications, marking symbols and letters on a flat
surface (Tidwell, 1992). Handheld computers have been designed to meet the needs of
construction field personnel, integrating components such as digital camera, touch screen,
and two-way communication (Alexander et al., 1997). Other research has investigated
multimedia documentation of field activities and use of the Internet for information exchange
as a means of improving record keeping and information flow (Liu, 1997). As De la Garza
and Howitt (1997) point out in their study ofjobsite wireless communications, "A shift to
an electronic-based exchange of information can help alleviate the timely delivering and
accessing of relevant amounts of information" (p. 3). Although handheld computers have
been utilized in the field to a limited degree, isolated attempts to implement such technology
have done so by equipping project engineers, upper-level field supervisors, or inspectors with
these automated tools (McCullouch, 1991 a; Rojas and Songer, 1996). Construction foremen,
however, have not generally been equipped with such a device, even though foremen are
arguably the best source of detailed project information (Borcherding, 1977; Coble, 1994).
Technology trends were extrapolated by Tatum, et al. (1991) in order to predict future
trends in the construction industry. The authors suggest that "computer literacy in
construction companies will eventually extend to the construction worker in the field to
facilitate the exchange of real-time information between the project team members" (p. 27).
They also state that "technology employing electronic transmission of data will significantly
diminish the significance of geographic location," (p. 39) and that "improved access to
databases is needed to improve productivity" (p. 50). Similarly, De la Garza and Howitt
(1977) suggest that "the Construction Industry at-large will profit from leveraging walkie-
talkie wireless voice communication with wireless data communication" (p. 2).
However, human factors must be considered in any attempt to implement such
promising technologies. Stukhart (1995) states that despite future advances in technology,
"by and large people will still be the major problem" (p. 51). Tatum et al. (1991) point out
that "the significance of computers is underrated and not well understood by many people"
(p. 53). In regards to computer use in the field, they state that "there is a strong resistance by
some field superintendents to using computers in the field" (p. 53). Other researchers have
recognized that human factors must be considered when attempting to implement technology
to improve construction operations. Coble (1994) emphasizes that successful implementation
of handheld computing at the foreman level begins with understanding the background and
job-related concerns of foremen. In their study of pen-based computers for use in
construction inspection, Rojas and Songer (1996) conclude that mobile computing offers
much potential benefit to construction field personnel including engineers, inspectors,
superintendents, and foremen but that "little would be accomplished if field personnel reject
this technology" (p. 1033). Similarly, Cahoon (1995) emphasizes that one requirement for
technology implementation in the construction industry is that "there must be buy-in at the
supervisory and craft level" (p. 28).
This study seeks to evaluate field personnel's acceptance of such technology. The
focus is on the first-line field managers, namely craft foremen. It explores the concept of
foremen using handheld digital communicators to improve the effectiveness and efficiency
of the scheduling communication process. A better understanding of how foremen relate to
this technology will provide guidance for practical implementation efforts, and will be a
helpful resource for future research and development.
Several primary research questions provide a framework for exploring how the
construction scheduling communication process may be improved through the role of the
1) What problems exist in the scheduling communication process?
2) What is the role of foremen in the scheduling communication process?
3) How can the scheduling communication process be improved?
What Problems Exist in the Scheduling Communication Process?
Since foremen are the last link in the communication chain whereby a plan of work
is transformed into the reality of work in place, it is important to consider their perspective
regarding communication problems. What problems have foremen experienced with the
scheduling communication process? How do foremen rate their access to information they
need to do their jobs? Are foremen adequately informed about the schedule? Is production
slowed because foremen are waiting for information needed to perform the work? What are
foremen's main causes of delay? This research explores the obstacles that foremen encounter
as they relay information to their crews and report back to management.
What Is the Role of Foremen in the Scheduling Communication Process?
An important part of exploring how the scheduling communication process can be
improved through the role of the foreman is to investigate the level of involvement that
foremen have in scheduling and coordinating the work. What involvement do foremen have
in the initial planning process? Do foremen actually use the formnnal schedule to organize their
work? What involvement do foremen have in creating the as-built record of the job? Human
factors must also be considered. What are foremen's attitudes towards creating the as-built
record of the job? What are foremen's attitudes toward the schedule? Is the schedule helpful
to foremen? Are there any characteristics of foremen that correlate with their practices and
attitudes related to the scheduling communication process? Exploration of foremen's
characteristics related to their role in the scheduling communication process should provide
insight regarding how the process can be improved.
How Can the Scheduling Communication Process Be Improved?
The foreman is the individual most keenly aware of the field communication
problems that arise as a plan of work is transformed into work in place. Thus, foremen's
ideas regarding how to improve scheduling and coordination should be explored. What
suggestions do foremen have about how to improve scheduling? What suggestions do
foremen have about how to reduce delays?
Since little is known about foremen's exposure to computers, questions were
designed to learn more about the potential of foremen as users of handheld
computer/communication devices. What is the computer literacy rate of foremen? Do
foremen use computers as part of their job? Do foremen use computers at home?
Attitudinal factors are explored since they could largely determine the outcome of
any attempt to automate foremen with handheld digital communicators (Cahoon, 1995;
Coble, 1994; Rojas and Songer, 1996; Stukhart, 1995; Tatum et al., 1991). What are the
attitudes of foremen toward computers? Do foremen think that using a computer could help
them do their job better? What are the attitudes of foremen toward the concept of using a
handheld computer/communication device as part of their job? Additional insights couldbe
gained by investigating whether any characteristics of the role of foremen in the scheduling
communication process correlate with their attitudes toward new computing technologies.
In order to answer the questions outlined above, the primary objectives of this study
are established as follows:
1) Investigate problems in the scheduling communication process.
2) Examine the role of foremen in the scheduling communication process.
3) Explore means of improving the scheduling communication process.
More detailed objectives which focus on specific research to be performed in this study are
Investigation of Problems
Several research objectives direct the investigation of problems in the scheduling
1) Review the literature related to the scheduling communication process.
2) Learn what problems foremen experience with scheduling and coordination.
3) Evaluate foremen's access to information they need to do their jobs.
4) Assess whether or not foremen are adequately informed about the schedule.
5) Determine foremen's sources of delay, including delays in project
Examination of Foremen's Role
The following research objectives guide the examination of foremen's role in the
scheduling communication process:
1) Determine the extent of foremen's involvement in the initial planning
2) Investigate foremen's practices related to scheduling (e.g., whether or not
foremen actually use the schedule to organize their work).
3) Ascertain foremen's attitudes toward scheduling (e.g., their perceptions of the
usefulness of a written schedule).
4) Explore factors which may affect foremen's role in scheduling (e.g., the
relationship between worker safety and productivity).
5) Examine foremen's involvement in creating the as-built record of the job
(e.g., their common practices of record keeping and attitudes toward
Exploration of Process Improvement
Corresponding to the third primary research question, the following objectives
explore means of improving the scheduling communication process:
1) Learn about foremen's ideas regarding how to improve scheduling and
coordination (e.g., how to reduce delays).
2) Explore the concept of foremen using a handheld computer/communication
device to improve effectiveness and efficiency in the scheduling
3) Measure the computer literacy rate of foremen (including an assessment of
computer use by foremen at work and at home).
4) Investigate foremen's attitudes towards computers, including their attitudes
toward the concept of using a handheld computer/communication device as
part of their job.
5) Determine whether there are characteristics of foremen which predict their
attitudes toward new computing technologies with potential to improve the
scheduling and coordination process. It is hypothesized that such predictive
characteristics of foremen will include the following:
a) Demographic information such as craft, experience level, age, and
b) Involvement in the initial planning stage of a job.
c) Experience with written schedules, including look-ahead schedules.
d) Attitudes about scheduling.
e) Attitudes about worker safety.
f) Documentation practices and attitudes concerning its importance.
g) Sources of delay, including delays due to scheduling conflicts and
information flow problems.
h) Experience with computing technology, including exposure to, use of,
and attitudes toward computers.
Each question in the survey, which is designed to gather information on the above
characteristics, could theoretically be stated as a hypothesis. Since this research is
exploratory, however, strict hypotheses are not formed at this point. As detailed in Chapter
2, the survey instrument provides a means of gathering information regarding many specific
characteristics which correspond to the general characteristics presented above. As detailed
in Chapter 3, preliminary evaluation of results reveals the most pertinent characteristics of
foremen, and explicit hypotheses are then developed and tested.
Summary of Research Design
This research project seeks to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of
construction information systems, specifically regarding the communication of project
schedule information. A key element of the study is its focus on field operations, particularly
on the role of the foreman. Under exploration is the concept of automating the construction
foreman with computerized data management and communication tools so that the foreman
becomes an integral part of the communication process within the scheduling information
This study focuses on foremen working on relatively large general commercial
building projects. New construction totaling approximately $1.5 billion at Universal Studios
in Orlando, Florida, provided a wide variety of trades and a plentiful source of foremen to
study. In addition, two large commercial projects in Orlando and two in Gainesville, Florida,
provided an external pool of foremen to study in order that results could be validated outside
of the Universal projects. These four non-Universal projects ranged in size from $12 million
to $30 million.
A questionnaire was developed in order to facilitate in-depth personal interviews
addressing the multiple research questions discussed above. All interviews were conducted
in person by this researcher. Most interviews were recorded on audio tape, which enabled
timely completion of the interviews and also provided an accurate and detailed record of
responses for subsequent review. Purposive sampling, also known as judgmental sampling
(Babbie, 1990), was used to obtain a valid sample of 119 foremen.
This chapter describes the methods used to accomplish the study's objectives, as
presented in Chapter 1. The descriptions encompass (1) design of the survey instrument, or
questionnaire, (2) sample selection, including both the main and external samples, (3) field
data collection by means of personal interviews, and (4) statistical procedures for analysis
The questionnaire used in this research was designed to facilitate an organized and
consistent method of gathering the data during personal interviews (see Appendix A, page
143, for unabridged questionnaire). Questions were tailored to focus on the construction
foreman. The survey instrument was the means of investigating (1) problems with the
scheduling communication process, (2) foremen's role in the scheduling communication
process, and (3) how the scheduling communication process can be improved.
Questions pertinent to the research were developed and then refined in an attempt to
address the issues as specifically as possible. A pilot study was performed in order to test the
proposed questions and to obtain feedback regarding other relevant issues that should be
addressed. Those questions which could be answered with a limited set of possible choices
were identified, and the corresponding sets of answers were developed. Other questions were
left open-ended, either due to the wide range of expected responses or simply to allow the
respondents the freedom to fully explain their answers. For many questions, a Likert scale
was deemed appropriate and scaled answers were developed. Several variations of Likert
scales were used. The two most common ones were the frequency scale and the agreement
scale. An importance scale and a quality scale were also used. These four types of scales are
1 2 3 4 5
never rarely sometimes usually always
1 2 3 4 5
strongly disagree disagree no opinion agree strongly agree
1 2 3 4 5
not at all of little imp. fairly imp. important very important
1 2 3 4 5
terrible poor OK good excellent
The first section of the questionnaire gathered demographic information about the
project and individual being interviewed. This included the project name, general contracting
company name, the foreman's craft and company name, the foreman's experience in
construction as a worker and as a foreman, the foreman's union affiliation, the foreman's
length of employment with current employer, the foreman's average crew size, the foreman's
education level, and the foreman's age.
Initial Planning Practices
The next section of the questionnaire dealt with the foreman's role in the initial
planning process. The questions in this section investigated the input that foremen have in
the development of the project schedule, and are listed below:
* At the beginning of a new job, does anyone from your company or the company
managing the job ask you how you plan to do your portion of the work? (for
example: what specific methods you will use to do the job, or how you will organize
job tasks) [Frequency Scale]
If yes, who asks you?
Description of this interaction:
* At the beginning of a new job, does anyone from your company or the company
managing the job ask you how long you think it will take to complete your portion
of the work? [Frequency Scale]
If yes, who asks you?
Description of this interaction:
Use of Written Schedules
Several questions were developed to determine how often written schedules are used
on projects, foremen's level of exposure to these schedules, and whether they find the
schedules to be helpful. The first question in this section was developed in order to assess
the personal use of written planning by foremen. That is, do foremen just keep track of
everything in their heads and deal with field coordination on an as-needed basis, or do they
actually utilize some type of written plan which they use to map out the work and stay
organized? The specific questions follow:
* Do you use some type of written plan to organize upcoming work? Yes / No
If so, what kind of plan do you use?
A. list of activities B. bar chart C. network diagram D. other:
* How often are there written schedules for projects you work on? [Frequency Scale]
* Do you see these schedules? [Frequency Scale]
What form are they in? (Bar chart, list of activities, diagram, etc.)
How often are the written schedules helpful to you and your crew?
Use of Look-Ahead Schedules
The use of look-ahead schedules (short-interval schedules) was also investigated.
Such schedules are valuable to foremen because they serve as the link between the overall
schedule and the organization of resources needed to perform specific tasks (Hinze, 1998).
Therefore, the use of such schedules within the sample was deemed important to this study.
The questions asked regarding look-ahead schedules follow:
* Are look-ahead schedules used on your jobs? [Frequency Scale]
* If so,
How far ahead do the look-ahead schedules plan the work?
Who makes these schedules?
What does this schedule look like? (is it a list of activities? a bar
chart? a network diagram? something else?)
Do you help plan the look-ahead schedules on your jobs? [Frequency
If so, how?
Attitudes About Scheduling
Several open-ended questions were asked to discover attitudes of foremen and their
crews towards the use of schedules and the general practice of scheduling, as well as to learn
their ideas for improving the process:
* Do you follow the schedule?
* How do you feel about the schedule?
* How do your crew members feel about the schedule?
* Do you wish you had more information about the schedule? Yes / No
If so, what?
* Do you have any suggestions on how to improve scheduling?
Scheduling and Safety
Several questions were then asked about safety in order to gather information about
foremen's perception of the relationship between scheduling and safety. Scheduling and
safety are necessarily intertwined, and "safety is a topic that must underlie every activity that
is included in a schedule" (Hinze, 1998, p. 215). Therefore, it was determined that
respondents' opinions about safety issues were important in this study on scheduling. The
following questions were asked:
* How important do you think worker safety is? [Importance Scale]
* How does following safety rules affect production?
A. slows down production B. does not affect production C. speeds up production
* Do the completion goals of the schedule make it difficult to deal properly with safety
issues? [Frequency Scale]
* Do you think you can make good job progress and be safe at the same time?
* How is safety information communicated to you?
* Do you think that having safety activities in the written schedule which relate to
upcoming work activities would help you to know what safety issues should be dealt
with at each stage of the job?
The next section investigated the practices of foremen regarding documentation.
Questions were developed to determine the types of information they record about the work
of their crews, whether they keep records beyond the minimum documentation required, how
important they think this documentation is, and how frequently their records are actually
used and/or checked. These questions were pertinent to this study because of the importance
of accurate as-built information in order to update the schedule and to notify all interested
parties of the current status of the work.
* Do you record information about the work your crew does? Yes / No
What do you record & how do you record it? (i.e., time sheets, daily
logs, production rates, pictures, notes, etc.)
How often do you record this information?
How much time per day do you spend recording this information?
Who do you give this information to?
If pictures are taken,
do you use a regular camera or a digital camera (or both)?
what is the purpose of the pictures you take?
Are you required to keep records? Yes / No
If so, by whom?
Do you keep any records that are not required? Yes / No
If so, what?
How important do you think the job records you keep are?
Why do you think this?
Do you think your job records are used to evaluate your work?
Is the data you record checked by anyone? [Frequency Scale]
Are you asked questions by anyone about the data you record?
If you have to shift your crew to another area (because you're waiting
for information you need in order to do your current work, waiting for
inspections, waiting for other trades, etc.) do you...
Make notes about why you had to move your crew to a new
area? [Frequency Scale]
Keep track of the time lost from moving your crew to a new
area? [Frequency Scale]
Sources of Delay
Several questions inquired about the experiences of foremen regarding access to
information needed to perform the work and the level of difficulty in getting answers to
specific questions that arise concerning execution of the work. Other potential sources of
delay were investigated, as well as foremen's suggested solutions. Opinions regarding the
openness of management toward the foremen's suggestions to improve work processes were
* In general, how do you rate your access to the information you need to do your job?
* Please give your opinion about the following statement: Your production is often
slowed down because you are waiting for information needed to perform the work.
If so, what are some typical kinds of information that you have to wait for
which are needed to perform your work?
* Is it difficult to get necessary questions answered? [Agreement Scale]
If so, Lwhy is it difficult?
* How do you go about getting questions answered? (RFI's etc.)
* What else causes you delays on the job?
* How can these delays be reduced?
* Is management willing to listen to suggestions you have abouthow to improve work
processes? [Frequency Scale]
Computers and Technology
The last section of the questionnaire gathered information about the computer literacy
of foremen, their exposure to and use of computers and related technology, and their attitudes
toward the use of computers as part of their jobs. It is important to note that the method of
asking the last several questions in this section was somewhat different. These final questions
involved explaining the concept of handheld computer use in the field and demonstrating
sample handheld computing devices. The concept of obtaining field measurements via stereo
imaging was explained. Specific handheld digital communication devices were demonstrated
for foremen in order to obtain their evaluation regarding whether such devices would help
them do theirjobs, as well as to measure their acceptance levels concerning their use of such
* Do you personally use a computer to perform any part of your job? Yes / No
* Do you use a computer at home? Yes / No
* Do you have children who use computers at your home? Yes / No
* Do you like to play video games?
* Do you use any type of electronic organizer? Yes / No (If so, what?)
* What communication devices do you use? (2-way radio, cell-phone, pager)
* Would you say that computers are beneficial to construction companies? [Agreement
* Do you think that a computer could help you do your job better? [Agreement Scale]
* If your employer told you a computer would help you do your job better and wanted
you to start using one as part of your job, how would you feel about that?
* Do you think that computers could ever replace part of the foreman's job?
* Assume you had a camera which took pictures that enabled anyone looking at the
pictures to know all the dimensions in the pictures. Please give your opinion
regarding whether such a camera would be useful to you. [Agreement Scale]
If this camera would be useful, for what purposess?
How accurate would such a camera need to be?
* Would a device like these (demonstrating mock-up Gator Communicator and
IBM/BellSouth Simon) help you do your job? [Agreement Scale]
* Would a device like these (demonstrating mock-up Gator Communicator and
IBM/BellSouth Simon, including concept of accessing the schedule through these
devices) help you with scheduling and coordination? [Agreement Scale]
The construction foreman, defined as the first-line field supervisor, was chosen to be
the focus of this research. In particular, this study sought to examine construction foremen
working on relatively large commercial building projects, with the assumption that large
projects have a higher level of need for efficient and effective scheduling, coordination, and
communication tools than small or medium projects. It was further assumed that foremen of
trade contractors working on large projects would be more aware of the needs for efficient
and effective scheduling, coordination, and communication tools than foremen working on
small or medium projects.
The purposive (or judgmental) method of sampling, as described by Babbie (1990),
was utilized in this research. Judgmental sampling allows the sample to be selected based on
the researcher's "knowledge of the population, its elements, and the nature of [the] research
aims" (p. 97). This nonprobability method was chosen since the dynamic nature of
construction projects and the itinerant qualities of construction foremen would make
probability sampling prohibitively expensive and time consuming.
It would have been extremely time consuming to even attempt developing a list of
all the construction foremen working on a selected group of projects. Identifying a larger
population of foremen, such as all the construction foremen working in the state of Florida,
would be even less feasible. It is also unlikely that an accurate and complete list would result
even if one spent the inordinate amount of time necessary to identify all the subcontractors
intending to be on a selected group of projects during a certain range of dates. It would be
equally difficult to contact all of these companies and request the names of their foremen
expected to be working on particular projects during a certain range of dates.
Furthermore, locating individual foremen selected in a random sample would be
extremely time consuming and infeasible, particularly on large project sites. For those
foremen who would actually be found, many would probably not qualify for inclusion in the
study because they were actually superintendents. With trade contractors, distinguishing
between foremen and superintendents is often difficult and people within the contracting
companies usually assume that the superintendent is really the person being sought. They
simply direct an interviewer to the superintendent since they believe this individual will be
able to deal with public relations more smoothly than the foreman, or possibly since
discussions with superintendents would be less disruptive to the work process. Even some
field representatives of general contracting firms are not able to distinguish among a given
subcontractor's foremen, general foremen, and superintendents who are working on their
In this study, purposive sampling enabled the interviewer to locate construction
foremen relatively quickly by walking through the construction projects and observing the
ongoing work. It allowed for flexibility of timing, so that a foreman who was taking a break
could be approached rather than one who was working with the crew (e.g., helping them get
ready for a concrete pour that afternoon). It also enabled the interviewer to include a good
cross-section of trades. For example, if only electrical and concrete foremen were
interviewed on a particular day due to their availability, the interviewer was able to seek out
other trades the next day.
Construction work at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, was chosen as the source
of projects from which to draw the main sample. Multiple projects ongoing within the
development activities of a single owner provided an ideal environment for maintaining a
low level of variability and enabling good internal validity of results. Although the
circumstances at Universal Studios appeared ideal for the study since it was a large project
and included an even cross-section of several trades, the possibility was considered that any
unique project characteristics could yield skewed results. Thus, it was determined that the
results of the study would be more reliable if an external sample of foremen was also
surveyed in the same manner as the main sample. The external sample data could then be
compared to the main sample data to check for consistency of results. Thus, four other
projects (two in Orlando, Florida, and two in Gainesville, Florida) were selected in order to
provide external validity to the results of the study.
The total volume of work within the Universal Studios projects was approximately
$1.5 billion. These projects included the Islands of Adventure theme park and the Portofino
Hotel. Islands of Adventure was divided into six major "islands," each with a different
general contractor or construction manager (contractual arrangements varied), except that
one contractor was building two of the six islands, resulting in five different prime
contractors. Another contractor was building the hotel project, resulting in six different prime
contractors performing all the work sampled within the Universal Studios projects.
The four projects selected for the external sample included a $30 million retail center
in Orlando, Florida (Winter Park Village), a $12 million office building in Orlando, Florida
(One Legacy Point), a $25 million hotel in Gainesville, Florida (University of Florida Hotel
& Conference Center), and a $16 million student residence facility in Gainesville, Florida
(Student Residence Facility 2000). Two of the six general contractors in the main sample
(Universal Studios projects) were also represented in the external sample (consisting of three
general contractors), and one of these two general contractors was represented in both the
Orlando and Gainesville external samples. This helped minimize any influence that different
general contractors and different geographical areas may have on results within the external
A total of 121 foremen were surveyed, but two of the surveys were discarded. In one
of these discarded cases, the substantial portion of the questionnaire was incomplete. In the
other, the participant initially identified himself as a foreman but the interview revealed that
he was actually functioning more as a general superintendent. Therefore, the total number
of valid surveys was 119. This sample represented eighty different companies and sixteen
different trades or trade groups. In general, trades were categorized according to standard
divisions of work as developed by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI).
Nomenclature was adjusted and some trades were grouped together to reflect the actual
conditions of the sample. For example, drywall, plaster, and metal framing were grouped
together since this work is typically performed by crews working under the same foreman.
The full list of categories used is given below:
1. Site Work
7. Drywall / Plaster / Metal Framing
8. Flooring / Tile
10. Special Finishes
11. Miscellaneous Specialties
12. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
14. HVAC and Plumbing
15. Fire Sprinklers
Since some mechanical foremen performed both plumbing and HVAC, and others
specialized in one or the other, separate and combined categories were created in order to
accurately reflect the foremen's actual work activities.
For the main sample, contact was made with Universal Studios managers overseeing
the construction work. After describing the research project and obtaining permission to
conduct interviews with foremen on the Universal studios job sites, arrangements were made
to gain access to the sites, including confirmation of proper insurance coverage for the
interviewer, parking passes, visitor badges, and project logistics information. Attendance at
a general superintendent's lunch meeting enabled this researcher to describe the research
project to the top field representatives for each of the general contractors and to obtain
approval for interviewing foremen on each respective project.
For the external sample, contact was made with project managers on the individual
projects. After describing the research project, arrangements were made to gain access to the
Interviews for the main sample data (N=87) were conducted between January 29,
1999, and March 10, 1999. Interviews for the external sample data (N=32) were conducted
between June 15, 1999, and July 30, 1999. All interviews were conducted by this researcher
on the actual construction sites. Most were conducted either outdoors or in partially
constructed buildings, and a few were conducted in job site office trailers.
Utilizing judgmental sampling, the interviewer walked around on the projects,
observing the work and looking for foremen to interview. Once potential candidates were
identified, the interviewer asked them several questions about their job descriptions in order
to confirm that they actually were functioning as foremen (defined as first-line field
supervisors). If they were first-line field supervisors, the interviewer briefly described the
research project and asked them to participate in the research by answering several questions
about their experience in the construction industry. Most foremen were agreeable to this idea,
although it was sometimes necessary to assure them that the study was simply the
interviewer's own research project towards completion of a college degree, that it was not
for purposes related to corporate politics, and that all answers would remain confidential.
After a given foreman had agreed to participate in the survey, the interviewer asked
permission to tape record the interview. A few foremen refused to be tape recorded, but most
did not object to the use of a recorder.
Although conducting the personal interviews was very time consuming, it worked
quite well as a method of data collection. The interviewer was quickly able to ascertain
whether or not an interviewee understood the question, thereby enabling the question to be
repeated or clarified, if necessary. Regarding the benefit of personal interviewing as a means
of data collection, Babbie (1990) states, "If the respondent clearly misunderstands the intent
of a question or indicates that he does not understand, the interviewer can clarify matters and
thereby obtain relevant responses" (p. 188). For this reason, the data collected most likely
have a higher level of integrity than if the same survey were conducted by mail or otherwise
distributed for independent completion by the respondents.
As previously noted, a somewhat different method was employed for asking the last
several questions in the section regarding use of computers. These questions differed from
the others in that they were asked after explaining a concept and demonstrating how
handheld computers might be used in the field.
The statistical software package used for data analysis is SPSS 9.0. Scaled answers
and answers to closed-ended questions were entered directly into the system to reflect the
answers from the survey instrument. Answers to open-ended questions were either partially
or fully transcribed, and then appropriate codes created, in order to enable entry of the data
into the SPSS data file. Results are first described with descriptive statistics and basic
interpretations. Response frequencies are calculated and both tabular and graphical output
is generated for presentation purposes. Statistical tests are then used to analyze the data.
The Mann-Whitney Uand Wilcoxon Wtests, which enable comparison of two related
samples, are used to evaluate the consistency of results between the main and external
samples. These nonparametric tests are appropriate for analysis of ordinal data, and do not
make strict assumptions concerning population distributions (Agresti and Finlay, 1986). The
equation for the Mann-Whitney U is
U = NIN2 + N(NI + 1) Ti Equation 1 Mann-Whitney U
where N1 and N2 are sample sizes of the two groups being compared and T, is the sum of
ranks of one sample. The related equation for the Wilcoxon W is
=m(m + 2n + 1) N(N\ + 1)
W = + N N1N2 N) + Ti Equation 2 Wilcoxon W
where m is the number of observations in the smaller group, and n is the number of
observations in the larger group (SPSS Base 9.0, 1999).
Next, testing of correlations is performed using Kendall's tau-b in order to identify
the independent variables which are correlated with foremen's acceptance of handheld
computer/communication technology. The formula for Kendall's tau-b is
S= -p+Q x Equation 3 Kendall's Tau-b
where P is the number of concordant pairs, Q is the number of discordant pairs, Tx is the
number of pairs tied on Xbut not on Y, and T, is the number tied on Ybut not on X(SPSS
Base 9.0, 1999).
Lastly, multiple linear regression analysis is performed to identify any characteristics
of foremen which predict their acceptance of the handheld computer/communication
technology. The formula for multiple linear regression is
y = fl + fix1+.. .+6xy + E Equation 4 Multiple Linear Regression
where y is the dependent variable, Po is the y-intercept, P3 is the slope, x,...Xp are the
independent variables, and e is the error term (SPSS Base 9.0, 1999).
Single-step multiple linear regression, where all independent variables are entered
into the equation at the same time, is used for hypothesis testing. Both single-step and
stepwise multiple linear regression are then used to develop overall predictive models. In the
stepwise method, independent variables are entered individually and are examined for entry
or removal at each step. Variables are then removed if their partial contributions to the model
are no longer significant when combined with other variables which are entered at later
stages (Agresti and Finlay, 1986).
This chapter presents results of the interview surveys conducted in this research.
First, descriptive statistics are presented to profile the characteristics of the participating
construction foremen. Foremen's characteristics are examined to investigate problems in the
scheduling communication process, to study the role of foremen in the scheduling
communication process, and to explore ways the scheduling communication process can be
improved. Results are presented according to the order of appearance in the survey
questionnaire, and frequencies obtained are discussed briefly. Since every question was not
answered by all 119 foremen, the number of respondents for each question is noted in the
corresponding figures. The results are then examined for validity, correlations are
investigated, hypotheses are tested, and predictive models are explored.
Characteristics of Foremen
The responses to survey questions are grouped according to the categories presented
in the Questionnaire Design section of Chapter 2. Demographic data are presented first,
including project and foremen demographics. The remaining characteristics of foremen are
then presented in the following categories: initial planning practices, use of written
schedules, use of look-ahead schedules, attitudes about scheduling, relationship between
scheduling and safety, documentation practices, sources of delay, and computers and
A total of eleven projects provided the data for this research. Seven projects
comprised the main sample, and four projects made up the external sample. (See Figure 1
for the percentage distribution of the sample according to the source project.) From left to
right in Figure 1, the first seven projects represent the main sample (87 responses) and the
remaining four represent the external sample (32 responses).
Distribution of Sample by Project Name
Main Sample External Sample
Name of Project
The eleven source projects were managed by a total of seven different general
contractors. (See Figure 2 for the percentage distribution of the sample by the general
contractors managing the surveyed projects.)
r2 6.1 1
General Contractor on Project
Distribution of Sample by General Contractor
Whiting Turner managed Suess Landing and Lost Continent; Turner managed Isla
Nublar; CRSS managed Toon Lagoon; Beers managed Superhero Island and Legacy Point;
Metric managed Port of Entry; Bovis managed Portofino Hotel, Winter Park Village, and
Student Residence Facility 2000, and Hardin managed UF Hotel & Conference Center.
Demographics of Foremen
The demographic characteristics of the foremen included trade specialty, experience
level, union affiliation, education, and age. Foremen employed by a total of seventy-six
different subcontractors and four general contractors were surveyed (see Table 1).
Companies employing the foremen in the main sample consisted of fifty-six subcontractors
and three general contractors, while companies employing foremen in the external sample
consisted of twenty-three subcontractors and one general contractor. Three subcontractors
from the main sample were also in the external sample.
Table 1 Number of Companies Employing the Foremen Surveyed
MAIN EXTERNAL DET
SAMPLE SAMPLE DIFFERENT
Subcontractors 56 23 76*
General Contractors 3 1 4
3 subcontractors represented in the Main Sample were also in the External Sample
The sample of foremen interviews was drawn from sixteen different trades or trade
groups (see Figure 3). Drywall, plaster, and metal framing were grouped together since this
work is typically performed by crews working under the same foreman. Some mechanical
foremen performed both plumbing and HVAC, while others specialized in one or the other,
so separate categories were created in order to accurately reflect the trades they represented.
The overall construction experience of foremen ranged from three to forty-eight years
(see Figure 4). The mean overall construction experience was 19.3 years, the median was
19.0 years, and the mode was 20.0 years.
Foremen's Trade or Craft
Figure 3 Distribution of Sample by Trade
3D 70? 11li 15) 19J) 23J) 27)) 32J) 43J)
60) 9J0 131D 17J) 21J0 25D3 29J0 350)
Foremen's Overall Construction Experience
Construction experience at the foreman level ranged from 0.5 to 30.0 years, with a
mean of 9.5 years, a median of 8.0 years, and a mode of 3.0 years. The percentage
distribution for years experience as foremen is shown in Figure 5.
.5 2.5 4.5 7J0 10O0 14.J 20J0 30J0
15 35 55 85 12.0 18.0 23J0
Construction Experience as Foremen
Union affiliation was categorized into four groups (see Figure 6). As shown, 46.2%
of the foremen were open-shop and had no prior union experience, 31.9% were working for
an open-shop company at the time of the survey but had prior union experience, 11.8% were
working for a union company at the time of the survey but had prior open-shop experience,
and 10.1% were union at the time of the survey and had no open-shop experience.
462 -IT= 119)
10D J 112
Open-Shop(All) UionWiis Open-Shop)
Open-Shop(W Uniaon) Uin(All)
Figure 6 Current and Previous Union Affiliation
The length of time the foremen had been with their current employer was examined
(see Figure 7). Durations ranged from two days to thirty years, with a mean of 4.6 years, a
median of 3.0 years, and a mode of 2.0 years.
The crew size typically supervised by foremen ranged from two to fifty-five, with a
mean crew size of 14.8, a median of 11.0, and a mode of 10.0 (see Figure 8). Most foremen
stated that their crew size varies considerably depending on the scope of the project and the
stage of the job at a given time. The answers represent what foremen considered their
average, or typical, crew sizes. Although the upper end of the range seems rather high, the
mean crew size (14.8) is comparable to another study of foremen which had a mean crew
size of 10.9 (Shohet and Laufer, 1991).
J .4 8 2.1 4.5 9J 15i0
-2 .7 13 33 7.0 12.J 22J0
Duration with Current Employer
2 4 6 8 10 12
14 16 20 25 33 38 45 55
Average Crew Size
The level of formal education completed by foremen was examined and the results
(see Figure 9) were compared to the results obtained in a 1977 Stanford study of fifty
foremen. Although the scale of measurement used in that study was slightly different, 11.9%
of the foremen had completed ninth grade or less, 16.7% had some high school, 35.7% had
graduated from high school, 23.8% had some college, and 11.9% had graduated from junior
college or college (Samelson, 1977).
somehig school some college 4-yr college degee
high school graduate 2-yr college degree
Figure 9 Level of Formal Education Completed
The level of education among foremen appears to be rising, as indicated by the
increased percentage of foremen completing high school or more advanced education (see
Table 2). In the current study, 89.1% of foremen were at the high school graduate level or
higher, compared to 71.4% in the 1977 study. Percentages of foremen in this study with
some college education or college degrees, however, closely parallel the 1977 study.
Comparison of Foremen Education Levels with 1977 Study
SOME HIGH HIGH SCHOOL SOME COLLEGE COLLEGE
SCHOOL OR GRADUATE OR COLLEGE DEGREE
LOWER OR HIGHER DEGREE (2 OR 4 YEAR)
Current Study 10.9% 89.1% 38.7% 11.8%
1977 Study 28.6% 71.4% 35.7% 11.9%
Information was gathered on whether or not foremen had received some type of trade
school training (see Figure 10). The sample size, sixty-eight, is smaller for this variable since
no questions about trade school were included in the original survey. However, since many
foremen provided information about their trade school training when asked about their
formal education, this characteristic was examined for its potential relationship with the
Figure 10 Trade School Training
The age of the foremen was normally distributed with a range from eighteen to sixty-
four (see Figure 11), with a mean and median age of 40.0. The two modes were 35.0 and
18 26 30 34 38 42 46 51 55 63
22 28 32 36 40 44 48 53 58
Figure 11 Age of Foremen
Although gender was originally intended to be a variable in this study, no female
foremen were identified for inclusion during the sampling process. Therefore, all foremen
surveyed were male.
Initial Planning Practices
Planning is important on complex projects in order to keep all workers actively
pursuing completion of their work. Research shows that foremen's planning practices are an
important factor in the productivity of their crews. For example, one study showed that
foremen of productive crews spend 9.6% of their time on planning, compared to only 2.1%
by foremen of unproductive crews (Shohet and Laufer, 1991).
The involvement of foremen in planning varied widely in this study. As shown (see
Figure 12), 20.1% of the foremen indicated that when starting a new job they are "never" or
"rarely" asked about how they plan to organize the job or what methods they intend to use,
while 57.2% said they are "usually" or "always" asked such questions. The remaining 22.7%
indicated that they are "sometimes" asked about planning and methods. Although a
never rely sometimes aualy i y
Figure 12 How Often Foremen Are Asked About Methods
at Start of Job
foreman's ideas may not necessarily be implemented, the responses to this question
distinguish between those who have at least some input and those whose opinions are not
even sought. The majority (55.7%) of foremen who are asked about planning and methods
reported that it is someone from their own company (normally their superintendent or project
manager) who asks these questions (see Figure 13). Those foremen asked about methods by
the general contracting company indicated that it would typically be the job superintendent
asking the questions.
fremm's cOipay GC coMpay both coupmies
Figure 13 Who Asks Foremen About Methods
at Start of Job
Foremen also gave information on how often they were asked for their estimates of
task duration (see Figure 14). The highest percentage of answers were in the "always"
category. Again, this question does not establish that a foreman's input is necessarily
incorporated into the schedule, but it does distinguish between those foremen who are asked
what they think and those who are not asked. As with the methods question (see Figure 13),
it is usually foremen's own superintendents or project managers who ask for their input
regarding the duration of construction activities (see Figure 15).
rarely smcetmes usually
Foremen's Responses I
Figure 14 How Often Foremen Are Asked About Duration
of Construction Activities at Start of Job
GC company both conpuaies
Figure 15 Who Asks Foremen About Duration of
Construction Activities at Start of Job
Use of Written Schedules
The majority of foremen (60.5%) reported that they use some type of written plan to
organize their upcoming work. The most common type of plan used was a list of activities,
but four foremen (3.4%) said they use bar charts for planning their work (see Figure 16).
Figure 16 Use of Written Plan to Organize Work
Most foremen (69.7%) reported that there is "always" a written schedule for the
projects where they work (see Figure 17). No answers were given for the scale selection
"never," so this category is not displayed in the chart. Just because a foreman knows that a
schedule exists does not mean that the foreman actually sees the schedule, so foremen were
stL 0 a=Mries
rrely samames usually always
Figure 17 How Often Projects Have Written Schedules
asked how often they see the written schedule. Approximately half (53.8%) of the foremen
reported that they "always" see the schedule (see Figure 18). While 92.4% of the foremen
stated that there is "usually" or "always" a written schedule on their jobs (see Figure 17),
only 74.0% reported that they "usually" or "always" see the schedule (see Figure 18).
Additionally, 10.1% said they "never" or "rarely" see the schedule.
Foremen were also asked how often they find that written schedules are helpful to
them. Slightly more than half (56.9%) of the foremen answered that written schedules are
"usually" or "always" helpful (see Figure 19).
never rrely soametns uually alwa
Figure 18 How Often Foremen See the Schedule
S~ jfIffj I M Th
Figure 19 How Often Written Schedules Are
Helpful to Foremen
Use of Look-Ahead Schedules
Foremen were asked about the use of look-ahead schedules. Most foremen (70.6%)
reported that look-ahead schedules are "usually" or "always" used on projects they are
involved with, while only 12.6% reported that look-ahead schedules are "never" or "rarely"
used (see Figure 20).
never rely sometimes mually IwyS
Figure 20 How Often Look-Ahead Schedules Are
Used on Projects
Look-ahead schedules are designed to look into the immediate future and plan for the
upcoming work tasks on a project. Since these schedules can be structured to make
projections of one or more weeks, foremen were asked about the number of weeks projected
in the look-ahead schedules. The reported duration of look-ahead schedules varied from one
week to four weeks or more, but 72.9% answered that these schedules plan between one and
three weeks ahead (see Figure 21). A significant number (19.6%) reported a forward plan of
at least four weeks. Although some types of construction look-ahead schedules, or short-term
schedules, are much longer (e.g., sixty or ninety days), look-aheads normally plan the work
only two or three weeks in advance. Many such schedules also include an additional week
that looks back at the work just completed (Hinze, 1998). This study did not inquire about
the inclusion of the previous week in the look-ahead schedules.
Iwee1 2wees1 3mwees 4we1s
1 or 2wes 2or3weds 3or4weeds 4wes ormmor
Figure 21 Duration of Look-Ahead Schedules
The majority of foremen reported that the general contractor makes the look-ahead
schedules (see Figure 22). Although some foremen specified the general contractor's
superintendent or project manager as the individual who actually develops such schedules,
most answers simply indicated that someone within the general contractor's organization
makes the look-ahead schedules. As shown (see Figure 22), 12.8% of the foremen said they
make the look-ahead schedules themselves, and an additional 22.9% said that someone else
within their company makes the schedules. Another 12.8% of the foremen responded that
these schedules are generated by the general contractor and/or their own company, while
50.5% reported that only the general contractor creates look-aheads. Foremen who make the
look-ahead schedules themselves are considered to have the highest level of involvement in
the scheduling process, and foremen whose own companies make the look-ahead schedules
are considered to have more involvement in the scheduling process than those whose own
companies do not make look-ahead schedules.
fream GC&reum's coupmy
f omL's cCpOmy G Cn l CcarAtctor
Figure 22 Who Makes the Look-Ahead Schedules
Approximately half (50.5%) of the foremen indicated that look-ahead schedules are
composed of a list of activities which are to be performed in the upcoming week or weeks
(see Figure 23). Bar charts, which would be considered a more sophisticated means of
planning than a list, were the form of look-ahead schedules observed by 35.4% of the
foremen surveyed. An additional 12.1% said they typically see either form (list of activities
or bar chart).
veiba nlrdy listofctYities listorbadchmft brcht
Figure 23 Types of Look-Ahead Schedules Used
A fairly even distribution of answers was obtained when asking foremen if they help
plan look-ahead schedules for their projects (see Figure 24). Hinze (1998) points out that it
is ideal if craft supervisors are involved in developing short-interval schedules since these
schedules detail the specific tasks that the first-line supervisors know best. It was expected
that foremen who participated in planning the work would have a better attitude towards the
neer rely smtimes usually lways
Figure 24 How Often Foremen Help Plan
Attitudes About Scheduling
The fact that nearly all the interviews were tape recorded helped to further categorize
responses to open-ended questions, such as those concerning foremen's attitudes about
scheduling. With the recordings, voice inflection and general sentiment behind a response
could be evaluated if the comment itself was ambiguous.
Foremen were asked if they follow the schedule (see Figure 25; refer also to Table
10, page 155, for foremen's detailed responses). Only 4.2% gave negative responses,
examples of which include "I make my own schedule. I've been told I'm working out of
sequence" and "Well, I try to, but they're always pushin' so you never can." Typical neutral
responses are "You follow it as much as you can. But if something changes right after you
negatiue response eut response positive rensponse
Figure 25 Whether Foremen Follow the Schedule
write it...then you're back to square one" and "Yes, but if there's a problem with some of the
other sub-trades, then you can't follow it." Examples of positive responses include "I try to
keep really close to it, as close as I can" and "I have to. It's based on the GC's bar chart, and
we have to meet certain dates with certain items. If I don't, I get buried in concrete, and it's
my job to chip it up."
Most foremen (65.3%) gave positive responses to the question "How do you feel
about the schedule?" (See Figure 26; refer also to Table 11, page 160, for foremen's detailed
responses.) Comparing foremen's responses regarding how they feel about the schedule (see
Figure 26) to whether or not they follow the schedule (see Figure 25), some foremen
apparently cooperate with the demands of the schedule even if they have negative or neutral
feelings about it. On the three-point scale where negative = 1, neutral = 2, and positive = 3,
the mean for "How do you feel about the schedule?" is 2.52, while the mean for "Do you
egtiie response neutr-nsponse posiue response
Figure 26 How Foremen Feel About the Schedule
follow the schedule?" is 2.74, implying that foremen's actual adherence to the schedule is
better than their attitudes toward the schedule. Examples of negative responses are "It's a
crock of bull since they change their minds so much and it's so tight you can't do it" and "A
lot of times it's not realistic. Coordination is poor. I can keep up with any schedule as long
as it's coordinated with the other contractors on the job site. And that's not done very much."
Neutral responses include "If they get me the things I need when I want them, then I feel
good about it" and "It's useful when it works, and sometimes it's an absolute waste of time."
Sample positive responses are "They help you get the job done. You have to have a schedule.
If not, you never will get the job done" and "You can't go without them. You gotta have
some kind of a schedule. You gotta have some kind of plan to go by."
The majority (62.2%) of the foremen reported that their crews do not know what the
schedule is (see Figure 27). One foreman said, "They know nothing about the schedule. They
don't need that stress."
Figure 27 Whether Foremen's Crews Know the Schedule
For those foremen whose crews know about the schedule, the perceived attitudes of
their crews toward the schedule are categorized in Figure 28. Sample negative responses
include "They hate it, because we push to be done on time" and "They hate it. They'd rather
work their eight hours a day and be done with it." Neutral responses include "They hate
being threatened by it, but they like it as a challenge. And you can use it both ways" and
"They're complacent about it. They just want someone to tell them where to go and what to
do." Positive responses include "They look forward to it, being able to plan ahead" and
"They like it. That way they know what they're doing. Sometimes my crew will get here
ahead of me or they'll work late or something, or I have to go to meetings. They know
what's going on in order to go. They're not just sitting there."
regtie response neutr1 srponse posite response
Figure 28 How Foremen Think Their Crews Feel
About the Schedule
Many foremen (40.9%) reported that they want more information aboutthe schedule
(see Figure 29; refer also to Table 12, page 167, for foremen's detailed responses). A
common response was that they want to know more about how their upcoming work is going
to coordinate with other trades. One foreman who wanted more information on coordination
with other trades said he does not get the necessary details at the coordination meetings since
"a lot of times, when they have their weekly meetings, half the people don't show up."
Another common response was the desire for more accurate scheduling information. One
foreman who wanted more accurate dates for his upcoming work stated that the original
schedule does not get updated. "It changes so much. If they would just adjust the schedule
to reflect what's actually happening in the field."
Figure 29 Whether Foremen Want More Information About
The majority (74.6%) ofthe foremen have suggestions on how to improve scheduling
(see Figure 30; refer also to Table 13, page 172, for foremen's detailed responses). Although
these suggestions vary widely, a common theme among them is the need for better
communication throughout the scheduling process. As one foreman said, "Communication
is the real key. I mean, that's the biggest problem that most companies have, is the
communication issue." Another stated, "In construction, you always got communication
problems." Many foremen also suggested that activity durations need to be more realistic,
with some indicating that durations would be realistic if the input of the trades was
incorporated into the schedule. Similar findings appear in Birrell's (1989) study of
scheduling issues, in which approximately one-third of subcontractors claimed that durations
are unrealistic. Regardless of the specific suggestion, the fact that some foremen have
suggestions on how to improve scheduling may indicate that they are not satisfied with the
current system and/or that they are open to the idea of changing the current system.
Figure 30 Whether Foremen Have Suggestions
Regarding How to Improve Scheduling
Scheduling and Safety
A majority (58.0%) of the foremen reported that following safety rules slows down
production (see Figure 31). It is important to note, however, that regardless of how they
answered this question, nearly all foremen went on to emphasize the importance they place
on safety. Foremen who stated that safety slows down production typically qualified their
answers by saying that their first priority is safety, and that the safety of their workers is
more important than production.
slows down does not ffct
Figure 31 Effect That Following Safety Rules
Has on Production
When foremen were asked if the demands of the schedule ever make it difficult to
deal properly with safety issues, 45.4% answered that this "sometimes" happens, and 17.7%
reported that this "usually" or "always" happens (see Figure 32). It appears that although
foremen as a whole feel very strongly about their responsibility to ensure the safety of their
crews, there is a perception that the demands of the schedule create a conflict with their
commitment to working safely. Nonetheless, 97.5% of foremen either "agreed" or "strongly
agreed" that they can make "good job progress" and be safe at the same time (see Figure 33).
Thus, there appears to be a discrepancy between the goals of the schedule and what foremen
1 45 .4
never rely sometimes usually always
Figure 32 Frequency That the Schedule Causes Difficulty in
Dealing Properly with Safety Issues
(Nz 119 )
Figure 33 Whether Foremen Think They Can Make Good
Job Progress While Working Safely
define as "good job progress." This finding is consistent with the fact that many of the
foremen commented on the need for more realistic durations when asked if they had any
suggestions about how to improve scheduling (see Figure 30, page 64; refer also to Table 13,
page 172, for foremen's detailed responses).
Foremen were asked for their opinions regarding the inclusion of safety activities in
the construction schedule (see Figure 34). Regarding whether or not foremen thought it
would be helpful to include safety activities in the written schedule, 51.3% responded
negatively and 38.3% responded positively. Positive responses to this question may indicate
foremen's willingness to try new methods of scheduling.
Previous studies have highlighted the need to address safety issues in the construction
schedule. Birrell (1989) advised that the schedule should reflect safety concerns by its
negaieresponse neut1arensponse positie response
Figure 34 Opinions of Foremen Regarding the Inclusion of
Safety Activities in the Construction Schedule
process logic and activity durations, and suggested the possibility of including safety
activities as part of the explicit schedule. Research funded by the Center to Protect Workers'
Rights has resulted in the development of software which enables the integration of
information from a safety database with computerized project schedules, linking relevant
items from the safety database to the appropriate activities in the schedule (Kartam, 1995).
Hinze (1998) also emphasized the importance of addressing safety concerns in the
Nearly all (96.6%) of the foremen indicated that they record information about the
work of their crews. The form of documentation varied from only keeping time sheets to
keeping detailed daily reports and log books. Most of the foremen reported the same basic
practices of record keeping. They keep time sheets for their crews and also keep a daily
record of information aboutthe project. However, the practice of keeping a separate log book
(sometimes called a journal) was less common. Therefore, in order to distinguish between
levels of documentation being maintained, foremen's responses were categorized according
to whether or not they keep a log book to document pertinent activities and issues on their
projects. Based on this criteria, 51.1% of the 92 foremen providing this information reported
that they do maintain a log book (in addition to daily reports and other required
documentation) and 48.9% said they do not keep a log book.
Ninety foremen provided information on the amount of time spent on documentation.
Although the range of time spent per day on record keeping activities varied widely (from
five minutes to 3.5 hours), the mean was 61.0 minutes, the median was 56.3 minutes, and the
mode was 60.0 minutes.
Foremen's practices regarding photographic documentation was also examined (see
Figure 35). Foremen were asked whether or not they take pictures on their projects and for
what purpose. Although 19.5% of foremen indicated that they do not take pictures on the job,
the remaining foremen take pictures for three basic purposes: keeping a personal portfolio
of projects they have built, documenting specific problems and/or circumstances, and
maintaining a general record of progress on the job (whether or not there are problems).
From their responses, ordinal categories were created to establish levels of sophistication
concerning photographic documentation, where taking no pictures represents the lowest level
and the practice of taking pictures for general records of job progress represents the highest
level. Although special permission had to be obtained in order to take pictures on the
nopictures specific problem
Figure 35 Foremen's Practices of Taking Pictures
Universal Studios projects due to the proprietary work under construction, foremen were
instructed to answer this question based on their typical habits of taking pictures on other
Foremen were asked if they keep any records that are not required, and 82.2%
(N= 118) reported keeping records that are not required. They indicated that such records
usually involve specific details they want to remember about their work, materials they need
to order, or notes about coordination with other trades.
Most foremen (83.3%) indicated that they think their records are "very important"
(see Figure 36). No answers were given for the importance category "not at all," which is
omitted from the chart. This finding indicates an important reversal in foremen's attitudes
towards documentation, as Borcherding (1972) found that "very few foremen or
800 f 833
oflittlmh importace important
fairly imp t r impr
Figure 36 How Important Foremen Think Their
Job Records Are
superintendents fully appreciate the value of or need for paperwork that they are asked to
complete" (p. 122).
Foremen were asked why they think their job records are important (see Figure 37).
As with the foremen's practice of taking pictures (see Figure 35), ordinal categories were
created to rank levels of sophistication regarding documentation practices. The majority of
the foremen (67.0%) gave reasons that dealt with protecting themselves and/or their
companies from future problems, such as litigation (see Figure 37). Reasons given that deal
with maintaining control of the job and/or compiling historical data for use in estimating and
other systems account for 22.0% of the sample. Answers which included both categories
(protect self/company and job control/history) were given by an additional 8.3% of the
70.0 (N= 109)
protectselfcom y protection + corol
job controlahistoiy other
Figure 37 Why Foremen Think Their Job
Records Are Important
The practice of documenting work accomplished on a routine basis, whether or not
there are any particular problems, is considered in this study to be a more sophisticated level
of documentation than specifically focusing on a particular problem area. It is often difficult
to know beforehand which issues will become problems later in the job or after the job is
finished. The documentation that is detailed in all aspects of the as-built project record will
probably be better for multiple purposes than documentation of an isolated issue. The need
to document a specific problem is obvious, but it takes more foresight to also document the
as-built progress that appears to be taking place without difficulty. The practice of
maintaining a comprehensive record of as-built progress should produce the best
When asked if their records are used to evaluate their work, foremen gave varied
answers with some bias toward the affirmative end of the scale (see Figure 38). On the five-
point frequency scale shown, where "sometimes" = 3 and "usually" = 4, the mean response
was 3.3. Most foremen are used to being evaluated based on their job records. When asked
if their records are checked by others, foremen again gave varied answers with bias toward
the affirmative end of the scale (see Figure 39). On the five-point frequency scale shown,
where "sometimes" = 3 and "usually" = 4, the mean response was 3.6. Although 19.5% of
the foremen indicated that their records are never checked by others, 62.8% reported that
their records are "usually" or "always" checked. Regarding whether or not they are asked
questions about their records, foremen's responses varied, with a very slight bias toward the
negative end of the scale (see Figure 40). On the five-point frequency scale shown, where
"rarely" = 2 and "sometimes" = 3, the mean response was 2.9.
never rarely sometimes usually always
Figure 38 How Often Foremen's Records Are Used
to Evaluate Their Work
never ey sometnes usually always
Figure 39 How Often Foremen's Records Are Checked
never rely sometimes muiully aways
Figure 40 How Often Foremen Are Asked Questions
About Their Records
Regarding foremen's practices of documenting situations when they have to shift
their crews to other work areas (because they are waiting for information needed to do their
current work, waiting for inspections, waiting for other trades, etc.), responses show that
such occurrences tend to be documented. Most foremen (76.1%) reported that they "usually"
or "always" keep notes detailing why they had to move their crews (see Figure 41).
Similarly, the majority (57.2%) said they usually or always keep a record of the time spent
remobilizing their crews (see Figure 42). These findings, which relate to foremen's specific
practices of documentation when shifting crews to other work areas, are relatively consistent
with the findings that foremen are generally aware of the importance of their job records (see
Figure 36, page 70, and Figure 37, page 71).
never rarely somletes usualy
Foremen's Responses I
Figure 41 How Often Foremen Keep Written Notes in the
Event They Have to Move Their Crews
never rely oaimmiee usually
Figure 42 How Often Foremen Keep Records ofTime Spent
Remobilizing Their Crews
Sources of Delay
Foremen were asked to rate their degree of access to the information they need to do
their jobs (see Figure 43). Most foremen (63.6%) answered that their access to information
is "good" or "excellent." On the quality scale shown, where "OK" = 3 and "good" = 4, the
mean response was 3.8.
Figure 43 How Foremen Rate Their Access to Information
Needed to Do Their Jobs
Although foremen gave fairly positive responses to the general question about their
access to information, their responses were somewhat negative when asked more specific
questions. As shown (see Figure 44), 56.3% of the foremen either "agreed" or "strongly
agreed" that their production is often slowed down due to waiting for information needed to
perform their work (see Table 14, page 181, for foremen's detailed responses regarding the
type of information for which they have to wait). It should be noted that many foremen
indicated that this "sometimes" happens, but since the question specifically asked if they are
"often" slowed down, these foremen answered in the "disagree" category. On the agreement
scale shown, where "no opinion"= 3 and "agree"= 4, the mean response to this question was
trngly disagee disagee no opi n agee strgly agee
Figure 44 Whether Waiting for Information
Often Slows Production
Similarly, 42.0% of the foremen either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that it is
difficult to get their questions answered (see Figure 45). Foremen who "agreed" or "strongly
agreed" that it was difficult to get their questions answered were also asked why it is
difficult. Common response categories were developed based on the answers received (see
30 0 32
gu gy clisagee disagree noopnioin agee trglya e
Figure 45 Whether Foremen Find it Difficult to Get
Their Questions Answered
Figure 46). As shown, 38.6% of theses foremen said that the people with the answers are
typically either overloaded with work or not available when needed; 34.1% said itis difficult
to get answers because there are so many layers of management; 11.4% blamed incompetent
architects, engineers, or managers in general; 4.5% said people are reluctant to give them
answers because they are afraid of taking responsibility for their decisions; 4.5 % said they
do not know why; and 6.8% gave other reasons.
Foremen were also asked what type of communication they use when asking their
questions. As shown (see Figure 47), 36.4% of the foremen only ask verbally, 20.3% only
ask in writing, and 43.2% ask either verbally or in writing, depending on the situation.
00 "4 U
wf&:loadora ail. incopetence donthnow
layers ofmgt relctanceto decide
Figure 46 Why Foremen Think it Is Difficult to Get
Their Questions Answered
vbal:,n only rittn olerbal writt.:fnn only
Figure 47 How Foremen Ask Their Questions
When foremen were asked about their main sources) of delay, they gave eight basic
responses (see Table 3; refer also to Table 15, page 185, for foremen's detailed responses).
This question was open-ended, and the response categories were developed after all
interviews were completed. Most foremen cited two or three of the sources of delay listed.
The most common type of delay specified is unanswered questions, cited by 42.6% of the
foremen. Being delayed by other trades was also frequently (37.7%) cited by the foremen.
Incomplete or conflicting documents was cited by 31.0% of the foremen. Delays specifically
attributed to scheduling, coordination and communication problems was the fourth most
common source, cited by 28.7% of the foremen.
Foremen's Main Sources of Delay
SOURCE OF DELAY CITED
Incomplete or Conflicting Plans / Specifications
Scheduling, Coordination, and Communication
Changes to the Work
PERCENT OF FOREMEN CITING
Other studies indicate similar findings regarding sources of delay. In a study by
Borcherding and Oglesby (1975), foremen cited not having engineering information,
materials and equipment as causes of delays and sources of dissatisfaction in their work.
Superintendents in that study specified a lack of necessary coordination by supervisors to
maintain the schedule. Borcherding and Garner (1981) listed material availability, crew
interfacing, overcrowding, and absenteeism as major problems affecting productivity. That
study also named communication breakdown, overcrowding, and lack of cooperation among
crafts as demotivating factors. Birrell's (1989) survey of construction executives noted
interference from other work crews as a common problem, and recommended improvement
of on-site communications in order to minimize interference between crews. Birrell (1989)
also named poor or changing design information as a major impediment to on site labor
flows. A study which surveyed project managers also found interference between trades to
be a frequent source of delay (Garcia, 1997). Other key sources of delay indicated in that
study are material delays and labor shortages. Both Birrell (1989) and Garcia (1997)
specified problems and delays involving information flow. The most prevalent cause of delay
noted in Garcia's (1997) study is lack of information. Birrell (1989) described incomplete
information, including slow responses to questions, as a major inhibitor of labor efficiency.
Garcia (1997) also found that delays due to lack of information correlated positively with a
lower degree of computer-aided planning. In other words, there were fewer delays due to a
lack of information when there was a higher degree of computer-aided planning.
Foremen were fairly positive regarding the willingness of management to listen to
their suggestions about how to improve work processes. As shown (see Figure 48), 69.5%
of the foremen said that management is "usually" or "always" willing to listen to their
suggestions. Some indicated that the willingness to listen does not necessarily mean that
management will act on their suggestions, but they still felt that their voices were being
never mrely somtkmes mually trwYS
Figure 48 Whether Management Is Willing to Listen
to Foremen's Suggestions
Computers and Technology
A number of foremen (16.0%) reported that they already use computers to perform
some part of their jobs (see Figure 49). These foremen described using computers for the
following purposes: equipment testing, scheduling, safety records, daily reports, expense
reports, ordering materials, tracking production rates and other information about crews,
communicating via fax and email, operating building control systems, accessing installation
instructions, surveying, requests for information, pay requests, and accessing information on
project-based Web sites. Most of the foremen who already use computers for work reported
using desktop computers. Locations mentioned by foremen for their use of desktop
computers include in the job site trailer, back at the main office, or at home. Five foremen
had used or were using a laptop or handheld computing device in the field.
Figure 49 Whether Foremen Use Computers to Perform
Any Part of Their Jobs
Computer use by foremen at their homes was much more prevalent. Approximately
half (50.4%) of the foremen reported that they use a computer at home (see Figure 50).
Results of this study indicate that foremen's home computer use may be influenced by their
children's use of computers, as 58.8% of the foremen reported that they have children using
computers in their homes.
Figure 50 Whether Foremen Use Computers at Home
The prevalence of video game use among foremen was measured since similarities
can be drawn between playing a video game and using a handheld computer. Regarding
whether or not foremen like to play video games (see Figure 51), answers were categorized
into negative, neutral and positive responses. Foremen's answers were split fairly evenly
between negative responses (47.9%) and positive responses (40.3%), with 11.8% neutral
responses. Foremen's use of electronic organizers was also measured, and 31.9% of the
sample reported that they use some type of electronic organizer.