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3 Invaluable Lessons from Donna Laquidara-Carr

  1. If you can get your team working as a cohesive unit, then the delivery method is not essential to make sure you have integration.
  2. You need to be able to have a real conversation instead of just having things passed down to you.
  3. Set aside time to do market research because construction is evolving quickly.

This week, host Sue Dyer speaks with Donna Laquidara-Carr from Dodge Data & Analytics about the research surrounding construction trends and the barriers to building successful teams.

About Guest Donna Laquidara-Carr (1:30)

Donna Laquidara-Carr is the Director of Industry Insights and Research at Dodge Data and Analytics. Donna has worked with Dodge for over 20 years and has seen the industry over a long period of time, through lots of changes and has seen the research over time. Donna is also the managing editor for the SmartMarket Report and has been in that post since 2010.

Donna’s Journey to Becoming the Director of Industry Insights and Research at Dodge Data and Analytics (3:10)

  1. Donna’s father was a contractor and she worked in his office while in school
  2. Donna joined Dodge in the communications capacity and then went on to get her PhD in English
  3. After getting her PhD, Donna went back to Dodge to become the Training and Policy Manager
  4. Donna ended up working with sustainability experts in her organization
  5. After looking at the research, she moved over to her current position when a job opening came up

Donna’s Greatest Strengths as a Leader (6:10)

  1. After leaving news gathering she hasn’t had people reporting to her, so she’s had to learn how to lead peers
  2. You have to find ways to think of yourselves as collaborators
  3. The ways that she’s able to support others encourages others to support her

About Donna’s Research on Collaboration (8:00)

  1. Collaboration is at the heart of positive project outcomes
  2. Everyone who participated in the study had to pick two different projects they had done in the last five years – the best project, and a more typical one
  3. The study focused on budget, schedule, quality, and safety
  4. For most owners, 79% of the owners said their best project finished on schedule or early while a typical project experience did not finish on schedule
  5. 83% of owners said their best projects finished on budget compared with 51% of typical projects; Quality was similar to budget
  6. On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 4 (highest), 56% gave their best projects a 4-rating, only 28% of the typical projects achieved a 4-rating for Safety
  7. There’s a big gap between how owners feel on their best project and how they feel about typical projects
  8. Team chemistry and integration are directly correlated with high levels of performance
  9. On best projects, 76% of the owners engaged key stakeholders before schematic design
  10. Delivery methods didn’t have a big correlation to best vs. typical project outcomes

What is the Commercial Construction Index (CCI) and How That Can Help Teams (17:20)

  1. Dodge Data & Analytics does a quarterly survey of general and trade contractors, the goal is to get a snapshot on a quarterly basis of how contractors think the industry is doing based on real experiences
  2. The index number is based on whether the market will give them work, the revenue they expect next year, and their backlog going into next year
  3. To understand the market better they look at how difficult the contractors are having finding skilled workforce, the ability for contractors and owner to get financing, material prices, and important trends
  4. Contractors and Owners can look at what their peers are experiencing and use the information to plan

What Donna Learned in the Managing Uncertainty Study (24:25)

The study was about understanding the causes of uncertainty in construction. They surveyed about 4,000 people in the industry which narrowed them down to seven causes. They then did a more focused study on those causes such as: unforeseen site conditions, owner driven changes, acceleration of the schedule by the owner, design errors and omissions, and construction coordination issues and contractor caused delays. People tended to underestimate the issues that they caused and overestimated the issues that others caused. At the end of the study, they discussed what was the best strategy that mitigated each problem. Better communication was always ranked higher than any other mitigation factor.

In the Lean study, the Big Room concept (everyone located in one room working together) was the one thing that correlated to highest project success. 

The Biggest Gap Between Performance and Proficiency (34:00)

Communication skills was considered to be the biggest gap between performance and communication skills.  70% of Contractors found communication skills to be important but only 39% felt that their workers had strong skills in this area.  Contractors need to figure out how to improve communication skills amongst teams.  You can’t know what the core problem is until you communicate effectively

About Dodge Data and Analytics (35:25)

Dodge Data and Analytics was founded in the 1890’s by Fred Dodge. They have the most comprehensive database on projects tracked from pre-design to project completion. They have the ability to use their database for forecasting purposes. They do custom and private market research for clients, and research on trends with partners in the industry.  One upcoming study will be looking at prefabrication and how it will affect the construction industry.  The results will be out in the Fall.

The Biggest Challenge Donna Has Faced in Her Career (40:30)

After applying to schools for her PhD she got rejected for every school she applied to.  Donna called every school that rejected her and found out why they rejected her.  Donna figured out what her gaps were, took some master level classes and got accepted into Tulane University

The Best Advice Donna Has Ever Gotten (42:40)

More than advice, she’s found it helpful to have people to model herself after. Her was a role model.  Her mother was raising a family of five and helping her father run the business side of his company. Another person she modeled herself after was one of the first people she worked for, who taught her to look at how to “raiser her game.”

Contact Donna on LinkedIn

Donna’s Parting Advice (44:47)

Construction is evolving so dramatically; you need to set aside a small amount of time to expose yourself to the trends that are going on, sign up for newsletters like what they have at Dodge Data & Analytics.  This will allow you to see the larger industry that you are so deeply engaged in and see how it is changing.

Resources for Listeners

Construction Nation! Dream Teams don’t just happen they are built one step at a time. Why not send out this episode to your team, so they can help you. The more people you have helping – the faster you can build your Construction Dream Team. Stay current with what is happening in Construction by joining our LinkedIn group.  Just go to cdtlinkedin.com to join.

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