In the construction industry, the main product is the project undertaken for a specific client, the project owner. To award a project; the contractor has to study the project and submit his quotation. In most cases, the client selects the lowest bidder to execute the project.
Due to the nature of the contracting business, contracting companies cannot expect to award every project they have studied, and the winning ratio is most likely 20% to 30% from the overall tenders in which they have participated. That means contractors may lose more bids than awarded, which is quite alarming. Experts in this industry know this very well.
The main idea of writing this article is to introduce a new approach to contracting organization that can enable the contractors to increase the percentages of awarded projects and reduce the associated risks and cost impact, but before that, let us understand the current process and its drawbacks.
Most contracting companies use fixed estimation teams with some support from technical functions or outsourcing some services if needed, as shown in the conventional estimation process flow (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The conventional estimation process | Illustration by the author
This model seems to be ineffective for many reasons, including but not limited to the following:
A fixed estimation team may lack essential experience in a particular type of project.
Estimators’ work becomes routine without creativity. Whether they are awarded a new project or not, they will get paid every month.
Continual loss of projects by the same estimators will demotivate them and eventually lead to losing their passion. Instead, they will try to find excuses or justifications rather than improve the process.
Awarding a project doesn’t mean that it will be profitable. Contractors can award a project because they are the lowest bidder; however, hidden losses will emerge during the project’s progress.
A misalignment between the bidding prices and the project budget prepared by the cost control team can lead to a significant loss even before the project starts.
The main objectives of the new approach are to make the estimation process more dynamic, profitable, and efficient. To achieve these objectives, I have developed a new process flow for the estimation process (Figure 2) to enable the company to increase its chances of awarding projects.
Figure 2: a new estimation process | Illustration by the author
Steps of the new process
The company should reduce the number of fixed estimators to the lowest possible level.
After identifying the new opportunities, the company will know more details about the project type and engineering characteristics of the project. Based on that, the company will hire a qualified project manager with previous experience in similar projects. It is the same thing for senior engineers in civil, electrical, and mechanical disciplines and professional procurement engineers who are familiar with the type of construction material used in that project.
If necessary, this team will study the project in conjunction with the estimation team, other support functions, and the partner company.
If the company awarded the project, this would prove the idea from the first round. If not, the company will give the team a chance to learn from this failure and enhance their experience to perform better in the next bid.
If the project is awarded, the same team who studied the project and calculated its budget will be mobilized to execute the project, and the company will hire a new team instead, and so on.
The company has to decide on a certain number of trials for this team and then make a decision to replace them if the failure is repeated. I would suggest five trials within six months according to a conditional contract.
The advantages of the new estimation process
It is more dynamic than the old routine process.
The team who studied the project and calculated the budget is the same team who will execute the project.
Encouraging the project team to put their best effort into awarding a project within a six-month timeframe.
When the winning ratio is increased, it will save huge costs if we compare the (overhead cost of the new approach vs. sales) with the (overhead cost of the old process vs. sales).
Increasing profitability by increasing the number of awarded projects
Increasing efficiency and productivity through better use of company resources and workforce
The challenges of the new process
How fast the company hires a competent project team every six months could be an issue, and it requires a professional recruitment team to achieve this successfully.
Not everyone can accept the six-month conditional contract, but professional recruiters who are excellent negotiators can clearly explain the benefits to the candidates. It is a win-win agreement. This exercise will spot incompetent people before recruiting them, but the confident project managers and engineers will accept the challenge because they know they can.
Change resistance to shift from the old process to the new process. Some people know they are losing but still believe the old process is the best way to award projects.
Undoubtedly, getting an accurate estimate from experienced engineers is invaluable to the company; this is why the team you choose to study your bids should be able to furnish an accurate cost estimate that is precise enough to increase your opportunities of awarding projects. The new process helps the company to enhance the accountability of the project team with clear ownership of the project execution within budget, scope, and specification with full understanding and involvement from day one. The new process can be tested in a pilot project to ensure its effectiveness and then implemented on a large scale.
About the author
Mr. Ihab Ibrahim Alsakkti is the chief strategy officer of Alkifah Holding Company. He is consistently focused on the organization’s future direction and aligns his team to actualize that vision. He established the company’s Innovation lab, which serves as the hub employing the methods of agile management and innovation strategy to devise novel ideas that can either disrupt or complement the overall company. He supported senior management with strategy formulation and execution workshops and the development of short-term and long-term strategic plans. He also coached and mentored junior staff through ongoing extensive self-development sessions and training programs, specifically in project management for new initiatives, performance management, KPI selection, balancing, and activation.
Robot restaurants in technologically advanced countries like Japan and USA are considered solutions to labor shortages and growing customer demand as on-premise dining starts to pick up.Yelp Economic Average reports that searches for reservations increased by 107% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.
Digitalization has become the key to service improvements in restaurants, and one of these advancements is robotics. Different processes can be automated by using robots. While such automation can impact the performance of a restaurant, applying robotics also comes with challenges.
Approximately 82% of restaurant jobs could be replaced by robots in the future, according to a report published by Aaron Allen & Associates. Robots are used to help humans in the kitchen perform repetitive tasks, such as slicing or mixing ingredients. Robots can also:
take and deliver orders
According to articles from ResearchGate, the Turkish Business Journal, and Elsevier, robotics decreases the efforts of individual waiters, reducesinvestments in human labor, simplifies food orders, supports restaurant services, decreases human-induced service failures, reduces work hours, and improves service quality.
Hospitality & Catering News states that an average human server can serve 200 meals daily, while a robot server can serve 300-400 meals. If waiters serve more tables in the same period, they can serve the dishes faster, contributing to an increase in the restaurant’s overall productivity.
Recent research on digital responses to COVID-19 highlights that if the waiting times per table increase, the time spent at a table increases. This means that the table will be occupied for a long time, negatively affecting customer satisfaction and total revenues for the restaurant since they have a limited number of tables. The waiting time per table can be decreased by implementing electronic menus so that the cooks do not have to read the order notes from waiters. This is a process that slows them down and increases the risk of mixing up orders.
An IEEE article explains how robots and electronic menus cut down on wait times per table. When a customer orders something using an electronic menu, the order and the table number appear on the cook’s screen. When the chef has finished cooking, the order is transferred to the robot, which will have the table number of that specific order so it can deliver it to the customer. Digital tools help visualize orders and provide systematic overviews.
As stated in a 2020 Atlantis Press article, digital tools simplify the process of choosing the desired dishes. These digital platforms also enable keeping statistics of ordered dishes so that the restaurant can determine what foods are most popular and when (during particular times of the day or seasons), as well as which foods to leave off their menu. Additionally, by offering discounts in their ordering application, restaurants will increase customer loyalty.
There are two types of challenges that emerge from using robots in restaurants. The first kind results from the complexity and technical limitations of the machine (see Figure 1):
Consumer acceptance is another challenge for digitalizing restaurant services. Studies have revealed that some people feel uncomfortable interacting with a robot. Before bringing autonomous robots into restaurants, owners should assess socioeconomic implications, such as the balance between operational efficiency and customer expectations and robot costs.
Process automation will increase productivity in the restaurant industry, but this will also make it difficult for restaurant workers to find new employment.
Digitalization of the restaurant business is inevitable. Initially, the new system may cause chaos because every restaurant owner will be eager to implement such technologies. This enthusiasm can result in impulsive investments to keep up with the competition, leading to unnecessary risks and, ultimately, no added value for that business. But, if safely adopted, robotics may improve performance, increase productivity, and decrease overall costs. Even though the goal may be to digitalize the whole restaurant, these robots will only partially operate by themselves so soon.
Airlines are progressively pushing for enhanced operational effectiveness and performance. In today’s market, airlines must constantly change and strengthen their performance to remain competitive and satisfy their passengers’ expectations. Due to liberalization and growing global competition, meeting consumer demands is no longer enough to keep passengers loyal to an airline. On-time performance (OTP) has been seen as an advantage, particularly among airlines targeting business travelers, according to the data and aviation analytics solutions provider Cirium.
Optimizing operations is recognized as a profit driver since it reduces costs and allows the introduction of service differentiators, which increase revenue. Airlines concentrated on maximizing revenue in a high-growth climate before the pandemic. They focus on operational efficiency to save money and navigate an unpredictable environment. Aviation is considered one of the most dynamic industries; thus, an appropriate assessment and performance measurement system should be in place.
The decisions made by airlines regarding their fleet of aircraft, the number of seats on each aircraft or the well-handled luggage, the routes they fly, the customer segments they prioritize, and the interest in protecting the environment have a significant impact on how well they perform. The quality of airline services and passenger satisfaction boosts overall customer loyalty.
All of these aspects may be evaluated using performance metrics, which provide airlines with useful information for enhancing their operations. Information Design, an aviation technology company, reveals in an article from 2020 the main operational aspects in aviation that are measured with KPIs (see Figure 1).
Qatar Airways’ performance
Qatar Airways is categorized under the elite group of airlines in the world with a five-star rating and a recipient of the “Best Airline Award” and “Best Business Class” awards in July 2021, based on an annual airline customer satisfaction survey from transport rating organization platformSkytrax.
Qatar Airways, owned by the Government of Qatar, became the first global airline to achieve the prestigious 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating, which includes a thorough examination of procedural efficiency checks and safety standards at all stages of the passenger journey.
The Qatar Airways Annual Report 2021-2022 showed that the airline never stopped flying throughout the pandemic and is still making upgrades and expanding its services. As a result, the share of Revenue Passenger Kilometers increased by 3.1% from 2019 to 2021, from 4.4% to 7.5%.
The report indicates that the revenue and other income of the company almost doubled in 2021-2022 compared to 2020-2021, reaching a value of 52.305 QAR million. A lot of areas in the company improved, including the number of aircraft (from 250 to 257), the number of employees (from 36.707 to 41.026), and the number of available seats (from 93.385 to 159.947 million). Meanwhile, the number of passengers carried more than tripled (from 5.8 million to 18.5 million). In addition, the number of routes expanded, with six destinations in Australia, Africa, and Asia reaching to transport 4.89% of global international passenger traffic in April 2021.
For the best management of its KPIs, QAS developed its Integrated Operations Center (IOC), which is responsible for preserving schedule integrity and ensuring that all flights operate safely and securely. Travel restrictions have changed continuously over the past year as a result of governments adding and removing criteria in response to the pandemic.
For IOC, managing these adjustments evolved into a standard procedure. Through investments in technology, the center will continue its mission of forecasting and managing disruption. In addition, the center will also upgrade its operations system and strengthen its flight planning software this year. The IOC has established additional Safety Management System-based procedures in the form of internal Safety Risk Assessments in compliance with industry standards and corporate safety policies. Therefore, the IOC management team is better able to quickly adapt to vulnerability factors in the operational environment.
The most important achievements that QAS managed to accomplish in 2021 were serving more than 20 million passengers per year, handling approximately 179.000 flights in 2021, and delivering an on-time performance rate of 99.51%. In the same period, the organization handled more than 17 million pieces of baggage, proving an extremely low mishandling rate of 0.08 per 1000 passengers. These indisputable results made the difference, and QAS Group announced in a press release that it recorded the highest profit in the global airline industry for 2021-2022. Its passenger revenue increased by 210% over the last year, and the number of passengers carried grew by 218&, maintaining its leading position in the industry.
To align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SGD), QAS developed a corporate sustainability strategy monitored by environmental KPIs. It puts the best standards in environmental protection, noise, and air quality into practice by declaring its commitment to becoming the first net-zero carbon emission airline by 2050. The company’s website shows the interest of QAS in measuring the performance of environmental sustainability, assessing it in fields such as climate and energy, waste and water, noise, air, and wildlife protection.
The airline industry is a domain of continuous innovation and improvement. The pandemic wasn’t the single challenge to overcome because airlines have to face everyday issues like the global economic environment, internal infrastructure, technological advancements, passenger satisfaction, climate change, and fuel efficiency. Measuring performance can help airlines to reduce these negative impacts by identifying their strengths and weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.
Lean management is a popular practice in manufacturing, but the concept is being adopted by other industries to help them cope with the ever-changing business landscape. One industry that could benefit from applying lean management methods is hospitality, which is estimated to become a $4.5 billion industry by the end of 2022, according to the Hospitality Global Market Report 2022. Ensuring continued growth while facing multiple global crises and new customer demands brought about by the pandemic will not be easy for an industry that is mainly about servicing customers.
A survey conducted by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found that customer satisfaction among 6,000 travelers fell to 2.7% over the course of 2021-2022. In addition, ACSI score has steadily decreased over the past decade, with 71 in 2022. Adopting lean principles can help hotels stay on top of shifting customer expectations.
What Is lean management?
Lean, according to the paper “Lean management in hospitality: methods, applications and future directions” published in the International. Journal of Services and Operations Management, is “a bundle of principles, methods and actions for the effective and efficient configuration and examination of the whole supply chain.”
The study pointed out that creating value without generating waste is the goal of lean management and that value is any action or process that customers would be “willing to pay for.” The researchers stressed that lean management tools help identify and eliminate waste of resources, and as waste is eliminated, quality improves while production time and costs are reduced.
Meanwhile, authors of the study “Lean management in hotels: Where we are and where we might go” published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, explained that anything that buyers consider non-value adding to a product or service is a cause of losses.
The comprehensive framework developed by Malin Malmbrandt and Pär Åhlströmto and published in the paper “An instrument for assessing lean service adoption” for International Journal of Operations & Production Management shows how to apply and maximize lean benefits. It points out that lean service is enabled by employee training, management commitment and appreciation, infrastructure, and resources.
Customer identification value, customer involvement, waste identification, workplace design flow, alignment of organizational processes, standardization, continuous improvement, result visualization, and multi-functional teams are all important lean practices.
Evaluating lean methods
Not all lean principles are applicable to the hospitality industry. The 2016 paper “Lean Hospitality – Application of Lean Management Methods in the Hotel Sector” from Procedia CIRP examined the relevance of lean management methods to the needs of the hospitality industry. The methods evaluated are based on their performance using the following criteria:
Effort and costs for implementation: Ideally, resources should be used efficiently and at a low cost to ensure a short amortization period.
Time to visibility: Lean often fails due to missed results in the short term, so this criteria stresses the short-term visibility of positive effects.
Impact on performance KPIs: A company’s management makes decisions based on performance KPIs. Performance results from the lean method need to be “measurable and convincing.”
Sustainability of outcome and application: Lean-thinking aims for the long-term benefits of the organization. It takes time for people to change their mindsets. As a result, this criterion has also been incorporated into the validation model.
Using the evaluation process, the researchers came up with the top 20 lean hospitality methods (see Figure 1).
Successful lean practices
The hospitality industry has undoubtedly discovered the benefits of the lean phenomenon. In the hotel sector, Marriott in the U.K. conducted workshops on lean thinking and captured higher customer satisfaction rates in the post-implementation phase of lean. Sally Toister, the former senior director of operational excellence for Marriot Hotel, said in an interview with the CX Network podcast theatre that one of the ways they implemented lean strategies in their hotels was to refine food menus for guests who stayed five or more days.
Many guests staying at Marriot for longer periods usually dined outside, and since the hotel provided only standardized similar meals, they realized they were losing out their sales to other restaurants. Sally and other executives mobilized their experienced chefs to tailor different food offerings to cater to their customers’ needs but optimized costs by using the same ingredients for standard food meals. To track the performance of the project, they used a loyalty metric like the composite score (likelihood to recommend). They did not only boost sales in their menu but also drove up customer satisfaction.
Yukai resort in Japan is cited in the 2016 study mentioned above as a model for successful lean application. The establishment aims to eradicate wastes while not compromising quality of services. The resort provides half the standard market price of lodging services with the same industry-standard quality and less staff. Dinner, for instance, is served in a buffet manner to cut staffing costs, while receptionists work in areas that need assistance in their free time. Moreover, all the lodging duties are divided among all the employees. Training on Kaizen (continuous improvement) is conducted weekly and monthly by the managers.
Experts define high-performance culture as a set of shared beliefs and values set up by leaders. These shared beliefs and values are then embedded and communicated through different strategies that eventually form employee perceptions, behaviors, and understanding.
All companies want their employees to arrive each day motivated, prepared, and energetic to do what it takes to make the work done. However, it’s more of an idealism than a reality. A State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows that only 15 percent of employees are engaged at work. Meanwhile, new research from Zenefits revealed that 63.3% of companies consider employee retention more challenging than hiring.
The pillars of a high-performance culture
Several reports and case studies emphasize the impact of motivation on employee performance. While there are means to address waning motivation, a “well-performing” company isn’t good enough. With the capacity to trade globally, and markets immersed with companies scrambling for market share, it is more critical than ever to have a distinctive, high-performance culture.
There are many frameworks to analyze high-performance culture in an organization. One example of a well-developed and data-driven framework for assessing a high-performance culture can be seen in the Organizational Health Index.
Developed by McKinsey in 2017, the Organizational Health Index (OHI) survey measures 37 individual management practices and nine outcomes against a global database of more than 1.5 million individual responses.
The pillars of a high-performance culture are:
Innovation and learning;
Coordination and control;
The role of OKRs in building a high-performance culture
Objectives and key results (OKR) is a goal-setting tool used for measuring organizational/departmental/individual objectives through challenging and ambitious key results. Extracted from the organization’s visions and missions and aligned with the department’s goals, OKR involves activities such as planning, activating, managing, and adjusting.
With OKRs, teams can cascade and align goals to the different levels of an organization, defining outcome-based key results that help verify the success of the objective. OKRs act as a guide for daily work and connect all employees to a larger purpose, which is what the organization intends to achieve.
If OKRs are perceived as more than just a goal-setting tool and instead as a communication one, it shows why the OKRs are brilliant at building a high-performance culture. The effort of achieving daily goals at the individual and team levels eventually leads to the achievement of the overall objectives at the organization level in the long run.
As a result, when implemented correctly, OKRs can help a company enable a high-performance culture and achieve far more than their team thought possible. OKRs help the organization adopts performance culture in the following ways:
OKRs provide organizations with a clear direction, coordination, control, and orientation.
Direction, coordination, control, and external collaboration play a vital role in helping organizations jump from their current state to the state they want to achieve. To guide the organization in achieving what they desire, it’s important that the organization ensures that its vision and strategic clarity are understood by the stakeholders in every layer, and while doing so, the organization must also facilitate the involvement of its employees.
OKR helps organizations align priorities and make sure everyone at every level in the organization moves towards the same goals. Employees must be given the opportunity to provide their insights when the organization decides in the next 12 months. It is recommended to start with an OKR workshop where all key stakeholders responsible for company strategy ask for and gather input from employees on what they think the top priorities should be.
Those inputs can then be aligned with the existing company strategy and broken down into three to five OKRs. The process can be done using collaborative notes and documents or even a whiteboard to ensure that collaboration and ideas are well-captured. The goal of the process is to reach an agreement on what priorities should be achieved in the following year.
The process is then followed by aligning the company OKRs with team and individual OKRs. OKRs provide teams and individuals with a clear set of directions and achievements. OKRs are also a reason to remove things that are unrelated to the scope of the objective they wanted to achieve, keeping their focus and avoiding unnecessary activities or resources.
If every team gets the opportunity to create their own OKRs that they will be working on in a particular quarter, for example, it can assure a successful OKR program while helping the organization realize its strategy and maintain its focus.
OKRs increase employees’ motivation, innovation, capabilities, and accountability.
OKRs can be used to develop a set of productive behaviors that establish an essential motivating culture. Through the process of building OKRs, employees set the outcomes they’ll achieve. These outcomes are in line with the organization’s setup that supports autonomy and motivation.
In addition, OKRs focus on outcomes over outputs. It is a way to resolve organizational problems and gives employees the flexibility to experiment, innovate, and think outside the box. It also allows a humanistic approach, rather than a systemic approach. OKRs promote positive behavior by providing continuous reflection and iteration about the organization’s goals, sharing progress updates, and keeping goals collaborative, all while observing freedom and trust.
More than just a goal-setting framework
OKRs are more than just a goal-setting framework. They enable stronger and healthier relationships within companies and support powerful dynamics in an organization that will significantly increase performance levels.
To start doing the OKRs right, companies can hire an OKR expert to start partnering with their organization or provide their managers with training. The KPI Institute’s Certified OKR Program can equip them with the right tools, knowledge, and guidance in deploying OKRs in their organizations.