Turn Toolbox Talks Into Real-Time Quality Improvement

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Real-time quality improvement involves quick, simple training of crews and immediate follow-up to make sure instructions were understood and changes carried out.

March 01, 2003

Real-time quality improvement involves quick, simple training of crews and immediate follow-up to make sure instructions were understood and changes carried out. Ed Caldeira, principal in Caldeira Quality, says a job-site standard - the toolbox talk - can be your perfect opportunity to communicate in a meaningful way. His tips for organizing an effective toolbox talk:

Illustrate the issue. Take close-up photos of the craftsman doing the work and the detail of the construction required. One photo should show the right installation, another the wrong. Crop out any unnecessary information that might confuse the viewer. Label each photo — yes, no. Distribute copies to every attendee.

Keep it simple. With a printout of the pictures in hand, decide on the one point you want to communicate. Write it into a headline on the yes photo in as few words as possible. In that multiple languages are a reality on today's construction site, use universal construction terms:

  • cabinet height level +/-1/8"
  • gap floor sheathing 1/8-1/4"
  • lap roofing felt 2" min.

As a final check, give one attendee the sheet without any explanation and ask him or her to describe the message to you.

Inspect! Follow-up is essential to verify that the field training is working. Routine inspections are your opportunity to follow up, document compliance and record any corrections that had to be made. These inspections also provide the records you need to identify unresponsive crews that require additional training or reinforcement.

Ed can be reached at caldeiraquality.com.

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