The Planning Function

In last month’s article, we discussed how supervisors typically move into their positions. We noted that they quickly discover the work of a supervisor is very different from that of a craftsperson. We defined the supervisor’s work as consisting fundamentally of management, and we listed and defined the five basic functions of management: planning, organizing, directing, controlling and staffing. This month, we want to talk more about the planning function.

We defined planning as setting goals and objectives and converting them into specific elements or activities to be accomplished. We also noted that planning is done for both the long term and short term.

Planning is a critically important function at all levels of management and supervision. Many people have written that the five management functions are of equal importance. Others believe planning may be the most important function. Planning impacts virtually everything we do on a project in a positive or in a negative way.

Proper planning makes supervision more effective, thus making the work more efficient with all kinds of positive outcomes. Moreover, proper planning has a multiplier effect, meaning it leads to further efficiencies of all kinds as well as greater effectiveness.

Additionally, both poor planning and the absence of planning have a multitude of negative effects, especially those that generate bad outcomes. And both poor planning and forgoing planning alike have a multiplier effect. Both produce multiple bad outcomes.

In addition, and ironically so, planning is the function that many supervisors at all levels in construction do not perform as effectively as they should. Supervisors often say things such as the following:

  • I get paid to put production in place, and/or to make my units, and/or to control costs and make budget.

  • I have to perform the work safely.

  • I have to satisfy the client.

  • I am already plenty busy, trying to do all of the many things expected of me.

  • I don’t have time to sit around and “do that planning stuff.”

The most obvious alternate view, and the one we wish to recommend here, is to recognize that there most certainly are multiple demands on the supervisor’s time and talents. And it definitely seems as though there is never enough time to get everything done. Because of this, it also is true that we do not have time not to plan. This may sound like a contradiction, but it is absolutely true.

Consider planning to be like an investment. Certainly, it takes time and energy, but that investment will pay off in the benefits—both direct and indirect—that will follow. This is a fact you can depend on, no matter your supervisory level or the kind of work you do.

In our next article, we will talk more about long-term and short-term planning. Until then, we urge you to think about planning as one of your most important supervisory functions. We urge you to begin an honest assessment of how much planning you really do and how effective that planning is.

Remember these two ideas. First, we do not have time not to plan, effectively and on an ongoing basis. Second, recognize that the more effective your planning is, the more effective your supervision (management) is.    EC

ROUNDS is the AGC endowed chair and professor of civil engineering at the University of New Mexico. E-mail him at SEGNER is a professor of construction science at Texas A&M University. Contact him at Both are the authors and instructors of NECA’s Electrical Project Supervision course.






About the Author

Bob Segner

Supervision Columnist
Bob Segner is a professor of construction science at Texas A&M University. Contact him at .

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