Tips for Managing a Construction Project

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Tips for managing a construction project

Construction projects can be extremely complex. Dealing with competing pressures in terms of time, money, and personnel is a major challenge – so much so that the entire practice of project management developed around it.

Yes; although “PMs” are now found in many industries, it all started in the world of construction. To this day, the budgets and safety challenges endemic to construction projects are unique, and strong leadership is paramount to achieving your goals.

Luckily, there are repeatable “best practices” that can lay the foundation for project success.

Even project leaders with limited experience can learn a great deal by studying the habits that have helped others in the past. As in any management situation, the tone and expectations set by the team leader can have a tremendous impact on other people. That, in turn, can influence their performance at all stages of the project – contributing to a positive outcome that’s on time and under budget.

Let’s look at seven important tips for construction project management:

1) Develop a Clear Flow of Communications

Any project needs a continuous flow of clear communication so stakeholders can work together and adapt to challenges. Communication begins with the project manager: He or she should have a clear channel to ground crew members, suppliers, and other key stakeholders. At the same time, each stakeholder should know what kind of information is essential to pass along and who they should contact – for good news and bad. Collaborative work management (CWM) software has made this easier in recent years, allowing PMs to centralize all project communications.

2) Plan (and Re-Plan) Well in Advance

Naturally, every aspect of a construction project has to be planned out in detail in order to be successful. For the project leader, this means developing clear operational plans and strategies long before the first day of work. Design, pre-construction, and procurement are all critical to the outcome of the project. Not only should these be worked on as soon as possible, but they should be reviewed as needed as the project matures. It’s up to the project leader to recognize the most likely sources of project risk and integrate contingency plans into the overall view.

3) Collaborate Closely – Learn and Ask Questions

A good project manager can obtain some bottom line benefit from even failed projects. Knowing what went right and wrong is essential to developing core PM skills. From a project’s first day to its last, however, there’s always the potential for the leader to make a difference. PMs should make time to investigate issues in person – especially issues that arise in the field. This provides ample opportunities to solve problems and build rapport with stakeholders at all levels. That, in turn, can help head off future problems because others in the project will feel invested.

4) Monitor Budgets and Costs with Software Tools

Today’s large construction projects can rapidly become so complex that balancing the project ledger could take hours of work by hand. Luckily, it’s no longer necessary to calculate everything out – you can get a strategic overview of your situation using the right software. It’s even possible to collect key signatures using software, accelerating procurement. PMs should work with the accounting team to ensure all costs are recorded and reconciled. Weekly reviews will help to ensure that one-time costs don’t turn into significant, ongoing drains on a financial plan.

5) Automate Reporting as Much as Possible

When you have a strong communication plan in place, something interesting will happen – after a few weeks or months, when the most challenging part of the operation is beginning to ramp up, it may start to work against you. A flurry of daily, weekly, or even monthly communication can be tough to keep up with. Connecting with stakeholders by phone gets exponentially more time-consuming, so use automated delivery tools for major reports. Ideally, software should notify stakeholders of pending deadlines so they can get key information together on schedule.

6) Connect With an Executive Sponsor

A project manager won’t always have access to the upper echelons of the organization. When the potential exists for that kind of relationship, though, it’s important to leverage it. When high-level stakeholders are invested in the outcome of a project, it can certainly add to the stress level – but it also lays the groundwork for success. Challenging negotiations about scope or resources become easier when there’s an executive liaison willing to advocate for your team’s needs. If the opportunity arises, be sure to build rapport with the top-level stakeholders in the enterprise.

7) Codify, Document, and Use Lessons Learned

No project is an island, and every project has the potential to provide important insights about how to improve your processes. Crossing the finish line on a project can be such a relief, though, that even experienced PMs often forget this final step. In addition to a formal project closing meeting, consider establishing one-on-ones with key stakeholders to go over their impressions and the important “inflection points” of the project. Document your findings so each project will help establish the institutional knowledge capital necessary for continuous improvement.

Learn More

Civil engineers play a crucial role in engineering the structural solutions of tomorrow and plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructure essential to our modern lives. As a student in the online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program, you can enhance your quantitative decision-making skills and learn how to justify managerial decisions with data. You will also explore the capabilities of modern management technologies and discover how to successfully leverage these tools to maximize efficiency in your projects and on your teams.