Are you a project manager looking to try your hand at a role in the construction industry? At first glance, you may think construction project management takes the same skillset as any other PM career. Sure, it follows the traditional five phases of project management: initiation, planning, execution, performance and monitoring, and closure. But that’s where the similarities end. Construction project management diverges from a typical PM role by demanding and incorporating extensive knowledge of the construction industry, a unique and complicated field. Construction PMs average around 120 responsibilities, according to The Construction Management Association of America, which means they have to be more strategic and thoughtful in working with a slew of moving parts and constant change.
The success of any project relies on a project manager’s ability to design a tailored, project-specific methodical approach to project execution. The approach must align with the needs of the client and the strengths of their team. Creating an effective work structure requires a great deal of consideration and is not a role that just anyone can shoulder. After all, poor management means dissatisfied customers, frustrated employees, and possibly even claims against your contractor license bond.
These five tips go beyond PM basics to prepare you for the intricacies of the role and direct your efforts toward success.
1. Create a flow of communication
Among the most important elements of all project management, communication is essential to every phase of any construction project. Good news and bad news are equally important when preparing and implementing a build, so you need to establish a flow of communication with everyone on the ground — and every stakeholder and supplier in the plan. This transparency will make the process smoother and will reduce the number of emails and phone calls whenever a problem arises.
One of the simplest ways to create a flow of communication is a collaborative work management (CWM) tool. By syncing comments, attachments, and calendars, you can monitor news, budgets, and scheduling changes as they occur. A good CWM tool also allows you to relay these changes to other managers and accounting offices in real time, providing a nearly email-free method of project management. That means more time for you to spend at the construction site meeting contractors to coordinate the next stage of work.
2. Plan your day using time management techniques
As a project manager, time management skills are essential because you are dealing with a wide range of tasks that demand a quick turnaround time. Planning your day will go a long way in keeping you organized and increasing your productivity. Assist your task planning by using project management software which helps you track the work of you and your team. The design, pre-construction, and procurement stages of a construction project each require extensive planning — and each may need to be revised as the next stage unfolds. Anything can happen at a construction site. If you encounter unexpected environmental problems during the pre-construction phase, the design may need to change. Even slight adjustments can affect the overall plan and timeline.
If you are not very tech savvy, a simple to-do list can also be a great organizational tool. Prioritize your most important tasks by putting them at the top of the list and less important ones at the bottom. Having a visual plan of your daily tasks helps to keep you on track and aware of time.
3. Budget Smartly
Perhaps the greatest complaint clients always seem to have about construction contractors is that they go over budget. If you’ve explained a thousand times that this is a normal part of the process, why not join the growing ranks of construction companies and contractors who budget for these costs from the start?
Try starting with a realistic budget and adding at least 10 percent to it for unexpected costs. Explain to your customers that the budget includes this contingency and hopefully, instead of having the “we need more money” conversation, you can have the “we finished under budget” conversation at the end of the job. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?
4. Know your limitations as a project manager
Too many projects are doomed to fail from the beginning because of unrealistic expectations. Setting impossible deadlines and assigning too much work to your colleagues will surely result in sloppy work and often missed deadlines.
Mistakes and late work can throw your project off course, necessitating patch-up work, timeline extensions, eroded stakeholder trust, and a frustrated team .
Familiarizing yourself with the construction site and the duties of every professional working under you will make you a better project manager. Taking the time to get to know your team will help you understand their strengths and weaknesses. This can assist you in assigning tasks based on each colleague’s skillset. Delegating tasks to the right person is very important because success relies on how well team members can execute on their tasks.
5. Implement automated reporting systems
No construction project manager has the time to reply to hundreds of emails a day — or use the phone to call and address every question about budgets and progress. In addition to concentrating comments and schedules on one CWM, you can cut down further correspondence by implementing automated reporting systems. Construction project management requires the weekly distribution of various spreadsheets and status reports, and automated delivery tools will save significant time over the span of the build. This automation will ensure the right reports go to the right people on time, allowing you to focus on other tasks and communication.
Essentially, a project manager must be an expert in leadership, communication, and organizational skills. With the high workload and stress, it is essential to have the skills required to bring you to the finish line. Staying accountable and aware of all aspects of your project will guide you to project management success.
What tips for project success did I miss? Do any of these not work for you? Let us know in the comments below!
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