Why Your Construction Projects Suck and How to Un-Suck Them

Group of workers at a construction

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” Paul Hawken


I’ve been around construction my entire life and this is my 13th year in business teaching the skills that actually make people and projects better.  And the three biggest mistakes that are made on most projects:

1.  Not enough planning.  You know the drill.  There is a budget crunch.  There is a lending timeline.  There is an opening or launch deadline.  The architects and designers have not had the proper time or budget to adequately design so the owner puts a clause in the contractor’s performance based contract that tells them that they must “coordinate” everything and “make everything work properly”.  That additional risk is passed down to subcontractors.  All of this risk is mitigated usually through higher costs. In addition, there is a lot of re-work and re-design and quality and productivity suffer greatly.  So, the owners, in an effort to cut costs, have actually added to them.  And the end product has much lower quality.  It’s a terrible way to start a project and usually portends a total disaster for ALL parties that will end up in court. Collaborative planning way ahead of anything happening on site is the key here.  Everyone has input into the process and many problems are solved ahead of time.  It is much better to use more collaborative design methods like Lean, IPD or Design Assist, or Design Build.

2.  Not enough focus on relationships and trust in the beginning:  A project is like a forced marriage, only there is no option for a divorce.  We throw people together in a very intimate, very demanding situation and expect a high level of performance.  It’s okay to have an arranged marriage, but you have to do some homework and lay some groundwork for a successful partnership.  This has to be deliberate, well thought out, and reinforced over the life of the project.  There must be a focus on maintaining the relationship first.  Then, the other issues that always come up will be more easily managed.  You must develop the trust early on.  We have a program called Beyond Partnering:   Here is  a link to that blog:  http://wp.me/p1JXuE-g3 .  This blog discusses this issue in more detail and gives you a step-by-step method to ensure that this relationship and trust part of the project is successful. Everyone is working on their own personal and professional goals while the group works toward project goals.  There is cross functional accountability.  You build your people while you build the project.  You also offer classes that address specific project issues (teamwork, communication, collaboration, stress management, time management) head on and relate those back to everyone’s individual and collective plans.

3.  Not enough focus on collaborative problem solving:  Most projects are set up by all parties to mitigate their risk.  So it is in everyone’s best interest to blame others for any problems.  They search the contract trying to find a way to make someone else responsible.  Again, collaborative project delivery methods like Lean, IPD or Design Assist, or Design Build are keys to this team approach to construction projects.  That way, everyone is pitching in to find the best solution together.  There is much less finger pointing and much more problem solving.  The result is a much better project for everyone.

If you want to make your next project more successful, take a look at these three areas. And if you need any help with any of these, let me know.



5 Responses to Why Your Construction Projects Suck and How to Un-Suck Them

  1. Reblogged this on The Construction App Guru and commented:
    What are the 3 biggest mistakes you have made in you career? Take a look at what @brentdarnell says are his and how he overcame them.

  2. […] Rob McKinney, The Construction App Guru Originally posted on Brent Darnell International: “Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so […]

  3. […] This article was originally posted by Brent Darnell on the http://www.bdiblog.wordpress.com site. To read the full article click here. […]

  4. We will surely look at these three areas the next time around.

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