Project management skills are paramount when work piles up

''Tim Christner, President, Christner Construction

Right now, the construction industry has an opportunity to build better relationships, increase communication and improve product quality. The busy season is not a time for project managers to let their communication skills waver, but an opportunity to keep clear and honest conversations. Delayed responses to calls and emails can not only cast doubts to everyone from customers to subs, but also cause concerns with management. No one enjoys delays because they cost in both time and revenue. However, addressing those concerns or delays head-on, and allowing and adjusting for them in a planned coordinated direction, is less stressful for all involved — and can keep those valued relationships stronger in the future.

My company has implemented “tailboard time,” which is the period of time when everyone has arrived to the jobsite (preferably 15 minutes early), during which you and your team gather to discuss the day’s plan for success. Of course, this is a simpler task to accomplish in smaller companies or projects. However, if a project manager’s team has four or five key leaders who can also handle the task of leading these talks, tailboard time can take place on any size project. In these meetings, managers set expectations and assign goals for the day, so that everyone is in sync with the plan. If your workforce begins their day as informed as possible, and is aware of the day’s set goals, they are more likely to achieve them.


''Gregg Schoppman, Principal, FMI Corporation

All contractors have a proverbial busy time of year — even my Floridian neighbors, who seem to only recognize one season. The busy season reminds me of those sports movies where the coach gives players that uplifting pep talk (cue emotional music) in the locker room exclaiming, “You’ve been training for this your whole life.” While project management may lack the gravitas of “Rudy” or “Hoosiers,” the operative theme is the preparation. If you consider the busy season as the most important time of year, what have you done to prepare for it? If you enter the big game and haven’t so much as looked at the playbook or even practiced, are you destined to fail?

The season is now upon us, and it’s easy to get mired in the millions of little things that will consume time. First, all managers should have a mantra of cautious optimism. Yes, something will go wrong —weather, inspections, design flaws, etc. — but that does not mean the project will go entirely off the rails. Identify short, seasonal goals that build toward a successful season. Second, even with a strong plan of attack, you must use those interim goals to serve as the backbone for planning events. Think of halftime and 2-minute warnings — it’s easy to get lost in the frenetic action of the game, but never forget that the success of the game is in the planning.