Industry ResourcesLearning CenterSmarter Projects

Consistently finish ahead of schedule and under budget with less stress and fewer problems.

Imagine finishing your project weeks, if not months, ahead of schedule, at costs well below budget, with owners and project teams that are elated at just how well everything falls into place. Now imagine doing this consistently while being less stressed, experiencing few surprises and regularly being home in time for dinner. Too good to be true? Actually, it’s a real thing, and it comes from running smarter projects.

So how does it work? It’s simple really, though implementation is a bit of a trick. Smarter run projects operate on the premise that two or more heads are better than one, that cooperation yields better results than competition, and that people are highly motivated to learn and improve when they benefit from it directly.

Ever experienced any of these?

  • Ductwork is placed in a shaft without coordination with the plumber and electrician because it is more cost effective for the duct installer to just run out in front of everyone.
  • A special steel order is delayed because it is more cost effective to fabricate it as part of a larger batch.
  • A particular trade, say the drywall installer, under staffs the job to keep his productivity high and ensure that he’s never standing around waiting for others to complete their work.

All too often people are motivated to act out of self interest to the detriment of others on the team, and the project suffers. In reality when the project suffers, everyone suffers. The problem is, if you are the only one making decisions that put the team first, you’ll end up suffering the most.

It’s the prisoner’s dilemma. Two suspects are held separately for questioning. The authorities do not have enough evidence to convict either. Each suspect is told that if they provide evidence against the other, they will be rewarded while the other is prosecuted. If they both provide evidence against each other, they’ll both be prosecuted, though to a lesser charge. If they both remain quiet, they’ll both be set free.

Imagine you are one of the suspects, what do you do? If you could talk to the other suspect (and trusted the guy), you’d probably agree to stay quiet. Short of that, your only real move is to look out for number one and take care of yourself.

Project managers and superintendents that run smarter projects have figured out how to get their project teams to talk and trust each other to act in the best interest of the project. They’ve also found a way to reduce the rewards that typically come from making decisions that are not in the best interest of the project. More details to come. For now, let me leave you with their top three secrets.

  1. Create, update and review your plan together: Nobody knows what needs to get done better than the people who actually do the work. Get your foremen together and have them figure out how best to get the job done. They’ll be personally invested in their plan and they will start holding each other to it.
  2. Look well ahead to clear blockers: Get everyone on the team in the habit of identifying and clearing out issues that would otherwise derail their plan if not dealt with in advance. It could be getting a submittal approved, an RFI answered, materials delivered or an inspection complete. Whatever the issue, have everyone think about the work to come and make sure they are ready for it when it’s time to do it.
  3. Learn and improve: Nobody is going to hit plan 100% of the time, but as everyone improves, things become more predictable and less stressful. The key is to meet regularly to review what happened, learn what worked and what didn’t, and then adjust things going forward to repeat what worked and improve upon what didn’t.