As do people in most management positions, the construction project manager must take the most effective approach to controlling the project from start to completion.
Two choices are commonly used for a project development.
The aggressive approach is usually used by the project manager who understands the full scope of work and how it applies to the contract drawings (and specifications). Armed with this knowledge, the project manager works to reach the goals, implementing his objectives systematically. The success of each working process can be measured against the carefully mapped out schedule, "the intended plan". On the other hand, the more docile approach has the project manager dependent on the skills of the superintendent, whose goal is to get the job done by making things happen. The project manager following this style of construction may find himself reacting to daily happenings, often spending money, above the estimate, to correct the circumstances that may have been avoided through proper planning.
A manageable system is one that establishes a timetable guaranteeing the performance of tasks; sequenced to meet the time limitations of the developed schedule which was the foundation of the general conditions. The efficiency of the project must be measured in order to evaluate the success of the established goals. From the general conditions, the project manager delineates the "when" and "how much" of each resource needed to perform each supervised task. The project manager then assigns the field performance conditions needed to measure start and completion times of tasks. On paper the project manager must ensure that each resource is provided within the correct task at the desired time. In the field, the superintendent coordinates this function with each of the trade foreman, reporting back to the project manager the direction he chose to accomplish these tasks. Resource management should be a shared activity with the project superintendent validating the manpower demands as anticipated by the estimate and field conditions. Proper management of resources is an important procedure for project team members as it supports the efforts to control cost and time.
With respect to resources allocations, each decision made equates to profits and losses. Knowing each procedure and translating its resources into costs allows for the accurate prediction of the dollars needed to finance the project. At this stage of cost analysis we can accept material costs as fixed.
Periodic projections will aid in the preparation of a monthly budget analysis, which is needed in evaluating the status of the project.
The task is to manage the project as it progresses, using the project control systems to maximum advantage. Project control is best analyzed by applying the factors of a unique operation, following its output and measuring its results. All factors are to be considered; labor, materials and equipment. One might also have to consider the role of the subcontractors, as they affect the sequencing of a task. In measuring the factors, the project manager must key in on the productivity of his labor force, measuring output over a given period of time. From these results, the project manager can then make a comparison against the project estimate, and against the objectives to meet the expected goals.
To be affected in managing the project, the project manager must exercise three modes of operation.
These three modes are planning, communicating and monitoring of the project. The project must be well-planned, each factor of the plan properly communicated, carefully monitored and controlled. Proper planning involves one of the initiatives of the goal setting process, the preparation of the schedules, a solid logistics plan and time-based general conditions established to monitor all phases of construction. The limits of construction should be clear and they must comply with the language of the contract documents. Collectively, these are the tools needed to compile this information. It must then be the commitment of the project superintendent and labor forces to carry out the tasks within these limits.
To properly implement the plan, the plan must be communicated in such a fashion that there is full understanding of its purpose. One successful mode is the construction schedule. This guide to the project must clearly show each activity starting and finishing dates, duration, resources, long lead item purchasing schedule, submittal dates, purchasing dates, materials delivery to site dates all tied together by meaningful relationships, the networking between tasks.
As the plan progresses and careful concise communications have taken place, there exists the possibility that one facet of the schedule may be interrupted causing a disruption sorely affecting the outcome of the schedule. Through careful monitoring by the project manager, and the control mechanisms that he has set in place, he should be able to analyze the effects of this obstruction, and make the necessary adjustments to get the project back on track. Quite often issues arise that represent change to the initial planning of the schedule; unanticipated material delays, modification to the design, additional scope and contract payment delays that are not in the project manager's control, that can cause a delay to the project. These activities require immediate notification to the Owner; with follow up in accordance with the language of general condition and supplementary conditions as applicable.
The schedule impact must be analyzed immediately and communicated immediately. This communication must include projections on the updated time and cost impacts, show graphically on the schedule. Documentation must follow this notification in the form of a pending change order with comprehensive backup.
A well thought out issue letter would contain language that identifies to the Owner; first, the cause of the notification, how it came about, and secondly, the steps taken to analyze the validity of the issue followed by the means and methods needed to correct the issue and to bring the project back on schedule. Then a spreadsheet should be created to show the financial impact and how it was derived; use of premium time, which trades are affected, there involvement and the costs and general conditions effects associated with these additional working hours.
When possible, at the start up of the project, a contingency in the schedule should be initiated which allow for the reassignment of labor duties, on an as-needed basis, to protect the project from avoidable delays? In highly competitive situations where contingencies are not possible exact documentation is essential when presenting your claim. Leaving reason for doubt is a definite deterrent and may lead to undesired delays, the architect being forced to direct the work without prompt resolution and distrust in the project manager.