Construction Business Management


Variables That Affect Project Management

While the benefits of project management are clear, it must be noted that a good project management system — whether manual or computerized — cannot be implemented without an investment of money and time on the part of corporate management. It is, however, an investment that brings a definite and positive return. It is certainly worthwhile to review some of the common problems associated with developing better project management. Forewarned, one can at least minimize these problems. Later chapters of this book will cover the procedures and possible pitfalls in more detail.

In any change, people must be the first consideration. First, the installation or development of new project management techniques must directly involve the people who will be responsible for the results. Probably the worst possible approach is to simply choose a technique or system, and mandate, “you will use this system.” The people involved should be recognized as knowledgeable, competent, and concerned about their job performance. Their professionalism will also be helpful in choosing and operating any new and better procedure. They must be brought into the decision-making and changeover process.

Job-site personnel may be somewhat intimidated by new methods. For example, a superintendent may fear that a new scheduling or cost system will have the home office looking over his shoulder. Or a project engineer may feel uncomfortable with a new, unfamiliar system, fearing failure due to lack of knowledge. The solution to these kinds of problems lies in: 1) honest dealings with the persons involved, with an emphasis on team improvement and the removal of threatening elements, and 2) training, which will clearly demonstrate the company’s commitment to improvement and willingness to continue investing in its employees.

Cost and Organizational Concerns
The project manager must recognize that implementation of better management techniques will cost real dollars and will require some organizational changes and adjustment. As previously noted, the benefits justify the investment of time and money.

Organizational changes clearly involve people. To begin with, any improvement in the system must start with the wholehearted commitment and backing of the company’s management. Without it, it is difficult for a single project manager to undertake significant improvement in techniques.

It is also important that company management approach the problem professionally. If, for example, the company president’s attitude toward installing and developing a new project control system seems sloppy and half-hearted, company personnel will perceive that the president does not really care about good project control. The development of a better project control system is probably doomed from the start in this circumstance, since the people who have to carry it out will not devote anything like their best effort to a project that they feel the president will not reward.

Another organizational concern is inflexibility, or rather the fear of it, among construction people. The personalities who do well in the construction field are traditionally self reliant and individually competent. They prefer to work with little supervision and to be judged on results, not methods. Also, most field supervisors have more than a few good ideas themselves, which they are willing to share with upper management.Anew technique or method should therefore be flexible enough to allow for this kind of individual approach in the field. The emphasis should be on making the burden as light as possible for the field, with the information as accessible and usable as possible.

One final note concerns the importance of communications. When new procedures are being discussed and changes are in the wind, rumors are inevitable and may hurt morale and cripple the effort to change for the better. Such rumors are best countered by full and open disclosure to project personnel whose lives and professions are directly affected.

This article was adapted from Project Scheduling and Management for Construction by David R. Pierce, Jr. Click here to read an expanded excerpt.


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