Ask a Construction Project Manager
Executing commercial build-outs is more complicated than most people realize. Luckily we were able to delve into the minds of some of the industry’s finest to get an inside perspective on what goes on behind the scenes.
Q: What do you find to be the hardest thing about your job?
A: As the leader of project teams, we constantly are playing the game of getting people to agree to realistic deadlines and following-up on deliverables promised. A prepared project manager will be ready for people to not meet their commitments, so checking in at the right times is key. When a team member forgets their deadline or puts their task on the back burner, it becomes our problem.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about your role as a construction project manager?
A: One struggle we have is getting our clients to understand that while we are “construction” project managers, our true value happens way before the first hammer is swung. If we aren’t involved with pre-construction tasks such as developing the scope of work, crafting the budget, or putting together the schedule, we not only have a lot of catching up to do right off the bat, but we’re working with a set of expectations that might be unrealistic.
Q: How do you ensure that a project is always on track?
A: Communicate deadlines and impacts of updates. Constantly asking, “how does this impact the schedule and budget” and being as upfront about an adjustment or change will ensure that everyone is aware before we go too far down the rabbit hole. It’s completely feasible to make an adjustment at any point but not understanding that a delay or increase in budget was incurred is never something a client wants to deal with down the line. We make sure we ask the questions and understand feasibility as early as possible.
Q: How do you prevent “scope creep”, or a symptom on a project when adds to the design and budget spiral out of control?
A: With everyone wanting to keep up with the latest swanky office build-out, we often find ourself with clients uttering the phrase “while we’re at it, let’s add…” which can backfire into time consuming value engineering exercises. By keeping budget and schedule expectations clear to all, we work to advise our clients on impacts of pivoting mid-way through the design (or construction) process.
Q: Finally, what keeps you excited about this business?
A: Initially it was about the excitement of ending each project with something tangible that created change. I’ve now started to appreciate the feeling of being part of exceptional project teams. Ultimately, this business comes down to the human interaction, and not so much the nuts and bolts.