Project Management: What You Need to Know Now (Part 1)

Norb Slowikowski / August 2015

The next several issues of SuperVision will feature a series on project management. This month’s article will start with an overview and we will go in-depth on what it takes to be a successful project manager in today’s construction climate.
Let’s start out by defining project management. It’s the choreography of people, processes, resources, productivity and change to bring a project to a profitable completion.
A manager is a person who ensures that work is done on time with quality results. This requires the execution of what I call the FAT System:
Functional skills—planning, organizing, directing and controlling.
Adaptive skills—leadership skills, how a manager behaves (people skills).
Technical skills—physical work, task orientation.

Functional Skills
Do you have what it takes to manage others successfully?
First, it takes planning. Think ahead. Know your vision. Develop a course of action before starting a job.
Then, organizing. Systematically arrange all of the pieces in the work process to achieve the optimum quality and quantity of output.
Directing. Give people the proper instructions on how to do their jobs effectively. It’s really effective communication.
Last, a good PM can control the situation and himself. He holds people accountable for their key responsibilities. When you don’t have control, productivity suffers.

Adaptive Skills
What type of leader are you? See if you can spot your style:
The Dictator. “It’s my way or the highway!” Sound familiar? This style tends to have a negative impact on productivity.
Laissez Faire. “Do what you can. I hope you like me.” This kind of leader tends to be a positive person who ignores sub-standard performance. He doesn’t like to hold people accountable and needs to be liked. This style also tends to have a negative impact.
The Team Player. “We’re all in this together.” This style establishes a positive work climate without sacrificing what needs to happen to get the job done and done right. This leader believes in a collective effort to achieve positive results. He establishes a “partners in productivity” climate with an emphasis on productivity and profitability—everyone is important. This, in turn, establishes trust and respect among all team players on the job. This style of leadership will have a positive impact on improving productivity and maximizing profits.

Technical Skills
What is your task orientation?
Physical skills include estimating, managing and tracking labor, documentation, reviewing the contract, processing change orders, generating RFIs, managing costs and other administrative duties.
Successful project management entails fostering teamwork, encouraging feedback, clarifying expectations, supporting your foremen when they face adversity, resolving jobsite disputes, problem-solving on the job, being flexible and adaptable, embracing change and providing an effective information flow.
It is important that you do not become a witness, a person who sees or hears something but does not follow through. Here are some typical witness tendencies:

  • A witness verifies that something has occurred but doesn’t take the time to fix it.
  • A witness is generally a visitor to the job site. He communicates with the foreman but doesn’t get involved in solving problems, and he expects the foreman to make corrections without any help.
  • He’s a nice guy but not a partner.
  • A witness is perceived as incompetent.
  • A witness lacks visibility and involvement.

Why would someone serve as a witness rather than a manager?

  • Work overload. He has too many jobs to manage and has difficulty with multi-tasking.
  • Lack of effective training.
  • Lack of field experience.
  • Unclear expectations.
  • Lacks proper management skills.
  • Dislikes confrontation.
  • Ineffective communicator.
  • Lack of a systematic process to follow.

Obviously you don’t want to be a witness on the job, so let’s make sure that the project manager’s role is clearly defined. To be an effective project manager, you need these key components:

  • Define product or service being created.
  • Define six key job responsibilities for each function on the job.
  • Create a project plan.
  • Organize and transmit information to all team players.
  • Resolve conflicts.
  • Manage and control costs.
  • Correct the course when necessary.
  • Manage the delivery process.

The PM also needs to have a clear understanding his company. He must have a strong customer focus and also know the following:

  • The company’s mission, vision and values.
  • Key deliverables.
  • Reporting relationships.
  • Key processes and procedures.

To sum up, make sure the project manager clearly understands his role in the construction process and is focused on achieving results on the job.

Our next article will expand on the project manager’s expectations and core beliefs so that he can effectively support the foreman on the job site.  

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.