Many projects often bring to mind the famous line from Cool Hand Luke – “What we've got here is a failure to communicate.”
One of the definitions of communication from Merriam Webster Dictionary is “a technique for expressing ideas effectively.” On today’s projects, everyone on the project seems to be communicating, whether that be talking, emailing and/or sending correspondence, but the reality is that no effective communication is occurring. Many times, project participants are overwhelmed with the amount of correspondence and get extremely defensive of their positions, especially if they miss something. We may not have a failure to communicate but it appears many times that we have a failure to communicate EFFECTIVELY.
So how do we address this failure to communicate effectively??? I still remember one of my first classes on public speaking where the professor laid out a simple yet effective outline for a speech. He said in the Opening you tell them what you plan on speaking about; then in the Body you tell them what you are speaking about; and, finally, in the Conclusion you tell them what you told them! This has been shown to be an extremely effective means of communicating in speech to inform someone of a topic.
Quality on a project, many times, is one of the last considerations for an Owner whom usually focuses first on cost and then schedule.
At the end of the day, the Quality of a built project is extremely critical for a lot longer than the time it took to design and build it. In the Project Management Plan, there should be a Quality Management Plan portion. In that segment the Project Manager should outline who will be responsible for delivering quality on a project. This starts first with a good design. One of the first steps the Owner’s Representative can do is to develop a Differentiation Document that clearly outlines who will be responsible for what in a Project, similar to the following example of a site and pool area development.
As an Owner’s Representative one of the MOST CRITICAL tasks you must do is to ensure that the Owner’s Objectives are clear. Having testified in court on construction management issues, I have learned one of the most difficult things to overcome is an Owner who believes they bought “X” and received “Y” due to the documents not being clear.
When the Owner’s Objectives do not have adequate detail to allow the Contractor to build the project as the Owner desired, conflicts are sure to follow. Furthermore, some of the most difficult obstacles to overcome on a project are Owner directed changes that impact the schedule after a contract is let. Contractors tend to price Impact Charges on these changes which causes the price of the desired changes to increase to an amount that far exceeds the cost if it had been included in the original contract.
The most effective use of an Owner’s Budget on a project is to ensure that they have a good design. The lack of a complete and coordinated design on a project has resulted in many failed projects.
Going cheap on a design team is the worst area to try to cut money on a project. This does not mean overpaying for design but it does mean getting the right design team for the project and paying a fair value for the design services as well as holding their feet to the fire to achieve a complete design. As an Owner’s Representative, it is key for us to help the Owner in these tasks.
The best process to select a design professional is a two-step process. The first step will be a submission of qualifications (RFQ) and the second step is a submission of pricing (RFP). The reason we recommend a two-step process is to ensure that first we narrow the field down to design firms who are qualified for the type of project they are designing and secondly, separately, get pricing from that narrowed down field.
A detailed Request for Qualifications process is the first step. The Owner’s Representative, with input from the Owner, should develop a list of Design Consultants to solicit qualifications from on a project. The Request for Qualifications Package should provide the Project Definition/Scope/Client Requirements in narrative form and the required Time of Performance from the Milestone Schedule for the Design Milestones which will help the Design Consultant understand what the project will entail. The Request for Qualifications should request the following responses from the design firms:
1. Firm’s Approach to the Project
As the Owner’s Representative, you want to understand how the Design Team will approach this Project. How may design evolution packages do they believe are necessary? Do they have a unique approach to the Project that would make them the better choice for this Project?
2. Firm’s Experience in Similar Projects (usually at least five similar projects)
You will want to know what other projects, like the one you are managing for the Owner, they have done in the past. This will help you understand their capabilities on completed projects and allow you to gauge their capabilities.
In parallel with the development of the budget is the development of the Master Project Schedule. This schedule will outline the goals of the Owner for the project with respect to time.
The Owner’s representative should develop various alternative approaches for phasing, sequencing, management and implementation of the project from due diligence through commissioning. This schedule is an outline of the key activities necessary to complete the project. Then based upon review with the Owner, the Owners’ Representative will prepare a final Master Schedule that will detail the overall time related goals for the project. This schedule should be presented in a format that the Owner can comprehend even if it is developed in a sophisticated scheduling program like Primavera P6. It is critical that the Owner’s Representative get acceptance of the time line from the Owner prior to finalizing the Master Schedule.
This is the sixth post in our year-long series about the best ways to work with your Owner's Representative. You can view all of the series posts here.
The most critical segment of the pre-design phase of your project is the development of a sound budget through good preliminary cost investigations.
A project can be made or lost in those crucial first few days or weeks if careful thought is not put into the budget. Once the budget is set and the Owner gets its funding it becomes an uphill battle to get more funding so all budgets need to be reviewed by everyone who has a stake in the project from the Owner’s side. The budget should be broken out in adequate detail to allow everyone to understand what is included in the budget and what is not included in the budget.
Most of the time budgets are developed with little, if any, design documentation. This initial budget estimate may be required prior to any plans or sketches and be based solely on a “concept” or “program,” hence the need for a well thought out and written Scope or Project Requirements, which should be developed in parallel with the budget and will provide the detail of what is included in the budget.
Actual estimating will typically be limited at this stage to broad budget type numbers based upon areas. Those areas should be included in a written Scope or Project Requirements (Program). In any budget breakdown, notes should be added to line items to ensure that others understand what was considered and be able to follow the budget logic.
This is the fifth post in our year-long series about the best ways to work with your Owner's Representative. You can view all of the series posts here.
In the Pre-Design phase of the project there may be a need for additional due diligence studies to ensure that the project is feasible. One of the first due diligence studies could be a Property Condition Assessment (PCA).
The standard format of PCA is detailed in ASTM E2018. As an Owner’s Representative when asked to assess a property we use this format when performing a due diligence study. The most critical process for the firm who is contracted to perform a PCA is systematically reviewing the property and completing the information required on the standard which will ensure that a property is completely reviewed.
One of the key areas that require management on projects is the management of data. The larger the project the more data there is to manage. Projects have failed due to the lack of management of data.
Over the past two decades the industry has moved from the era of hard copies in filing cabinets to electronic processes. One reason for this shift was to aid in the management of the large amounts of data required on a project. In the 1980s and 1990s I worked on several multi-billion-dollar theme park projects. The management of data was primarily done with large areas of filing cabinets, plan rooms and libraries of information. There was so much data in hard copy form that, at times, information was forgotten and/or lost. This type of situation drove the development of computerized Project Management Systems. The focus for Project Management Systems was becoming the repository for information on a project that would allow an individual to easily search and find key data.
This is the third post in our year-long series about the best ways to work with your Owner's Representative. You can view all of the series posts here.
The Project Management Plan is the heart and soul of how the Owner’s Project Team will run the project.
This plan outlines key visions of the leader of the Owner’s Representative Team on how the project should be run. Not having a plan will cause starts and stops in a project as the collective team (Owner, Design Team and Contractor) wait until the Owner’s Representative puts in place the segments of this plan on the fly. Development of this plan will help put in writing the vision of the project, budget, schedule and processes necessary to achieve that vision.
The key elements of a Project Management Plan include at a minimum:
This is the second post in our year-long series about the best ways to work with your Owner's Representative. You can view all of the series posts here.
Logically the proper project organization will depend upon the size and complexity of the project. One thing that will never change is the need for there to be one key leader for the Owner on the project.
We noted in our first blog of 2017 one of the key findings of research into failed projects is, “Leadership from Owners needed to increase and there is a need for a strong Owner's representative’s presence.” Whether it is a single individual as the sole representative for the Owner of the project or he/she is the leader of a group of individuals representing the Owner of the project singularly or collectively they must be competent to lead the project from concept to completion. The Owner’s Representative(s) must have the ability, authority and responsibility to execute the requirements of the Owner on the project. This starts with a clear vision for what the finished project will be and the ability to detail that vision to all other stakeholders in the Project. This starts with the development of strong contracts for the Designer(s), Contractor(s) and any other entity necessary for the successful completion of the project.
Collectively the Owner’s Representative team needs have the skill set capable of taking a project from concept to completion, ensuring that the best interests of the Owner are maintained. This team may be totally in-house (employed by the Owner), totally out-sourced (contracted Owner’s Representative) or a mixture. On larger projects there could be multiple tiers of representatives each responsible for a different area of the project or for different scopes. It will be critical for the individual who is in charge of representing the Owner, overall on the project, to detail the job functions of the individuals assigned to the project regardless of which of the three scenarios detailed above are utilized.