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Full Contact Project Management

Everybody's got an opinion of what you are supposed to be doing. This started early in life. First, your family had expectations of you, then it was your friends, all the way to your spouse and kids. So we're not surprised then that, from general contractors to customers, everybody seems to know what you should be doing on your job site. And if you let them, they'll tell you.

The problem is, what they think you should be doing isn't always what you should have to be doing. For instance, every once in a while, there are problems on the job site. And not only would they like it if you'd solve these problems, but they'd also really appreciate it if you would solve them for free. Ah ... the life of the mason contractor!

Most of the time it comes down to this: the scope of work. Not knowing our scope of work allows for "scope creep." Not a good thing! So, what the heck is our scope of work?

Several answers can explain the scope of work:

  • What does the signed contract say it is?

  • How about the contract's own specs?

  • Wait a minute! Is that what the plans show?

  • Isn't there a code somewhere about this?

But there are more:

  • The owner/general contractor/construction manager have expectations.

  • The architect/engineer knows what he meant to include.

  • Your estimator has certain understandings, many of which may have been gathered from pre-bid conversations with these same people.

  • You signed a contract based upon your own understanding of all of the above.

So, where does that leave us? If a company is to succeed over the long run, then it must have a vested interest in seeing that its own stance on scope prevails. Unfortunately, this doesn't always make the project owner, architect, engineer or construction manager happy. But you are also the only person that can make scope creep go away.

While we're on the subject ... ever wonder why contract documents aren't more complete, with better details and more specific information? My personal theory is that everyone else who is involved in the project has either been in too big of a hurry to get it right before it is released for bid or simply doesn't want the contract to be clearer.

Let's say that a project was created with the "perfect" set of contract documents. These documents were so complete that they listed absolutely every detail, in startling clarity. There were lists, tables and manufacturers' names. Every dimension and elevation had been double- and triple-checked for accuracy. A complete soils investigation was performed. The research on the availability and delivery times was available, and the schedule allowed for all of this. So on and so forth ... Get the picture?

Now, what would happen to the cost of the documents to be that accurate? Think that the cost might go up a bit? Just a little! With all of this detail and every item showing up so clearly, it might allow your estimator to make an appropriate bid for the job, right?

My theory is that those in charge of bringing the project to bid have their own budgets to consider. Should they spend the money now, or should they wait and hope that these things don't become a problem after all? And if problems do show up later, they'll deal with them when the time comes. Or, better yet, they'll convince you that they're your problem, and that you should solve them. Oh, yeah ... for free!

This month's playbook: Coach Gary diagrams one of the best defenses ever designed to deal with the scourge of scope creep: the well-written RFI. This will be worth thousands of dollars to you over the next few months! For a free copy of this winning RFI format, log on to www.fullcontactPM.com/10things.

Next month: The beauty of the RFI — it's much more than skin-deep.

"Know Your Opponent"
Dan Fauchier

Construction is a lot like sports. Today's winning sports franchises and best-managed projects succeed because of teamwork. Project Manager teams are not just the PMs from the general contractor (GC) and subcontractors. The PM team also includes PMs from the owner, designer and construction manager (CM).

The designer has documented the owner's vision into plans and specs, then handed the ball off to the constructors. Because a project's PM team is composed of diverse people with different personalities, different backgrounds and different agendas, it often feels like "the opponent" is one of the team members: the designer, the CM, the owner, even a sub.

And while it's true that sometimes we encounter conflict with other strong personalities, we need to keep in mind the other teammates are definitely not the opponent. We're just experiencing a "Shaq-Kobe" moment.

So who's the opponent?

It's the project itself! The project is the thing that sits there lifeless at mobilization. The project presents all the demands and all the constraints — tight schedule, tight budget, delayed inspections, differing site conditions and burdensome but vital safety procedures. The project wants to take too long. The project wants to duck, dive, turn and throw right past you. It wants to make you look bad and make the team look bad. The project wants to waste the owner's money and the project can be the enemy of cash flow for the subs and GC.

The PM team needs a coach to help draw up plays, adapt to new offenses and defenses the opponent throws at you and to encourage everyone on the team to keep working together to overcome that pesky project every day until victory.



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