Understanding construction project management: best practices and strategies

The skill of management is often understated. People expect to be competent at management because they believe the requirements for successful application of management can be easily learnt and understood. The reality is far from the truth.


The textbook definition of management is that it is the coordination and administration of tasks to achieve a goal. The tasks typically undertaken from the administration side involve setting and developing the organisation’s strategy – by doing so, it becomes easier to coordinate staff participation and contribution in a manner that helps to achieve these objectives via the modem of making available resources. Management can also confer with other figures of seniority in delegating tasks and coordinating workflow.


Whilst a description of management makes it seem simple, the opposite is true. Effective and masterful management requires a range of skills that can only be developed through experience. Skills such as planning, communication, leadership and organisation are must-haves for successful management. 


In construction, management is extremely important. Considering the construction industry is a vital component of society, there would be expectation that people know what they are doing, when they need to do it and who they are doing it for. 


Project management is crucial to how construction operates. In order to ensure successful delivery of projects, there needs to be an all encompassing process from start to finish, which can only exist through project management. You might even say project management on its own is the lynchpin that holds an entire project together. Take out one component and the entire process suffers significantly. 


Construction project management can be a shared process from top to bottom; however, the majority of responsibilities fall on the shoulders of a construction manager. Construction managers plan, organise, direct, control and coordinate construction of civil engineering and building projects, and the physical and human resources involved in the construction process. Some of the tasks defined include:


  • Coordinating labour resources, and procurement and delivery of materials, plant and equipment
  • Consulting with Architects, Engineering Professionals and other professionals, and Technical and Trades Workers
  • Negotiating with building owners, property developers and subcontractors involved in the construction process to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget
  • Preparing tenders and contract bids
  • Operating and implementing coordinated work programs for sites



Understanding construction project management: best practices and strategies


With all this in mind it is important to understand the best practices and strategies of construction project management – knowing the ins and outs will help you to seek greater evolution in becoming skilled in project management. Listed below are steps of project management, and the requirements for fulfilling each step. 


Define the Project Scope


Defining the project scope is crucial for the success of any construction project. It sets the foundation for the project and helps to ensure that everyone involved in the project is on the same page. Without a clear project scope, there is a risk of scope creep, which occurs when the project expands beyond its original scope, leading to delays, cost overruns, and even project failure.


To define the project scope, the project manager needs to identify the objectives and goals of the project. This involves determining what the project aims to achieve and what the deliverables will be. The objectives and goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) to ensure that they are achievable within the given timeline and budget.


Once the objectives and goals have been identified, the project manager needs to determine the requirements of the project. This involves identifying the resources required, such as materials, equipment, and personnel, as well as any regulatory requirements that must be met.


After the objectives, goals, and requirements have been identified, the project manager needs to establish a timeline and budget for the project. This involves determining how long the project will take to complete and how much it will cost. The timeline and budget should be realistic and achievable based on the available resources and the project’s objectives and goals.


Build a Strong Project Team


A strong project team is a critical component of a successful construction project. The project team includes the project manager, contractors, architects, engineers, and other key stakeholders who are responsible for ensuring that the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the required specifications.


Selecting team members who have the necessary skills and expertise is essential for a successful construction project. Each team member should have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and be capable of performing their tasks effectively. It is important to ensure that each team member has the right qualifications, training, and experience to contribute to the project’s success.


Effective communication and coordination among team members is also critical. The project manager should ensure that team members are communicating effectively and that any issues or concerns are addressed promptly. This includes establishing clear lines of communication, holding regular team meetings, and providing updates on project progress. By maintaining open lines of communication, the project manager can ensure that team members are aware of any changes to the project’s scope, timeline, or budget, and can work together to resolve any issues that may arise.


Collaboration is also essential for a successful construction project. The project team should work together to identify potential problems and find solutions. This includes identifying potential risks, such as delays, cost overruns, or safety hazards, and developing strategies to mitigate them. Collaboration also involves sharing knowledge and expertise, allowing team members to learn from each other and identify opportunities to improve project outcomes.


Finally, the project manager should be responsible for creating a positive team culture that fosters cooperation and collaboration. This involves establishing a culture of trust and respect among team members, encouraging open communication and feedback, and recognizing and rewarding individual and team achievements.


Develop a Project Plan


Once the project scope and team are defined, the next step is to develop a project plan. This includes creating a detailed schedule, budget, and risk management plan. The project plan should also include contingency plans for unforeseen events that may impact the project timeline or budget.


Monitor Progress and Make Adjustments


Effective construction project management requires ongoing monitoring of project progress. This includes tracking project milestones, budget expenditures, and identifying potential issues or delays. Project managers should also be prepared to make adjustments to the project plan as needed to ensure that project goals are achieved on time and within budget.


Foster a Culture of Safety


Safety is a top priority on any construction project. It is essential to ensure that workers, contractors, and other stakeholders are safe while on the job site. A failure to prioritise safety can result in accidents, injuries, or even fatalities, which can have a significant impact on the project’s timeline, budget, and reputation.


To ensure that safety is a top priority, project managers should work with contractors and other stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive safety plan. This includes identifying potential hazards on the job site, such as electrical, chemical, or physical hazards, and developing strategies to mitigate these risks. The safety plan should be based on the type of construction project, the site’s location, and the types of equipment and materials used.


Training is an essential component of a comprehensive safety plan. Workers should receive adequate training on how to identify potential hazards, how to use equipment safely, and how to follow safety protocols. The training should be ongoing, and workers should receive regular updates on new safety procedures and equipment.


Ensuring that safety protocols are followed at all times is another critical component of a comprehensive safety plan. This includes providing workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard hats, safety glasses, and gloves, and ensuring that PPE is used at all times when required. It also involves providing clear instructions on how to use equipment safely and how to follow safety protocols.


The project manager should monitor safety on the job site regularly. This includes conducting regular safety inspections, identifying and addressing potential safety issues promptly, and providing workers with feedback on their safety performance. By monitoring safety regularly, the project manager can identify any safety issues and take action to prevent accidents or injuries from occurring


Embrace Technology


Technology has revolutionised construction project management in recent years. Project managers should embrace tools such as project management software, building information modelling (BIM), and drones to improve communication, collaboration, and productivity on construction projects.


Maintain Strong Relationships with Stakeholders


Successful construction project management requires strong relationships with stakeholders, including clients, contractors, and suppliers. Project managers should communicate regularly with stakeholders to ensure that their needs and expectations are being met, and that any issues are addressed in a timely and effective manner.


In conclusion, construction project management is a complex process that requires a range of skills and expertise. By following these best practices and strategies, project managers can ensure that their construction projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. 


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