Is there something missing in the way we communicate on construction projects that is critical to project management at all levels? James Perry discusses why the lost art of communication needs to be revived...
In today’s ever evolving industry, we are constantly developing and creating new technologies to assist with all areas of construction.
We only have to look at the advances with Building Information Management (BIM) in recent years - from remote controlled drones that scan deep into the ground over a large area with pin-point precision, to laser scanning of buildings set for remedial and refurbishment works, it’s safe to say that advances in technology across the construction industry are at an all-time high.
In the management of projects, the industry is developing new programming and planning software to assist. Software that even has the ability to highlight design clashes and detail flaws. Software that will virtually build projects as a “dry run” so that project teams can foresee potential issues and make necessary changes, thus improving programmes, timescales, budgets and productivity.
These initiatives are exciting and make a near revolutionary contribution to the advances of the construction industry, but as we divert our attention towards these technologies are we forgetting the lost art of communication?
Something so simple and yet so important in project management, yet are we creating more administration work by relying too much on technology at the expense of proper and structured communication? After all, any software is only ever as good as the data entered.
Millions of pounds are being invested worldwide into new technology, changing traditional roles and creating new opportunities, but should technology be the key focus for improving project management? Is there something missing in the way we communicate on construction projects that is critical to project management at all levels?
Personally, I have found that well-structured and regular communication is often the very best tool for a project manager, as well as for client liaison and general relationship building.
As simple as it sounds, effective communication is one of the most powerful tools which project managers have in construction. Yet sadly it is often forgotten. I’m not talking about “ping-pong” emailing or even confirmation of instructions and so on. I’m talking about pre-empting, forewarning and general all round communication regarding the project, no matter how menial the subject may be. Regular updates and a consistent stream of communication between all parties can create a better rapport and enable the client to trust in what is going on. This is certainly true of commercial contracting, but even more so for domestic clients!
For a domestic client, being kept in-the-loop is of the upmost importance, especially when, as a contractor, you reach that phase of construction where it appears as though not much is being done. As an experienced project manager, of course we know that plenty is being done and know the sequence to which works are carried out, however, to a domestic client, with no previous knowledge or experience of construction, they can only see changes that impact a project aesthetically.
I find that a simple email on a Friday afternoon to update clients on what has been happening and what is in store for the following week will keep most people at ease, so that they can trust in what is going on with their project. It is their project after all.
In today’s modern age, with a plethora of technology at our fingertips, it may be a surprise that the most powerful form of management is often overlooked.
This isn’t about hierarchy of needs or X and Y theories of management, this is simply understanding clients’ needs and communicating as a human being.
Try it out and send an update in two or three paragraphs on a Friday. You’ll be surprised at the benefits.