Two recent articles in Australia spell out the consequences for project managers and senior managers in the event of a person being injured or killed on a project.
Charges laid over Griffith construction worker death
Kenoss Contractors, senior manager charged over death
But let's put aside the direct consequences to the project manager, and consider some of the other consequences of an accident on a project. What about the workers themselves? What about their families? Workers have an expectation, and a right, that they will return home from the project in the same health as they started. Families expect to see their loved ones (and bread winners) return from work at the end of the day. The project manager has a duty of care to ensure this happens.
I have found many project managers think safety is not part of their responsibility, however, this is incorrect - it's the responsibility of everyone working on the project. Safety cannot be left entirely to the safety advisor, nor can it be driven only by the project manager. Safety is a team effort that needs support from the whole management team and all the workers. To achieve this, the project manager must lead the team - and lead by example.
Many projects fail to submit their monthly valuations on time or fail to claim all the revenue they are entitled to. This usually results in the contractor having a negative cash flow which impacts the company's operations.
Where possible the projects should maximise the revenue claimed in the monthly valuations by:
1. making sure that all work is claimed
2. over-claiming where possible
3. ensuring milestones are met so that they can be incorporated in the payment
4. making the valuation date as late in the month as possible
5. ensuring that variations and claims are submitted and approved quickly so that they can be claimed
6. claiming for unfixed materials where applicable
7. claiming as much of the indirect costs or preliminaries as possible
Remember, it’s better for the contractor to have the money sitting in their bank account than in the client’s. However, when compiling cost reports, ensure the over-claims in the valuation are excluded from the revenue used in the report.
For the last few years drones have been used by the military to drop bombs and carry out surveillance missions. The pilots are usually based thousands of kilometres from the war zone – returning home to their families at the end of their missions.
But now drones are playing a bigger part in everyday life. From conducting anti-poaching and anti-smuggling operations, monitoring and tracking criminals and traffic control. Paparazzi have now found this the ultimate tool for ‘gate crashing’ celebrity events and taking photographs.
In construction drones have also been used to take pictures of projects. But what of the future?
Well check out this website: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/design/2013/02/the-drones-of-the-future-may-build-skyscrapers/
This might seem a bit far-fetched at this stage. But think of this - if a drone can carry a few hundred kilograms of bombs, why couldn’t it be used to lift structures weighing several hundred kilograms on project sites. Some construction projects already make use of helicopters to erect structures in remote and rugged countryside, or on top of buildings. Why not use drones instead?
Check out this website where experiments have been conducted with drones to evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0208hgn
But does it have to be restricted to lifting heavy objects? Maybe drones could be used for other tasks like painting elevated structures. Think of the maintenance work on bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Could drones do some of this work?
Drones can certainly assist with surveillance work on projects – getting to places like roofs to check for potential problems.
But maybe there is more to this. Instead of the design engineer travelling from his office to perform quality checks he may just be able to fly his drone around the project – honing the camera in to ensure the construction is meeting the quality standards and specifications. Next time there is an interface or design problem on site, instead of waiting for the engineer to visit the project, the engineer can view the problem operating a remote camera from his desk, while at the same time modifying his drawing in real time to solve the problem.
Maybe projects in the future will have to employ air-traffic controllers?
Many construction projects require a large staff compliment and a big workforce. The contractor's project manager or site manager cannot do this alone. To be successful it's important to:
1.Select the right team for the project. Some good people are just not suited to working in a large team.
2. Delegate effectively. This means ensuring that the person delegated the task understands what needs to be done, has the knowledge to do it, and completes the task.
3. People must know their duties, who they report to, who reports to them, what their limits of authority are and what problems they are expected to solve and what they should refer to their managers. (A project organisation chart can be useful.)
4. Understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the team and work with these.
5. Understand the individual cultural differences.
6. Discipline must be applied in a fair and uniform manner from the start of the project so that everyone is clear what the boundaries are.
7. Guard against employing too many people. Continually reassess the team and make changes to suit the new circumstances.
8. People must be accountable and there should be no place to hide. On large projects it's easy for people to 'get lost' or shirk responsibility. Sometimes this isn't the person's fault but rather that they aren't being effectively used.
9. Ensure everyone works as a team. It's easy for a few weak links or trouble makers to disrupt the team and for others to become demotivated.
10. Keep communicating (and I don't mean by having long meetings). People need to be updated on the project progress and what goals have been achieved, and understand what the next targets are and what has changed on the project.
This quote from Robin Williams typifies what we as Project Managers should experience.
“There is still a lot to learn, and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful.”
See more quotes from the comic genius Robin Williams who tragically died this week.It’s good practice to arrange ‘a lessons learned’ workshop at the end of every project. I’ve seen many mistakes made, and then the company, and even the same team on occasion, go and make the same mistakes on their next project. The most important part of making a mistake is being able to fix it. The second most important part is to learn from the mistake and avoid making it again. We should always pass our knowledge on to other people within the company so they can also learn from our mistakes.
Of course, it’s not only about learning from mistakes. When we manage projects successfully it’s just as important to pass the lessons of these successes on to other people.
Projects often experience problems and it’s expected the Project Manager should solve them. Sometimes however the Project Manager doesn’t have the necessary experience or knowledge to solve them, they don’t have the back-up from their company, or the problem is simply too big and difficult to resolve. Project Managers either:
ignore the problem hoping it will go away
try and hide the problem from their Head Office
try and solve the problem, often in the wrong way, making it worse
It’s important when a potential problem is detected which could jeopardise the completion of the project or affect its profitability, that the Project Manager:
notifies their manager
asks for help if necessary
makes contingency in the project’s cost report for the problem’s potential impact
Senior management usually don’t like dealing with problems, but they dislike surprises and failed projects even more.
If you are on linkedin check out this great article Why asking for help makes you a stronger leader
Some projects have too many meetings, and I have known some have an hour long Supervisors meeting every day. What were the workers doing while their Supervisors were off site? How many problems on site remained unresolved? How productive was the project? How many risks were taken in this time, which could have resulted in an accident?
Its good practice for the Project Manager to hold meetings with their staff, however these should:
1. only involve the relevant staff (those not invited should be informed why their attendance isn’t required so they aren’t offended)
2. have an agenda
3. keep the discussion to items affecting the majority of attendees (if a specific task or matter, has to be discussed with only one individual, meet with them separately, and if an individual brings up a topic not relevant to other staff, ask the person to discuss the item outside the meeting)
4. be brief, to the point and restricted to 30 -40 minutes long
5. be set at an appropriate time that will cause the least disruption in the day’s activities for the attendees (for instance Supervisors should not be called to a meeting at the start of the working day when they are at their busiest organising their teams, it may be more convenient, to schedule their meetings 30 minutes before their lunch or tea break)
6. ensure staff have followed through on actions raised at the previous meeting
Staff meetings are useful to:
1. advise personnel of progress and the milestones that must be achieved
2. update staff of new influxes of personnel, equipment or subcontractors
3. discuss concerns relating to safety, quality or industrial relations
4. provide feedback to staff regarding problems or issues that affect most of them
5. update staff on changes on the project or within the company
6. give positive feedback
In this day and age of theft and fraud it’s important to have sufficient checks and controls in the operating systems to pick up and, more importantly, to deter fraud.
These checks should include ensuring that:
1. the item has been received and complies with the quality requirements and the specifications
2. the work has been carried out in accordance with the order including supplying all quality documentation, spares, and warranties and completing all commissioning
3. the value invoiced does not exceed the value on the order
4. deductions have been taken into account
5. the agreed discounts have been taken
6. retention is withheld where applicable
7. the correct amount of tax is added
8. the invoice hasn’t been previously paid
9. there aren’t any arithmetic errors
To facilitate some of the above it may be necessary for the appropriate people, who have the required knowledge, to check and confirm the item has been received and complies with the requirements of the order.
It’s also essential that the payment process is clear, so that it’s possible to follow what the payment is for, and what deductions have been made and why they were made. If it’s not clear it’s possible that when future payments are made the supplier receives more money than is due, or deductions are accidently reversed.
To enable this checking process it’s important to tie-up the order, invoice, delivery, batch and payment numbers. Equally important is to ensure documents are filed and stored in the correct place and sequence and are readily available for several years should disputes arise with suppliers later.
Project Managers must understand the relationship between time and cost. It would seem obvious that the shorter the project duration the lower its cost. This, however, isn’t always the case. Sometimes a project with a short duration results in a congested project site and inefficient utilisation of the project resources, or excessive peaks and troughs in the resource histograms. It’s therefore important the schedule is optimised to be as short as possible without compromising the quality and safety on the project, yet also ensuring the project resources are utilised efficiently.
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Copyright 2016 - The attached articles cannot be reproduced for commercial purposes without the consent of the author.
The opinions expressed in the attached articles are those of the writer. It should be noted that projects are varied and different laws and restrictions apply which depend on the location of the contractor and the project. It's important that the reader uses the supplied information taking cognisance of their particular circumstances. The writer assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss of any kind arising from the reader using the information or advice contained herein.
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