Construction project planners know schedule details inside and out. They can look at a Gantt chart and easily see the relationship between tasks, the durations assigned, and the resources committed. Unfortunately, few others in the construction process are interested in the symbols and graphs.
When it comes to communication around the schedule, it’s not only smart to get it right the first time, it’s imperative to ensure a successful project outcome.
Circulating a Gantt chart to work crews to illustrate their tasks, along with their respective resources and time constraints communicates very little to them. Teams need straightforward communications without ambiguity. In fact, without clear and concise communication, construction projects can often perform poorly. When it comes to communication around the schedule, it’s not only smart to get it right the first time, it’s imperative to ensure a successful project outcome.
These four strategies will not only help keep your schedule on track, but also help streamline communications across your construction projects.
Managing verbal communications related to the schedule is a bit more challenging since discussions often happen spontaneously, and even when planned, there are technical and legal limitations related to recording them. Even if recording is an option, there are challenges of storing, sorting, searching and archiving audio files to ensure they are quick and easy to locate. It often falls on the participants to create their own verbal or written record of the conversations, within a reasonable amount of time. But many don’t document their interactions and tend to rely solely on their memory to direct their responsibilities.
When those communicating share a common ground, they have a good chance of understanding one another.
The person talking tends to assume their message is clear and precise, but that’s not always the case. When those communicating share a common ground, they have a good chance of understanding one another. However, when people of different backgrounds and professions communicate, the possibility for error increases. To make sure you understand one another, you have to ask the simple, and often overlooked, question, “Do you understand?” If you don’t ask this when there’s a possibility of misunderstanding, you are contributing to the confusion. Effective listening, removing distractions and summing up what the other person has said also helps make verbal communications more effective.
Simplify Document Management
It’s become more important to have a firm handle on managing communications, especially with all the document storage options now available. Cloud-based project management solutions include document management functions that greatly simplify the organization of all project documentation. From submittals and change orders to RFIs and punch lists, the right document management solution makes sure actionable items are acted upon, that notifications occur on time and that people have the right information when they need it.
Moreover, having key team members on one project management platform allows schedule information to be viewed by anyone who needs to have continuous access. That means the newest and most up-to-date schedule is immediately available to them. No more scattered messaging or miscommunication, everyone is on the same page.
Make it a point to keep track of and review the commitment ratios. When people say “yes, I’ll get that done,” it doesn’t always happen and subs with poor records of coming through for the GC can really slow an entire project team.
Make it a point to keep track of and review the commitment ratios.
When I was in construction, we institutionalized this and it significantly raised awareness, subs became more aware of accountability, and we tracked it and fed the results into a data warehouse to know which subs we were most able to rely on when taking on tough projects with right margins.
A master schedule is great, but having three week look-ahead meetings with teams and discussing the schedule and challenges helps teams identify what is going to slow down a project, and many times the scheduler isn’t aware of concerns subs may have. Having a venue to better track and communicate is a big deal.
Regular meetings provide the space for important feedback about schedule expectations. You want to make sure the schedule is realistic for all those doing the work, but also get buy-in from the teams.
The schedule is ultimately the tool that will determine project success. Ensuring it is communicated accurately, consistently and completely, with all teams is the only way to utilize its potential.