Construction projects are exercises in change management. All stakeholders play their parts in making sure change doesn’t overtake the work. When you get them all working together toward that goal, you have a smooth-running project.
The foundation for change management is effective communication. For this to work, you’ll need to rely on both effective interpersonal communications and effective communication processes.
Do you want to improve communication? You need to set the example.
The very best interpersonal communication skills will minimize misunderstandings while fostering open collaboration. When stakeholders can’t freely raise problem ownership issues with each other, review stakeholder performance, and collaborate with project partners openly and honestly, no amount of comms systems and tech will alleviate the communications problems faced by the project.
When you have good interpersonal communication skills at work across the project, people will feel comfortable raising performance issues with partners. The parties will enthusiastically work together to resolve the issues. To get this piece right, you have to be willing to exemplify the communications traits you want to see in the workforce and help people improve their communications skills.
Technology helps get everyone looking at the same information at the same time.
Once people communicate well interpersonally, you must look to the communication processes to see where change management isn’t working. Sometimes, you have one portion of a communication process working well while another isn’t.
So, you might have all stakeholders on the same page when resolving schedule bottlenecks but lack forward-looking methods for spotting potential bottlenecks before they become an issue.
Other times you might have an entire communications failure like spotty success at tracking open change items and who is responsible for resolving them. Or maybe you have a muddled approval process, and people are unsure who has approving authority. No matter what ails your communication processes, you can find relief by partnering with a tech provider that offers communications features like:
- communications dashboards and analytics tools;
- customizable tracking and approvals options; and
- reporting and reminder tools.
These tools help get everyone looking at the same information, at the same time, so they can solve problems as one integrated team.
Visuals like graphics, photos, and videos can convey more information to the viewer more quickly. Visuals also stimulate emotional and creative juices quicker and sometimes work even better than words. Your technology stack should make it easy for you to use visuals in your project management and business processes.
When you can snap a photo, hit a button, type in a recipient’s email or message address, add a few words and send, the punch list or the change order gets a lot clearer. For instance, a short video added to a client report can illustrate why excavation slowed to a crawl because the machine found car-sized boulders in its path. When you use a graphic to show the effects on a subcontractor’s schedule not completing their work on time, you instantly communicate the big picture.
The project drawings are the project. Everybody working on the project relies on the drawings or the BIM model. Since the drawings are under constant revision as the project unfolds, you need to quickly connect relevant information to the drawings.
Information from the field might be at odds with the drawings. Visuals and text should link to the exact place where this issue arose. When changes to the drawings get approved, those changes need to show on the drawings simultaneously. At the project’s end, you’ll be glad you linked those changes to the drawings when you have to prepare the as-builts. The drawings are living documents, and linking issues to them is what keeps them alive.
The right software platform gives you visibility and streamlines workflows.
Every change affects multiple parties. If the change process is complicated and filled with hoops for people to jump through, it will create bottlenecks and rework. From the moment a change is needed, you need a process that quickly takes it through all the steps, with the correct approvals and in the correct order. That’s where the right software platform will give you visibility and streamline workflows.
Clear responsibilities and workflows foster accurate payments, timely approvals, comprehensive risk management, and effective project safety. That’s why the project management software must allow you to assign accountability for all processes. It should also be easy to change who is accountable and assign priorities to those processes with visibility into who has ball-in-court.
Whenever people are accountable, they usually have deadlines to meet. When your software includes options for automatic reminders, you free yourself from follow-up calls or emails and help others keep their portions on track. This reduces any awkwardness of holding people accountable for completing their actions, especially when they are outside your organization. There is also another often overlooked aspect of automatic reminders and using them for your own deadlines helps you focus on priorities.
Will you remember every decision you made, when you made it, and why? Will others? It’s not likely, so you need to have ways to document decisions, changes, and anything else in the correct context within the plans. A note about why you decided to amend the work breakdown for an activity or why you did a schedule update earlier than usual will provide you with ready explanations when trying to understand what went right and what went wrong.
When you can get all the relevant, decision-making information right in front of you in real time, you will make better decisions. Your software should not only include dashboards but they should also be tailored for your needs. Not everybody uses the same logic, so people need a wide range of options when displaying information for analysis and decision-making.
Your tech partner is on the front lines of your efforts to hold your stakeholders accountable for managing their portions of change. Choose wisely because the way you manage change can make or break a project outcome.