Everyone agrees that project management is a critical discipline for any firm in the AEC business. That’s why we spend as much as we do on PM training. Yet, somehow, I have always felt like most PM training missed the mark.
If I ran an AEC firm today, there are a number of behaviors I would be trying to teach my project managers. Here are my thoughts on what is really important for them to know and do:
- Be ultra-responsive to every call, email, and text. This is so important. Speed is not only crucial to the impression you make on your clients of your service quality, but also critical to everyone else working on the project IF you don’t want to lose momentum, and don’t want anyone else to waste their time and effort. That shows respect for everyone else.
- Take and immediately distribute accurate notes after every call or meeting. This is a discipline. Again, see point No. 1. Not doing this can potentially allow other team members inside and outside of the company to waste their time doing work that is either wrong or unnecessary – not the way to conserve resources, generate goodwill, or make anyone happy.
- If you are confronted with a mistake, acknowledge it and make it right. Doing anything else erodes trust and hurts the firm and its reputation. The truth will come out one way or another. So fess up and then do what it takes to make it right.
- If a client wants to do something that is not in their best interests, acknowledge their desire but inform them why that would be a bad decision and then document it in writing. Tone is critical. No anger, sarcasm, or condescension is acceptable. But you don’t want to take blame in the future for a bad decision made by a client. You owe them your honesty and best thinking.
- Any out-of-scope requests for additional services made by a client that require an extra services agreement must be dealt with within 24 hours of the request. Waiting does nothing but hurt your ability to get paid for extra work you did not anticipate doing. Get the extra services agreements out immediately and get the client’s acknowledgement that they will owe you for this.
- Prepare and send a weekly project progress report to all team members, both inside and outside of the company. These reports should commence from the first week you get authorization to work on the project and continue until the project is finished. Include all team members inside and outside the company including any subconsultants, the client, and the client’s supervisor if there is one on the distribution list. Format the report to include three topic areas – what you did this week, what you will be working on next week, and any other special issues or unresolved questions.
Can you imagine if your PMs did these six things consistently? Do you think your projects would be more successful? Do you think your firm would be more successful? If the answers to these two questions are “yes,” then what are you waiting for?
This article originally appeared in the October 10, 2022, issue of The Zweig Letter. Reprinted with permission.
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