If there’s one thing that can wreak havoc on any commercial development, it’s miscommunication. Most mistakes that result in considerable delays or discrepancies in your budget, are the cause of miscommunication and are completely avoidable by having the proper systems in place. Understanding how to create clear lines of communication between key departments is the key to success, and the implementation of effective communication systems is part of what makes an experienced Owner’s Rep so valuable to a commercial development. To help keep your next project on track, here are 5 ways our Owner Representatives avoid miscommunication on commercial developments of all sizes.
Schedule Regular Meetings
The importance of teamwork on a commercial development cannot be overstated. The designers, engineers, construction team, and development team each rely on one another to move the project forward, and a mistake or misunderstanding in one department can have a negative impact on the other teams. Holding weekly or bi-weekly meetings that include each of these departments gets everyone on the same page and helps mitigate miscommunication that often falls through the cracks of strictly written communication.
At each meeting, time should be spent discussing open issues, the progress that is being made, what the hold-ups are, and how they can be resolved. This ensures that any concerns or solutions can be presented and evaluated from the unique perspective of each team. Ideally, these meetings would be conducted in-person, but even with restrictions such as those enacted due to COVID-19, alternatives such as conference calls and smaller meetings with key personnel can be extremely effective.
Decision Making Systems
On a commercial project, there are decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. Without knowing who is responsible for those decisions, or who has the authority to make them in a leader’s absence, delays happen. If this happens frequently, minor delays add up and can cause major problems. To resolve this, we create a unique decision-making system for every project based on color-coded checklists that identify open, closed, and critical issues. Each item contains information such as item details, dates, who is assigned to make the decision, and by what date a decision must be made to keep the project on schedule. Not only does create clear accountability and structure, but it also prevents the addition of last-minute changes. Maintaining organization in your decision-making, allows you to look further ahead and account for changes before they become a problem, resulting in a smoother workflow.
The results of both poor and effective communication are most clearly seen on the project itself. Having an experienced set of eyes and ears on-site provides the means to accurately evaluate how well plans are being executed and the ability to identify where things can be improved. When our Owner’s Reps conduct onsite visits they walk the project, talk to contractors directly, and gather information, all of which are compiled into detailed reports. These reports are customized for each specific project and include documented media, project breakdowns, team performance, etc. which can be easily shared with the necessary departments. Due to the speed at which developments move and how important it is to spot errors early, on-site visits are conducted and reports submitted on a weekly basis, as well as monthly reports that provide organization and an accurate perspective of the bigger picture.
Controlling Critical Path Items
Commercial projects are developed in stages. Each completed task is the building block for the next stage to be completed. While mishaps in some areas may cause a bump in the road, others can halt progress entirely. These are tasks we refer to as critical path items. You can think of this as laying the foundation before you can build the walls. Every project has a number of critical path items that need to be identified and planned for in order to keep the project on schedule. Failure to do so results in delays that continue until a solution is found. Knowing what the critical path items are and what critical path items can arise due to changes are the result of experience, and critical to meeting deadlines. Having a designated person such as an Owner’s Rep to control these factors can save you days, weeks, or even months depending on the size of the development.
Coordinating communication between key departments takes a concentrated effort. Exchanging written communication such as emails and reports are important, but it isn’t enough to keep everyone on the same page when it comes to the details. Instead, we actively maintain individual conversations with each team to get a better understanding of their needs, which we can address and clearly communicate to other departments by having a more complete picture of the situation from various perspectives. When it comes to resolving major issues, a team approach is often the most effective method, but this is only possible if everyone has access to the same information.
However, it’s also important to be aware that each team is responsible for a specialized task, and excess information or assigning teams with responsibilities that fall outside their expertise can be detrimental. The ability to properly manage the flow of information keeps everyone more focused and creates an environment where important decisions can be addressed without creating unnecessary distractions or slowing progress.
A More Effective Communication System
A commercial development includes many moving parts, and when projects fail to include personalized communication systems, miscommunication is an inevitable result. By having the right systems in place and experienced personnel to implement them, such as an Owner’s Rep, you can mitigate issues before they impact your budget or cause delays. A few methods we use to increase the effectiveness of communication between departments include:
- Scheduling regular meetings that include key departments
- The creation and implementation of decision-making systems
- Regular on-site visits
- Controlling critical path items
- And managing the flow of information
By implementing these methods you’ll increase the likelihood of meeting deadlines and budgets, which results in additional profits, more successful projects, and satisfied teams.