Defining Organizational Structure
Any organization functions successfully only if the members of the organization understand and perform their duties perfectly.
For one to comprehend the role of a project manager they must first understand the Organizational structure (pecking order) of the general contracting firm. A flow chart, has beenprovided as a representative example of a company whose size and annual dollar volumecontrols the employment structure and position of the project manager in their role. To controlthe operation of support staff required for general administration of the business, and with the growing demand to service the field operation, the head of the company needs to exercise overall management with the freedom from the direct demands of project operations. To accomplish this the head employs the project manager, the overseer of the project, to organize and implement project continuity.
Under the direct control of the project manager is the project superintendent, project engineer, administrative assistant and accounting clerk, with increased or decreased staffing for larger or smaller projects (or when significant time constraints exist). Also working for the project
manager, reporting directly to the superintendent are trades foreman and subcontractor field
personnel. This grouping of workers perform the specific and specialty trade work for the
project. The project manager has the dubious task of overseeing the subcontracts and the scope
of work for each trade of a particular project. This rounds off the field reporting element of the
The office related responsibilities add another tier of responsibility for the project manager to
manage. Each of these employees share the responsibility of reporting information
accurately and as the project manager formats. The administrative assistant provides the clerical
support and assistantship needed to maintain the many meeting minutes and logs with the
project manager who is solely dependent upon for success. Where the project manager is the
primary cost manager for their respective projects, the financial support needed by the project
manager in payment to subcontractors and suppliers keeps the project moving smoothly.
Accurate record keeping helps the project manager to project reasonably accurate profit margin
The project manager also has responsibilities to control the processes that support the
construction such as purchasing, receiving and warehousing of the project materials to be
incorporated into the project. This function, may become the responsibility of the
project superintendent for the successful purchase of the materials. Under
each scenario, the project manager retains the responsibility for inventory and product controls
Duties of the Project Manager
The duties of the project manager can best be summarized under four general operational areas.
Administration of the project
Managing the Owner's contract
Communications of issues, and Coordination of activities
Acquisitions required for the construction of the project
Refinement of scope
Identifying items that have delivery dates that impact the schedule
Purchasing of trades and materials
Management and scheduling of the project
Understanding manpower operations
Building code issues
Achieving substantial completion
aggressive punch list completion
submission of recoded drawings, maintenance manuals & warranties
The Objectives of the Project Manager
Project orientation first involves setting goals for the project. A mandatory understanding of the
Owner's contract documents, selected contract type, general requirements, specifications and
plans combined with the estimate and scope of work survey are the tools for goal setting. There
review should allow you the ability to develop the project "construction schedule", "pre-purchase
log", "financial projections" yielding the cost and time limitations of the project.
Together, the cost and time goals comprise the main criteria needed to product the desired
construction and they cannot be altered in any significant way. The project manager who
recognizes "cost and time" as the goals which bring success to a project, focuses on these
successes, limiting exposure to influences that will impinge in the projects success.
Additional goals directly related to the project manager's successes are micro schedules for
projects which require phasing or specialty constructions within a larger project requiring a
unique amount of attention, efficiency in processing subcontract documents and a means of
tracking these activities, preparation of the many logs that record the flow of materials for
submittal, required for approval, prior to installation (a must activity prior to final material
A goal setting session with the project superintendent will help educate both members of the
team; through discussion about the sequencing of the job, both team members to will remain on
track, sharing information on the general conditions reduces risk of over expenditures, agreeing
on a approach to logistics helps both member think about the project the same way.
Developing A Working System
As do people in most management positions, the construction project manager must take the
most effective approach to control the project. Two choices are commonly used.
"The aggressive approach is usually used by the project manager who understands the estimate
and how it applies to the contract drawings (and specifications). Armed with this knowledge, the
project manager works to reach the goals, implementing his objectives systematically. The
success of each working process can be measured against the schedule, "the intended plan". On
the other hand, the docile approach has the project manager reacting to daily happenings, often
spending money, above the estimate, to correct the circumstances that may have been avoided
through proper planning" .
A manageable system is one that establishes a timetable guaranteeing performance of tasks,
sequenced to meet the time limitations of the Owner contract. The efficiency of the project must
be measured in order to evaluate the successes of the established goals. From the estimate, the
project manager delineates "when" and "how much" of each resource is needed to perform each
task. He must then ensure that each resource is provided within the correct task at the desired
time. Resource management should be shared with the project superintendent validating the
manpower demands as anticipated by the estimate. Proper management of resources is an
important procedure for the manager as it supports the efforts to control cost and time.
Each of these functions equate to profits and losses. Knowing each procedure and translating its
resources into costs allows for the accurate prediction of the dollars needed to finance the
project. Periodic projections will aid in the preparation of a monthly budget analysis, which is
needed in evaluating the status of the project.
Managing And Controlling The Project
Planning, Communicating and Monitoring
The task is to manage the project as it progresses, using the project control systems to maximum
advantage. Project control is best analyzed by applying the factors of a unique operation,
following its output and measuring its results. The factors to be considered are labour, materials
and equipment. One might also have to consider the role of the subcontractors, as they affect the
sequencing of this task. In measuring the factors, the project manager must key in on the
productivity of his labour force, measuring output over a given period of time. From these
results, the project manager can then make a comparison between the project estimate and
the objectives to meet the expected goals.
To be effective in managing the project, the project manager must exercise three modes of operation. "The three factors are planning, communicating and monitoring the project. The project must be well planned, each factor of the plan properly communicated, carefully monitored and controlled".Proper planning involves one of the initiatives of the goal setting process, the preparation of the schedules and budgets established to monitor all phases of construction. The contract and contract documents are used to compile this information. It is then the commitment of the project superintendent and labour forces to carry out the tasks within these limits.
To properly implement the plan, one must communicate it in such a fashion that there is full understanding of its content. One successful mode is the construction schedule. This guide to the project must clearly show each activity, starting and finishing dates, duration, resources, long lead item purchasing schedule, submittal dates, purchasing dates all tied together by meaningful relationships, the networking between tasks.
As the plan progresses and careful concise communications have taken place, there exists the possibility that one facet of the schedule may be interrupted causing a disruption sorely affecting the outcome of the schedule. Through careful monitoring by the project manager, and the control mechanisms that he has set in place, he should be able to analyze the effects of this obstruction, and make the necessary adjustments to get the project back on track. Quite often issues arise that represent change to the initial planning of the schedule; unanticipated material delays, modification to the design, additional scope and contract payment delays that are not in the project managers control, that can cause a delay to the project. These activities require immediate notification to the Owner, with follow up in accordance with the language of general condition and supplementary conditions as applicable. The schedule impact must be analyzed immediately and communicated to the same. This communication must include the updated time and cost impacts, show graphically on the schedule and in the form of a pending change order with appropriate backup. A well thought out issue letter would contain language that identifies to the Owner the means and methods to bring the project back on schedule, the possible premium time affects on trades and the costs general conditions affects associated with these additional working hours.When possible, at the start up of the project, a contingency in the schedule should be initiated, which could allow for the reassignment of labor duties, on an as-needed basis, to protect the project from avoidable delays.
Recognizing and Using Project Controls
With the goals set and the project readied for construction the project manager must put on paper all the tools required to product the construction. There are management logs for managing subcontracts, purchase orders, a subcontractor insurance compliance log, a long lead time item log, a material submittal log, questions to the architects and engineers log, the proposed change order log and the project planner (meeting minutes).
Information which should appear on a typical submittal log are a title of the log, a project name, a corresponding job number, an identification number of the item submitted for approval, a
description of the information being recorded, and the activities which are to take place once the submittal is made and, finally, the results of the activity. The project manager must realize that, for a project to be successful, the records he compiles must be kept current and distributed freely among all who are involved in making the project a success. This distribution must be done in a timely manner, never to exceed the defined limits of the general requirement. Along with this exercise, the project manager must coordinate the submittals with the construction schedule, since, be relying on the order of procurement, he can depend on the sequencing of the progress of the construction. This is a key element to effective project management.
Cost Accounting As A Relation Of Estimating
Estimating and cost accounting are very closely linked. If the estimate is properly prepared, yielding a successful bid, it becomes the framework for the cost accounts.
Since the estimate is based on the most recent and reliable information gathered from field operations and market activities, to whatever extent may be reasonable, the performance data reported to project manager from the field for the current project can be compared. If there is a mismatch in work performance, exposed during this process, initiatives should be taken to analyze current operations, directly correlating them to historic data. Involved in this process would be the study of new equipment, methods and resources used now, versus those used during the historical time period. The project manager must, in his review, be prepared to make the necessary adjustments to the detail task which has fallen off the financial track, rather than adjusting operations as a whole
As earlier stated, "the most critical to all data to control is labour . Two sets of data should be kept for each set of labor cost records; first, the actual labour costs of the labour operation, second, the total man-hours. From this information, a clear and complete narrative description of all the circumstances affecting the work should be made a part of the cost records, and then provided to the estimating department for future bidding purposes.
The Project Construction Schedule
Introduction to the Construction Schedule
The construction schedule is the most important organizational tool for the project manager, and it serves the same vital function for the subcontractors and suppliers participating in the project. To establish a strong working schedule, an outline of the tasks of the project should be written down and reviewed until the proper succession of tasks is attained. It is sometimes best to begin by listing all of the activities of the table of contents, by sub subdivisions as they appear in the specification document. The next step is to decide the level of detail one needs to show on a schedule to assist him in the management of the project. A parent task might be concrete; which would include child tasks as forms, footing, reinforcing bars, walls and slabs, to mention a few, and Site work; having child tasks similar to grub & stump, clearing, strip loam & stockpile, excavate for footings/piles, etc. To expand the schedule to a CPM schedule, a greater level of detail is required, and milestones become focal point and mechanism for measuring accomplishment.
Assigning resources to scheduled tasks demonstrates an understanding of the scope of work, man-hours needed to perform the work and the locations designated for the use of resources on the construction site. The start date for general contract work is determined at the signing of the Owner contract, but may be accelerated by joint agreement and the contractor's acceptance of an Owner's "Notice-to-Proceed". Subcontractor's scheduled activities begin at the signing of the subcontract, purchase order or a "Notice-To-Proceed" similar to that received by the general contractor. The duration of self-performed work can be taken directly from the construction estimate or attained from subcontractor while deliberating a subcontract document. This procedure must be followed for each trade and purchase until the durations are well set. Blocks of sequential trades may be cast into a smaller sub-schedule to establish their relationship, predecessor to successor, lag time, earlier start to later start, and float time (limits to the tasks start or end). In creating the schedule on computer all of the above information is needed for a proper "network", linking all of the tasks with proper relationships literally builds the project on
paper in a graphically vivid manner assisting all involved parties in seeing the end of construction.The project manager needs to publish the timetable by which they intend to publish the original schedule and its successive updates. The work effort to accomplish this activity is quite substantial and must become routine to the project manager. Constant monitoring of job progress and effective communications with the subcontractors and suppliers are mandatory for successful scheduling. Gathering these updates on a regular basis is crucial to the understanding of the "Where are we this week?" syndrome. Therefore, once the information is gathered and reviewed, the construction schedule can be updated with confidence. The updated schedule needs to be distributed to all involved parties.
Keeping the Progress Schedule
The initial progress schedule should start with the estimating department, reviewing the contract documents for unusual design criteria that may affect a quick set up of construction activities. Issues of the type need to be identified, and brought to the attention of the project manager as he prepares his preliminary schedule and general conditions. The project manager can then prepare a tentative plan for all work, to assist him in analyzing the timetables required to complete all phases or scopes of work. The schedule needs to show all items that affect the progress of work, by creating a relationship with the tasks that are dependent on its successful completion in one given time period. At the time the project manager is assigned the project, they should schedule a meeting with the estimator to review the construction documents and the list of "special" issues identified by the estimator during his presentation of the scope.
The next most important step is in collecting data from subcontractors to qualify the assumptions made during the rescheduling process. This information will be used in creating the working schedule to be presented to the Owner for acceptance prior to the commencement of operations. It should be noted that the input offered by the subcontractors is the essence of their estimates and represents your most reliable data. The project manager in cooperation with the superintendent will use this information and develop the network by which the tasks will be
related. Additionally, material purchases and deliveries are shown on the schedule to maintain control of, long lead time items make this mandatory and should be noted as milestones.
When the information is complete (data collected) and the task relationships are finalized the schedule can be placed on the construction bar chart, and refined and expanded to a CPM schedule, Time-scaled PERT charts shows the tasks as a pod with starting time, ending time and duration, and more clearly and graphically showing the network relationships.
In first time scheduling, a parallel schedule should be maintained showing the actual work in progress vs. the original projected schedule. Computer scheduling programs allow for this option at the stroke of a key. But, the long hand approach will allow you the opportunity to be more focused at first, because you see all of the elements of the graph visualizing and projecting related tasks more spontaneously. As computer skills become keener, and you have experiences behind you, you will find that you will retain relationships and be able to focus on schedule segments (screen views) with greater confidence.
To succeed in scheduling you need to be an aggressive writer or user, update regularly and challenge yourself.
Closeout Procedures - be efficient!
Assuring success of a project the Project Manager needs to remain mindful of the close-out activities that bring a job to its responsible end. The process involves several very important accomplishments that are clearly defined in the construction documents usually in the general condition section of the specification book.
To be successful it is always prudent to be informed and prepared. At the start up of the project a review of each trade section would further help identify needed final submittal information, that each of your subcontractors would be obligated to produce to complete their contract. This check list is an excellent tool to include in each subcontract, locking each subcontractor into ownership of their respective final submittal material, whether it be warranties, record drawings, Operation and maintenance manuals.
Referencing this information at the halfway point of a longer project would allow you to focus on closing out subcontractors whose work completed early, reducing your challenge at the end of the project.
Conclusion & Summary
To be an effective project manager, one must be prepared to establish a working structure, a format of proven management principles, that support the philosophy of the construction company they serve. A system that will work best for your company has to be designed by your company and then supported from within, to be truly effective.
The project manager must prepare a reasonable plan of action for building the project, by understanding the estimate, collecting data from subcontractors, outlining the scope of work and aggressively purchasing the trades, establishing the cost control measures which best assists in accomplishing one's goals. One should monitor job progress in a timely manner, and report finding on a regular basis to all involved participants. If problems occur, the project manager must take immediate action to identify the cause and effect, report their findings as specified, and take the necessary action to correct the problem.
The project manager's chances for success will be greatly improved if the principles which govern the project manager's activities are adhered to. Exactness is not always attainable, but the ability to plan, track and execute the project is essential.
The project manager needs to draft a schedule that best depicts the data gathered from the estimate and the subcontractors. He should discuss the project estimate with the estimator and share the schedule creation with the superintendent. The more tasks listed on the schedule the greater the control of the progress of the project. This is a definite benefit to the project manager.
Using the estimate and the purchasing opportunities he will create the project cost controls, formulating the working budget. Again, this budget must be wisely monitored, kept up-to-date, and reported on monthly.
The project manager is the leader "Captain of the Ship", in control of activities, aggressively pursuing the plan of action, making informed decision and avoiding the consequences of reacting to issues, that may have been avoided through the active, aggressive approach. The project manager maps out his course of action, monitors its progress, and corrects where necessary. With timely knowledge of any aberrations, the Project Manager will be in the position to administer the project rather than be manipulated by the activities.