The challenges of managing multiple construction projects

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By Jason Herd

Special to Ontario Construction News

Managing multiple construction projects isn’t for the faint of heart. But when things need building, you’ve got to get things done.

There are surprises in every project. Engineering conflicts, deliveries become delayed, and machines stop working unexpectedly. But aside from these things, there are coinciding deadlines. Managing projects has its challenges.

There are a few key ingredients to seeing a successful project through from start to finish.

Adopt the right technology

First things first, adopting a strong project management software is an absolute necessity in this day and age. Projects simply contain too many details and move far too quickly for one to survive without one. Too often, trade contractors attempt to go it alone, building spreadsheets, sharing printed documentation and using phones as their primary means of communications. These methods lead to waste, misinformation and lack of record keeping.

So start off by picking a good project management software. Take the time to consider a few and remember that the most expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best. Carefully weigh things like features, performance, adaptability, scalability, usability and price. Build a simple spreadsheet and score each category out of 10 as you review each software. You’ll be thankful you did. When your review is complete, Pick the construction management software that best meets your company’s objectives.

Now that your software selection is behind you, perfect your project management craft by executing these strategies.

Prioritize

Everything needs to be prioritized for successful project management. Managing projects takes an understanding of what has to get done right now. But if you lay everything out correctly, you will create situations where things can get done early.

Ideally, you won’t put out fires too often. By building in extra time and delegating, you can keep them from happening in the first place.

Organize

Organization takes many forms. If you’ve chosen a construction management software, you’ve got a leg up in this area.

Reducing paperwork can be an important step in keeping everything organized. But you also need to make sure that deadlines aren’t too tight in order to stay organized. Space things out and give yourself extra time to complete small projects where possible. Something many people do to stay organized is to answer their email first thing in the morning. But you may find that you get buried in your inbox if you do this.

Try to make sure that people mark your email as urgent where appropriate. Make some time to answer emails in the morning. But don’t let your day get away from you by constantly checking in. The secret to doing this lies in the next tactic.

Delegate

If you find that you cannot get through all of your emails, it’s time to delegate. Consider a workflow program that helps you delegate straight from your email. There’s nothing wrong with the manual route, either.

Delegation is very important. It’s integral to staying prioritized and organized. The trick to delegation success lies in the next tactic.

When your managing multiple projects, delegation helps you get it all done.

Communicate

Communication is key to delegating the right way. Communication is always a challenge when you’re managing multiple projects. Here’s what you can do to communicate better.

Be clear

You know you’re confusing people if things aren’t getting done right. But you can tell if you’re being clear before people run off to start their tasks. The trick lies in actively listening to people. Make time for some back-and-forth discussion. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if you’re clear.

Be brief

If you have multiple projects going on, you need to make sure you aren’t taking too long to deliver instructions.

But don’t limit your communication to instructions. Chat and check in with people. Just keep it brief so you have time for as many people as possible.

Keep a meeting schedule

Sometimes when we get busy, it’s tempting to skip meetings. But this can add more time to your day. Piled up week after week, it can be a lot of missed information that you have to gather in person later.

So make the most of your meetings. Use them to talk if you’re able. You’ll save the time of one-on-one information sessions with everyone in the group.

Learn to say no

People try to take on way too many projects at once. Don’t let your projects multiply. Tell people when you cannot do something. This goes hand in hand with making priorities.

Sometimes it’s tempting to try to be there for everyone. But you have to be realistic with your time. Remember that it’s not a kind gesture if you can’t keep your commitment!

Check something off every day

Make sure that at least one thing gets totally finished once per day. This is tough to commit to. In order to accomplish this, you might need to break things down into very small pieces.

Depending on how much you can break each project down, you might be able to check multiple things off per day!

Get an accountability buddy

Everyone on your teams should have some accountability. But you need some, too! An accountability buddy should be kind and listen well. But they should also be able to tell you when you’re not keeping up. Pick someone you trust and admire.

Have a plan and a schedule for all the projects

This means having a plan and a schedule for each one. But it means having a master schedule that includes all of them. These are tough to make! But things will go so much smoother when you don’t have to double-check six schedules.

This will also help you make your meetings.

Scheduling is an art

Scheduling takes some serious practice. When you’re managing multiple projects, it gets even tougher. Make sure you bounce ideas off someone with more experience if you’re doing new things.

While you likely have project management experience, there’s always something new to learn. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re learning something new on the job in the middle of five or six projects. Keep scheduling mistakes to a minimum by getting advice.

With the right construction management software, managing multiple projects is a lot easier. Try to automate what you can in your daily routine. Keep your communication brief and to the point. And keep that master schedule!

With expert advice from someone you trust and daily practice in delegation, you can get it done on time.

Jason Herd is the founder and CEO of Tradetraks, a custom-made software platform that has been designed by trade industry professionals to address trade industry challenges.

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