Construction managers can have challenging jobs — and some might even consider them the most important part of an entire project. True, owners set the vision, and project managers oversee the entire thing, making sure it starts well and finishes strong. The role of a construction manager is different. Construction manager duties involve the starting and finishing of the structure (or structures), the task of turning an empty space into an edifice. Unfortunately, owners and project managers don’t always understand a construction manager’s daily tasks, so when issues crop up, so can unnecessary conflicts.
This post will detail common work activities for construction managers, explain how work contexts for construction managers impact their tasks, and discuss how construction manager responsibilities play into their ordinary tasks.
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As we alluded to in the introduction, construction managers and project managers play different roles in any project, despite the fact that people often conflate the terms. Part of the difference involves planning. While project managers take a global view, construction managers focus strictly on the building process, and this involves lots of long-term and daily planning. This planning might take the form of:
- Helping architects and other professionals formulate construction goals
- Finalizing the overall building plan, including blueprints and designs
- Arriving at the job site at 6:30 a.m. and ensuring that all workers will have work ready for them
- Determining costs and ensuring that expenses don’t get too high (see the section on “Stay on Budget” for more information)
- Synchronizing schedules to set up essential meetings between decision makers
- Reviewing the outcome of previously completed work
- Formulating solutions when complications arise — and they always will, because the construction side of any project is anything but smooth
Hire, Fire, and Supervise
While the construction manager role requires oversight of the general project, most construction managers don’t deal with the process of running the site on a daily basis. That task falls to the individual contractors, who have various jobs to complete and their own crews that complete them. Still, construction managers stand as the final word on any aspect of the project. They can select preferred contractors and intervene regarding individual workers. They can fire anyone who doesn’t meet their standards. And they can choose to micromanage or macromanage as they see fit. Indeed, various stages of the same project may involve a construction manager working more closely to ensure a particular outcome.
Do you remember how we said that complications will always occur during any construction project? That’s true, but you’ll have fewer of them if your construction manager remembers to set goals, meet them, and review them. Clients have dreams, and architects have plans, but construction managers know how to take those airy goals and make them concrete. By setting specific milestones, which will vary according to the project, construction managers can ensure that the work remains on track. Goal setting offers other tangible benefits, too, such as:
- Helping prevent price overruns
- Allowing the manager to proactively contact decision makers when the need arises
- Ensuring that contractual obligations don’t conflict with the manager’s intentions
- Facilitating regular communication with the owner and/or other stakeholders
- Aiding with the implementation of the owner’s goals
- Helping deliver the promised project in a timely manner
- Heading off potential legal liability when questions arise about the scope of work or the date for specific deliverables
Deliver on Time
Time is quite literally money in construction. When people wonder how to become a construction manager, the most important thing they could learn is this: Deliver your projects on time. Construction contracts typically contain a delays provision, a project changes provision, and a change order provision. Construction managers understand these specific legal requirements and set their daily tasks according to them. This may include:
- Altering schedules, hires, and materials management to accommodate a newly desired direction set by the owner or stakeholders
- Contacting the owner or stakeholders in a timely manner when it becomes evident that the ongoing work will require changes
- Notifying appropriate parties of delays and minimizing any further obstacles by acquiring needed materials, hiring appropriate personnel, and reassigning responsibilities
Failing to deliver on time can do more than just ding a contract manager’s professional reputation. It can also lead to legal action.
Stay on Budget
Budgetary concerns typically arise when construction managers fail to correctly implement any of these standard steps. But by planning ahead, hiring the right people, firing the wrong ones, fulfilling goals, finalizing contracts, and remaining communicative, a competent manager will more often than not stay on budget. Practically speaking, this involves:
- Verifying the remaining resources at the end of a shift
- Contacting suppliers in a timely manner to avoid extra fees or delays
- Submitting any initial budgets or the fiscal impact of change orders to decision makers
- Reassigning resources from regularly overbudgeted departments to those that come in under budget
- Cutting underperforming elements of the project to remain within budget
- Analyzing data to avoid budgetary crises before they happen
Keep the Client and Your Boss in the Loop
A 2014 study out of the University of Uyo that examined the top leadership traits of construction managers concluded, “Communication is the most important trait a construction project leader must possess [sic] for a successful project outcome. Communication is central among all leadership traits.” Notably, communication ranked in importance above accessibility, depth of knowledge, and even competency.
For the construction manager, this translates into regularly relaying applicable information to all departments and subordinates, as well as any authority over him or her. Any information will be presented in a clear and concise manner. Finally, construction managers will also ensure owners and stakeholders remain aware of any progress or issues, which builds client confidence.
Manage and Mediate Disputes
Issues can arise between any number of parties involved with a construction project, and it’s the construction manager who often ends up solving problems and restoring the peace. Whether it’s an on-site work conflict, a disagreement about the implementation of a design, or irritation about an added expense, project managers have excellent people skills and remain available to anyone with a dispute. Construction managers may not make everyone happy in the end, but they do make timely decisions with the best interest of the project as their goal.
Just as fences keep honest men honest, contracts keep reliable subcontractors and other engaged parties committed to their stated tasks as well. Managing the construction of a building requires a strange combination of flexibility and rigidity. Construction managers must know how to pivot according to circumstances. For instance, they have to account for weather delays, speak cogently to higher ups and stakeholders at a moment’s notice, and answer subcontractor questions as soon as they come up.
But construction managers also have to hold subcontractors accountable for completing certain tasks. Clearly written and promptly executed draft contracts ensure that everyone stays on the same page.
No construction project ever goes entirely to plan, and construction managers know that they can do more than merely grit their teeth and hope everything turns out for the best. Experienced managers take steps to mitigate:
- Materials shortages
- Changes in the building’s plan
- Conflicts with suppliers
- Credit risks
- Property damage
- The use of untested technology
- Changes in stakeholders
Naturally, the exact methods and courses of action will vary from situation to situation.
Are you looking for a professional real estate firm with construction management experience? Look no further than GNP Realty Partners. We seek to add value and participate in creating distinctive projects that will stand the test of time. Contact us today!