Why Communication Matters in Commercial Construction

According to the Project Management Institute, poor communication is the #1 reason for project failure. This is especially true in commercial construction projects due to the multiple stakeholders—the developer, architect, contractor, subcontractors, consultants, suppliers and investors. Further, key decision-makers may be off-site, away from the realities of the project work. 

Poor communication easily creates a snowball effect, leading to additional problems as the project moves forward and resulting in the potential for costly re-work. A 2018 surveyi of construction leaders found that more than half (52%) of all re-work is caused by poor data and miscommunication, costing the U.S. construction industry $31.3 billion. Alternatively, good communication in commercial construction improves relationships, team management, coordination between stakeholders and building outcomes while reducing conflicts, disputes and delays. Let’s take a closer look at why communication matters in commercial construction. 

Helps Build Trust and Improve Relationships 
Good communication allows individuals attached to a commercial construction project to do their jobs confidently and efficiently. Encouraging team members to communicate openly and share ideas and concerns signals trust, reduces conflict and builds relationships among all parties. Trust is the basis for sound decision-making, critical to effective project management. While there is always the potential for some disagreement, the transparent exchange of information allows for the timely resolution of issues, keeping things moving.  

When teams lack the necessary information to do their jobs, it creates negative emotions, including stress, distrust and demotivation. Alternatively, being able to share and having access to all relevant information about a project boosts morale. Ensuring everyone involved in the project can see the big picture and understands how their work fits into it engages and motivates workers. An engaged, motivated workforce is vital to the project’s success in an environment where the slightest mistake can be costly (and dangerous).  

Better Management 

The multiple teams and many moving parts of a commercial construction project require clear communication with all teams on the day-to-day activities and big-picture outcomes. This information provides a roadmap, allowing each team to understand how they contribute to reaching the desired destination. The roadmap should include clear timeframes for all specific activities. Ensuring everyone knows these timeframes is essential to keeping the project on track. When a roadblock arises, teams can more quickly resolve the matter when they have ready access to all relevant information.    

In commercial construction, a chain of command drives communication. The project manager is the central point of contact and is typically responsible for communication between contractors, consultants and suppliers. The project manager controls the process for managing change orders and requests for information—most of which require proper authorization.  

A transparent chain of command that identifies which parties must authorize certain types of change orders and identifies contact points to disseminate information to everyone who needs to know. Considerations may include design, budget, schedule and risk management factors—which require different authorizations. A clear chain of command ensures proper input and informed decisions, which then must be communicated down the line.   

Better Coordination Between Parties 

It’s critical that the various stakeholders function in a coordinated manner—eliminating information silos that can be detrimental to the success of a commercial construction project. When stakeholders fail to communicate, the down-line teams tend to work independently, preventing the exchange of information that helps ensure the success of a project.  

Teams need to be able to communicate from the initial planning of a commercial construction project right through to the ribbon-cutting. Good communication helps ensure commercial construction projects stay on schedule and within budget—two known construction challenges heightened by supply chain issues and labor shortages.  

Better coordination also enables collaboration—inspiring innovative solutions to design, implementation and cost challenges. A team of laborers with extensive hands-on experience implementing the architect’s vision may have unique insight into finding the best solution to a problem. Still, they first must be aware of the issue. 

Helps Ensure Review Coverage and Thoroughness 
Quality control is an essential aspect of any commercial construction job and a standard operating procedure to ensure all work meets the standard of excellence. Communication should be part of a quality control system—periodic checks to ensure all teams correctly document and share work status—often through project management software.  

Without a system, workers will default to varying communication methods, e.g., texting a team about an identified issue. In this instance, everyone may assume someone else will take care of it. Having a process that documents an issue, identifies the person responsible for addressing the issue and requires that person to document when the issue is resolved ensures that small matters—which can result in problems down the road—don’t fall through the cracks. For example, changing out the wrong wire gauge when a wall is open is a more manageable and less expensive fix than re-opening the wall. With no communication system, such errors can easily be missed, resulting in safety concerns, delays and cost overruns.  

Helps Avoid Disputes and Operation Lapses 

Ask any construction worker about the biggest cause of delays, and you’ll likely hear about problems with information channels, including the slow flow of information, a lack of information prioritization and information sent to the wrong party. All these communication missteps create chaos and confusion, which leads to mistakes that will inevitably mean project delays. 

Poor communication can also lead to disputes between stakeholders, creating conflict, which can delay work. This is particularly true with commercial construction projects where the main stakeholders are typically not on-site and may work in remote locations, e.g., the architect in one location, the developer in another and the general contractor in a third. In such instances, when on-site errors occur, resulting in costly re-work and resentment, it can make future cooperation more difficult. Such problems can be avoided if all stakeholders and teams are on the same page regarding expectations about project communications and have the tools to ensure they can adhere to agreed-upon processes.  

Improves Quality and Promptness of Service Delivered 

Perhaps the quality of the end product is the most important reason to pursue an effective communications strategy in a commercial construction project. Teams that effectively communicate deliver projects on time and within budget. Robust and transparent communication means better outcomes. Sound communication systems keep all stakeholders and teams aligned and aware of project goals and deadlines. 

But an effective communication strategy goes beyond just sharing information down the chain of command. It begins at the top, documenting all building designs, specifications, assumptions, contracts, costs and schedules. Anything less creates an environment ripe for mistakes, impacting the quality of the end product and the service delivering that product.  

GNP Realty Partners takes a vertically integrated approach to commercial construction from concept through occupancy. Our teams use software designed for the preconstruction phase—to connect owners and builders and to streamline the bidding and risk management process—as well as the construction phase to connect teams in the field with off-site stakeholders for efficiency and   

real-time visibility. Our expertise in general contracting and construction management—including embracing high standards for communications—produces quality outcomes that ensure our projects deliver on time and within budget. Contact our commercial construction team to learn more about our services.