Press and Blog

5 Challenging Project Management Issues in Construction

The following is a guest post by Chris Woodard.

The role of a construction project manager diverges from a typical project manager. In the construction industry, many unique challenges require the skills of a strategic project manager. Extensive knowledge of the construction process and the issues in each of its phases is needed for the successful completion of projects.

Project management issues mostly come as a result of construction operations. As there are several stakeholders in a construction project including the client, suppliers, and subcontractors, the differences in perspectives and interest will inevitably result in conflict. Challenges can also come from outside of the scope of the project. These include changing weather conditions, environmental concerns, and government regulations.

Awareness of these issues is vital for successful management of a construction project as they create various challenges that managers must be able to anticipate. But there are project management issues that can amplify a project’s difficulty if not addressed — here are five of them.

1. Poorly-defined Goals

One of the first challenges that construction project managers face is setting the goal of the project. There are instances when stakeholders are not aware of what they really want, resulting in confusion and chaos — like going on a trip with no destination in mind, inevitably wasting time, gas, and effort.

When stakeholders do not have a clear objective, the construction project manager should step in and put the project back on track. They should ask clear questions, clarify vague points, and suggest particular actions that will move the project forward.

2. Unreasonable Deadlines

Sometimes, clients and stakeholders have unrealistic expectations, and deadlines get pushed to unrealistic boundaries. Not only do these unreasonable expectations have a negative impact on workforce productivity and morale, but they also impact the workmanship of the project. Cutting corners to achieve a strict deadline may lead to additional unnecessary costs and the project’s premature demise. Thus, construction project managers should be able to advocate for their subordinates and negotiate realistic deadlines for the project’s delivery.

3. Scope Creep

Scope creep happens when there is a lack of a clear goal in a construction project that results in changes in its scope. As the project progresses, some changes in the construction process occur. The contractor realizes errors in the design and wants to introduce a new spec or the client wants the contractor to carry out a piece of work that was not initially agreed upon. Most of the time, these happen after cost estimates have been completed and the scope of services have been defined. This type of scope creep is one of the major reasons for budget overruns and delays in construction projects.

It is important that project managers clarify the scope of services including who is responsible for a particular aspect of the project, what fee is chargeable, and what services are within the approved fee. For this reason, project managers can use a schedule of services to set out the scope of services a contractor or consultant will perform for the project.

4. Hazard Management

The risks involved in construction are far greater and more costly than projects in other industries. For one, the dangers of bodily injuries and loss of life are realities that workers face on a daily basis. The financial losses incurred in accidents are minor compared to the social impact and ethical implications that the project would have on the contractors and the community.

Risk management and positive control of hazards should be a priority in a construction project. Project managers need to be proactive in identifying potential safety issues. It is good practice to involve workers in the safety process and encouraging them to report accidents and hazards.

Project managers should also create a site-specific safety management plan to improve safety. Setting up construction cameras at strategic locations in the job site ensures that the plan is enforced throughout the project.

5. Cost Overruns

Cost overruns are common in the construction industry, stemming from deficiencies and inaccuracies in design, changes in client requirements, scope creep, and other unforeseen circumstances that becomes apparent as work progresses.

To address cost overruns, a construction project manager should pinpoint the root cause whenever additional costs crop up. Cost overruns are usually caused by other complex project management issues which can be difficult to solve if not identified right away. Careful project planning and establishing a project brief that is accepted by all stakeholders is indispensable in ensuring the project stays within budget.

Construction project management is an evolving process. It takes time and patience for any project manager to be able to deal with the changing conditions in a construction project. Knowing these common project management issues in construction will enable project managers to overcome these challenges as they come up, making for better workflow and smoother project closeouts.

About The Author

Chris Woodard is the Co-Founder of Handle.com, where they build software that helps construction businesses get paid faster by automating the collection process of unpaid construction invoices.