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What Management Structure Should You Put In Place On A Typical Construction Project?

In our questions and answers series, we answer some common questions that get sent to us from Ideas & Insights readers.


What management structure should I put in place on a typical construction project to handle communication issues?


Communication Flow

The focus of all communication is typically the project manager. The project manager is the person responsible for the project. On small projects, one project manager might have several projects and handle all the communications on all of these projects.

On larger projects, the project manager might be responsible for one project and might handle all the communications on that project. On very large projects, there might be a Project Executive, a Project Manager, an Assistant Project Manager, and Superintendent (or more).

Each would have specific responsibilities regarding communication. For example, Superintendents would traditionally communicate with other Superintendents, non-working foremen, and other folks in the field.

Project Executives might communicate primarily with the client and then only on matters that relate to the agreements between the parties.

Project Managers will typically run meetings and prepare or direct the preparation of minutes. Others may draft letters, but all letters will typically go out with the signature of the PM.

Emails and Texts

E-mails and texts might be sent by anybody, but should be governed by protocols developed internally and on the project. The person responsible for responding should be clearly identified to minimize confusion and duplication of effort.

Schedules, RFIs, and Daily Logs

Schedules are usually prepared by the scheduler, the Project Engineer, or the Project Manager. However, every schedule should

What if the General Contractor Doesn’t Submit Proposed Changes Correctly?


What if the General Contractor does not submit proposed changes using a correct time impact analysis, changes are collected together irrespective of their effect on the schedule, and requirements for fragnets are ignored?

Do you have any suggestion on how to make the contractor recognize his obligations to adhere to the contract requirements?


Even on big projects, sometimes the contract and schedule don’t get pulled out until there is a problem. To me, that makes sense with regard to the contract. The contract is more for handling problems than it is for day-to-day administration.

I’m often surprised by how little project participants know about the contract. However, it’s a bit more problematic with regard to the schedule.

Our thumb rule is that if you can keep track of a project in your head, the schedule isn’t necessary. Beyond that, however, the schedule becomes more important.

One thing everybody needs to understand is that the schedule matters when it comes to sorting out disputes. That’s because contemporaneous documents (the documents prepared as the project work was being performed) often trump oral recollections or analyses prepared after the fact. Contemporaneous documents are often perceived as being less biased and more reliable. Oral recollections are sometimes viewed as having an over-reliance on selective memories.

After-the-fact analyses are often perceived as being biased towards the desired outcomes of the analyst.

With regard to the schedule, here are some things to consider:

The Schedule Is NOT Part Of The Contract

It is a management tool. That’s it.

The scheduled completion date of the project is

Should Transportation Agencies Approve Early Completion Schedules?

I’ve been involved in many discussions with transportation agency staffers over the years regarding the merits of early completion schedules. It’s not an easy subject and there are many conflicting opinions based on a lot of undocumented assumptions about contractor behavior.

In general, transportation agencies sometimes don’t realize that, given the way many of them have written their contracts, the contractor is entitled to payment for delays even if the contractor is projecting an early completion date.

Unlike some private sector development, there is not really much of a downside to completing a highway construction project early. It just means that the contractor and owner can move on to the next project sooner and the public gets to use the new roadway sooner.

I feel there is possibly a hierarchy of options. They might go like this:

A+B Bidding

A + B bidding is the best approach, perhaps, in that it ensures that the contractor’s scheduled completion date and the contract completion date are the same date. It also gives the owner a little warning, at least, regarding the resources that will have to be mobilized to support the administration and inspection of the project. I suspect, however, that the concern that A + B bidding favors larger contractors may be real.

If A+B Bidding Is Not Possible

If A + B bidding is not possible, and my guess is that it usually is not, then the first step is for the agency to do a great job of estimating the appropriate contract duration.

This is a real

What Should You Include In Construction Project Meeting Minutes?

What separates meeting minutes from the rest of the standard project documentation is that all the project stakeholders are expected to be present at these weekly meetings. Usually, the owner, the contractor, the design team, and maybe even the subcontractors are at these meetings.

The construction project meeting minutes or record produced from this meeting are assumed to be an accurate representation of the current status of the project and the execution plan for at least the coming week. Furthermore, because all the stakeholders are present, it is assumed that the information provided in these meeting minutes is agreed to by all parties. It is accurate, reliable, and thus the meeting minutes become a very important contemporaneous document. Because of the importance placed on meeting minutes, they must be complete, inclusive, accurate, and fact based.

Complete the construction project meeting minutes and record all topics discussed at the meeting, not just the standard headings such as safety, RFI’s, submittals, schedules and changes. These are important topics and they should be discussed weekly, but if the conversation diverges to discuss an issue with the concrete supplier whose concrete didn’t come up to strength or how weather impacted the site work or how a failed township inspection was impacting progress, these conversations must also be documented.

Sure, these issues may show up in other project documents like inspectors daily reports or the in the project correspondence, but where those reports might be one dimensional or one-sided, the meeting minutes should reflect all the views

How To Document The Pre-construction Phase Of A Project

In order to understand how pre-construction really unfolds, we have to document it. It is particularly important in a situation where you don’t have a clear bid date. On many public projects bid on a lump sum basis, there is something magical about getting beyond the bid date. Once you get beyond the bid date, some believe the only thing that really matters is that number and the contract that we sign. But on many projects, like projects with GMPs or negotiated prices, the events that occurred prior to the start of construction can have as much importance as the events that happened after the start of construction.

There is not necessarily anything super important about the bid date. It is just another event in a long series of events that leads to the successful completion of the project. This early phase, when we don’t even have a real project in hand, is still a time when we need to be preparing our documentation and recording what is happening on the project. That is true of the contractor, the owner, and the design consultant. Frankly, everything I say here applies to not only construction projects, but the design portion because that is very project oriented and it has its own documentation demands.

Here’s an example of documentation that contractors may want to consider during the pre-bid phase. What are my observations and assumptions that go into:

  • My bid
  • My price
  • My plan for executing the work.

This may even accompany a submission of a price

What’s Better, Electronic or Paper Construction Documentation?

Let’s talk a bit about electronic versus paper construction documentation.

The reality is an astonishing amount of what we do today, particularly to someone like me who has been working on construction projects for 30 years, is done electronically. We have not eliminated paper, but certainly the amount of paper we consume, strictly for managing our project, has been dramatically reduced.

Why Electronic Construction Documentation is Different

The big difference when it comes to electronic documents is really storage. How do we keep track of information in a useful and sensible way so that we can retrieve the right thing quickly? Those of you familiar with the days of paper files know that with a lot of work, organization, procedure, and insisting people do the right thing, you could build a pretty comprehensive paper file. And it was relatively easy to access and come up with the appropriate information. Typically, we asked our support staff to help us accomplish that.

In an electronic world, a lot of that organizational structure really falls upon individuals. It also falls on developing protocols and agreements as to how we are going to store the documentation (in joint storage locations on the same servers for example). And then, of course, the question always becomes, “What am I going to share with whom?”

Security of electronic information is also an issue. With paper documentation, you have to worry about fire or someone grabbing a folder and not bringing it back.

But when you are using electronic documentation, the number of concerns

3 Reasons You Should Care About Construction Documentation

There are several reasons why we should care about how we document construction projects, how we put it together, how we file it, how we use it, and how we can make it better. Let’s talk about some of those reasons.

Litigation Avoidance

Sometimes we end a project in a dispute. This dispute is not resolvable simply through negotiations. We might have to mediate, we might have to arbitrate, or we might have to litigate, God forbid.

Clearly, project documentation is essential to success in these kinds of processes. The truth of the matter is that sometimes, in some of these formats, documentation is the only thing that matters. It is given more credibility than oral presentations, arguments, or other information. People do not rely on memory as much as they rely on what is written down.

Another reason we care is very often disputes can be resolved by looking at the facts and understanding what happened. If those facts are written down, it is much easier to recall them. It is easier to recall their significance. It is easier to recall their context. It is easier to discuss them frankly. Once we know who knew what and when they knew it, often many of our differences of opinion can be resolved successfully.

One of the things about good documentation is that it can prevent us from having to go to mediation, arbitration, or litigation. It allows us to resolve our issues on our own. We don’t have to throw the issue over the fence

7 Recommendations To Help You Deal With Inefficiency On Your Project

inefficiency recommendations for projects

If we acknowledge the fact that we’re seeing more claims for inefficiency or more claims with an inefficiency component, there has to be something that both owners and contractors can do to protect themselves. There is. Here are seven recommendations to help you track, evaluate, and resolve inefficiency issues on your projects.

Establish Standard Processes

You have to find a way to properly track both the work completed and the resources expended to complete that work, in order to perform a productivity or inefficiency analysis either during the project or after the fact.

How Do We Do That?

Well, we have to establish a standard process for recording a variety of information including:

  • Tracking the quantity of work completed per operation. (For instance, take the time to specifically track the work completed per operation on a daily basis.)
  • Tracking the actual labor and equipment hours per operation. (Actual labor and equipment hours are tracked on nearly every project; however, assigning those expended hours to a specific operation is often the key missing piece of information.)
  • Recording when the impacts occur and how those impacts affect the work.
  • Make Sure It’s Written Down!

    Another point we have to remember is that “if it wasn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” If you run into any issues, problems, or impacts during the course of the project, you should record that either in a daily report, a diary, an email,

    Methods For Measuring Construction Inefficiency (Including the One You Should Use)

    measuring inefficiency header

    In this Ideas & Insights, we’re going to discuss methods for measuring lost productivity or inefficiency. And we’re going to discuss five of those methods, in the following descending order of preference:

  • Measured Mile
  • Comparing Actual Productivity from the Subject Project to Different Project
  • Comparing Actual Productivity to the Contractor’s Bid or Estimate
  • Expert Opinion
  • Published Inefficiency Factors
  • Measured Mile

    The preferred method, as determined by courts and triers of fact, for measuring lost productivity or inefficiency is the measured mile. The measured mile method compares the achieved productivity of two periods of performance for the same operation on the same project. The two periods of performance are called the unimpacted (efficient) and impacted (inefficient) periods.

    A comparison of the productivity in the unimpacted and impacted periods will result in the calculation of the inefficiency factor, which is the productivity of the unimpacted period minus the productivity in the impacted period divided by the productivity in the unimpacted period (U-I/U). This inefficiency factor represents the percent of lost productivity in the impacted period as compared to the unimpacted period.

    The reason that this method is the preferred is because of its reliance on the actual or achieved productivity.

    Why is the “actual or achieved productivity” feature of a measured mile method so important?

    Well, it’s because the contractor’s achieved productivity removes variables or problems in the source data that could affect the accuracy of the analysis. For example, use of the actual

    The Three-Step Process to Prove Construction Inefficiency

    Three step process prove inefficiency

    Let’s talk about how I go about evaluating allegations of inefficiencies on a construction project.

    First and foremost, the evaluation of any request for additional compensation is a three-step approach. These three steps are:

  • Establish Entitlement
  • Measure the Impact
  • Quantify the Damages
  • Establish Entitlement

    The entitlement step of an inefficiency or lost productivity analysis starts with the contract. We must ask the question:

    Does the contract support the recovery of additional costs that result from the inefficiency?

    Before performing any evaluation of the project data, the contractor must demonstrate that the contract affords the contractor the ability to request additional compensation for the alleged change that occurred.

    Then, after establishing that the contract provides the contractor with the ability to seek additional compensation for the alleged change, the contractor must then establish that there was, in fact, a direct cause and effect relationship between the alleged change and the alleged inefficiency.

    What we find in a lot of instances is that many claims, especially those with inefficiency or lost productivity components, fail to establish this cause and effect relationship between the alleged change and how the alleged change affected or impacted the efficiency of the contractor’s operation.

    One thing to remember here is that, while inefficiencies can cause additional costs; the inverse is not true. Just because a contractor’s operation experienced additional costs, that does not mean that the increased costs was caused by the operation being less efficient. Or more