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Insights 4 project management principles to apply in your next construction project

Within the realm of project management, the main objective is to support business goals through the effective management of capital, labour, time, and equipment. The role is not confined to one industry, and anyone that chooses to pursue a project management career will find opportunities across a range of markets, including the construction market. As was the case for most sectors, the construction industry had unique challenges thrown its way due to the outbreak of Covid-19. However, an increase in government spending and the ramped-up transition to a carbon net-zero society have contributed a 5.7% growth in construction output in 2021.

If ambitious project managers are looking to forge a successful career within the engineering and construction market, here are four guiding principles to apply:

  1. Outline clear project goals
  2. Manage risks
  3. Define your team's responsibilities
  4. Tailor the methodology

Read on to learn more about these project management principles and why you need to apply them in your next construction project.

image of a team reviewing documents on a worksite

Outline clear project goals

Establishing goals can be likened to laying down the foundations of an infrastructure project. You need to establish specific targets for your team. If targets are not defined, you’re at risk of building faulty foundations, and the cracks will soon begin to show. Every goal should be defined by the SMART paradigm:

  • S - smart
  • M - measurable
  • A - achievable
  • R - relevant
  • T - timed

When goals are not met on an infrastructure project, this can lead to major delays throughout the life cycle, incurring huge costs for your client. When SMART goals are implemented, you’ll gain a clearer picture of your team’s performance, what is going well on the project, and what could be improved.

Manage risks

Right from the initial months of the Covid-19 crisis, projects were paused, supply chains came under threat, social distancing measures were brought in, and the furlough scheme was introduced. Project managers at engineering and construction firms were under pressure to navigate these new challenges whilst also looking ahead and planning for the new world. Tapping into advanced data analytics has proven to be key when navigating a crisis like Covid-19 and managing potential risks.

In the construction sector, swaths of information are created, managed, and used throughout project milestones. By consistently analyzing this information, you can uncover insights into costs, time scales, resources, and labour shortages. We’re just beginning to see the potential of tapping into data like this and in a recent Atkins and KPMG report, we found that for every £1 that was invested in information management, a £6 gain in labour productivity was reaped.

Define your team's responsibilites

Defining the responsibilities of everyone in your team—including project planners, schedulers, cost managers, and engineers—is a form of risk management as it ensures that every person understands what is expected of them. When this is outlined early on in the project, it saves confusion at the execution stage. A straightforward way to define this is with the use of a RACI chart, which is a responsibility assignment matrix that breaks tasks down into the following:

  • Responsible - Which people are responsible for performing the task?
  • Accountable - Who is accountable for the completion of the task?
  • Consulted - Which people need to be consulted to provide feedback?
  • Informed - Which people need to be informed on the progress?

You might have clearly defined goals and a stellar team, but if they aren’t clear on who is responsible at the task level, confusion will creep into the project.

Tailor the methodology

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to project management because each project will differ in type, size, and complexity. You could have the best project management methodology, but if you don’t start by considering the unique needs of the project, you run the risk of applying unsuitable processes.

There are three stages of tailoring a project management methodology:

  • Initial tailoring
  • Pre-project tailoring
  • Intra-project tailoring

As the three stages suggest, a tailored project management methodology is an iterative process. You can think of it as a trial-and-error, and though it will take you time and effort to find the processes, tools, and templates that work, you’ll find better results than if you’d adopted an off-the-shelf methodology.

Explore our project management vacancies across the USA

Now that you’ve got the four project management principles, all that’s left to do is apply them to your next construction project. If you’re looking for a new opportunity that will challenge you and push you to develop your skillset, why not browse our current jobs in the USA to explore our project management vacancies?

Being one of the world’s most respected project management consultancies, you can expect to work on some of the most exciting projects across the USA. If you’re still looking for more insight, check out our project management content to find out what you’ll gain from a career with the AtkinsRéalis Group.