Years ago, I was introduced to the Construction Project Lifecycle. At the time, it wasn't earth shattering.
There are four phases (click on the link to read the article):
But many years and many projects later, it's helped me realize a major shortfall for construction companies. And this applies whether your company does $100k projects or $1B projects - the concept is exactly the same.
In fact, the larger and/or more complex the project, the more you'll notice this 'effort vs payoff' effect we'll be talking about.
The fact is this:
"The ability to influence the success of a project is most available before construction begins."
In the the four phases of a project's lifecycle, the Startup Phase and Planning Phase have the highest chance of making a successful project with the lowest cost to implement and highest probability of success.
Construction Lifecycle; Startup Phase
In the Startup Phase, you can picture a team of estimators celebrating a new project win. You can picture those estimators in a 'war room' with the project team, turning over quantity estimates, reviewing the risk analysis and handing over the as-bid project schedule.
You can picture the Project Manager and Lead Superintendent discussing a staffing plan, an introductory org chart, and starting to look for lay-down yards and office spaces or getting quotes for office trailers.
This is the non-glamourous part of a new project. It's full of action items that are things that need to get done and probably not in the Supt's wheelhouse.
Who's doing what?
Estimators are packaging up and handing off binders full of estimate data - takeoffs, quotes, marked-up drawings, meeting minutes, spec reviews, etc.
Project Management is taking on 'big-picture' action items, like org charts and office spaces.
The Owner is being introduced to the project team and drafting press releases.
And Subcontractors are vying for the attention of the Prime (although they probably aren't ready to talk to many Subs quite yet).
Why is this phase important?
As we talked about earlier, the decisions that are made in this phase of the project will have a HUGE follow-on impact on the entire project. Something as simple as choosing to lease an office that is 12 miles from the project is going to mean extra travel time to/from the job, which means extra fuel and wear/tear on equipment, it means lost time driving back and forth for meetings, and it means more chances of fender-benders. BUT. It could also mean saving a truck load of office lease budget.
LOTS of things to consider at this point in the project. Now is the time a lot of decisions are being made that will effect the long-term overhead costs of the project.
From an operations standpoint, what's most important right now is internalizing everything that the estimators have handed off. They've done a lot of hard work to get this far, and it would be silly for the project team to start from scratch.
A good handoff is critical.
And guess what often times gets forgotten or passed-up? The estimate handoff.
Next up is the Planning Phase. And if you though the Startup phase was a good time to make decisions that will impact the success (or failure) of a project, we're just getting started.
The Startup phase lays the ground work for the project team. And since we're all builders, here, let's use a construction analogy:
Startup = The building's foundation; without a good one, it's tough to get everything else to square up. This is where it all starts.