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How to Succeed as an Accidental Construction Project Manager


There are two types of project managers: those who have completed courses to become certified project managers and everybody else. While not everyone can attend official project management training, everyone can benefit from a field guide for the “accidental project manager.”

In fact, a 2015 survey by project lab found two out of three participants lead projects, but are not project management certified. It has become the new normal to unexpectedly take on the roles of managing a team and executing projects successfully in construction, which can mean added stress and tasks on top of daily deliverables.

With proper strategy and planning, construction professionals who face the challenges in playing this accidental project manager role can avoid chaos and work smarter. In fact, accidental construction project managers can achieve success without being an expert on all the subtleties of completing tasks. The following guide will offer all of the tips needed to manage like a pro and navigate through projects while balancing timelines, quality and cost.


The flames of chaos can be fueled when one or more members of the team are managing too many tasks at once. Just one overworked team member can jeopardize the whole project. Sharing responsibilities and assigning joint ownership can ensure work is evenly distributed. Visual task management tools like Kanban boards can help. These allow everyone to see what tasks are being worked on and where the tasks stand to keep things on track. Creating a virtual project space around these Kanban boards can establish a community feel and ensures all important plans, documents and tasks are easily available to team members anywhere.


Establish daily catch-ups with team members if needed, but keep it brief. It’s also important to remember not to do everything alone. The main trick is to prioritize and delegate, as not all tasks are equally as important and focusing on the right ones will help accelerate toward the goal. Don’t be afraid to ask someone else on the team to take something off the plate of another team member. Feeling overwhelmed won’t help, and accepting that one person can’t do it all alone will improve work life.


Make sure all team members involved in the initiative know the end goal and the tasks to help get there. Gantt charts are one way to showcase this as an alternative to a plan drawn up on a whiteboard. It’s important to have a bird’s eye view of which tasks are currently in motion, which are running simultaneously and if any tasks depend on the completion of others. This overview will avoid any sense of confusion and lay it all out. This also will greatly assist with communications to stakeholders, as keeping them up to date and informed during a project is crucial to success.


Every plan is a reference for change, and it is likely scope and timeframes will require adjustments along the way. Being agile and responsive is important to keep things moving as unforeseen changes are thrown into the mix. A strategy based on overall objectives and a project timeline can help. In the end, clarifying the goal and allowing the team to do what it does best will carry the group through. Trust team members to fulfill their roles and leverage their specific skill sets to contribute toward reaching the finish line.


Communication doesn’t always have to be through email, on the phone or face to face. Using a cloud-based tool that enables collaboration within the project can greatly facilitate communication among team members that may be working on different schedules and from different locations. It also will enable stakeholders to see real-time progress and allow them to contribute and chime in when needed.

A lack of formal project management training doesn’t mean construction professionals can’t get things done in a smart and efficient way. Many accidental project managers are used to inefficiencies as they are expected to oversee a plan, organize a team, delegate tasks and track progress—without being taught how. With the proper knowledge, accidental construction project managers can lower stress levels and improve productivity for the whole team.

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