How to Effectively Communicate the Schedule
By Jerad Ferrell, Construction Executive
Construction project planners know schedule details inside and out. They can look at a Gantt chart and easily see the relationship between tasks, the durations assigned and the resources committed. Unfortunately, few others in the construction process are interested in the symbols and graphs.
Circulating a Gantt chart to work crews to illustrate their tasks, respective resources and time constraints, communicates very little to them. Teams need straightforward communications without ambiguity. In fact, without clear and concise communication, construction projects often can perform poorly. When it comes to communication around the schedule, it’s not just smart to get it right the first time—it’s imperative to ensure a successful project outcome.
These four strategies help contractors keep schedules on track, as well as help streamline communications across construction projects.
Managing verbal communications related to the schedule is a bit more challenging because discussions often happen spontaneously and, even when planned, there are technical and legal limitations related to recording them. If recording is an option, there are challenges of storing, sorting, searching, and archiving audio files to ensure they are quick and easy to locate. It often falls on the participants to create their own verbal or written record of the conversations within a reasonable amount of time. But many don’t document their interactions and tend to rely solely on their memory to direct their responsibilities.
The person talking tends to assume their message is clear and precise, but that’s not always the case. When those communicating share a common ground, they have a good chance of understanding one another. However, when people of different backgrounds and professions communicate, the possibility for error increases. To make sure everyone on the team understands one another, ask the simple and often overlooked question: “Do you understand?”
Effective listening, removing distractions and summing up what the other person has said also helps make verbal communications more effective.
SIMPLIFY DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT
It has become more important to have a firm handle on managing communications, especially with all the document storage options now available. Cloud-based project management solutions include document management functions that greatly simplify the organization of all project documentation. From submittals and change orders to RFIs and punch lists, the right document management solution makes sure actionable items are acted on, notifications occur on time and that people have the right information when they need it.
Moreover, having key team members on one project management platform allows schedule information to be viewed by anyone who needs to have continuous access. That means the newest and most up-to-date schedule is immediately available to them. No more scattered messaging or miscommunication—everyone is on the same page.
Make it a point to keep track of and review the commitment ratios. When people say “yes, I’ll get that done,” it doesn’t always happen. Subs with poor records of coming through for general contractors can really slow an entire project team.
A master schedule is great, but having three-week look-ahead meetings with teams and discussing the schedule and challenges helps identify what is going to slow down a project—many times, the scheduler isn’t aware of concerns subs may have. Having a venue to better track and communicate is a big deal.
Regular meetings provide the space for important feedback about schedule expectations. Make sure the schedule is realistic for all those doing the work, but also get buy-in from the teams.
The schedule is ultimately the tool that will determine project success. Ensuring it is communicated accurately, consistently and completely with all teams is the only way to maximize its potential.