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Agile Project Management Essentials: Navigating the Basics

In the dynamic landscape of project management, Agile methodologies have emerged as a transformative approach, fostering adaptability and collaboration. Understanding the essentials of Agile Project Management is crucial for navigating the complexities of modern projects. This guide will take you through the basics, providing insights into Agile principles, methodologies, and the key components that make it a powerful framework for project delivery.

 

I. Introduction to Agile Project Management

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile Project Management is an iterative and flexible approach to project execution that prioritizes adaptability, collaboration, and customer satisfaction. It emphasizes incremental progress, allowing teams to respond to changing requirements and deliver value consistently.

Why Choose Agile Project Management?

Agile is chosen for its ability to address the limitations of traditional project management. Its iterative nature accommodates changes, encourages client involvement throughout the process, and promotes a more efficient and responsive project delivery.

 

II. Agile Principles: The Foundation of Flexibility

1. Customer Satisfaction Through Continuous Delivery

Agile places a premium on delivering valuable, working solutions regularly. This ensures continuous feedback from stakeholders and enables the team to adjust course based on evolving requirements.

2. Embracing Changes Throughout the Project

Unlike rigid project plans, Agile welcomes changes even late in the development process. This flexibility allows teams to adapt to emerging priorities and ensures the final product meets the client’s evolving needs.

3. Collaborative Team Dynamics

Agile emphasizes collaboration among cross-functional team members. The collective expertise contributes to more holistic problem-solving, fostering a sense of shared ownership and accountability.

 

III. Agile Methodologies: Scrum, Kanban, and More

1. Scrum: A Framework for Team Collaboration

Scrum is one of the most popular Agile methodologies, emphasizing iterative progress, short development cycles (sprints), and frequent team collaboration. It is particularly effective for complex projects with changing requirements.

2. Kanban: Visualizing Workflows for Continuous Improvement

Kanban focuses on visualizing workflow, limiting work in progress, and enhancing overall efficiency. It’s a versatile approach suitable for both project management and continuous improvement processes.

3. Lean Agile: Streamlining Processes for Efficiency

Lean Agile combines principles from Lean manufacturing and Agile methodologies to eliminate waste, optimize efficiency, and deliver maximum value to customers.

 

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IV. Key Components of Agile Project Management

1. User Stories: Understanding Client Needs

User stories are concise descriptions of desired functionalities from an end user’s perspective. They serve as the foundation for planning and executing Agile projects.

2. Sprint Planning: Iterative Development Cycles

Sprint planning involves breaking down project tasks into manageable units and prioritizing them for iterative development cycles. This ensures regular delivery of functional components.

3. Daily Stand-ups: Enhancing Communication

Daily stand-up meetings, or scrum meetings, provide a platform for team members to discuss progress, challenges, and goals. These brief, focused sessions foster communication and collaboration.

 

V. FAQs About Agile Project Management

Q1: How Does Agile Project Management Differ From Traditional Approaches?

Agile differs by prioritizing adaptability, collaboration, and customer satisfaction over rigid plans. It welcomes changes throughout the project and encourages continuous delivery of value.

Q2: Is Agile Project Management Suitable for All Types of Projects?

While Agile is versatile, its suitability depends on project characteristics. It is highly effective for projects with evolving requirements, complex problem-solving, and a need for regular client feedback.

Q3: How Do Agile Teams Handle Changing Client Requirements?

Agile teams address changing client requirements through continuous communication and flexibility. The iterative nature of Agile allows teams to adapt and adjust project priorities as needed.

Q4: What Are the Common Challenges in Adopting Agile Project Management?

Challenges may include resistance to change, difficulty in transitioning from traditional methods, and the need for a cultural shift within the organization. However, these challenges can be addressed through proper training and change management.

Q5: Can Agile Principles Be Applied Outside of Software Development?

Absolutely. While Agile originated in software development, its principles can be applied to various industries, including marketing, product development, and even non-profit initiatives. The focus on collaboration, adaptability, and value delivery is universally applicable.

 

VI. Conclusion: Navigating Project Flexibility with Agile

In the realm of project management, mastering the basics of Agile is synonymous with embracing adaptability and collaboration. Agile Project Management provides a framework that aligns with the evolving needs of today’s dynamic projects. Whether you’re a seasoned project manager or new to the field, understanding these essentials is the key to navigating the complexities and unlocking the full potential of Agile methodologies in your projects.

Healthy Goals, Psychology, and Performance Assessment

A reader reported that the “Motivation: Intentions, Goals and Plans” chapter of my book, The Peaceful Warrior’s Path, triggered memories and painful feelings about performance reviews.

 

That set me to thinking that the cause of much of the trouble with performance assessment as a part of performance management was psychology and mindset about criticism, coupled with organizational and personal resistance to addressing those issues.

A recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out that

“Performance reviews are awkward. They’re biased. They stick us in boxes and leave us waiting far too long for feedback. It’s no surprise that by the end of 2015, at least 30 of the Fortune 500 companies had ditched performance evaluations altogether. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”[1]

 

My reader, a financial professional with a decades long career, reexperienced anxiety about being found deficient, reinforcing her need for perfection and acceptance by others, highlighting weakness and imperfection. Embarrassment, financial, and career consequences, circled in her mind.

As a result, she was triggered by the thought of setting goals and objectives. In her experience they were often unrealistic and rigid.

Others report a sense that they are being evaluated without adequate objective criteria and by people who are biased and, in some cases, unqualified, unprepared, or uninterested. Often the goals and objectives, even those set by the individual performer, are rigid and not adjusted when conditions change.

 

The Benefits of Performance Reviews

But let’s not just jettison performance goals, objectives, and assessments. Let’s make the best of them, to use them for personal growth and organizational success.

The HBR authors reported that at Facebook “a survey of more than 300 people found that “87% of people wanted to keep performance ratings.”[2]

They realized the need for candid feedback to give employees a sense of where they stand in the eyes of their organization and what they need to improve, and to give the organization knowledge of employee performance to support training, compensation, and hiring decisions.

Add to that the benefits, clarity of purpose and direction, which come from establishing rational expectations in the form of goals and objectives.

 

What Gets in The Way?

But something gets in the way. Not every organization is as wise as Facebook about optimizing their performance assessment process, including setting, and adjusting goals.

When I look at the issue from a project management perspective, I see three predominant causes of unskillful performance assessment: lack of clear goals and objectives, psychological/mindset issues, and poor process.

In this article we home in on the psychological issues and how they impact and are impacted by the other causes.

 

Psychology, Mindset, and Performance

There has been resistance to addressing psychological issues in the workplace. But we do well to be aware of these issues because individual psychology influences behavior and behavior influences performance and relationships.

The interplay among individual psychological tendencies and mindsets, cultural and organizational norms, and self-awareness influences performance and makes for a complex system. In a complex system change anywhere can have an impact everywhere.

For example, a project team member may make decisions influenced by fear of upsetting the functional manager who will give her the next review. Another performer may avoid committing to goals and objectives to avoid imagined failure. A project team may be reluctant to commit to objectives they feel are unrealistic and that they will be evaluated against regardless of changes to any number of conditions

 

In our projects, we see that factors like

  • Individual anxiety and perfectionism,
  • cultural norms,
  • performance processes
  • attitudes regarding success and failure,
  • communication and relationship capabilities,
  • levels of emotional and social intelligence, and
  • organizational support levels evidenced by allocating sufficient time and attention and adjusting objectives as conditions change,

all contribute to the success or failure of performance assessments and performance management.

 

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Skillful Performance management

Awareness of and sensitivity to psychological and cultural tendencies enables skillful performance management.

In projects, performance reviews are not limited to individual performers. We assess performance on individual projects and the performance across multiple projects of individuals, project teams, departments, and organizations.

Performance management should be treated like a program with each assessment of a project. Intentions, goals, and values drive performance. When we evaluate the effectiveness of performance management these elements must be considered. If we never evaluate the effectiveness of the program, it is likely to be ineffective. And that leads to less-than-optimal performance overall.

 

The intention of performance management is to improve and optimize performance while creating a work environment in which performers at all levels of the organization’s hierarchy feel safe and have a sense that the process is fair and objective. Values: effectiveness, kindness, candor, self-reflection, emotional intelligence.

The goal is to enable clarity regarding performance effectiveness through a process of performance reviews which include the assessment of the factors beyond individual behaviors that contribute to achieving optimal performance.

Objectives are to regularly assess the performance of individuals, projects, teams, and organizations to identify opportunities for improvement based upon pre-established criteria and to make decisions regarding the need for training, deciding who will be compensated at what levels, who will and will not be retained, and what organizational, management, cultural, and environmental changes are needed to achieve optimal performance.

 

Optimal Performance

If the intention and goal is to achieve optimal performance, then we must know what optimal performance means. It means performing as best as possible given current conditions where performance is measured by the ability to achieve desired results – satisfied clients, profits, clean air, healthy and happy executives, managers, and staff.

 

Next Steps

To move from the general to the specific you need an action plan for your situation. Consider each of these:

  • Identify a responsible party for performance management – and it can’t be ‘everybody’ even though everyone and every team is responsible for their performance
  • Educate the staff at all levels regarding the intent of performance assessment and the reality of psychological, emotional, and cultural influences
  • Set a baseline for optimal performance – objective and realistic criteria that are agreed upon by those whose performance will be measured
  • Assess your current performance management process – get feedback from the staff, assess against industry benchmarks
  • Refine the process as needed
  • Be open to continuous improvement based on ongoing assessment of both performance management and individual and project performance.

[1] Lori Goler, Janelle Gale, Adam Grant, Let’s Not Kill Performance Evaluations Yet, Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2016/11/lets-not-kill-performance-evaluations-yet#:~:text=People%20want%20to%20know%20where,recognize%20and%20reward%20top%20performance.
[2] Ibid

Three Attributes of Construction Sector PMs and Nine Important Concepts to Know

The role of an effective project manager has been studied and observed—scholarly researchers studying the managerial profiles of successful project managers (ref 3) observed common traits including extroversion, rational judging, and structured behaviors, for example. Another study from researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ref 1) found common traits of project managers to include openness to experience, surgency, adjustment, agreeableness, and compositeness.

 

I’ve previously written about how the construction industry needs more software project managers—particularly to address labor shortages (i.e., half a million, the ABC reported) as well as help absorb some of the displaced talent from big tech layoffs, I argued.

But what attributes might those PMs need entering the construction industry, and what are some of the important concepts construction PMs should know?

 

Three Traits that Make an Effective Construction PM

Certainly, the above-mentioned managerial profiles of project managers would be useful to have as a project manager in the construction industry.

If I had to choose just three traits needed of a construction project manager, they would be:

 

1. Adaptability

The construction ecosystem is one that is fragmented and requires a high degree of finesse from its practitioners. For example, did you know that the average home has 22 subcontractors working on it? Research from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB; ref 2) found that builders, on average, employ two dozen different subcontractors and subcontract out 84% of their construction costs in the typical home they build.

 

The job of a project manager, then, is one that requires synchronization of many moving parts and coordination through many more project stakeholders. It’s ever-critical for project managers in the construction sector to understand change management modalities, for when equipped with these, they will be able to dynamically guide customers, stakeholders, and cross-functional project delivery partners through:

  • Project kickoff and discovery to fully understand project scope.
  • Resource allocation, organizational commitments/dependencies (and possibly technical debt) to strategically facilitate project scheduling in a way that is faithful to organizational resources and customer needs.
  • Strong customer relationship management and project planning to ensure a high-quality customer experience while allowing for a dynamic response to (and also limiting the quantity of) change orders requested from customers.

 

2. Business Acumen

Forecasting construction projects properly is a mission-critical task that allows businesses to stay profitable, and it’s also a skill that requires business owners and important collaborators (e.g., project managers) to have great finesse.

A project manager might work in lockstep with a business analyst as well as an inventory manager, for example, to better calculate financial commitments annually through job costing, building financial reporting dashboards as well as project management dashboards, etc.

Seeking educational opportunities (e.g., understanding construction financial management) offered through the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) can help project managers strengthen these skillsets.

 

3. Collaboration

As hinted above, construction is a highly collaborative business sector that requires coordination (and cooperation) of a lot of critical cross-functional teams.

Above graphic credit: Fuks et al (ref a) via 4. Polančič (ref 4)

 

The best ways to achieve a higher degree of collaboration with fewer blind spots and information silos include:

  • Adopting cloud-based collaboration tools – Online collaboration (e-collaboration) have been studied by scholarly researchers (ref 4) and prove to deliver a “mutually beneficial relationship between at least two people, groups or organizations, who jointly design ways to work together to achieve related or common goals and who learn with and from each other, sharing responsibility, authority and accountability for achieving results.” Common advantages of cloud-based systems, the researchers highlight, include:
    • Usability – i.e., “SaaS should be easy to use, capable of providing faster and reliable services. User Experience Driven Design aims to maximize the usability, desirability and productivity of the application” (table 1).
    • Efficiency – SaaS, cloud-based solutions allow “computers [… to] be physically located in geographical areas that have access to cheap electricity whilst their computing power can be accessed over the Internet” (table 1).
    • Maintainability – “SaaS shifts the responsibility for developing, testing, and maintaining the software application to the vendor” (table 1).
  • Collaborating with IT and construction technologists to build interoperability of systems (e.g., standardization of change orders, quality control and consistency through the systemization of processes through industrialized construction, standardization of IoT deployment, etc.) as well as the implementation of advanced technology to drive greater real-time visibility and quality assurance (e.g., site-observational drones; robots to automate procedural tasks with a greater degree of consistency, while also removing humans from needlessly dangerous situations, etc.).

 

Nine Important Concepts Every Construction PM Should Know

Now that we’ve covered the common traits that would make a project manager successful in the construction sector, what are some of the important concepts PMs entering the construction industry should know?

 

Here are nine important concepts to know:

 

1. The Five Stages of Project Management

The five stages of project management are equally applicable to the construction industry, which include the following:

  1. Project Initiation – The start of a project, typically including documentation of responsibilities, proposed work, expectations – e.g.,
    1. Project goals
    2. Scope of work
    3. Project organization
    4. Business case
    5. Constraints
    6. Stakeholders
    7. Risks
    8. Project controls
    9. Reporting frameworks
    10. Project initiation signoff
    11. Summary
  2. Project Planning – The high-level planning and scheduling of scoped work via tools like Gantt charts, project management software (e.g., for the construction industry, cloud-based tools like Procore, Contractor Foreman, Autodesk Construction Cloud, Monday Construction, Houzz Pro, etc.). Typical deliverables may include:
    1. Work breakdown structure
    2. Activity network diagram
  3. Project Execution – The completion of scoped work
  4. Project Control – Measures to prevent scope creep (see in next section), cost overruns, etc.
  5. Project Close – The conclusion of the project.

 

2. Scope of Work, Scope Creep, and Scope Management

The scope of work is the documentation in which features and functions of a project, or the required work needed to finish a project, are defined, typically involving a discovery process during which information needed to start a project is gathered (e.g., stakeholder requirements).

Scope creep refers to the continuous and/or expanding work requirements past the project’s original scope, which can happen at any point after the project begins. Scope management is the process of defining and managing the scope of a project to ensure that it stays on track, within budget, and meets the expectations of stakeholders.

 

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3. Lean Project Management

Project managers and project leaders in manufacturing industries may be familiar with lean manufacturing principles – lean construction is an industrialized construction method whereby companies approach the business of building things more effectively and efficiently by minimizing waste and maximizing value for all stakeholders.

 

The approach centers around:

  • Minimizing waste.
  • Reducing expenses.
  • Boosting productivity.
  • Improving quality over time.
  • Increasing value for the customer.

 

Image SourceWikiCommons

Many resources exist for project managers looking to adopt lean construction – e.g., the Lean Construction Institute offers certifications, eLearning, whitepapers, membership, as well as a directory of lean practitioners, while the Lean Construction Blog offers a Lean Academy, conferences, webinars, and its industry-known podcast. Consider, for example, a recent interview I conducted with a Milwaukee Tool continuous improvement leader about lean management and industrialization as one additional resource to get started with IC and lean principles.

 

4. Project Management vs Program Management

Harris & Associates, a civil engineering and construction management company that ranks in Engineering News-Record’s Top 100 Construction, defines project management versus program management (i.e., project manager versus program manager) in the construction industry as follows:

  • Program management/program manager – management of large portfolios encompassing multiple projects on multiple sites (they provide the example of a K12 school district, where the program manager may be responsible for upward of 10 elementary schools, five middle schools, and two high schools).
  • Project management/project manager, meanwhile, will “manage work on one of the schools [… handling] the single project from cradle to grave: pre-design, design process, bid/award, construction and close-out.”

 

5. Project Management Triangle

The project management triangle is a model employed by project managers that dates back to the 1950s and it “contends” the following principles:

  1. The quality of work is constrained by the project’s budget, deadlines, and scope (features).
  2. The project manager can trade between constraints.
  3. Changes in one constraint necessitate changes in others to compensate or quality will suffer.

 

 

Image source: WikiCommons

 

6. Scrum

Project managers from the tech and software development industries may be well familiar to scrum, though its principles are equally useful for contractors. Scrum, simply put, is a framework that helps teams work together while empowering teams to learn through experiences, prioritizes self-organization while working through problems, and encourages ongoing reflection in the constant pursuit of continuous improvement.

 

7. SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is a commonly used business tool and acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, described as a “framework used to evaluate a company’s competitive position and to develop strategic planning.”

 

Image Credit: swot-analyse.net via WikiCommons

 

8. Quality Management

Quality management (aka: total quality management or TQM) is defined as “the act of overseeing all activities and tasks that must be accomplished to maintain a desired level of excellence [… including] the determination of a quality policy, creating and implementing quality planning and assurance, and quality control and quality improvement.”.

Examples of quality management in the construction industry may include procurement managers assuring that materials to be used are not damaged; tools and equipment used to perform work are properly serviced, calibrated, and not out of specification; the right tools to drive the highest degree of quality are employed (e.g., consider, for example, how M18 FUEL™ Controlled Torque Impact Wrenches utilize proprietary sensors and machine learning algorithms to drive greater repeatability for solar installers).

 

9. Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is described as a “leadership style that prioritizes the growth, well-being, and empowerment of employees [… aiming] to foster an inclusive environment that enables everyone in the organization to thrive as their authentic self.” What’s more, Investopedia describes servant leadership as embodying “a decentralized organizational structure.”

The application of servant leadership in the construction industry has been studied by researchers for the SA Journal of Industrial Psychology and findings have “indicated”…

… job resources mediated a positive relationship between servant leadership and work engagement and a negative relationship between servant leadership and burnout. Servant leadership had a positive significant relationship with job resources and significantly explained a proportion of the variance in job resources. Job resources, in turn, significantly explained a proportion of increase in work engagement levels and a proportion of reduction in burnout levels. An insignificant relationship was found between job demands and servant leadership.

 

Final Word

The work of project managers in the construction industry shows great promise and represent continually important roles to maintain scope management, resource allocation, budgets, and schedules as the industry faces strong headwinds. For those entering the industry, your work will be highly valued, and you may find a fruitful career when shifting from more volatile industries. The above construction PM traits and industry concepts are intended to be useful in this transition. For project managers in (or entering) the construction industry, I’ve also prepared a more extensive List of Construction Project Management Terms.

 

References

  1. Henkel, T. G., Haley, G., Bourdeau, D. T., & Marion, J. (2019). An insight to project manager personality traits improving team project outcomes. Graziadio Business Review, 22(2). Retrieved from https://commons.erau.edu/publication/1353
  2. Emrath, E. (2020, 12). Average new home uses 24 different subcontractors [Data set]. National Association of Home Builders. https://www.nahb.org/-/media/NAHB/news-and-economics/docs/housing-economics-plus/special-studies/2020/special-study-average-new-home-uses-24-different-subcontractors.pdf
  3. Montequin, V.R, Nieto, A.G., Ortega, F, and Villanueva, J. (2015). Managerial style profiles of successful project managers: A Survey. Procedia Computer Science 64, 55-62, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procs.2015.08.463
  4. Polančič, G., Jošt, G., and Hericko, M (2015, 02). An experimental investigation comparing individual and collaborative work productivity when using desktop and cloud modeling tools. Empirical Software Engineering 20(1), http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10664-013-9280-x
  5. Fuks, H., Raposo, A., Aurelio Gerosa, M., and Lucena, C. (2005, 06). Applying the 3C model to groupware development. International Journal of Cooperative Information Systems 14(2):0218-8430, http://dx.doi.org/10.1142/S0218843005001171

 

What Construction Project Managers Should Know about Change Management

A conference talk on the challenges faced by project managers of the 21st century lists several factors experienced across industries: scope management, information technology, team dynamics, customers’ satisfaction, lean management, communication, innovation, and quality.

 

The construction industry in particular is prone to change. Part of this is due to the nature of its workforce. For example, an article for the Human Resource Management Journal describes the construction industry as “reliant on a transient workforce and exist[ing] within a complex multidisciplinary team-oriented environment.” This workforce is continually challenged with some experts suggesting a dynamic approach to analyzing impacts of skilled labor shortages.

As you would imagine, multiple studies have been conducted in how change management principles may be useful in construction projects (e.g., see: conference talk for the 25th International Conference on Information Technology, International Journal of Project Management article, etc.).

 

Materials pricing in the industry is finally starting to stabilize; however, they remain high (higher than pre-pandemic levels). The labor shortages the industry face are part of a larger story of an aging workforce – hence why newer, tech-forward roles that can attract a younger generation of workers are increasingly important.

The job of a construction project manager is ever critical to meet the needs of complicated projects with continually constrained resources. Change management is one concept in these managers’ toolkit that can help them confront the constantly shifting construction landscape.

 

What Is Change Management?

Change management, defined by the Harvard Business School Online, is a term that “refers broadly to the actions a business takes to change or adjust a significant component of its organization” including company culture, internal processes, underlying technology infrastructure, corporate hierarchy, or other critical aspects.

Change, they explain, can be adaptive (e.g., small, gradual, iterative changes to evolve a business’s product lines, processes, workflows, and strategies over time) or transformational (e.g., larger scale/scope changes that signify dramatic and “occasionally sudden, departure from the status quo,” such as launching a new business division, expanding internationally, etc.).

To put this into context of construction, an adaptive change might be a sudden change order (i.e., a documented re-define of scope, budget, or timeline of a previously agreed upon construction job). A transformational change, meanwhile, may be a change in management structure or a company buyout.

 

Change management are the processes and guiding principles that help organizations (particularly, the employees that make up them) respond dynamically to change.

Construction project managers, coordinating teams of cross-functional workers onsite in a “multifaceted, dynamic industry,” need an equally dynamic approach to change management.

 

Here are some of the factors construction project managers may consider keeping top of mind:

 

ADKAR

One change management concept construction project managers should know is ADKAR, a change management model and acronym developed by Prosci® founder Jeff Hiatt after extensive study of patterns at more than 700 organizations.

 

ADKAR is an acronym for:

  • Awareness – Of the need for change
  • Desire – To participate and support the change
  • Knowledge – On how to change
  • Ability – To implement desired skills & behaviors
  • Reinforcement – To sustain the change

 

Prosci® recommends a 3-step process for implementing ADKAR within an organization:

  • Step # 1: Prepare approach – in this phase, practitioners (e.g., construction project managers) establish what they’re trying to achieve (e.g., better project outcomes) by defining impact (i.e., how the change affects individuals) and approach (i.e., the steps needed to achieve project success and mitigate risk – such as defining clearer project milestones and maintaining open lines of communication/collaboration)
  • Step # 2: Manage change – in this phase, the change management strategy is brought to life through three stages:
    • 1) Plan and act (i.e., preparing, equipping, and supporting those impacted by change – e.g., creating project management plans)
    • 2) Track performance (i.e., the phase in which change management efforts are tracked through implementation and practitioners identify performance strengths and opportunities – e.g., how effective is a project management tool in increasing project visibility, to what extend does it increase collaboration between team members?
    • 3) Adapt actions (i.e., based on what practitioners have learned, they spend time adjusting the change management strategies – e.g., considering the observed efficacy of the implemented project management tool, what tweaks should be made to ensure continuous improvement?
  • Step # 3: Sustain outcomes – in this final phase, the practitioner establishes the approach needed to ensure change is sustained organizationally for the long-term. Outcomes include:
    • Review performance – reflecting on performance, confirming desired results, and reviewing and documenting lessons learned (e.g., project postmortems)
    • Activate sustainment – focusing on implementing actions to sustain change outcomes, engaging in activities to identify gaps and activate sustainment roles
    • Transfer ownership – establishing how to carry sustainment efforts forward with activities including the transfer of knowledge and assets (e.g., sharing lessons learned with and recommendation to business owners)

 

ADKAR is a powerful change management model and tool worthy of consideration within construction projects to sustain meaningful change organizationally with how companies approach future projects.

 

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Structural Flexibility and Antifragility

Prosci® recommends implementing change management at both the project- and organizational-level (i.e., project managers should be fierce and empathetic advocates for both the individualistic people-side of change as well as possessing “a leadership competency for enabling change within [an] organization and a strategic capability designed to increase […] change capability and responsiveness”).

In other words, change management should be implemented from top to bottom.

 

Another, related managerial concept is antifragility, a business model first coined by financial scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The concept makes reference to Greek mythology and the creature known as Hydra who possesses nine heads and is depicted to possess immortality and the power of linear regeneration – growing three heads in the place of two from each stump when decapitated. This linear progression shows the Hydra, when attacked by an adversary intent on defeating it, becoming stronger through the adversity.

 

As a construction project manager, building structural flexibility and antifragility into your project framework such that team members are empowered to respond dynamically to change can make teams stronger in spite of any adversity they may encounter:

  • Do teams have the authority to employ creative workarounds (e.g., find new supplier, 3D printing, prefab) or work with customers to avoid excessive changes in design that explode project scopes (e.g., suggesting alternative, recyclable materials; cheaper, more readily available alternatives; negotiating on delivery fees; etc.)
  • Do teams have the authority to reject change orders (if too far out-of-scope)?
  • Do teams have the authority to strategically plan (e.g., purchasing safety stock on critical materials from wholesalers)
  • Do teams have the tools they need cross-functionally to be successful (we discuss this in the next section)

 

Embracing Technology for Dynamic Change Management

Technology should be no stranger to construction project managers. It is the enabler to productivity among teams even where resources are limited. It is the facilitator that allows the transfer of knowledge between cross-functional teams, breakdown of information silos, and builds antifragility into your workflow structures.

 

Digital solutions that exist to empower construction teams include (but are not limited) to:

  • Project Management: Tools like Procore®, Autodesk® Construction Cloud™, Buildertrend, e-Builder®, and Fieldwire by Hilti® help project managers coordinate work, delegate tasks, track progress performance, and document disputes and excessive change orders. Facilitating cloud-based project management enables real-time collaboration similar to how cloud-based collaboration tools like Office365 or Google Workspace enable real-time collaboration among office workers and university students.
  • Building Information Modeling: Building information modeling enables digital representation of building projects that facilitates collaboration between designers, architects, engineers, construction managers, and customers in real-time, allowing companies to find and mitigate risk, and reduce potential issues in design that would otherwise lead to change orders and overruns.
  • Inventory Management: Cloud-based inventory apps can help construction teams manage materials as well as equipment needed onsite to perform work, as well as cut down on hording across a multi-jobsite infrastructure.
  • Embrace Integration: In addition to the tools above, it’s critical to embrace technology integration – creating pathways for data sharing between project management, design, and in-field execution teams ensures real-time communication, prevention of duplicate (sometimes outdated) project data, and meaningful collaboration that mitigates risks.

 

Certifications for Construction Project Managers

Finally, aspiring construction project managers should consider certification programs that can (in addition to demonstrating competency to potential employers aiding in career advancement) provide practitioners with the necessary knowledge and skills to apply effective management techniques to the planning, design, and construction of projects that controls time, cost, and quality.

 

Possible certifications of note include:

  • The Construction Management Association of America’s Certified Construction Manager Certificate
  • The Project Management Institute’s Construction Professional in Built Environment Projects (PMI-CP)™ certificate
  • The Project Management Institute’s Agile certifications can also provide practitioners the knowhow to apply relevant agile/scrum principles to construction technology implementation
  • Certifications in Lean Management offered through the Lean Construction Institute and Associated General Contractors of America to apply lean management principles, reduce waste from projects, and improve quality assurance

 

For Construction Pros also recommends six other worthy contenders for certifications for construction career development.

 

Bottom Line

The construction industry, more so than other industries, is defined by change. As the industry faces continuous operational challenges, it’s ever critical that construction project managers have the tools to manage their projects dynamically—change management chief among them can help them empower and empathize with their cross-functional stakeholders and building partners, equipped to grow, evolve, and become stronger through stressors they’re constantly confronted by.

 

Revitalizing Remote Teams Across Generations

Over the past couple of years, the skill of engaging remote teams composed of different generations has become critical for companies and teams to avoid the “Great Resignation” that has led to decreased team engagement. This article introduces various methods to highlight the similarities and minimize the differences across the generations.

 

Today’s workforce is composed of four different generations, and consequently managers are tasked with motivating teams despite the contrasting wants and needs throughout the age groups. Remote work offers many perks that people love, however one noticeable drawback is the lack of team culture which can easily lead to staff feeling isolated and disconnected. Company culture is imperative to overall job satisfaction and when company culture is poor, companies are quick to see employees quit. So, the question is, how does management equally motivate baby boomers who tend to prefer face to face communication and formal communications, while simultaneously satisfying Gen X employees who tend to prefer email and less formal communication styles?

 

For reference of the generations:

Baby Boomers: (1946-1964)

Generation X: (1965 – 1980)

Millennials: (1981 -1996)

Generation Z: (1997 – 2012)

 

Any successful leader or project manager needs to understand, implement, and compromise to appeal to the team’s communications preferences and recognition styles. This can be done by highlighting the similarities and minimizing the differences. However, this tends to force management to get a bit more creative when figuring out how to engage their teams in the remote space.

 

Highlight the Similarities:

  • People Crave Connection: A lot of the workforce can agree that moving to remote can feel more transactional. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) called Lonely at Work, highlighted that eight out of ten employees feel lonely in the workplace. A few tactics to improve this would be hosting healthy lifestyle challenges, virtual happy hours, online trivia, personality tests, etc.

 

  • Create a Mentor Program: The perfect opportunity to get the different generations working together is creating a mentorship program. According to the Cigna 360 Global Well Being Survey 2022, young employees of Generation Z are the most likely to be worried about the lack of job opportunities available to them. Mentorship programs are mutually beneficial as they provide the ability for employees to engage and develop close relationships with people in a different age group. The also provide the opportunity for mentees to learn more about different positions throughout the company and aid in boosting confidence in the workplace.

 

  • Provide Transparency on Organizational Structure: Nobody wants to be lost on where they stand within a team and/or company. For instance, baby boomers are known for preferring hierarchy, while millennials are associated with valuing clear opportunities for growth all while Generation X is associated with craving transparency. These shared values can be satisfied by posting and maintaining the organizational chart on a shared internal platform. To take this further, it is conducive for all parties when leadership provides clear written guidance on requirements to be promoted to the next level.

 

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Minimize the Differences:

  • Awareness of Team Preferences: Know how your team likes to be communicated and implement ways that meet each need. This can best be achieved by having the team complete surveys on tools such as Microsoft Forms or SurveyMonkey. Due to employees potentially being reluctant to share their true communication preferences with leadership, it is best to have the surveys set up with providing their name as optional vs. required when completing the survey.

 

  • Foster a Culture of Flexibility: Focus on what you have the power to make more flexible. Once employees have proven trustworthy and capable, there are benefits in letting employees pick projects, create their own project plans, etc. Encouraging employees to have the autonomy and creativity to know when and what is required tends to boost employee confidence and buy-in on the overarching team and company values.

 

  • Keep Customer as the Priority: When the customer is the priority there is less time for the team to have internal debates and more time for the team to focus on the mutual goal of a satisfied customer.

 

  • Communicate in Multiple Channels: People’s attention span and preferred communication methods differ; so to appeal to the variances, it is valuable to share the same messages through several mediums such as emails, meetings, articles, etc. For instance, employee A may have a hard time focusing in virtual meetings, while employee B tends to skim longer emails. This method may be harder for the project manager but is mutually beneficial by ensuring the team receives messages in the way that most resonates with them and leaves no excuses for missed information within the team.

 

 

Remote and hybrid teams are here to stay, so it is important for today’s managers and leadership to create ways to revitalize their multi-generational teams. One method managers and company leadership can build cohesive multigenerational teams is by highlighting the similarities and minimizing the differences. Similarities can be highlighted by providing opportunities for connection, creating mentor programs, and providing organizational transparency.

Differences can be minimized by boosting communication, incorporating flexibility, and keeping the customer as priority. The best interconnected teams have the awareness and structure set in place to play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so when these four generations create bonds, it can lead to today’s teams being stronger than ever.

 

 

References:
Exhausted by Work – The Employer Opportunity. (n.d.).
https://www.cigna.com.hk/iwov-resources/docs/Cigna-360-Global-Well-being-Survey.PDF
Gurchiek, K. (2016, May 9). What Motivates Your Workers? It Depends on Their Generation. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/global-and-cultural-effectiveness/pages/what-motivates-your-workers-it-depends-on-their-generation.aspx#:~:text=Baby%20Boomers%2C%20like%20Traditionalists%2C%20prefer
‌Gurchiek, S. M. and K. (2023, February 25). Lonely at Work. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/all-things-work/Pages/lonely-at-work.aspx
Kaplan, J. (n.d.). Welcome to Generation Quit. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/gen-z-jobs-generation-quiet-quitting-great-resignation-recession-economy-2023-2?r=US&IR=T