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How to improve communication on a construction project

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Two toy lego bricks being clicked together

It’s widely known and generally accepted that poor communication is one of the major reasons for project delays. Conversely, the Project Management Institute, in the 2013 Pulse of the Profession report, cite that projects with highly effective communication:

  1. Met original goals 80% of the time
  2. Were completed within schedule timeframes 71% of the time
  3. Were within budget 76% of the time

On a large construction project where there are multiple stakeholders including (but not limited to), the client, project managers, construction workers, engineers, and subcontractors, meetings are a critical mechanism for communication. Meetings allow stakeholders to have a shared understanding of progress and performance and ensure there are little or no surprises.

All projects are time poor, due to tight schedules and lack of resources, so here are some tips to reduce administration, improve accountability and have more effective construction meetings:

  1. Communicate a clear meeting purpose
    An effective meeting is a meeting with purpose. Seek input from meeting attendees to ensure that agenda topics are relevant and necessary. Issue the agenda 48 hours prior to the meeting to allow all attendees to be prepared.

  2. Invite the right people to each meeting
    It can be more efficient to have decision makers invited to meetings as well as subject experts that have important insights to contribute. Invitees might also need to change from one meeting to the next based on the project phase and focus.

  3. Issue pre-read in advance of the meeting
    Weekly reports are often issued via email with very little time to comment or address concerns. These and other documentation for review can be added to the agenda for pre-read and comment, to allow for broader and collaborative input, and help to identify areas of focus or give notice of impending issues or challenges.

  4. Document meeting outcomes
    Notes, decisions, and actions need to be formally documented to keep everyone on the same page, so that they can be relied upon as evidence of a conversation. Actions should have appropriate owners and realistic due dates and be reviewed regularly by the owner between meetings.

  5. Follow up on actions arising from the meeting
    Focus should be given at the beginning of each meeting to review actions to ensure that inactivity does not create unnecessary risk and issues, or impact progress and performance. Ideally, all action owners have provided an update for their actions prior to a meeting, with updates included in the agenda for review.

To ensure expectations are clear on a project it is also important that the contract clearly states requirements for communication - in particular, meetings. A communication plan can also be created at the beginning of a project that outlines the meeting schedule, participants, frequency, responsibilities, and purpose of each meeting. This will go a long way towards ensuring communication is an enabler for project success.

Having effective and efficient meetings where all stakeholders are kept in the loop, can mitigate construction project delays, budget overruns, unnecessary claims and disputes; and reduce the likelihood of site safety incidents, and ultimately a dissatisfied client.

  • Kim Buckley avatar
    Kim Buckley
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