EACH JOB HAS a lifecycle of its very own. I’ve always taught that the beginning of a job is the most important and the end is second in importance to ensure bottom-line profitability. If you fail to devote sufficient time and energy to the middle phase of the job, however, then a shark from below can rise up from seemingly calm waters and bite you and your job clean in two.
The one job progress meeting you fail to attend will almost invariably be the one where the architect or owner drops a bomb on your firm, such as letting everyone present know that OSHA is coming to conduct a surprise inspection of the job first thing tomorrow morning. Sure, you’ll read about it when they fax over minutes of the meeting to your office next week, a couple days late and a few thousand dollars later in terms of the fines that could have been avoided if you had bothered to attend.
Yeah, I can hear the two choruses coming together as a choir from those who think that just because they have the title of “PM” means that none of this possibly could happen to them.
The first chorus is: “If anything important like the above example was really said in a job meeting, then someone, the architect, the GC’s PM, someone would call and tell me. They wouldn’t leave me hanging out to dry.”
I’m sorry, friend, but if you really believe that, I’d like to know exactly how many weeks you’ve been a PM?
The second chorus is: “Well, that’s what I have a superintendent/working foreman for — to attend these kinds
If your super or foreman was empowered to make project management-level decisions for your company, then what on earth does your company need you for? Your good looks and minty-fresh breath?
Your superintendent or foreman can let you know if any real bombs are dropped in the meeting, but to tell the truth, are you willing to fall on your sword and accept responsibility for your own nonfeasance if they fail to tell you?
Before going to the meeting, ping your superintendent or working foreman and ask if there are any overt or covert issues that you should bring up. Let them come to the meeting with you if they want to and have time, but you do the talking; it’s your job, not theirs.
If there are any issues that need to be brought up, then make multiple copies of relevant paperwork from the master job file to take with you as handouts. Nothing says, “I’ve got my ass covered and you don’t,” like bringing your evidence in black-and-white to show all parties involved that you are doing your job and staying on top of things.
While there on the job, play politics, play the game. Go to lunch with someone such as one of your fellow “suits” or even the superintendent or foreman of another contractor. Make a conscious effort to talk about anything but business. Job issues will come up eventually, but let them talk and you do the listening. Be a decent sort of fellow. Pay attention. Gather information.
Always walk the job, looking at not just how your particular work is going but how all other contractors’ efforts are coming along as well. Take the red line set of plans with you, making sure the most recent field modifications shown are actually there as drawn. Take a camera with you and take your own photos, even if your foreman has been documenting the work in progresses. Two pairs of eyes see things two different ways, and one photo could potentially save thousands of dollars.
In between job meetings, drop by your job without warning. Nothing keeps your guys honest with their effort and timesheets like knowing the “big boss” may be peering at what they’re doing from around the corner. Stopping by after working hours during the week or on the weekend to see if the job trailers are secured and no materials and equipment have been left out on the jobsite could save you from being embarrassed and reprimanded, not to mention the money involved.
If the job isn’t going well and it’s due to other contractors and not your firm, don’t be shy about getting the lawyers involved early. Ask what they feel you and the company should do to lay the groundwork either to sue or to defend against a possible lawsuit, and then do it.
And lastly, if you’re doing your job and the job is running smoothly, then don’t make waves when there’s no need to. Just keep on doing what you do so well.
H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master’s licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He can be reached by calling 919/851-9550, or via e-mail at [email protected].