Avoid these 5 most common mistakes when managing construction projects

Written by:

Demi-Jo Smith, March 10, 2022

To make mistakes is human, but unnecessary errors are best avoided. Certainly when managing construction projects, where mistakes can cost a lot of money. Project management has improved greatly over the years, but a large proportion of projects still fail due to unnecessary errors. Worldwide, about two thirds of all large construction and infrastructure projects fail.

How do you prevent unnecessary mistakes in your construction project? We would like to help you on your way and list the 5 most common mistakes in managing a construction project.

project management construction
Project managers oversee the situation from the office.

1. Lack of clear objectives

For every project, there must be a clear objective on which all project members focus. A project whose objective is unclear from the start, is almost certain to fail.

No matter how clear a certain objective is, it often happens that those involved see it differently or have a different understanding of it. Therefore, always communicate the objective as clearly as possible, but also verify that everyone has understood it in the same way. A proven tool for this is to set goals using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time-bound) method.

The objective must not only be clear to everyone, but also has to be clearly framed.

The objective should not only be clear to everyone, but also has to be clearly framed. Therefore, also define the boundaries of the project objectives. Otherwise you run the risk of delaying the project.

2. Unclear deadlines

Missing deadlines can have far-reaching consequences and cost a lot of money. Without the delivery of your project, follow-up projects may not be able to be started. Clear communication is essential: about the project’s deadline, but also about the deadlines of the successive phases within the project. 

The deadline is usually linked to the project’s objective. Therefore, always communicate the goal and the deadline as early and as clearly as possible. Here too, check that everyone has understood it in the same way.

Besides being clear, a deadline must also be reasonable. Making agreements that everyone sees as being unattainable in advance is demotivating. 

As project leader, always set a realistic deadline, based on how much manpower, time and money are actually needed. It is then up to the client to decide whether they agree to this.

3.  Poor communication

Poor communication is one of the main causes of the failure of many projects. Not knowing the progress of others often causes delays. Make sure it is clear what everyone is doing and what the status of the work concerned is. 

For example, if possible, meet for 15 minutes every day, purely to keep an overview of where everyone stands. Unfortunately, it happens unnecessarily often that project staff sit and wait for each other. Prevent unclear responsibilities by always appointing a (sub)project owner.

No project is set in stone; changes can always occur and are often even necessary.

Poor communication is also disastrous in the event of changes. No project is cast in stone; changes can always occur and are often even necessary. But always communicate clearly with all those involved. For the project to progress smoothly, everyone must be informed as soon as something changes. What helps here is to set up a standard procedure with accompanying documents for changes.

4. Unclear tasks

Incomplete project schedules mean that not everyone knows exactly what they should be doing. You can use the best tools and the most convenient templates, but if they are not kept up to date, things can go wrong. So make sure they are always complete and up-to-date. 

How do you go about this? It helps to see this as a primary task and not as something that ‘also has to be done’. Reserve time in your personal schedule, preferably every day, to keep project schedules and task allocations up-to-date.

There are often dependencies between tasks. It is therefore important to use a tool that allows you to link tasks. This allows you to notify both the people responsible for a particular task and the tasks that depend on it, in case of any changes in a single action.

Often enough, several projects run parallel to each other. Make sure you are informed and keep in touch with fellow project leaders. There is a good chance that you can benefit from  seeing where different projects touch or even overlap. Avoid constantly reinventing the wheel in all kinds of areas. Sharing knowledge or collaborating with other projects offers many opportunities for accelerating and improving the quality of your own project.