Project Managers and the Philosophy of Authority and Control

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  • What does a simple org chart say about the project management philosophies of a construction company?
  • What positions on the org chart operate within the greatest levels of authority – PM or Super? – why?
  • Why do some companies implement a ‘strong’ or “full charge” model while others utilize a more ‘reliant’ model for their PMs?
  • Does it even matter?
  • How and by whom are these models formed?
  • Can both models co-exist within the same company?  Should they?
  • Are there distinct advantages or disadvantages associated with either or both models?
  • How is the bottom line affected?

“Okay”, you say.  “What’s the answer?”  I wish it was that simple.  There are so many considerations, and yes it comes down to the company’s philosophy of project authority and control.  Over the next few posts, I’ll work though the questions posed here and explore the ways in which great construction companies employ the different PM models.

Meanwhile, I’m facilitating a PM Boot Camp in San Diego on Thursday 9/25/14 so it’s just around the corner.  But there’s still time to register.

Hope to see you or your personnel there.

Posted in Great Team, Project Management, Project Manager's Boot Camp, Project Team, Seminar, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 ways to improve your business writing skills

Writing EmailRoutine  business emails, forms, and letters are a part of our business experiences.  No one likes the embarrassment of struggling through the writing process only to end up with a sub-standard offering.

Even regular people, not excelling in English, Literature, and Composition can improve their everyday business writing skills by applying three simple techniques:

  1. Write Shorter Sentences – By making a concerted effort to shorten sentences, we find ourselves getting to the point faster.
  2. Use Bullet Points – When we use bullets points in our regular emails and letters, we find ourselves guiding the reader through the important elements of our communication.
  3. Eliminate Ambiguity – When we read and re-read our writing, editing out all ambiguity, we find ourselves making sure everyone understands our written words in the same way.

These are just three of the ten things the ‘writing gurus’ suggest to help improve our business writing.  I will be sharing all ten of them at the “Business Writing for Contractors” hands-on workshop, June 26th in San Diego.  I would love to see you there – Register here

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5 Reasons Everyone Should Learn to be a Better Negotiator

Tables ready
Five reasons why everyone should learn to be a better negotiator:

#5 – You never know when you’ll have to face off with a 5 year old (or teenager for that matter)

#4 –  Even the best negotiators fall into tricks and traps that keep them from realizing the best possible negotiated outcome. For example: not really ‘listening’ to the other side and thus making too many concessions.

#3 -It’s never a bad thing to Learn and practice new tactics – This can only sharpen your ‘active listening’ skills.

#2 –  No one enjoys that unsettling, just after the negotiation, feeling of “WHAT HAVE I JUST DONE?  Learning to be a better negotiator helps your “confidence quotient”

#1 – The whole organization is served by having great negotiators at all levels and in every position. They are adept at having the bottom line in mind at all times . . . it’s always the bottom line.  Great negotiators know how to establish, protect and maintain the bottom line of the organization while also discovering ways to satisfy the needs, and even some of the wants, of their opponents.

Many thanks to WBE Novato California for engaging so well in the Negotiating training conducted at your facility in May.  You all rocked it!  And . . .  validated the reasons for learning to be better negotiators



Posted in Construction, Great Team, Greatness, life, negotiating, Problem Solving, Project Management, Project Team, Seminar, Team, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter? . . . Really? . . . well it’s about time!

TwitererIt’s true!  I am now an official “Twitterer.”  Not to worry though – I promise not to bore you with worthless dribble.

I will, however, be better equipped to keep you posted about what’s up including training and educational opportunities without the need for so much formality.  Oh . . . Alright! . . . I’ll also share a few priceless tidbits while I’m out there on the road – I really do come across some very interesting or beautiful, or sometimes ridiculous stuff out there – I’ll share as appropriate.  Remember . . . it’s OK to laugh at me or with me, as long as we keep it light.  Yes?

So let the Tweets begin – I’ve gotta remember to use the ol’ hash tag occasionally- So #Powersummitrocks and #can’twaittoattendanotherevent – Well I’m sure I’ll catch on soon enough 🙂

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Read The Contract!

ContractHow many times have you either said to someone, or been told by someone  “Read the Contract?” My guess is more than a few!

Our construction projects revolve around contracts.  It is almost implied that all the parties know and understand the contract.  But experience indicates a different reality.  The fact is, many approach projects with very little knowledge and understanding of the contract under which they perform . . . thus becoming a monumental headache for Contract Administrators.

Ah yes . . . the Contract Administrator.  Who is that you ask?  Clue – Just check for the one pulling out the most hair (If they have any left to pull). He or she is tasked with ensuring all the parties that the requirements and responsibilities  of the contract are being fulfilled.  What does that even mean?  And how hard a job is that anyway?  

When asked, awhile back, by the AGC San Diego Chapter to develop, produce, and present an educational program to teach how to administer construction contracts, I was reminded of just how many titles /positions within our organizations play the role of Contract Administrator.  I was also made acutely aware of what a monumental task it is to care for both  the requirements of one’s own contract with a client/customer and administering the requirements of contracts with subs and suppliers.

Bottom line?  The better equipped one is to perform the critical task of identifying essential contract requirements, the better equipped they will be to set up and implement effective systems for administering the contract. . .  And just maybe, that important contract requirement that you were told to read, would have already been brought to your attention by an incredibly efficient Contract Administrator.

Well . . . next week (9/26/13) brings me back to San Diego to co-present along with Craig Perry, an all-day “Construction Contracts Administration” Workshop.

If you or someone you  know could benefit from a workshop like this, Welcome aboard!  Also, please feel free to pass this along to others.  You can see the full program description at our website and you can register directly with the AGC San Diego Chapter.  Hope to see you there.


Posted in Construction, Construction Contract Administration, Contract Administrator, Problem Solving, Project Management, Seminar, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Foremen on the Horizon


I’m off to Sacramento to present a full-day “Foreman and Superintendent Boot Camp.”  I’m hoping for a large percentage of the group to be either first-time Foremen or workers still being groomed for a move into the position.  These are the guys (and even a few girls) who should benefit most from a systematic look at “a day-in- the-life of” a Foreman.

I’ve already told you how I think they have one of the most difficult jobs in the industry. One reason I know this to be true is that far too many new supervisors are placed into the position without fully understanding the expectations of  their Bosses, their organizations and the project itself.

Enter Paul . . .  I get to share from 35 years of personal experience, some of which includes being a field level Foreman.  Having been there – done that, and then moving into management allows me to carefully explain not just the duties and expectations of the position, but the ‘why’ behind them.

And so if, perhaps for the first time, they will get a broader view of the systems in which they operate and the critical nature of some of their daily tasks as they relate to the reputation, profit potential, and the very future of their companies (not to mention their own career paths) then I get on a plane tomorrow evening feeling that I contributed in a positive way to our great industry.

And oh yeah . . . . ditto all this for the Project Engineer’s Boot Camp in Costa Mesa this next Monday 🙂

Posted in Construction, Foreman's Boot Camp, Foremen, Greatness, Problem Solving, Project Engineer, Project Management, Project Team, Seminar, Superintendent, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Just a Little More Focus

imageI love golf – I don’t play all that often, so I’m really not very good either. I did recently play three rounds of golf over three consecutive days, a luxury I have never afforded myself. I did so hoping to see if I would actually improve my game by playing three days in a row. The result? Each score a bit better than the day before – but no earthshaking, significant improvement.

I realized early on the second day that my major, persistent problem is not so much my skill set, which is by no means stellar, but not horrible either. It’s not my level of desire – plenty of that! The resounding theme always comes back to focus.

My putting always takes a back seat – probably just so happy to be on the green. but I was reminded on the second hole that putting without focus can add large numbers to the score card. My short game that was actually seeing some improvement, took a serious dive on number five after my drive found a tree and I became rattled hitting my approach shot before I regained focus. My drives off the tee actually improved going into round two.

My focus, However, was interrupted on the thirteenth tee by a “National Geographic” moment in which a coyote caught a squirrel for breakfast. I teed off with that image instead of any kind of “swing thought” in my head and the results were, while not horrible, less than admirable to be sure.

Well you get the idea . . . Right?
A million things steal your focus – and if golf teaches us anything about business or project management or estimating or supervision or operations, it is that the most important thing is the very next shot and it might be an ugly slice if you lose your focus.  So . . . I hope you join me today to do what’s necessary to either gain or regain focus.

Someone once said it like this – “Always keep the main thing the main thing” wisdom by any standard!


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Weak Links

Strengthing linksI was a bit surprised!

Yesterday I was in front of a group of up-and-coming Project Managers.  Prior to beginning the “PM Boot Camp” session, I polled the participants to learn what topics should receive precedence. They chose from the following list of things that would naturally be discussed in a PM Boot Camp.

  • Perspectives – Defining the Role of PMs
  • Building a Team Dynamic
  • What a PM “System” looks like
  • Budget control and Earned Value Mgt
  • CPM Scheduling
  • Change Management
  • Negotiating
  • Strengthening Weak Links
  • Better Meetings and Communication

Which would you have chosen?  I was surprised to learn that  the most important topic on the agenda, from their perspectives, was that of “Strengthening Weak Links” followed closely by “Better Meetings and Communication.”  I would have anticipated a more technical topic to take precedence . . . like CPM Scheduling, or Earned Value Management, maybe even Change Orders (All way down on their collective list)

So we moved “Weak Links” closer to the top of the day, and what we learned is that projects and organizations just simply do not know how best to deal with weak links if and when they are found.  We first discovered 4 reasons why someone might be the weak link.

  1. Simply not equipped to do the job
  2. unable to do the job
  3. unwilling to do the job
  4. doesn’t have to do the job

The first two causes have simple solutions . . . the other two – not so simple.

But we worked through it all and ultimately reduced the solution down to 6 steps

  1. Learn why it is weak (see causes above)
  2. Ensure appropriate levels of
    1. technical education and training
    2. supervision
  3. Ensure that they have a role and know what it is
  4. Ensure that they know what their duties are within the role
  5. Ensure that they know how they will interface with others
  6. Hold them accountable for doing what they have agreed to and are being paid to do
    1. Reward and punish appropriately

Of course it’s not as cut-and-dried as that, but having some principles from which to launch our efforts, we will stand a much greater chance of actually strengthening our weak links.

If you’re interested in the more detailed version, I’d love to pass it along.  Join me for the  “Strengthening Weak Links” Webinar scheduled for Tuesday, August 13th, at 3:00 PM (Pacific Time) (More info and registration)

Check out our other webinars 

Posted in Construction, Great Team, Greatness, negotiating, Problem Solving, Project Management, Project Manager's Boot Camp, Seminar, Team, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Salt of the Earth

ForemenThe past two weeks has found me in front of two different groups of construction Foremen attending our “Superintendents and Foremen Boot Camps.”

These are truly ‘salt of the earth’ type people.  Many are grizzled veterans of the industry with great experiences to share with the younger and still malleable rookies.  And speaking of rookies – they are sent to learn something, any something that will make them better at what they do day-in and day-out. The Rookies are, in truth, the one’s for whom I created the program and I love to engage them.

Did I mention that I call these guys, and the occasional gal, ‘salt of the earth’ type people?  I do.  And I also liberally bestow on them title of “toughest job in the industry.”  I say they have the toughest job, because they are closest to the actual work.  They are tasked with getting an  eclectic mix of not always so willing, knowledgeable, or skilled individuals, on any given day, under any given condition, to get real things built, in real-time within unbelievable constraints.  And while the buck may not always stop with them . . . the blame most certainly does.

But they build things – that’s the point!  And I honor them for that.  I love to be in front of the room when they are in the room and I love to see what might be learned in the course of the day.  It never fails.  At the end of the day . . .  we have all learned.  I from them, and they from me as well as the collective experiences in the room.   I hope the one thing they learn from me is to stand tall and proud as Construction Foremen – real salt of the earth.

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Unfamiliar Delivery Systems – Part 2

glass of milkOk … So the person I was helping with the new delivery system when last I posted is my very tiny 18 month old grandson. And the delivery system I hooked him up with is that of how he receives milk.

Not unlike many, he had arrived at a new situation for which he thought he had no skills. He certainly did not realize that he already had the skills in place to fully master this new thing.  The delivery systems most recently accessed were bottles and a ‘sippy cup’ . . . both of which are dependent on a good deal of suction with which he had no problem . . . and gravity. Both the bottle and sippy cup systems are only slightly different in technique than being dependent on good ol’ Mom.

Now . . . Introduction of a new 2 part delivery system:

  • Part 1.) a glass of milk
  • Part 2.)a straw.

The problem:  My little guy didn’t realize that he could suck on this foreign object without having to tip the cup upside down as with earlier delivery systems.  But watch this –  After working with him for a minute or so, he had completely mastered the new delivery system.  And he did so without adding any significant new skills.  He had in fact already mastered all the skills needed.  He could hold the cup. He could suck, he could drink. He just didn’t realize that sucking (not chewing, tugging, throwing, etc) could produce positive, desired results.  Perhaps even a greater result than previous methods because this thing even works with no hands!

I’ll let you apply the points I made in the last post to this situation.  Hopefully you will see that all new situations, large like yours, or small like my Grandson’s new delivery system, can cause even gifted people to doubt their skills and to struggle with change. And . . . a lesson we all should have learned by now is that it’s a good thing to have experienced people upon which to lean from time to time.

Posted in Delivery Method, Delivery System, Grandchildren, Greatness, life, Options, Problem Solving, Project Management, Reflections, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment