What do you do when your construction project goes off track? We spoke to Prendos.PM Senior Project Manager Qusain Khan about why a project might end up needing to be ‘rescued’, and what can be done to bring it back in line.
With many people and moving parts involved, successfully running a construction project requires a great deal of coordination.
“Whether you’re building, remediating or modifying a multi-million-dollar shopping mall, an apartment block or a commercial building in the heart of the CBD, construction projects are highly structured,” explains Qusain. “Like any project, they have phases – from planning and design to scheduling the build itself – and each of these are multi-faceted and complicated. They require a methodical, coordinated approach mixed with an element of flexibility and reactive decision making, and that’s where an experienced professional can make all the difference.”
Prendos offers a wide range of services including technical due diligence, client representation, defective construction review and observation, design peer reviews and expert witness services. The company’s project management arm, Prendos.PM, is made up of 13 experienced project managers who, with extensive technical knowledge, are perfectly placed to recover a project should trouble arise.
“When you’re working on complex construction projects, the possibility of errors and mismanagement rises substantially,” Qusain explains. “When mistakes happen, experts are often called in to rescue and recover the project. There are many reasons it may have reached this point and, while every project is different, there are a few common triggers. These include stakeholder disengagement, low team morale, resource constraints, consistently missed milestones, incomplete design documentation, high defect rates, defensive attitudes and lack of trust or unresolved issues between those involved. But, whatever the reason, it’s useful to have a process in place to assess whether a rescue is wise (or even possible!) and how best to proceed.”
How to Rescue a Project
After years of experience in both New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Qusain has seen first-hand what’s required to rescue and recover a troubled project, and says identifying the problem early is crucial.
“If issues are identified at their initial stages and an appropriate rescue plan is initiated, you have a far greater chance of successful resolution. Unfortunately, given the complexity of construction projects, situations very rarely ‘sort themselves out’. Avoidance is a poor strategy, and one to be avoided!”
A good rescue plan should align with the original definition and drivers of the project, and be fully understood by all – including the existing project manager, rescue project manager, stakeholders and wider contractor leadership team.
“The rescue process should have clear start and end dates, objectives and deliverables. It needs a well-defined methodology for determining the sources of trouble, so you can tackle any potential issues head-on. It should also get progressively more detailed as the project is better understood and recovery phases are developed.
“By using the right rescue and recovery team, you’ll be able to create plans for recovery and execute these with meticulously detailed monitoring, ideally nursing the project back to a healthy state. Or, you can make a well-informed decision to terminate the project if things aren’t recoverable.”
Starting Off on the Right Foot
At the end of the day, Qusain says the best advice he can give is to engage the right project management team from the start of a project.
“In the construction industry, the need to rescue and recover a project can be faced by any team in any organisation. That’s why it’s so important to put the right plan in place from the start. Prendos.PM has successfully managed many large remediation, construction and refurbishment projects, thanks to our multi-disciplinary approach and our combination of project management and technical know-how.
“We work with clients to develop a comprehensive Project Execution Plan upfront and ensure this is regularly monitored and updated throughout the project. We define what success looks like and what failure means, and make sure this is clearly understood by all stakeholders, consultants and contractors.
“You should always go into a project predicting not only its success but its potential failure, so you’re able to create a strategy for recovery at an early stage.”
Ten Steps to Follow if a Project Has Been Identified as ‘Requiring Rescue’:
- Define the ‘trigger event/s’ and assess the project,
- If deemed necessary issue a ‘stop work order’,
- Open up communication with all stakeholders and outline common objectives and end goals,
- Set boundaries by defining original failure, outline the cost and time investment required to rescue, ensure engagement and approval from stakeholders,
- Assess the risks,
- Re-engage key stakeholders,
- Determine the process to recover the project,
- Confirm responsibilities,
- Reset expectations,
- Agree tangible milestones and quality descriptors.