Construction site controlling in the sense of value/data-based control of a construction site is one of the core tasks of a project manager and corresponding knowledge is listed as a qualification in job advertisements. Can we conclude from this that experienced project managers are actively involved in controlling or have comprehensive controlling knowledge? I would tend to say no. Why?
To put it cautiously: In practice, construction site controlling is mostly the time-consuming creation of reports for the commercial department. The employees on the construction site usually identify little with these reports and therefore contribute only half-heartedly when, for example, performance values have to be delivered. If a construction site does not run as desired, then there are many reasons to justify this past the data and evaluations.
This is mostly due to the possibilities and tools that are provided for this purpose in the companies. The basis for controlling is a work calculation which takes into account the performance and cost specifications of the quotation calculation, but which is further optimized in the direction of the construction process and economic efficiency and is based on the actual costs. The resulting and company-specific target hours and target costs for the manufacturing process are compared with the corresponding actual values. The evaluation is usually carried out monthly at the beginning of the following month. Naturally, at least in the case of medium-sized and small construction projects, some work steps such as foundations are already completed before the first meaningful evaluation is available. Other processes are already so well established that major interventions are not necessary. Often, overruns of the target hours cannot be clearly allocated, which means that there is no opportunity for improvement.
The common practice of post-calculation on the construction site described here cannot really be called controlling in the sense of the definition. Should we therefore dispense with controlling instruments and "manage" the construction site virtually blindfolded? I think that the employees on the construction site, who give their best every day, deserve solid planning and control of the processes. However, there is clear potential for improvement. Feedback from the construction site must come faster and manufacturing processes must be better broken down for analysis.
Are there alternative/complementary ways of looking at things than the one-sided top-down view described so far?
In the software industry, which, like construction, is confronted with complex projects that are difficult to plan down to the last detail, Scrum has established itself as an agile method of project and product management - inspired by lean production. Teams work as small, self-organized units, receive clear objectives from the outside, and are, however, solely responsible for implementation. In Scrum projects, the long-term plan is continuously refined and only detailed for the next few weeks. This focuses the project planning on the essentials. This approach allows a continuous assessment of progress and a flexible reaction to problems. Changes in speed or quality can be detected immediately.
Transferring Scrum techniques to the construction site means:
- Breaking down the manufacturing process into stages that are small enough to be easily planned and anticipated.
- Planning daily stages one to two weeks in advance.
- Visualization of the immediately upcoming work packages.
- Regular team coordination with review and insights from the previous day, discussion of the tasks ahead today and joint elimination of possible impediments.
CONTAKT provides a platform in which cycles for one to two weeks can be planned in advance on a building data model (IFC) and teams can be assigned. Daily meetings are held to review the situation, discuss the daily schedule and jointly eliminate obstacles. The final commitment stands for the intention of the teams to keep their commitments and to support each other in doing so. All tasks are visualized, the daily goals with intermediate steps for the teams are clearly displayed in a smartphone app.
At the end of the day - and now we are back to controlling - CONTAKT provides daily actual process data from the construction site. Team size and composition can thus be adjusted at an early stage, as can the daily work plans/targets. With the data obtained on site, calculated values can be validated or updated in a timely manner, forecasts can be created and proactive measures can be taken. This workflow leads to a practicable gap between top-down work planning on the one hand, continuously improving detailed planning, and bottom-up initiation of improvement measures on the other. From this moment on, the potential of construction site controlling becomes tangible and it starts to be fun.
Author: Dr. Christoph Crepaz, Construction Project Management & Consulting at www.crepaz.at