Plan your work then work your plan! It really is that simple. This article will speak to how to set up jobs prior to the boots on the ground startup of a project. I believe that this will give you the best chance for success on a project. However, this should also be translated into everyday life regardless of what kind of work you do. The idea is to break down the tasks involved into small bites and analyze each step and have contingencies in place for each step. If you do this properly you will have already virtually completed the project and uncovered any issues, and how to deal with them, before you ever even start the project. Some of this example is industry specific to Electrical Projects, but much of the data is transferable to any discipline.
Prior to bid:
Analyze the customer, scope of work, project schedule, experience you have in this line of work, terms and conditions of the contract, cost to bid the project vs. the likelihood of winning this project, and strategies to secure the project. This takes place to make sure that the project is a good fit for your company prior to spending any money bidding the project. For example: why bother spending the money bidding a project only to find out in the end that you cannot agree on the terms and conditions included in the contract agreement.
Once you decide a project is a good fit, take the time to go through all the contractual documents. Document all plans and project specification dates on the proposal; any questions or clarifications applicable to the contractual documents or schedule need to have an RFI-P# sent to the Engineer, Owner and GC for clarification and documentation. Then the correspondence needs to be entered into an RFI-P log for tracking. I.E. substitutions, approved vendors, schedule constraints, etc… All communication needs to be logged and tracked. If there are any conversations on the phone, they need to be followed up by an email recapping what was discussed and agreed to by both parties then logged as part of the proposal package. Once the final price is ready for submittal, include all of the recorded RRFI-P#, the dates, and pages of the contract documents, and any correspondence log information as part of the proposal.
Upon award but prior to executing contract:
The contract and documents need to be checked against the proposal documents to assure there are no new changes to the terms and conditions, schedule, contractual documents, and that the contract includes all RFI-Ps and recorded correspondence. The PM and Superintendant that will be running this job need to do an entirely separate take off to compare to the original proposal and be in full agreement that the proposal is solid and nothing has been missed or overlooked.
After execution of the contract but prior to starting the project:
The Project Manager needs to completely build the project from the ground up in their head and prepare the following documents to prepare for the start of the project:
1. Build the budget and breakdown into cost codes; all like type materials and areas for tracking.
2. Build a loaded resource schedule showing all milestones, critical path activities, submittals, manpower, equipment, materials, release dates, etc… This schedule needs to have ‘float time’ built in for contingencies and changes.
3. Start a CO log, RFI log, and correspondence log for the project including all pre-bid RFI-P and correspondence.
4. Build buyout schedules with expected targets.
5. Build rental equipment schedules with budgets.
6. Build four week look-aheads for the first week and continued every week after.
7. Build pre-fab designs and schedules.
8. Draft detailed duct bank drawings.
9. Draft electrical and equipment room layouts and measurements.
10. Build DPO Tracking, if applicable, with release dates.
11. Build LIC worksheet / Indirect daily costs.
12. Build subcontractor buyouts, schedules, and targets.
13. Build schedule of values to keep cash positive based on the above schedules.
By completing all of these tasks (some of which many of my readers will not understand) the PM has virtually built the entire project from the beginning to the end in their head. This will allow the PM to analyze and address any issues before ever starting the project, and allow all long lead equipment or support to be ordered in plenty of time for the project.
Where most jobs go south is when one or more of these steps are skipped or not fully thought through. For example, contracts get signed with language that ties a contractor to something that wasn’t included in the original proposal, or long lead items were not identified in the release schedules, or there wasn’t enough time allotted for a specific activity in the contractual schedule, and so on. The key is to make sure before the job ever starts that there has been good communication between the team that bid this project and the team that will ultimately build this project. The fewer the surprises down the road the better off you will be in the end. It really all comes down to documentation. If you can’t provide proof of the conversation, then you cannot defend your position. So take the time to plan your work before you start the project. Because the truth is; that if you fail to plan your work, you are planning to fail.
While this is pointed directly at construction, and yes I know I left out many items, I used this to get the point across about planning your work. You would never take a trip somewhere without taking the time to plan and pack, but everyday people jump into a work project without taking the time to plan. This article was written to try and express the importance of taking those few minutes to plan your work before you start. It will greatly increase your efficiency and will also keep any surprises from derailing your efforts.