Construction is complex, to put it mildly. When making sure everything is in the right place at the right time, keeping up with the flow of paperwork while remaining productive is a challenge every contractor has to meet head on. The following is a five-step framework to help streamline your construction projects.
Step 1 – Project Management Mapping
Mapping is a term for setting up your project management plan. Creating a plan includes listing all the smaller goals that lead to the big goal:
project completion. You can get started by asking:
• What are the goals? What result do we want?
• What is the deadline?
• Who needs to be included on the project?
• What resources will we need to get it done?
Get your map put together first because it will guide the rest of your organizational activities.
Step 2 – File Organization
Paper is everywhere. Whatever happened to the paperless office? It’s right here. You just need to take advantage of it. These tips apply to your personal computer, the office network, or to any cloud application you may use.
Capture Workflow Digitally
Document management is an area with a lot of problems. Paper files were already difficult to handle, going digital won’t make it easier if you are still treating everything like a piece of paper. Software can help you manage documentation by creating a workflow in which changes can be automatically created in multiple documents plus provide version control for each document. You can always revert back to an earlier version if the changes are rescinded for any reason. Related documents can be digitally tied together and information about each individual document can be made available to any user who accesses it.
Use a System
Are you saving all your documents to your desktop? This is no better than piling papers on the surface of your desk. Just as you had physical filing systems with labels and folders in the past, you need to enforce the same behavior now. Adopt a strict folder and file naming standard for easier document storage and retrieval. You might build file names using dates, client names, project names, or anything else that can help you and your employees save and find the right document quickly.
Triage like an Emergency Room
With so many emails, contracts, and other documents to deal with, you need a way to manage the flow. Here is what you do:
Look at each document once. No matter whether is an email, a text document, a spreadsheet, or anything else, look at it once and make the following decisions:
• Does it need immediate attention? Act on it now.
• Has it been dealt with? Is it something you need to keep? File it in the proper folder or delete it.
• Have you needed in the past three months? Archive it or delete it.
You only need to retain files that you cannot find elsewhere. Don’t use up your storage limits on unneeded files.
Step 3 – Plan Implementation
Sometimes you just don’t know where to start, but the trick is just to get started. Don’t obsess over which step should be first. One good place to start is by creating your project management plan with the information you gleaned in Step 1. Then take each part of the plan and split it into smaller pieces and begin listing the various tasks required for each piece. Keep up the momentum by focusing on the end result. You want to keep up productivity and to avoid errors and delays that cost time, money, and effort.
• Keep meetings on time and on topic
• Don’t micromanage your crew
• Prepare for the worst and deal with it immediately if it happens
Use technology, such as smartphones and tablets with applications developed with construction in mind. You can keep up communications with email, file transfer systems, and other tools. With a mobile device, you can immediately read and address important messages no matter where you are. Any brief stints of spare time can be used to complete short tasks.
• If it can be done in less than two minutes, do it now. File away that folder immediately; don’t throw it on the desk to file later.
• Spend five minutes at the end of each day to wrap things up, put stuff away, and get things ready for tomorrow.
• Make a to-do list with your top ten priorities
Step 4 – Monitor Progress
As you work through your plan, watch your progress, not just toward the deadline but on the milestones as well. Accomplish one and move on to the next. If you have multiple deadlines or projects, create a system to keep up with them. Make a separate file for each project and put them in order of deadline. Create an off-desk file for things due later. Keep your attention on the schedule. Use a calendar. Check the task list frequently. Focus, dude. As you go along, learn from both your mistakes and your accomplishments. Good or bad, keep notes and use the experience to modify your plans in the future.
Step 5 – Completion
When you create your schedules, start from the deadline and move backward. Determine when each step must be completed in order for the next step to be done on time. Make realistic estimates of how long tasks will take and plug the schedule into a calendar for easy reference.
Now, go get organized!
Steve Wright works for Whirlwind Steel Buildings, a manufacturer of pre-engineered steel buildings and components. Whirlwind Steel metal buildings are manufactured and designed to meet the highest quality standards. To learn more, visit http://www.whirlwindsteel.com.