Do Your Projects Suffer From a “Failure to Communicate”?

“What we’ve got here,” pronounces the villainous prison Captain in 1967’s Cool Hand Luke, “is failure to communicate.” 

As a construction project owner, you may have come to that conclusion as well while helplessly watching delays mount and budgets skyrocket. And the numbers would back you up. Miscommunication is a prime cause of rework, resulting in tens of billions of dollars of avoidable additional expenses being spent annually by project owners just in the U.S. And while 82% of owners surveyed a few years ago said that they need more collaboration with their contractors . . . well, actually getting to that point can make owners feel like Paul Newman’s Luke Jackson escaping repeatedly only to find himself back on the chain gang.

So what’s the secret? Honestly, it’s nothing earth-shattering. Just a few deceptively simple principles, which if followed with fidelity, can help ensure that communication with your general contractor is both positive and productive. 

Establish expectations.

Any experienced teacher knows that the first few days of school are the most critical for setting the tone for the whole year. The same is true for a construction project. As the owner, you need to establish your authority right from the start. The absolute best way to do that is through the contract itself. Instead of agreeing to a boiler plate agreement that mostly serves the GC’s interests rather than yours, engage a dedicated construction attorney to represent you. That will allow you to build in protections and send a clear message about what you expect from your contractor throughout the project. Clarity isn’t the enemy; it’s the goal.

Create a documentable process.

A large construction project involves a sizable number of people. Unless there’s a clear chain of custody for project data, miscommunication is inevitable. So whether it’s email or engineering reports, stakeholders need to understand who should be in the communications loop and how and when information should be shared. Leveraging construction management software as a project hub might be an even better option — it can help automate those loops to ensure that there are no gaps, inadvertent or otherwise. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Especially when owners aren’t construction experts themselves, it’s easy to be intimidated by those who are. And AEC professionals are often tempted to do just that, using industry jargon or vague assurances to avoid having uncomfortable conversations about a project’s true status. If you want your project to finish on-time, on-budget, and meet your expectations, you can’t be afraid to speak up when something seems confusing or amiss. Ask questions. Then ask some more. Risking the annoyance of your GC is a small price to pay for improving your odds of success, don’t you think? 

Demand transparency.

Stakeholder honesty is essential to any construction project. And while it’s rare that anyone starts off with the intention of being deceptive, the reality is that in this building climate contractors sometimes downplay the impact of supply chain disruptions or labor shortages, hoping to make up time later. Sometimes that optimism works, but more often than not it just pushes the problem down the road a bit, creating some nasty surprises later and leaving too little time to explore contingencies. Frequent, substantive communication with your AEC stakeholders is key. 

Trust but verify.

What a contractor or architect tells you is important. What they can actually show you is essential. If you’re using a construction management software platform, ensure that it has robust document management and field reporting capabilities so you can see for yourself if what you’re hearing matches the reality. You may not have the time or expertise to get down in the weeds, but you absolutely need to be able to see the whole field to make some informed judgments.

Construction is complex. Construction management software like that offered by Owner Insite can help make it a lot easier. Because our solutions are specifically designed to protect owners, there’s no better way to minimize your risk and maximize your ROI. You can access our secure cloud-based platform in the office, on the job site, or anywhere in between. With Owner Insite, you can:

To find out what Owner Insite can do for you, contact us for more information or to schedule a short demo. 

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