This month, I’m going to refer to my book, “A Practitioner’s Guide to Management in the Building Industry,” and discuss a common error made when selecting an individual to fill the project manager (PM) role. First and foremost, just because someone is very comfortable communicating, whether working in a consulting engineering firm, construction company, building management, or facility management, this doesn’t automatically mean an individual is capable of taking on the very important role of PM. As a rule, co-workers on a project team led by the PM will quickly form their own opinions of this person based on their own experience. They’ll be able to determine if the PM’s comments are factual or just words to keep the discussion moving forward.

A comprehensive job description is needed and mutually agreed upon between company management and the PM candidate. No one will be thoroughly proficient in all aspects of the PM role, and this is where professional goal setting will be discussed and timelines and milestones to be met will be mutually agreed upon.

It’s not unusual that some PMs forget they are the “point person.” In this project leadership position, they must maintain a “the buck stops here” role. All too often, less skilled PMs will try and direct the blame to others rather than maintain that leadership role. I have always found it was not good use of one’s time spent assigning blame. Instead, it’s better to simply say something to the client along the lines of, “I will check into this issue and get back to you with an answer.” Assigning blame never solves the problem, and, quite often, the client isn’t interested in who the culprit is. This client simply wants the issue or problem addressed properly, and the PM should recognize this too.

Next, the company should have a policy and procedures (P&P) manual to be followed to successfully manage each project if project management is to always be an exemplary model. At the same time, progressive PMs will facilitate this process, recognizing P&P manuals with an eye toward contributing to them, making the document a continued quality control initiative. The PM should want to provide project feedback with lessons learned and not simply communicate his or her opinion.

Integral to the success of a job is the effectiveness of the company’s quality-controlled project management process with standardized templates to be used and, again, improved with time. Other useful standardized templates may be added to efficiently expedite the job, improve on the project’s profit margin, and potentially lead to repeat business with each client. All of these templates should be logged onto the company server P&P folder and be maintained and updated regularly. Talk/communication is cheap. Quality-control PM skills through documentation are powerful.

PMs should also be very familiar with the five different types of project delivery, as noted in the 2020 ASHRAE Handbook – HVAC Systems and Equipment, Chapter 1, Figure 1, Process Flow Diagram, which identifies the project deliveries as follows:

  1. Construction management;
  2. Integrated project delivery;
  3. Design-build;
  4. Design-bid-build; and
  5. Performance contracting.

Whether one is the PM for the consulting firm, construction firm, subcontracting firm, or the project’s building owner, each PM should be familiar and proficient with the specific contract for the job and may often include multiple contracts, e.g., owner-consultant contract, owner-contractor contract, etc. Proactive communication among all of these entities is critical to the specific project success, but it needs to be backed up with more than just talk. It’s critical to know the PM P&P manual process.