How Do I Become Successful As A Construction Site Manager?

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How Do I Become Successful As A Construction Site Manager

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As a site manager, you always need to maintain a seamless communication flow with your project manager to ensure that all problems are recorded and addressed as soon as they occur.

A site manager is one of the central gears of every construction project. You are busy from the time you arrive at work in the morning until you leave at the end of the day, often fighting fires and frantically calling subcontractors or the project manager to get or relay information. Let alone the time spent trying to ensure that all issues are fully documented, nobody arrives on-site in vain and that material orders don’t get delayed, misplaced or even worse damaged.

No two days are the same, but one thing is certain. You shouldn’t have to continuously reinvent the way you communicate with your project manager about your site tours and the things you see in the field.

How many times have you sent an important email or message back to the office without receiving a reply? And what effect did that lack of response have on the progress of your project?

It’s no surprise, then, that many site managers constantly feel overwhelmed and stressed because they try to balance different dependencies, resolve constraints and at the same time align around milestones both with their project manager and the subcontractors that are participating in the project. As a result, they often end up buried under a mountain of work that doesn’t truly add value to their projects.

To help you avoid ending up in this spiral and gain back your peace of mind, here are five tips you should always keep in mind when you run a construction site:

1. Align with your project manager using a single source of truth

As a site manager, you always need to maintain a seamless communication flow with your project manager to ensure that all problems are recorded and addressed as soon as they occur.

WhatsApp notifications, emails, and whiteboard notes can generate more confusion than solutions when it comes to keeping you connected because they are not designed to support such complex and time-sensitive processes. As a result, miscommunication, loss of important information and delayed responses are always around the corner.

This is why it can bring a lot of value if you upload your project plan to the cloud using construction-specific software. All information is recorded and kept in one place so that all sides have full visibility on-site and can see what happened historically. At the same time, you can send updates, ask questions or escalate problems as you walk around the site, simply using your smartphone.

The project manager will receive a push notification on their smartphone in real-time and act fast before an issue threatens to compromise your daily schedule or your 3-6 week lookahead plan. In that way, you can finally work as one team facing the same direction and stop wasting time on making phone calls or sending out emails that you are not even sure to have been read.

2. Stop keeping things in your head and record everything as a site manager

You have to document everything no matter what. This is the safest way to keep your project and yourself protected from commercial claims. We know well how tough it can be to keep an eye on every single detail on site. It is no coincidence, after all, that site tours are in most cases a stressful task.

If you are not equipped with the right tools, you have to walk around the field, detect a problem and then make sure to document it in detail once you are back at your desk. But sometimes, there are simply too many issues you need to report on. Or for one or the other reason your site tour might be interrupted, leaving you wondering whether you have actually seen and remembered to record everything.

Needless to say that this can subsequently make your communication with the project manager confusing and frustrating. This is one more reason why mobile field reporting is so important. It enables you to submit updates or critical questions as soon as you stumble upon them just by using your smartphone. This can help you eliminate a lot of your admin and mental burden.

By documenting everything on a single source of truth you also ensure that your project manager can raise or respond to claims very quickly. You will no longer have to spend weeks or even months to find that one email or photo that proves you are not the one to blame for a schedule delay. Everything will be accessible in the cloud and you will be able to access it with a quick search.

3. Make site preparation your number one priority

When it comes to preparation, many stakeholders tend to focus only on external events such as bad weather.

However, preparation should not start and finish there. Most of the problems that emerge on-site can be solved through better anticipation and preparation around orders, delivery, choices, drawings and planning of the available workforce.

Usually, we see that problems arise if work on site has not been thought through with relevant parties or preparation work has been carried out too late, leading to last-minute work and mistakes.

It could be that there is an interruption of site activities because prefab elements arrive on site too late. If that’s the case, you need to gather all the involved parties (engineers, suppliers, etc.) and together find the root cause and solution to the problem so that it won’t happen again. This is how you can ensure a proactive approach in terms of project preparation and constraint resolution so that unforeseen events aren’t synonymous with disaster. And this is why, as a site manager, you need to be in full sync with your project manager and the different subcontractors at all times.

4. Involve subcontractors early on as a site manager

Site execution isn’t a race of individuals but a team sport where a system view and active engagement from all team members are required to ensure that the agreements are adhered to.

That is why you should always try to involve subcontractors early on when planning their tasks. In that way, you can define their needs and get a good understanding of what to order and when. Such an approach can save you from a lot of stress when it comes to site preparation and material deliveries.

Furthermore, it will help you increase accountability as you will plan all upcoming activities together. At this point, you should ideally record the responsibilities and commitments of each side in a live, shared space in the cloud so that you can avoid the blame game and always know what’s done and what isn’t and deal with evolving challenges.

This is the first step towards the creation of long-lasting relationships with your subcontractors. The better you collaborate on a project today, the higher the chances that you get to work together again in the future. In an industry that is hit by a lack of trust and where good subcontractors are sometimes hard to find, that is extremely important.

5. Use tools that are made for construction teams

Many site managers tend to believe that the tools they are using are fit for purpose and made to collaborate with the different stakeholders. In many cases, the truth is completely different.

Popular solutions like WhatsApp, email and Excel are great, versatile tools, but they are not built for construction teams. They can’t help you complete your site tour faster, communicate effectively with your project manager in real time around the scheduled tasks, or document everything while on-site in a way that can be easily matched with the schedule. And here is why:

  • They don’t provide a shareable, “live” view of what’s happening on site.
  • The data shared through them lacks the connection to the daily schedule. This makes it hard for people to see where things are overall and what tasks are progressing, what’s coming next, and who has ownership of what.
  • Information is dispersed across many different platforms, which hinders efficient reporting.
  • They don’t enable collaboration between internal and external stakeholders, which makes your effort to connect with the project manager or the subcontractors much more challenging.
  • They don’t allow you to create your site diary as you go. Instead, you have to keep all information in your head until you are back at your desk. Trying to remember and document everything precisely after the fact generates both additional admin work and stress.
  • They don’t provide detailed reports on the performance of subcontractors on site.

Improve teamwork as a site manager

It quickly becomes clear that using the wrong tools can really impact the way you manage site activities on a daily basis. Your teams have no real-time insight into what’s coming next and there is no clarity on who’s accountable for what, leading to poor decisions, costly interruptions and many sleepless nights for you in your efforts to run the site as efficiently as possible.

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