In the dynamic and complex world of construction project management, every project presents new challenges and opportunities for growth. Whether you’re an aspiring, junior, or first-time project manager, take a page out of the Scout’s handbook by leaving your role better than you found it. Doing so can significantly impact not only your professional development but also the overall success of the projects you manage.
This principle, rooted in continuous improvement and personal responsibility, encourages project managers to learn from their experiences, apply those lessons to future projects, and constantly strive for better performance.
Every role I’ve ever had has tasks and responsibilities that could be made better, faster, or more systematized. Doing so will help you in your current role, but it should also benefit those who come after you.
Let’s will delve into the importance of embracing this mindset in construction project management and offer practical strategies for making a lasting, positive impact in your role. By cultivating a proactive approach and seeking opportunities for growth, you can contribute to the success of your organization and pave the way for future project managers to excel.
The Benefits of Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is a cornerstone of success in any industry, but it is especially crucial in construction project management, where the stakes are high and small errors can lead to catastrophic results.
Embracing a mindset of continuous improvement means constantly seeking ways to enhance your skills, streamline processes, and refine your approach to managing projects. In doing so, you not only elevate your own performance but also contribute to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your organization.
The impact of continuous improvement is often cumulative, with small, incremental changes adding up to significant progress over time.
By learning from past experiences and applying those lessons to future projects, you can reduce the likelihood of encountering the same problems and setbacks repeatedly.
This, in turn, can lead to better project outcomes, such as meeting deadlines, staying within budget, and achieving higher levels of client satisfaction.
Moreover, fostering a culture of continuous improvement can have a ripple effect throughout your organization, encouraging others to adopt a similar mindset and actively seek opportunities for growth and enhancement. In this way, leaving your role better than you found it can contribute to the long-term success and resilience of your organization.
Personal Responsibility and Accountability
Taking personal responsibility for your role is critical for driving success and leaving your position better than you found it. By being accountable for your actions, decisions, and project outcomes, you demonstrate a commitment to your organization’s goals and set a positive example for your team. I’ve also found it easier to engage with roles I take personal ownership over, so there’s that.
Accountability means owning up to your mistakes, learning from them, and taking corrective action to prevent similar issues from arising in the future. This proactive approach can help you identify potential roadblocks, address them promptly, and ultimately avoid project delays, cost overruns, and other common challenges that can negatively impact project success.
If you’ve distilled your job to processes and systems, then each mistake represents an opportunity to update the system. Rework the system or process to prevent a similar mistake in the future.
There’s no harm in making mistakes. Everyone does it. The danger is making the same mistakes over and over.
Additionally, personal responsibility extends beyond your own actions to include actively supporting your team and ensuring that they have the necessary resources, guidance, and motivation to excel in their roles.
By fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility among your team members, you can create a collaborative and accountable work environment that drives project success and contributes to leaving your role in a better state than when you began.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve started setting up processes for my own tasks on the a project, only to find other team members adopting the practice without little intervention.
I stumbled on this concept somewhat by accident, but I’ve never regretted making my own job easier, even if it benefits those who come after me.
In university, I took an internship with a manufacturing company. The job was a mix of R&D and estimating. I was mostly interested in the R&D as it was more applicable to my engineering career.
For this manufacturer, estimating was more of a sales support role. We’d get orders or potential orders and we’d provide quotes for the product we made.
In lieu of a formal estimating software, they had an Excel workbook. Each tab seemed to be created by a different person. There was no consistent style.
While I find estimating interesting, its not my specialty, and the the novelty of producing quotes wore off pretty quickly. I was interested in spending as little time on estimating as possible so I could spend more time with the R&D team.
I asked my supervisor if I could make improvements to the estimating sheets and he said he didn’t care as long as the results were the same.
updating and documenting the process
Over the next 4 months, I’d spend a few minutes a day reworking something that I found inefficient. Linking tabs, updating formulas, even modifying the visual aspect for more consistency. In doing so, I felt I better understood how the process worked.
I documented all my changes and how to fill out the workbook to produce an estimate. Originally, this was just for me. But after two months on the job, the company hired a full-time estimator.
The guide I made for myself ended up being incredibly useful in training the new estimator, and I was able to leave the guide with him for when he had questions.
trying it out in construction
Foolishly, I didn’t even consider bringing this practice with me to my first construction job. But on my second project, I was put in charge of document control.
Document control is not a particularly glamourous job and I found it frustrating how many rules we were required to follow to use our client’s document portal. I decided again to create a guide to document all the project processes.
With my project manager’s permission, I created a training on the process and was able to distribute the guide to the team. This allowed me to take a passive role. Rather than being directly responsible for doing all document management, each team member managed their own documents based on the guide. I only had to verify the results.
making it a habit
In the subsequent years, I’ve made a habit of making guides and videos (honestly, videos are the best). At the very least, refining the processes forced me to truly understand the flow. At best, it allowed me to easily delegate away old tasks to take on more interesting and challenging tasks.
I’ve watched other people keep their processes secret out of fear of getting replaced. While I have heard stories of people putting themselves out of a job by automating their work, I’ve seen even more people get stuck in jobs because companies can’t replace them.
Remember, if you’re too valuable to fire, you’re too valuable to promote.
Strategies for Leaving Your Role Better Than You Found It
To successfully leave your construction project management role better than you found it, consider implementing the following strategies:
Documentation and Knowledge Sharing
Clear and comprehensive documentation is vital for ensuring that project knowledge and lessons learned are preserved and easily accessible for future reference.
By maintaining thorough records of your projects, including plans, schedules, budgets, and key decisions, you can help your organization and future project managers avoid repeating past mistakes and streamline project execution.
There’s a lot of benefits to maintaining a thorough project record, but one of the less considered benefits is how your processes and tools will help kickstart your next projects.
Knowledge sharing is another essential aspect of leaving your role better than you found it. Encourage open communication and collaboration within your team and across your organization by sharing insights, lessons learned, and best practices.
Build tools and processes that will make your job easier for you, and then share those processes with your team.
This can help create a supportive and innovative work environment where team members feel empowered to contribute ideas and learn from one another.
Mentoring and Skill Development
Investing in the professional development of both yourself and your team members can have a lasting impact on project success. Seek opportunities for growth by attending workshops, webinars, and conferences, as well as staying up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.
To lock new concepts into your mind, consider mentoring junior team members or providing coaching to help them enhance their skills and confidence in their roles.
By nurturing a culture of continuous learning and skill development, you can improve project outcomes, increase team satisfaction, and ultimately leave your role better equipped to handle future challenges.
It’s been said that if you can’t teach something, you don’t know it well enough. The line is attributed to Albert Einstein, but most quotations are, so its tough to say for sure.
Regardless, I’ve found it to be true. By distilling my responsibilities to a point where I can easily teach them to someone, I gain a better understanding.
Process Improvement and Innovation
Identifying inefficiencies in project processes and suggesting improvements can lead to more streamlined and effective project management.
Stay open to new ideas and technologies that can help optimize your team’s performance and the overall project execution. Encourage your team members to share their thoughts and identify potential areas for improvement, fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration.
There is always an up-front investment in updating processes. You can’t change every process all the time. But you should weigh the options of implementing or updating processes with each new project.
By embracing change and continuously seeking ways to enhance your team’s processes and tools, you can contribute to the long-term success of your organization and leave your construction project management role in an even better position for future projects.
Embracing Change and Adaptability
In the ever-evolving construction industry, being open to change and adaptable to new circumstances is crucial for leaving your role better than you found it.
As project requirements, technologies, and industry trends shift, staying flexible and responsive can lead to better project outcomes and professional growth.
Project management is change management. If the plan worked perfectly from the beginning, we wouldn’t need project managers.
Developing adaptability involves staying informed about changes to the project, advancements in construction methodologies, materials, and software tools, as well as being willing to revise your approach when faced with new challenges or information.
By fostering a mindset of curiosity and resilience, you can more effectively navigate the complexities of construction project management and drive successful outcomes.
Examples of adaptability in action include:
- Adjusting project plans and schedules in response to unforeseen challenges, such as material shortages or changes in client requirements
- Incorporating new technologies or tools to improve project efficiency and accuracy
- Encouraging and supporting team members in learning new skills and adapting to changes in their roles or responsibilities
Kickstarting the Process: How to Begin Implementing This Mindset This Week
Starting to implement the mindset of leaving your role better than you found it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The goal should be to make the job easier for yourself a little bit at a time.
By taking small, manageable steps, you can begin to see the positive impact of this approach almost immediately. Here are some actionable steps you can take this week to begin adopting this mindset in your construction project management role:
Reflect on your current role and responsibilities
- Take a moment to assess your current responsibilities, and tasks
- Identify areas where you believe you could create systems and automations
- The best place to start is tasks you do frequently
Set short-term goals
- Choose one or two specific aspects of your role that you would like to focus on improving and documenting this week
- Establish clear, measurable goals for each aspect, such as creating a more organized documentation system
- Trying to overhaul a whole system at once is overwhelming and may lead to failure. Make small improvements
Seek learning opportunities
- Dedicate time each day or week to learning about new tools, technologies, and best practices
- Consider attending workshops, webinars, or conferences to further your knowledge. Or just look for free content online. YouTube is a great resource
- The best thing you can do to improve your systems is Google how others have done it before you
Monitor progress and adjust as needed
- Regularly review your goals and track your progress towards achieving them
- Consider whether you’re spending less time with your routine tasks
- Consider how much easier it might be to teach someone else your tasks
- Be open to adjusting your approach if needed and learn from any setbacks or challenges you encounter
Celebrate successes and share lessons learned
- Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements and those of your team members
- Encourage and foster a mindset of continuous improvement with your team
- Share insights and lessons learned with your team and organization to foster a culture of continuous improvement
By starting with these simple steps, you can begin to cultivate the mindset of leaving your construction project management role better than you found it. Remember, the journey of improvement is ongoing, and every step you take brings you closer to making a lasting, positive impact in your role and organization.
Leaving your construction project management role better than you found it is a powerful mindset that can lead to both personal and organizational success. By focusing on continuous improvement, personal responsibility, and adaptability, you can make a lasting, positive impact on your projects and your team.
Embrace the challenge of growth, invest in your skills and those of your team members, and actively seek opportunities to enhance your processes and tools. In doing so, you will not only elevate your own performance but also contribute to the long-term success and resilience of your organization. Remember, the journey of improvement is ongoing, and every step you take brings you closer to leaving a lasting, positive legacy in construction project management.
Until next time,