Top 5 Challenges in Construction Project Management (+ Best Solutions)

Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa

unning construction projects successfully requires extensive management experience. However, even seasoned construction project managers are not protected from failures because businesses operating in this industry are subject to so much more risks than companies in most other spheres of performance.

Many factors threatening the completion of a construction project are indeed very hard to control. Still, a manager can maximize chances for project success by addressing as many potential control problems and planning deficiencies as possible.

Here, we’ll discuss the five main challenges that construction managers can handle to ensure smooth project performance. These five challenges are:

  • Poorly defined goals,
  • Cost overruns,
  • Unrealistic deadlines,
  • Inadequate risk management,
  • And scope creep.

1. Poorly Defined Goals

It often happens in construction projects that stakeholders don’t really know what they want to get as the final work result. The lack of clear vision and well-formulated goals instills confusion. It leaves managers guessing and improvising without a proper sense of direction.

Nevertheless, such an approach to project management may lead to excellent and creative outcomes merely in rare cases. It is most frequently associated with an elevated risk of errors, wasted effort and time, which is bound to have an adverse effect on overall project performance.

Solution

The best remedy to the problem of poorly defined goals is thorough planning.

When you realize that stakeholders’ goals are somewhat vague, step in and start a discussion. Ask questions, propose your own ideas and brainstorm collaboratively. Keep in mind that the purpose of planning is not only to clarify the ultimate goal of your project. It is also meant to help you develop a detailed program of action and define some smaller performance objectives to attain on the way.

2. Cost Overruns

Many construction projects fail miserably when it comes to meeting their initial cost estimates. On a global scale, the average cost overrun in construction projects starts at 16.5%. In the meantime, individual projects may exceed their budgets by as much as 175% (like it was in the case of the Humber bridge in the UK).

Overall, the larger a project is, the higher the risk of cost overrun it usually faces. Hence, complexity and project scale will certainly define your ability to satisfy original cost requirements.

But that’s not all. There are plenty of more factors at play. Some of them include:

  • Material price escalations, adverse weather conditions and other external risks;
  • Changes in scope, initial project designs and client demands;
  • Unrealistic estimates due to naivety, ignorance or deception;
  • Inadequate project management and performance errors.

Solution

Since cost overruns may happen due to multiple reasons, there’s no unified solution to this issue. However, overruns can be reduced significantly thanks to proper planning combined with budgeting and expense tracking.

Besides, a lot of attention must be paid to cost estimation. To obtain a credible and realistic estimate, strive to understand your project through and through, gather quality evidence to support your calculations, consider all the risks and utilize appropriate estimation techniques.

3. Schedule Overruns and Unrealistic Deadlines

This issue is just as common in construction project management as budget overruns and may stem from the same variety of reasons, including unforeseen problems and poor management. However, the main ones are deficient forecasting and the lack of preliminary analysis — they result in unrealistic expectations and unworkable deadlines.

When a project’s time limits are too tight and are not in line with the actual scope of work, a manager is likely to face some other negative consequences besides schedule overruns. Unreasonable deadlines cause excess stress, employee burnout and low team morale. Hence, they impact productivity and quality of performance just as bad.

Solution

To deliver projects on schedule and develop realistic deadlines, you have to revise your overall time management strategy.

You need to plan, prioritize and estimate your tasks thoroughly. You will also benefit from undertaking a thoughtful approach to scheduling and implementing effective time tracking tools because they help to control work progress and ensure compliance with initial project estimates.

Consider actiTIME. This time tracker collects data on the use of time in your team and provides evidence for more accurate time estimation. Thereby, actiTIME will enable you to set much more reasonable task deadlines and monitor team- and performance-related risks of schedule overruns in real time.

4. Inadequate Risk Management

We’ve already mentioned that the failure to foresee and handle risks leads to budget and schedule overruns. However, risk management in construction projects is a challenge that deserves special mentioning because the hazards businesses face in this industry are much more diverse and costly than in many others:

  • Safety risks that may result in accidents and injuries,
  • Unknown site conditions,
  • Staff turnover and workforce shortages,
  • Escalations in material costs,
  • Economic crises,
  • Natural disasters and inclement weather,
  • Team coordination problems,
  • Issues with subcontractors and suppliers.

These are merely a few of the risks that construction managers must take into account prior to starting the actual work. Otherwise, they will suffer due to low quality of performance, constant delays and stakeholder conflicts, which decrease the chances for project success significantly.

Solution

Since all projects are unique, the number and severity of factors that can threaten their completion vary to a large extent. To deal with the problem well, you need to adopt a methodological approach to risk management.

Begin with identifying all the risks that are relevant to your case. Then, proceed to assess them based on probability and impact severity. Afterward, think of how to avoid the risks you identified and reduce their harmful effects on your project. Be sure to focus on the most probable risks first. However, remember that the eventual aim of risk management is to address each and every project risk you’re facing.

5. Scope Creep

Scope creep means uncontrollable growth of the work scope. It may happen due to changes in original designs, stakeholder needs and the overall environment. In other words, scope creep is a result of inadequate risk management, insufficient planning and poor communication. And of course, it has many negative consequences, ranging from low customer satisfaction and minor project delays to massive financial losses and severe damages to business reputation. Therefore, it’s pivotal for every project manager in the construction industry to know how to deal with scope creep effectively and prevent it from happening.

Solution

Project planning and efficient control practices are your best remedies against scope creep.

Define performance objectives clearly, set project scope boundaries, analyze risks and leave some room for possible changes in advance. More importantly, stay flexible but stick to your plan and learn to say “no” to unnecessary edits.

Besides, adopt a change management strategy the cases when scope creep is hard to avoid. With a pre-made change management plan, you won’t be caught off guard whenever you project plans get altered or when you have to adjust to inevitable shifts in the environment.

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