What is a Construction Project Manager?


What is a Construction Project Manager and what their role in the process?

The position, Project Manager, is used throughout the marketplace as an identification of the mid level leader of a project whatever that project entails. It could be the development of a new pharmaceutical product, the creation of a new car, the development of a new food additive, etc. The term is used to identify a leadership position in almost every facet of manufacturing, industry, construction, etc. It is a very broadly used title and can be quite confusing when trying to explain the position’s responsibilities and requirements.

In the construction industry, the position of project manager is meant to convey the leader of a specific project and the catalyst enabling the successful completion of a construction project. The role is very broad and is somewhat different in each company. In some companies where there is a general abundance of money, this position is supported by various other positions. There could be an assistant project manager, a field engineer and even a clerk of the works. In some companies the superintendents are actually more powerful and in a better position to actually run the project. In some companies, where the “ lean and mean “ strategy is at work, the project manager is everything performing all the duties of the project manager, the superintendent as well as the field engineer.

I will take a middle of the road approach to how I identify the role of the typical project manger within a construction company. To clearly identify my thought process as I identify the responsibilities and the role of the PM, I will assume there is a field engineer on the project as well as a superintendent. If this be the case, I would think that the project is a minimum of $5,000,000.00 to support this type of management team.

Assuming that the project manager has the team as noted, I will identify the role of the Project manager on the project.

  • Interaction and transfer of the estimate from the estimating department to the construction department.
  • Understanding and acceptance of the estimate and the associated subcontractors and suppliers that make up the estimate. As an aside, the estimate could be submitted to the construction department with a full complement of subs and suppliers, or none at all. It can vary and will be a condition of the type of estimating team the contractor has and the time allowed for the development of the estimate.
  • Upon understanding and acceptance of the estimate, the project manager is responsible to “ set up “ the project within the computer system that the organization is running. This set up includes the following:
  • Estimate input to the cost report. The individual project divisions are inputted into the project cost report. This step is essential for all the other cost controls and associated contracts, purchase orders, change orders to build upon the cost report. Accuracy is important and the ability of the project manager to understand and properly input this information is essential.
  • Buyout of the project: the project manager will then , once the cost report has been established start what is referred to as the buyout of the project. The buyout includes the leveling of the subcontractor bids for the project as well as the purchasing of the material and equipment necessary for the project. This step will be totally and completely dependent on the time allowed prior to the startup of the project in the field.
  • Management of the building permit and all other necessary permits required to legally commence construction in the field. Again this step is determined by a number of factors, insofar as the building permit may already be existing, or the zoning approval is not, or the health department needs to sign off, etc. Each project will be different from the next and will indicate the time remaining for buyout and scheduling, etc. all the preconstruction elements of the project.
  • The issuance of the contracts to the appropriate subs, the purchase orders for the proper material and equipment purchasing, etc. will be required prior to the start up of the project, this is all the responsibility of the project manager.
  • It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that all the subcontractors have the proper insurances, licenses and various other requirements, union affiliation, minority status, etc. that each and every job requires. Each job is different and the requirements all vary from job to job.
  • Once the project manager has set up the project in the computer system, the contracts and purchase orders are in place, the licenses and the insurances are all proper and ready to go, the project manager is ready to start the general condition preparation and set up. The General condition setup involves the following.
  • Evaluation of the office requirements on the project.
  • Evaluation of the storage requirements on the project.
  • Identification of the temporary utilities required to properly construct the project.
  • Preparation for the actual management on the jobsite.
  • The project manager is then responsible to ensure that the superintendent that is assigned to the project has properly prepared for the job. It is the responsibility of the project manager to identify the detail of the project in regard to his superintendent. In some companies this responsibility is alluded by the project manager due to the fact that they are not held accountable for the proper actions of the superintendent. I feel that it should be the responsibility of the project manager to supervise the superintendent. If the superintendent is weak, then the project manager must step in, if he is strong, then the project manager is available for other responsibilities.
  • Once the project manager understands the abilities of the superintendent, they are now free to make the decision whether they need to live on the project or can actually run the project remotely from the main office. This should be the responsibility of the project manager.
  • The project has now commenced and the duties of the project manager will be directed to the actual management duties of an active project under construction. These duties include:
  • Weekly management meetings on the project with the subcontractors
  • Weekly management meetings on the project or in the home office, depending on the project with the owner, architect and engineers.
  • The proper and timely issuance of meeting minutes for each meeting held and the proper distribution of same.
  • The development of a procurement schedule that will define the items requiring action and accurately identify the timing of all activities.
  • The creation of a project schedule that dovetails into the procurement schedule as well as the buyout schedule.
  • The creation of a submittal log, the management of all submittals and the management of needed project items in accordance with the procurement and project schedules.
  • All subcontractor and supplier communication and responsibility.
  • All owner, architect and engineer communication and responsibility.
  • The identification via the daily reports of any delays and or other issues that could affect the timing as well as the financial cost of the project.
  • The creation of change orders to be issued to the owner and the management of subcontract change orders and the coordination between the two.
  • Identification of all costs and the input into the financial cost reporting systems of the project.
  • The issuance of subcontractor change orders as well as the development, communication and negotiations required for change orders to the owners.
  • The assurance that the project is being constructed on time and on budget.
  • The awareness and responsibility of what should be done if the project develops a financial issue or a time delay.
  • The creation of a punch list and the management of same once the project is completed.
  • The creation and the issuance of monthly requisitions that will be required to ensure that the cash flow is adequate for the project and that the subs and suppliers are paid.
  • The final close out of the project to ensure that all final change orders are issued, final invoicing is managed and all final billing is issued and paid for.

In summary, the entire management of the project should be the responsibility of the project manager assigned to the task. Unfortunately it appears that time and lack of knowledge and experience is modifying this responsibility and taking out the necessary rewards as well as penalties of successes and failures. It is apparent that the current management techniques are those that exist by inferring that the “ TEAM “ is responsible for the success or the failure of a project. In other words, the responsibility has been nicely deflected from the project manager to a “ hazy and foggy “ group of individuals who will all share the responsibility. This is bullshit and the reason that the company I am now involved with has not been successful completing projects. Let me note specific issues.

  • I have already written about a small bank project that the company had been awarded prior to my even being in the company. It is now over 4 months later and the project is still being bought out and is still in the middle of trying to move off the starting line.
  • A project that we have received over 6 weeks ago, has not been bought out nor have they even issued a cash flow or a schedule or anything.
  • We have the responsibility of managing quite a few small interior fitups for a large development firm. This responsibility has been split up between 5 different individuals in the office, and no one will or can take responsibility.
  • The issuance of a weekly and monthly cost reporting system is in place within the company. NO one will take the responsibility to look at it and make any type of difficult analysis, why because everyone is afraid to do it.

So why is this the rule and not the exception?

  • More and more upper management people do not have the confidence to reach out and lead. I witnessed a demonstration of this yesterday at a meeting. The individual that should have taken a motivational and clear lead, did not, he only hemmed and hawed back and forth.
  • Individuals will not set and hold deadlines. Oh yes , they will say it, they don’t mean it, and everyone knows that.
  • The knowledge and the experience therefore the confidence of individuals is lacking, therefore no one will make a decision for fear of being wrong.
  • The culture of society does not honor those taking responsibility, instead it breeds individuals that feel that if they can blame someone else, they are doing their job.
  • The culture of total and complete “ TEAM “ play is not conducive to others taking the responsibility and the admission of guilt that responsibility requires.
  • The majority of individuals see others squirm out of situations, they see the maneuvering around any responsibility and they witness the lack of discipline and penalties that others are subjected to when they merely squirm and shirk responsibility. Therefore why should they take any of this on??

A true project manager is both excited and pumped up by the responsibility of a construction project. They look forward to the challenge and the adrenalin rush of making decisions and taking responsibility. Unfortunately this breed of project manager is being weeded out by the squirmy weasels of the industry that take on nothing and get away with it!! It is truly too bad~!!

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