Anyone who has ever been involved with management of a construction project has been in an unproductive, useless meeting at some point. Such meetings are so common they’re used in scenes in sitcoms and movies, and we can all relate in one way or another. But on a construction project, ineffective progress meetings can harm communication, schedules and the overall productivity of the project, equating to loss of time and money.
So, what’s the problem with progress meetings anyway?
Construction progress meetings are required meetings that typically take place every week or every other week at the job site. All vested parties are required to attend as a contractual obligation throughout the project. Generally, all parties communicate information needed to keep the project moving forward and to deal with the many issues that arise in the course of work.
In a perfect world, construction progress meetings would have a specified date and time to occur each week and all parties would show up ready to be productive and responsible players. They’d have a specific, clear agenda and purpose, they would finish at a specific time, and they would be well-attended by relevant parties. Every party would go away with clearly defined action items, set to reconvene at the next meeting with forward momentum and item resolution.
We don’t live in a perfect world, however.
What have I observed instead?
- Disorder: Meetings, when they happen, don’t start on time and they just end when they end. Parties show up and wait for someone else to take the lead because no facilitator has been assigned.
- Disengagement: Most parties in attendance have experienced the waste of time these meetings can be and usually feel like they are just a project get together. This leaves the meeting participants frustrated and often times willing or even eager to reschedule or miss the meeting. And when they do attend, they feel they can spend the time managing business from their phone or thinking about other things.
- Dishonor: A lot of time is spent reviewing logs of information, looking for items to discuss, or blame to be pointed. The lack of respect for everyone’s time and the valuable role they play just adds to the lack of desire to participate in a meaningful and honest way.
- Disinterest: The most important player in the meeting—the contractor’s superintendent—is usually restless and distracted, spending most of the meeting checking his phone and e-mail, answering questions, and giving direction to subcontractors who interrupt the meeting to get answers.
- Distortion: Architects cover items and issues important to them without mentioning shortcomings. Contractors do not provide open and honest reporting of problems and issues and don’t hold themselves accountable. Minutes generated after such a lopsided meeting reflect the viewpoint of only one party rather than capturing the actual meeting or the real needs of the project and owner.
- Disorganization: Participants spend too much time reviewing logs of information between the contractor and architect looking for something to be discussed. Contractor progress reports are hard to follow and don’t tie in to the overall schedule. There is no report on quality of work; defects are not tracked and corrections are not reported. There is no formal problem-solving method and no active to-do list, so issues are rarely solved.
In short: most attendees at a Construction Progress Meeting can barely sit through them because they are so poorly designed and managed. And no one typically looks forward to them. The meetings are not strategic, and if they weren’t a contractual obligation, contractors likely just wouldn’t have them. The general consensus by the majority of participants is wanting them to be shorter or not to happen at all.
A Solution: The 90-Minute Construction Progress Meetings
After attending hundreds of construction progress meetings over my career, I finally had enough. Drawing on my business consulting experience, I developed a 90-Minute format for Construction Progress Meetings which have taken them from ineffective and useless to meaningful and worthwhile.
A successful Construction Progress Meetings will have:
- Consistency: Same day, same time, same agenda.
- Punctuality: Showing up on time is late; showing up early is on time. Start on time, end on time.
- Strategy: The first half of the meeting is reporting; the second half is solving issues. Discussion during the first half of the meeting goes on one of two lists—the to-do list or the issues list—and tabled for the second half of the meeting.
- Accountability: Items on the to-do list are assigned a name and must be completed by the next meeting. No discussion is necessary. Items on the issues list are discussed and solved.
- Feedback: Meetings end on time and all participants rate the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Consensus: If there are unresolved issues at the end of the meeting, the group decides whether to continue on to solve the issues or table them for the next meeting.
- Efficiency: Reporting is precise and quick with minimal discussion. Rambling reports are not welcomed.
- Follow-up: Meeting minutes are always distributed. They include the to-do list to remind everyone of assigned action steps.
What’s the benefit?
The obvious benefit to improving the meeting process is to quit wasting time and make the meetings effective. No one looks forward to being stuck in an endless, unproductive meeting every week or two. However, I have a bigger purpose in mind.
The Construction Progress Meeting is the glue that holds an effective system of project controls together, such as the schedule that the contractor produces, the quality control plan that the contractor prepares, and the schedule of values that the contractor submits. The Construction Progress Meeting, if facilitated properly and not left up to the contractor, is at the center of holding everyone accountable and keeping the project on track, all parties responsible and in positive communication through the duration of the project. With eight31consulting, you have an experienced Construction Manager ready, willing and eager to keep your project running smoothly and provide great value and direction to the Construction Progress Meetings process.