Author: Philip J Reed, on behalf of Westwood College
Every job has a budget and every job comes with expectations. Hands up if you’ve ever seen or been involved with a project that has either gone over budget or not had its expectations met. Something tells me there are a lot of hands raised out there!
However we’ve probably also seen at least a few projects come in under budget and with expectations exceeded. It’s not impossible; you just need an effective program manager in place from the start. Here are five ways an effective program manager can save you money.
This is perhaps the most important aspect of an effective program manager. Communication is paramount! Any successful project runs on strong, clear, direct communication. There can be many people on any given team, and they will all have a variety of jobs to do. Organizing this team and keeping everybody working efficiently together is no mean feat, but it’s necessary. Having a program manager who is also a strong communicator will minimize (or eliminate) mistakes, redundant work and forgotten responsibilities. Essentially he will prevent you from having to do (and therefore pay for) things twice.
2) GOAL SETTING
“What are we doing here?” That’s a question that a good program manager should be able to answer at any point in the process, on command. Any project has a large, ultimate goal of course, but it is essential to have smaller goals along the way, and even smaller goals within those smaller goals, that are being met regularly and successfully. A good program manager recognizes that and, by meeting these goals, the project gets a little closer to completion every time. Without clear, well-defined goals, a lot of money will be wasted on workers pulling in different directions, each one taking a different, incompatible route toward the same ending. That doesn’t work. Just like Johnny Cash built his Cadillac, every project must be completed “one piece at a time.”
Particularly on more sizeable projects, managers realize when they can’t extend themselves too far. Spreading one’s self too thin results in a lack of focus, and an increased capacity for error. That spells money. Proper delegation will also keep all team members focused on something in a productive way; which means you won’t be losing money to payroll for employees occupied by irrelevant tasks or “busy work.” A well-functioning team has every member working at every point toward some definitive goal. An effective program manager will delegate tasks accordingly and turn that dream into a reality.
Details are just details, right? We could get them right; OR, maybe we won’t! It doesn’t really matter in the big picture; getting the details right is just a bonus. Do you know anybody who thinks that way; ignoring details and focusing always on the big picture instead? Good program schools and construction schools teach otherwise. In “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Robert Persig outlines the importance of details, and explains why you shouldn’t ignore them. He discusses the possibility of stripping a simple 10 cent screw; which then prevents you from opening a small compartment in the engine, therefore preventing you from repairing the motorcycle. One screw – a simple detail – has derailed the entire project, perhaps permanently. Instead of a simple, inexpensive repair, you now have to buy a whole new motorcycle. An effective program manager understands this instinctively and is willing to spend more time getting the details right up front so that the project can come together as inexpensively as possible in the end.
Here’s a simple question for you: what will tomorrow bring? You don’t have to be specific and let me know what everybody is wearing; just tell me who you will meet, what they will say, everything that will happen, and how everybody involved will react to it. What, don’t you know? Well, then, you understand the importance of flexibility. In the absence of being able to predict everything – and we do mean everything – ahead of time, you’d better hope you have a flexible program manager. Robert Burns wisely observed that the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry; we’d take it a step further and say that the “oft” might as well be replaced with an “always.” You can’t bank on the chance that things will go right; that’s a fool’s bet. The wise man invests in a smart program manager from the start, and is then secure in the knowledge that whatever does happen will be handled properly.
The fee they will charge may seem like an added expense. However, getting it done correctly the first time is the best – and only – way to save you money. An effective program manager will oversee the work being done and will easily save you thousands in materials and labor (even millions in the case of Taylor Construction Management). They will keep the project progressing at a steady pace, be able to troubleshoot small issues before they become enormous problems, and will communicate the progress with you in terms that you can understand.
These are just a few of the skills that a program management degree (or a construction management degree) provides, but a degree in itself doesn’t account for everything. Do your research before hiring a program manager. Check with past clients (or even colleagues) to see what they have to say about them. Hire the right one the first time in order to save yourself the money and heartache.