Pre-Construction Planning Part 1

March 20, 2003

The only way to effectively and successfully manage a construction project is to plan all aspects of the work before the first worker or the first piece of material arrives on the jobsite. The project management team must begin planning before the start of construction and continue to plan the work until the project is complete.

What is pre-construction planning?
Pre-construction planning is the strategy phase of a construction project. It must begin before the first worker arrives, before the first piece of material is ordered, and before everything begins. Pre-construction planning must begin the moment the notice to proceed order is received on a project. The lack of pre-construction planning is surely the greatest failure of contractors in the entire construction industry.

Pre-construction planning is about:
1. Preparing for the hunt
Before you begin hunting, you must learn what game is in season, obtain a license, obtain a gun, learn about the safety requirements of the gun, obtain bullets, acquire proper clothes, learn how to hunt the game, find out who else is hunting in the area, among other actions. The list of items to be planned is nearly endless, yet every hunter with experience knows that to be successful, everything must be planned well in advance. Construction is similar to hunting, yet how often do we send our foremen to a jobsite with the wrong bullets or even without the bullets? Planning for the hunt is required for success.

2. Being proactive vs. being reactive
Being proactive is making things happen your way. Being reactive is letting things happen as chance would allow. Proactive management of a construction project requires pre-planning, is time-consuming, and is profitable. On the other hand, reactive management requires no pre-planning, is time-consuming, and costs contractors millions of dollars per day. Profitable projects require pre-planning and proactive management.

3. Engaging in collective brainstorming
Have you ever placed five of the most experienced and intelligent people in your organization in the same room at the same time to brainstorm the solution to a problem? The ease in finding an excellent solution is amazing. It is likely that one of the five individuals could have solved the problem without collective brainstorming, but it might have taken longer to solve and could have proven to be less effective than a group solution. Collective brainstorming can be a very effective technique for identifying golden opportunities which greatly affect profitability.

4. Planning for the good and planning for the bad
Too often we only plan for the positive or good things that can happen on a project. Although optimism is always best, the project management team must always have a plan for disaster. Proactive planning always requires the consideration of both the best case and worst case scenarios. If things do not occur as planned, then What is Plan B?

5. Identifying opportunities
Golden opportunities are often only available prior to the start of construction. Project managers must learn to be creative, persistent, and willing to explore all options right from the beginning. As an example, how often have you ordered a major piece of equipment without considering the possibility of submitting a less expensive alternate manufacturer’s piece of equipment for approval?

The greatest benefits of pre-construction planning are the project control and organization that lead to increased productivity, fewer accidents, and increased profitability. The project management team must always find time to pre-plan. There is always time for pre-construction planning. Contractors who never seem to find time for pre-planning are likely to be spending their time doing the wrong things or are trying to do too much work with too few overhead resources.

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