Maintaining Proper Levels of Communication
Guiding a project successfully from concept through construction takes planning, expertise, and effective communication. Functioning as an extension of our client’s staff, allows us to anticipate potential construction, staging, or site issues to avoid delays and change orders.
Once construction plans are finalized and a project is let for bids, a breakdown in communication between government entities, consulting firms, and project stakeholders can occur. This happens when proper levels of communication are not maintained on a daily basis following construction kick-off due to everyone’s workload. As a result, well-designed projects with flawless plans may incur issues during construction. In these situations, the design intent is lost on those who plod forward and keep their head down. However, these issues can be easily avoided or mitigated with proper communication. Common examples include the failure to:
- Inform adjacent property owners about overnight pavement sawcutting.
- While it’s an inconvenience, typically the best time to perform pavement sawcutting is overnight after paving to avoid random cracking.
- Notify stakeholders about disruptions to water service.
- Water main projects typically involve replacement of water service or connection of the old water service to a new main. To complete these connections, water service needs to be shut off for a period of time (two to four hours on average). Shutting off water service without properly notifying residents and business owners may result in complaints to elected officials.
- Coordinate driveway replacements with property owners.
- Roadway reconstruction often involves driveway replacement to connect with the new road, and the work usually takes a couple of days to complete. During that time, driveway access is obstructed. Property owners should be informed in advance to prepare.
- Communicate construction progress.
- Project stakeholders may not fully understand various project phases and become frustrated when they don’t see work taking place. Keeping them up-to-date on what progress has been made and what to expect next is the best way to avoid complaints.
The Solution—Create a Communication Plan
Early on during project development, our Project Management Team develops a communication plan to identify specific communication tactics for each project stakeholder (i.e. the general public, utilities, affected property owners, government agencies, elected officials, staff, etc.). This plan is used throughout the course of project development and design.
Set Communication Goals
Central to every communication plan are the goals we aim to achieve through implementation and use. Goals help us stay on track, gauge plan success, and identify areas for improvement. Our goals include:
- Keeping project stakeholders informed about the project schedule, progress, upcoming milestones, etc.
- Our construction manager/observation staff serving as a point of contact for project stakeholders regarding any questions, concerns, and complaints that arise during construction.
- Putting time back into our client’s day. By effectively communicating with project stakeholders, our clients won’t need to address many complaints and information requests.
Define Key Communication Aspects
Recognizing the uniqueness of each project, we tailor each communication plan to fit the specific needs of our clients and other stakeholders. In order to do so, we begin with common aspects of a communication plan that include:
- Establishing a hierarchy of communication with the contractor during the preconstruction meeting so they know who to contact.
- Distributing letters to property owners along the project corridor at key intervals corresponding to the scope and size of the project and important milestones. Letters include contact information for our staff, the contractor’s most recent schedule, progress to date, upcoming milestones, construction staging changes, etc.
- Flyers delivered to property owners regarding upcoming events such as interruptions in water service, driveway closures, and sawcutting operations. Staff contact information is also included.
- Providing project stakeholders with the opportunity to sign up for weekly/bi-weekly email updates that typically occur in conjunction with construction meetings.
- For projects that impact traffic, we have created websites to convey project information such as road closures, detour routes, trail closures, detour routes, progress, etc.
- Direct communication with property owners along the corridor. Our staff will attempt to contact each adjacent property owner once construction begins to facilitate an open line of communication. In addition, we facilitate coordination between contractors and property owners throughout the course of the project for items such as interruptions in water service, driveway closures, etc.
- Daily (and at times hourly) communication to keep the client informed of the contractor’s progress and address any potential issues that may arise to keep the project on track.
- Our staff makes it a priority to be available to address the needs and questions of our clients.
Collaboration Fosters Project Success
The Snyder & Associates team strives to function as an extension of our client’s staff when corresponding with project stakeholders and contractors. We administer and observe construction diligently knowing that tax dollars are used to fund the project. Our construction staff is experienced and works to anticipate potential construction, staging, or site issues to avoid project delays and change orders. Each year, we update our field staff with construction testing training and continuous improvement activities.
We work with clients to hold contractors accountable to the project schedule and progress within the allotted contract time. If construction starts to get behind schedule, we facilitate communication with the client, contractor, and other stakeholders to outline a plan that will get the project back on track.