The antidote to construction project failure is a team of reliable contractors with a clear understanding of best practices.
The internet is rife with motivational messages about the beauty of failure. But a pithy quote doesn’t always make it easier to stomach the loss. It’s one thing to fail when you’re trying a new recipe. It’s quite another when a business venture flops—and there are jobs and money at stake.
In the construction industry, failures can be large-scale. And failures can often be traced back to a few common causes.
Construction project failure is often due to poor planning.
There’s a well-known platitude that says it all: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. There are too many moving parts in a construction project: “Winging it” never works.
Planning starts with scope and specs. A poorly defined project scope comes with several significant risks. Contractors take on projects that end up being bigger than they can handle. Customers ask for unplanned changes that disrupt the entire process. Insufficient estimates lead to unpleasant conversations about needing more money. A defined scope of work—before work starts—is vital to minimizing the risk of failure.
The construction industry does not have the luxury of assuming “business as usual” when the forecast calls for rain. Bad weather can cause massive delays in construction projects. And if a contract doesn’t include clauses and weather policies, there can be significant problems.
Poor communication can derail a construction project.
Harvard Business School professor Nitin Nohria said it best in 1992: Communication is the real work of leadership. For example, most construction projects are joint efforts between many different contractors and workers. But leaders are on the hook to make sure people know what is expected. If important people miss important messages, the entire project can fall apart.
Construction projects fail due to poor productivity.
As they say, many hands make for light work. Large-scale construction projects rely on many people, from high-level managers to hands-on workers, to be successful. But if too many of those people are skipping work or wasting time, the entire project can suffer. Low productivity can lead to missed deadlines, frustrated customers, and overall failure.
Sometimes, project failures can be traced back to business failures: In this case, poor hiring practices. If contractors cannot identify, hire, and retain reliable workers, the business’s reputation can sink along with the project.
Ignoring minor problems for too long derails construction projects.
Ignore a small problem for too long, and it becomes a big problem. This is true of construction projects, marriages, toothaches, and pebbles in your shoe. If a minor issue goes unreported, the window for a quick fix can shrink quickly. The painful outcome can be a costly fix or a large-scale failure.
Construction projects fail without enough financial support.
It’s been sung on every stage from here to Broadway: Money makes the world go round. A construction project funded by a handshake and an IOU is doomed to fail. No construction project should start without due diligence and a clear understanding of how the project will be funded. If someone realizes halfway through the project that the money doesn’t exist, they could abandon the entire thing. When a project fails because no one pays, contractors stand to lose thousands—even millions—of dollars in labor and materials.
Motivational speakers have wise-sounding quips about the upside of failure, but in the construction industry, it can be devastating. Reliable, experienced contractors who understand the vital elements of a successful project are your best defense against failure.
The team at FraserCon has over twenty years of experience in contracting, construction, and concrete. In addition, we have a proven track record of successful collaboration and good relationships with other contractors throughout DFW.