Critical Success Factors, Exceptional Building Experience
March 29, 2012
Establishing critical success factors are key to creating an exceptional building experience
Have you ever asked someone to do a task for which you had a very clear vision of the desired outcome in your head? If so, depending on the time you spent communicating those expectations before the task was started, the outcome was either pleasing – the job done just the way you pictured – or dissatisfying. From that you may have learned that for the positive result to occur three things were necessary: (1) you had to create a vision for yourself of the successfully completed task; (2) you had to effectively communicate that vision to the one who was to perform the task; and (3) you had to choose to work with someone who was motivated to deliver a satisfying experience. It was in step (1) that you developed Critical Success Factors for your task.
You may think it a stretch, but your upcoming construction project is just like that "task." If you want more than just a completed project but are looking for an exceptional experience, it is important (some might say it's "critical") to give thought to" Success Factors."
Completing a quality project, on-time, and within budget are results that all owners want yet achieving these goals does not necessarily ensure a satisfying building experience. In the course of achieving those basic success factors, if your builder thrust you aside, ignores "special" requests, and is inconsiderate of your neighbors, you can easily conclude that you might be dissatisfied with the overall experience. So, before beginning your project – before you even entertain proposals that promise to deliver a quality project, completed on-time, and without extra costs – give some thought to defining specific elements that, if successfully addressed, will truly provide a satisfying building experience.
Beyond cost, quality and timeliness, where does one find success factors? Even if your construction project is a one-time event, there is no reason that it shouldn't fit into the framework of your company's culture. Look at that culture for the other aspects that the project should address.
Safety is an easy one. In fact, most builders have added "a safe project" or a "zero-injury project" to the core three success factors noted above. But look beyond that assurance to your company's approach to safety. Once underway, this construction project will likely attract the attention of the company's safety team – even those who have no role or background in construction. Aside from ensuring that the work activities are performed safely, wouldn't it be great if your contractor's program dovetailed into your company's key safety programs such that your safety team could move seamlessly into an audit role on your project; be provided the data that they are accustomed to seeing; be satisfied, and provide you with a glowing report of how easy it is to work with your project team? This builder-owner integration on safety is particularly important if your company has made safety a key company objective and has a mature safety compliance and audit process.
What about other objectives or mission statements that your company places out in front of the public in press releases, on your website, or in advertising? The safety of workers and the public could certainly be one of those "headline" elements but you should also consider the others. You may work for a company that has made strong and binding public commitments to protecting the environment. In that case, you probably want your contractor to have an environmental management program that goes beyond just meeting the letter of the law or the regulations. You could ask your builder to modify their program to follow the outline and goals of your internal program. Finding that to be so, it's not hard to imagine more satisfied company auditors departing your jobsite after having seen and understood the program implemented there, and after confirming that the focal points for the company's program are known and stressed at the project site.
Many companies have also discovered the benefit of actively engaging the local community in order to build a positive impression of company operations in their midst. The construction of a major project is oftentimes the first point of entry for your company in a new geographic location. Why not ask your builder, under a Critical Success Factor, to become an extension of your company and make the first, positive inroads with the locals? Share with your builder your vision of connectedness with the local community and challenge them to build relationships while they build your project. A builder, unaware that this is one of your company's stated objectives, is certainly capable of aggravating just about everyone within 10 miles of your project site in pursuit of the "core" success factors (quality, timeliness, cost) – an outcome that is not likely to be viewed as "satisfactory" by your operations team.
In today's marketplace, contractors have learned the value of relationships and the value of positive building experiences in strengthening relationships. Help your builder provide that positive experience by sharing the values of your company and allowing them to "build" a project approach that integrates those values and that focuses on them as your critical factors for success.
About the Author
Dan Cross is a senior project manager in Mortenson's Renewable Energy Group focusing on wind, solar, and other renewable energy applications. He is a professional engineer (Civil, MN) having received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota and his Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. He served on active duty with the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps, eventually retiring from the U.S. Naval Reserve in 2004.