The Contractor's Song: Communication Breakdown — Managing Project Data During Construction
“Communication breakdown / It's always the same / Having a nervous breakdown / Drive me insane” - Led Zeppelin
The Contractor's Song: Communication Breakdown — Managing Project Data During Construction

I’ve been playing Wordle recently and sharing results with various family members on our group text. It’s been interesting and funny to look at the green, yellow, and black (or grey? Why are they different?!?) squares and try to imagine another’s thought process and make guesses as to what words were chosen leading up to the successful outcome. Just last week my son and I had a revelation that we started with the same word for an initial guess, and we both guessed correctly on the second try. Great minds think alike; heaven help him if that’s the case!

That experience of guessing what others are thinking when it comes to Wordle reminded me of communication successes and failures (breakdowns) that happen in all water infrastructure construction projects. It reinforced for me how important it is to clearly document decisions and project history so that it is easy to understand why decisions were made and the history, assumptions, and agreements that went into those decisions. It is also important to store that information in a location and format that allows for easy access so that if something comes up that could impact the project based on a past decision, there is a clear history that all parties can rely upon for how to handle the impact.

As far as documentation is concerned, there are many different tools that exist in construction. Whether it is through submittals, requests for information, meeting minutes, work change directives, or change orders, there are a variety of ways that information about the project gets communicated. The same goes for design, where technical memos, basis of design reports, design document milestones, construction documents, addendum, and conformed documents are part of the routine. Another tool that bridges the gap between design and construction that we use on all our projects is a risk register. A risk register allows the project team to track any item that might be a risk to the project, allocate that risk to the team member best suited to manage that risk, identify the impact of the risk, and how to mitigate or accept the risk. We use the risk register as a communication tool that allows us to identify issues early in a project and provides appropriate attention to the risk so that it is minimized. Ultimately, it is the goal of everyone involved to identify, plan for, manage, and minimize risk, so having a visual and living document that everyone can access and understand is critical to achieving success.

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