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Top 8 Construction Project Management Challenges & Their Solutions

Top 8 Construction Project Management Challenges & Their Solutions

October 24, 2022

This article is from our friends at SmartTask.

Construction project managers act as a liaison between the on-site construction crew and the client, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and the client’s expectations are met.

However, it is not that easy. There are many potential pitfalls and challenges in the life of a construction project that managers have to deal with.

A study by McKinsey says that 98% of projects go over budget, and 77% endure delays 1.

Many factors that are difficult to control, from working conditions to differences in stakeholders’ views, can interfere with the completion of a construction project. Still, a project manager can minimize the consequences of these challenges by identifying them early and preparing for them.

So, in this article, we are sharing the top 8 construction project management challenges and how to deal with them.

Unclear Goals

One of the biggest and most common challenges in construction project management is not being able to set clear goals.

This mostly happens when different stakeholders fail to agree on the same goal and articulate what they exactly want.

And when things are not defined clearly, you lose time and resources, causing the project to be delayed or fail.

Solution: Spell out every objective/goal clearly, be it time-related or about the deliverables. Then make your way towards these goals through thorough planning, a proper decision-making structure, well-defined workflows, and task delegations.

The best way to get a hold of all this is by employing robust project management platforms 2 like SmartTask, Asana, and other industry-standard solutions that help you plan and track everything related to the construction project.

Scope Creep

Scope creep refers to the unexpected and uncontrolled addition of work required to finish the project. It may result from changes in original plans, stakeholder needs, or other external factors.

In other words, scope creep results from poor risk management, inadequate planning, and poor communication. Scope creep results in a slew of adverse effects, ranging from low customer satisfaction to minor project delays to substantial financial losses and severe reputational damage.

Thus, it is critical to understand how to successfully deal with unwanted changes and prevent scope creep.

Solution: Have proper project scope management 3 procedures and practices in place. Establish proper communication channels for both internal and external communication. Run everything through stakeholders to get their approval on plans and tasks to avoid later changes.

Set clear performance objectives, define project boundaries, analyze risks, and leave some room for crucial changes. Be flexible, but stick to your plan and learn to say no to unnecessary changes.

Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations are another big frog to eat in construction project management.

They result from bad project forecasting or too many big requests coming from stakeholders. They can be anything, such as completing the project on a tight budget, with limited resources, or on an impractical schedule.

And unrealistic expectations can put too much stress on the team, which affects their morale and productivity.

Solution: Conduct project forecasts per monthly, weekly, and daily goals– and assess if they are achievable. The issues should then be communicated to stakeholders, if necessary. Provide an alternate plan so they can see an aggressive yet manageable timeframe or budget.

Poor Risk Management

Risk management while handling construction projects is a game of what-if scenarios. Project managers must have contingency plans ready to deal with any risk that comes their way.

While long-term risks are taken care of, short-term concerns are frequently overlooked. These problems can quickly escalate and significantly impact the bottom line.

Any minor issue can destroy a project. Projects can be sidetracked by untrustworthy subcontractors, difficulties with scheduling, or stakeholder preference adjustments. This requires proper planning that involves both long-term and short-term risks.

Solution: Comprehensive risk assessments are essential to overcoming this issue. Invest time in safety training programs to avoid potential issues.

Also, don’t forget to take feedback from the team and stakeholders to avoid missing out on any potential risk.

Cost Overruns

A large number of construction projects fail horribly when it comes to meeting early cost predictions. The average cost overrun in construction projects starts at 16.5% globally 4.

Moreover, cost overruns can result from sudden material price increases, project scope change, unrealistic expectations, poor performance, and stretched deadlines.

Overall, it is clear that project complexity and scope will determine your ability to meet initial cost goals. The larger the project, the more likely cost overruns are.

Solution: Overruns can be considerably prevented with adequate planning, budgeting, and expense tracking. Furthermore, careful consideration must be given to cost estimation, and contractors should consider all the potential risks for better estimation.

Time Management

Many stakeholders consider time restrictions the most significant concern in projects, resulting in faulty designs, high accident rates, and revenue loss.

Furthermore, contractors may unwittingly cut corners to catch up due to scheduling issues and missing deadlines. This can lead to even greater delays and expenditures as they strive to uncover and rectify flaws or face contractual penalties.

It becomes critical for project managers to address the various time-killing possibilities and develop procedures to beat delays while meeting the requirements.

Solution: Most problems can be solved with proper scheduling and time tracking. When you are constantly monitoring the timeline and progress of your project, you can identify any challenges ahead of time. This will allow you to take the necessary measures to keep the project on track.

For instance, if you see a task taking longer than expected, you can start running two tasks simultaneously to catch up or be ready to hire more workers to speed up the process. Of course, you must have proper foreplanning and keep extra resources on hand to deal with such situations.

Lack of Communication

Communication is the primary professional tool and is essential for the smooth operation of any project. Poor communication can result in issues such as missed updates or information, as well as tasks that are not completed to a predetermined standard.

Depending on the size of the problem, it can lead to delays and halt the project indefinitely.

There should be no tolerance for miscommunication on-site–given what is at stake and the consequences surrounding your project. This makes it essential to address any communication issues as soon as possible.

Solution: Set clear guidelines and establish a daily ladder that keeps the team informed about progress and obstacles.

Use different project collaboration and planning tools or even something as simple as a to-do or drop-down list in Google

Sheets with task statuses and assignees to keep everyone updated on who’s doing what and by when.

Alternatively, short stand-up meetings every morning before work could be quite beneficial in avoiding misinterpretation.

Safety & Hazard Management

The building industry entails more extensive and costly hazards than other industries. Workers face significant threats while working on construction sites, including injury and death.

Thus, project managers must place a premium on safety management and be proactive in detecting safety hazards and completing a construction job without incidents.

Solution: Involve workers in the safety process and regularly train them about safety. Persuade workers to report potential dangers on the construction site and any incidents.

Project managers should also develop site-specific safety management strategies and utilize maintenance management software 5 to make construction sites safer for field workers.

Final words

These are just a few difficulties project managers may encounter during construction. Depending on the nature of the problem, project managers must be proactive in seeking solutions to these problems before they jeopardize the project’s success.

About the Author

Shyamal Parikh is the Founder of SmartTask, an online work management/automation software that helps teams streamline their processes, whether sales, hiring, customer success, or projects. He actively shares strategies and techniques that improve a team’s productivity.

  1. The construction productivity imperative. (2015, July 1). McKinsey & Company 
  2. 23 best project management software in 2022. (n.d.). SmartTask
  3. A complete guide to project scope management. (n.d.). SmartTask
  4. Aljohani, A. (2017). Construction projects cost overrun: What does the literature tell us? International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology, 137-143
  5. What is CMMS? A comprehensive guide. (2022, October 10). Facilio Blog.