There is a lot of hot air in Albuquerque, New Mexico this week. And it’s not because I was in town … it’s because of the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. It truly is a beautiful sight!

Okay, some of the hot air may have been coming from me, as I was training about 30 project managers, engineers, accountants, and tribal attorneys from the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona. In the day-long seminar on Monday, we talked about:

  • basic construction law principles;
  • tribal immunity issues;
  • the ten most common tensions on a project;
  • various project delivery systems;
  • project management and documentation best practices; and
  • lessons learned from projects gone wild.

The last hour of the day was spent answering questions about some of the day-to-day issues faced by the tribal nation. Based upon that dialogue, I came to a few realizations about my time in New Mexico and Arizona.  Whether you are sovereign tribe like the Navajo Nation, a local public authority like a school board, or a private developer, the following project tips may be helpful:

  1. Identify your available resources and make a plan for success. A successful project has the right people in place, working with clearly defined job descriptions, to achieve a well articulated goal. If you determine that your resources are limited such that you cannot hire full-time employees to manage a particular project, then perhaps you should consider staff augmentation from an experienced group that provides the right project support. They can be hired for any number of reasons—to train your staff, provide support on a temporary basis, or even provide full-time support. Likewise, legal training from a contract administration point of view is better spent money than legal assistance to pursue or defend claims in litigation.
  2. Start where you are now and begin to make incremental changes. Even the most successful owner-developer can identify areas of improvement in management of their projects. And whether you are the public owner of a multi-million dollar health care facility or a new K-12 school, you can improve your current project management skills by: (1) purposeful assessment of your needs; (2) common sense planning; and (3) incremental implementation of change. If contract management is an issue, invest some time and money in getting a workable contract for your projects. If document management is the issue, draft a document management plan that will be incorporated in all your in-house training sessions and in all project manuals. The key is to start somewhere now.
  3. Finally, you should understand that your greatest stumbling block may simply be an institutional acceptance of the status quo. What do I mean by that? Many times, contract administration and project management is performed with the following mentality: “Well, we have always done it this way.”  By talking with others in the industry and seeking out advice from those with similar practical experience, you begin to identify those things you are doing right and those things require change.

If you can identify areas of improvement in your project management protocols, plan to make incremental changes, and accept that there may be new ways to perform your work, the sky’s the limit on your project successes.

Question: What other tips do you have to help create change to the long-standing approaches you’ve used in the past?