The Trials and Tribulations of Project Management

Anyone involved in engineering project management can tell you about the stress and headaches any large construction project can be. From dealing with the architects and engineers to managing the laborers or at least the people who are supposed to be managing the laborers, to chasing up plumbers and electricians to dealing the health and safety issues; the whole process can be a nightmare. Smaller projects like residential developments, townhouse construction etc. generally aren’t too bad because the time-frame of the projects are limited so the end is always in sight. Large commercial construction jobs are a whole different story however and can really test ones mental strength.

builderThat said there is something so satisfying about looking at a completed project and knowing that without your involvement it would never have come together. I am still regularly told by my elderly father every time we can see the Brisbane CBD about his days as a dogman and how he was a part of the team the put the lights on the MLC building back in his heyday. While this story is meaningless to me (having heard it over 100 times at least) I can understand why he is so proud to have been a part of something so iconic.

Operating a crane is one thing but nothing beats the feeling when you are managing the entire project and things finally fall into place. Through the months and often years of chaos and stress, when you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel there is no greater feeling. From my own work with some of Australia’s most prominent project managers and construction companies I have been around to experience the emotion that management teams go through during the building phase.

When things go wrong, not only can these mistakes cost and absolute fortune put the project behind schedule but they can also be devastatingly heart breaking. That said, the reverse is also true and some of the happiest moments of my life have been looking over what I have helped to create, proud, in awe and humbled by what my team has been able to achieve. Through my life I have been lucky enough to work on projects all around Australia, including some massive construction jobs in the heart of Sydney, and numerous commercial developments around Brisbane.

One thing that I learned over the years was to hold on to the guys I could really rely on. When I found a plumber in Brisbane that I used for a large commercial construction job that really knew his stuff, I made sure he was working on our next local project. Quality and reliable help is not always easy to come by, and when I found workers who really took pride in what they did, I made sure they stuck around. Even if they cost a little bit more up front, you’re going to save money by not having to fix mistakes and check over their work to make sure they’re not cutting corners.

Construction in progress in BrisbaneBuilding a network of quality supervisors, electricians, plumbers and other tradies was key to my success in the later years of my career. As I got older, things seem to get easier and, while I didn’t know it at the time, reflecting back upon things I honestly believe my strong network was why. By being able to trust my team to work autonomously, I was able to focus on the problem areas of any construction or build, and iron out any issues before they managed to slow us down.

For those of you working your way up in engineering or construction project management, building up a strong team from the get go is the best advice I can give you. By doing this you will be able to manage your stress levels (let’s not kid ourselves, you’re still going to be going grey at 40), but by doing this not only will you manage, but you will succeed. Supervising large construction builds is not for the feint hearted, but if you like to be pushed to your limits then don’t give up. There is absolutely nothing like the feeling of looking at something and then telling people every time you have the opportunity that you helped make that dream a reality.