Managing the project yourself
Managing the project yourself
There is, of course, one person who could potentially manage the project: you. It seems temptingly easy at first. Materials will arrive, contractors will turn up, and the work will proceed until it is done, which is more or less now it does happen. More or less. However, the noise levels, the unpredictability, and the fact that it all takes place in your home can leave you feeling besieged and stressed out. Depending on how you feel about this, if you do take on the job it can be an extremely rewarding, exhilarating and worthwhile experience. And the outcome is something that will last for years.
Preparing for project management
A long-established strategy for approaching a construction project is to break the task into several stages, most of which are about planning.
• Feasibility assessment This is where the basic numbers are crunched. Can it be afforded? Is there a good business case for it? What are the risks? Skimping at this stage can leave serious questions unanswered.
• Strategy development This is the critical planning stage, at which the key personnel are selected and briefed interactively, so that their expertise is harnessed and applied to the planning of the project. Procurement strategies are specified, communication lines and the chain of command are established.
• Pre-construction finalisation You go through the plan one more time with all the key players.
• Construction The easy bit (if you are lucky).
• Completion, handover and occupation Bear in mind that residents and users will need time to get used to a new building or facilities. So go easy on yourself. Your whole organisation —cats, dogs, kids, goldfish, other dependants and spouse — may require an adjustment phase.
If you are planning, managing and running your own home improvement project, you can keep things going smoothly by paying the same attention to detail as a professional would throughout the job. Start by doing your homework thoroughly, researching the products and materials you intend to use, and the scope of the work involved.
Keep a project folder
In addition to having a copy of the contract, it is a good idea to keep a project folder, containing the following:
• a simple A4 description of the programme of events, delineating the sequence of events and, photocopied, so that adjustments can be marked.
• a sheet of A4 paper, blank apart from the title ‘Agreed Changes Sheet’ (don’t think you won’t be needing it). All changes should be agreed in writing — with costs too.
• line drawings and specifications.
Before work starts, talk the schedule through with the builder while you are both looking at the A4 job description, so that you can be absolutely sure that you are both ‘singing from the same song-sheet’, and then leave the folder somewhere conspicuous so that it can be accessed regularly throughout the job. Near the kettle is a good place, but ensure it is in a sufficiently protective folder to weather tea stains.
Protect planned work
Skill number 44 in the APM armoury is to ‘promote and protect planned work’. This is not as paranoid as it sounds. There will be threats to the planned work from a wide range of sources, including threats to key personnel involved. In practice this can mean that you end up fielding calls from your plasterer’s in-laws in order to keep him on site, or organising for rubble to be stored in builder’s bags in the garden at short notice because the skip hasn’t arrived. The manager must be prepared to do anything which has to be done to keep the project moving.
Unplanned work may also threaten to interfere with your schedule. A late decision to put a shed in the garden which requires a concrete base may monopolise the cement mixer and key personnel to the detriment of planned work. Be sure that enthusiasm for extra-curricular projects does not impede progress towards the originally specified goals.
This is a crucial element of control and it must be handled properly. Your agreement or contract should specify the payments schedule, which often involves staged payments, released weekly or monthly or at certain key milestones of the job. Be sure that these milestones nave actually been reached and the agreed amount of work has been completed before parting with funds. The simple rule is: never pay up front for work that hasn’t been done. Small builders tend to operate with tight cash flows, so it is normal to release sufficient funds for materials, and then regularly throughout the job as work is completed.