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May 31, 2023 Paul Tice

7 Ways to Improve Collaboration in Construction Projects

Image of many people working on a construction project, showing the need for collaboration in construction.

How do you improve the profitability of a construction project? Build trust and create a collaborative environment throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Does trust really translate into dollars? According to a 2022 survey by Autodesk and FMI, it does. Firms that have higher levels of trust report that gross margins are between 2% and 7% higher, fewer missed schedules, and lower turnover rates.

Each construction project has its unique challenges. There are so many moving parts that you need to have everyone working together to improve project outcomes.

Collaboration in construction is much easier said than done. If it were that easy, you’d be confident that every project goes smoothly, with few reworks and errors.

If you want to know how you can improve collaboration in a construction project, keep reading. These are seven helpful tips that you can implement to build trust and improve collaboration.

1. Develop a Clear Project Plan

You don’t need to develop a project plan on your own. That may hinder the project rather than help it in the long run.

Get everyone involved in the planning process. Yes, bring in the project managers, architects, engineers, contractors, and every other relevant person. This is the first step in fostering trust among colleagues.

This gives you a chance to get their input to make sure your plan is comprehensive and realistic.

This step might not seem practical because projects have traditionally been built in competitive, adversarial environments. You have to recognize the high cost of not getting everyone involved in the project early.

You might feel like you’re opening Pandora’s Box by inviting criticism. You can overcome that by establishing communication guidelines. You also get to set the tone for what’s acceptable and unacceptable communication.

The project plan is important because it helps everyone understand the scope of the project, their roles, and the responsibilities of the project.

People need to see not only their responsibilities but how their work plays into the larger scope of the project. They get detailed and big-picture views of the project.

The plan lets you and stakeholders see any potential risks or issues that could arise during the project and find a way in advance to tackle those challenges.

You reduce misunderstandings, and project risks, and increase your chances for a successful project.

2. Use Photo Documentation

Project managers can rely on photo documentation to increase transparency, accountability, and collaboration. All of these things will increase the level of trust among everyone involved in the project.

Photo documentation lets all team members stay informed of project progress and have access to up-to-date information about the construction site.

This can be especially helpful for remote team members who may not be able to visit the site in person. The progress photos essentially become your eyes on site.

Photos can also help identify potential issues early, which can prevent costly mistakes or delays later in the project.

Another advantage to using construction progress photos is that you can document and share any issues or challenges that come up during construction. Everyone can see and understand the situation at hand. More importantly, they work together to find solutions.

Photo documentation gets used to verify that project work is being done according to specifications and regulations. This builds trust by demonstrating that the project is being completed to a high standard.

Photo documentation builds trust and confidence with clients. At some point, your client is going to want to see how the project is going. Show your clients progress photos and the client can see where the project stands.

From a project manager’s perspective, you can use the documentation to know when it’s time to bring in the next set of contractors.

3. Foster a Team Culture

A team culture isn’t a luxury in construction. It’s a necessity.

That comes from the top down. It’s up to the project leaders to set the tone and create a team-first culture. This leads to stronger communication and increased productivity.

How do you do that in an industry known for its level of competition? Start by encouraging ideas and feedback from all stakeholders. Performance feedback has been shown to improve performance and project outcomes.

You can establish communication channels, hold regular team meetings, and have brainstorming and information sessions where everyone has a chance to give their input.

You don’t want to do this haphazardly. Everyone will look to see if you take their suggestions seriously.

If you just listen and don’t follow up with action, you’ll lose trust. You don’t have to act on every suggestion, but you do need to respect them and consider them.

A more holistic approach to creating a team environment is a cross-functional approach. You bring together team members from engineering, architecture, and construction to share ideas and collaborate.

This gives everyone a chance to get to know each other and understand their challenges and concerns. An engineer’s point of view may be completely different from an architect’s point of view.

It’s also important to ensure that team members feel valued and appreciated. Simple gestures of recognition and appreciation can provide incentives to maintain the team environment.

4. Embrace Technology

Technology is effective in improving collaboration in construction projects. There’s an app and program for every aspect of your construction project.

These can help streamline project management, but they lose their efficiency if you and everyone else have to toggle back and forth between apps and programs to find important information.

Seamless integration is the name of the game here.

You can start with virtual reality and visualization tools. These get used for design review, project visualization, and even safety training.

Another tool that’s gained traction across the AEC industry is BIM (Building Information Modeling). BIM is a process that creates a digital model of a building or infrastructure project.

BIM can improve collaboration by allowing project teams to work together on a single model, rather than using multiple models or paper documents.

This cuts down errors and increases efficiency because all stakeholders access and view the same information in real-time. Trust levels increase because they can access accurate information, which reduces potential conflicts and misunderstandings.

Project management tools are software programs that help project managers plan, track, and control project activities. These tools can include features such as task lists, Gantt charts, and calendars.

Together, BIM and project management tools can help project teams collaborate more effectively and deliver successful projects. You’ll find that large software vendors have both, so you can integrate information into a single program.

You’ll also want to leverage communication and cloud-hosted photo documentation tools. These often integrate with each other so you limit the amount of time digging for information.

5. Regularly Review and Assess Collaboration Efforts

Throughout a long project, you’re going to have different sets of contractors, some turnover in workers, and issues and challenges come up.

These present chances for collaboration efforts to fade away.

You need to ensure that collaboration stays with you for the duration of the project lifecycle. It’s up to you to review and assess collaboration efforts. You’ll ensure the project stays on track and meets its goals.

You can do this by using data and metrics to track progress. Metrics include communication frequency, response times, project milestones, and completion rates. These metrics let you spot areas that need more attention and support.

During the course of the project, check in with team members to make sure everyone has the resources, training, and support they need to be successful.

You can also hold regular de-briefs and project evaluations to go over what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to get adjusted. This is a space for people to be honest and constructively share their thoughts and ideas.

6. Prioritize Safety

Prioritizing safety is not just about compliance with regulations or avoiding accidents. It’s no secret that accidents and injuries cause major disruptions to project schedules and budgets.

What doesn’t get talked about often is how prioritizing safety creates a culture of trust, collaboration, and respect. You show everyone on the job that you care about the well-being of everyone involved with the project, not just about meeting the minimum standard.

Workers are more likely to speak up if they see a potential hazard, and contractors are more likely to work together to find solutions to safety issues.

7. Communicate Regularly

Communication is everyone’s responsibility. By this point, you’ve done everything to create a culture where open and clear communication is possible.

It’s a good idea to make clear communication a habit on the job. You can do that by being predictable. Always communicate at the same time, so people will find your leadership style trustworthy and dependable.

For instance, you can always send out a short summary after each meeting that outlines what was discussed, the next action items, and who’s responsible. As a bonus, that’s a great way to hold everyone accountable.

Be curious about people. Ask questions that keep people engaged in their work. You might learn that someone is better suited for another type of job during the project.

Finally, always encourage open dialog. It’s hard to do when you have so much work to do, but you can keep open hours, which is when you have an open-door policy for anyone to come in, ask questions, and give feedback.

The Many Ways to Foster Collaboration in Construction

Do you want a project to be successful? Collaboration in construction is the key to making it happen. It’s not easy to build trust in any project, let alone a large construction project.

These tips guide you through building trust and maintaining it for the long haul.

If you want to leverage a cloud-hosted photo tool that integrates with the top project management and BIM tools on the market, take a look at RESolute. Need cloud hosting site logistics tools? Have a look at CARTOgraph.

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