Poor communication and failing leadership hold the construction industry back – we have a solution - Briab - Brand, Risk & Säkerhet


Poor communication and failing leadership hold the construction industry back – we have a solution

Construction faults, carelessness and waste of money. There are several symptoms that show that the current project management must be changed. As a project manager, you are required be an expert at everything from time and cost control to communication. It is exceedingly unlikely that a single individual can perform at a high level in all of these fields. So what should we do?


MonMonica Lööw has worked in project management for more than 20 years, has written three books on the subject, and lectures and trains project managers. Moreover, she herself works as a project manager, mainly within urban planning and energy. She agrees that leadership and communication are keys to successful projects.

“Very many project managers are extremely stressed today. It is not unusual to hear comments such as ‘I don’t have time to communicate’. However, if we invested that time, we would profit in terms of both money and quality.”

According to Monica Lööw, the superhuman who many look for in the project manager role does not exist. As a project manager, you have to be an expert in communication, have a check on time and cost control, handle contacts between the client and project managers, manage all collaboration, integration and stakeholders. And this is just a small selection of everything included in the project manager role. It is impossible that a single project manager could perform at a high level within all these areas. Nevertheless, this is what is required in complex construction projects.

Too much focus on technical expertise

Poor communication makes construction projects 13% costlier than necessary. With the current construction volume, this entails a cost of about 40 billion SEK annually. Monica Lööw again:

“The complex construction projects of today require project managers that have the right combination of emotional and technical skills. For too long, too many people have focused solely on technical expertise. I would argue that a good project manager must mainly be a good leader and a communicator, who can make everyone share the same goal and vision.”

Thus, the construction faults and inefficiencies we see today could be reduced if leadership and communication were taken more seriously. Based on the insight that “human knowledge” comes before technical expertise, we must change our view of the project manager role.

Our research confirms the problems

A study that Briab asked the research company Alba conduct confirms that the conditions for today’s project managers are unsustainable. Builders and project managers expect leadership from each other, and often place unspoken requirements on the other. Another conclusion is that the senior project managers feel that their strengths are not completely taken advantage of, due to the lack of time. Administration and a large number of meetings are examples of things that limit them on a workday.

At the same time, the construction industry in Sweden faces a major test, as 700,000 new apartments need to be built by 2025. It has been decades since the country saw so much construction. Productivity must increase and the use of resources reduced. We must think innovatively, and work differently within the industry. The stress of not having time is too common, and is at dangerous levels. We believe that it is time to do something about this, and we have.

Project team management instead of project management

Active risk management, clear communication and a constructive leadership are needed to make future construction projects successful; three critical areas that directly affect profitability and quality in all the phases of the project. A project manager at Briab therefore consists of three employees, in a close and well-oiled collaboration.

Project team leader
Trains, coaches, controls and develops the project team and the client. Is closest to the client, but also the assignees.

Project controller
Administration, structure and order. Is responsible for structural communication and spreading of information.

Project risk manager
Plans, analyzes, minimizes risk, manages uncertainties and detects causes of failure and faults in implementation. Responsible for the learning and transfer process.

The point of project team management is that right from the beginning we cover all the needs by appointing people with different skills and personalities. All this was traditionally expected to be found in one person, but such a superhuman doesn’t exist”, says Esther Kava, Business Area Manager for project management at Briab.

Project team management frees up time so that each person can do what she or he is best at. With our solution, we want to encourage others in the industry to innovate and try new things. Together we can drive the industry forward toward a sustainable construction industry, both with respect to work climate and results.

Do you want to know more about how project team management can help you save money and streamline your construction process? Contact Esther Kava.

Source: Svensk Byggtjänst: Besparingsmöjligheter genom effektivare kommunikation i byggprocesser April 2014.

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