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Does Your PM Really Have Your Best Interests at Heart? – Part 4: Added Value

May 19th, 2015

Added Value

I hope that the points posted so far have provided a beneficial perspective on what to look for when hiring and evaluating your current project management firm.   These values and skill sets should be a standard part of basic services, so it is important to thoroughly research what you, the Owner, are actively seeking.  However, there is one area that does not necessarily have a fixed price and is also difficult to calculate.  This is the area of added value…………or the extra benefit that your project manager brings to your project that does not have a separate cost line on your invoice.

But how do you define added value?   Every Owner will have different convictions, but if your PM is truly looking out for your firm’s best interests, then they will have knowledge outside of their immediate area of responsibility.  Have they made attempts to understand how your business operates so that the project has a limited impact to the day-to-day business?  As the project moves towards completion, they should offer solutions and suggestions that not only benefits the project, but also is an added benefit to your firm.   Does your PM interact with other departments and other leaders?  Do they communicate ideas and suggestions in areas of the project that might be lacking attention from your internal groups?  Do they ask you questions to get you thinking about other areas of the project that perhaps you have overlooked?  Are they responding to your immediate needs and forecasting future concerns?  Your PM should be your project PARTNER as well as your firm’s partner and have a vested and genuine concern about the success and failure of the project.  Basically, providing you exceptional service when and where you least expect it (or when and where you never see it) is an authentic sign of added value.    

Respect

At the end of the day, only you, the Owner can state whether or not your PM has provided any added value to their fee and services.  If your preferred firm has a reputation of extensive add-services, this might be a sign that they perceive any extra benefit to only be defined by dollar signs.  When the contract was signed, did you review the fine print?  Does their contract allow for you to terminate them at any time of the project without any additional fees?  Some project management firms have a clause that compels you to pay them the remaining term of the contract even if you choose to dismiss them from your project (even if you believe that their service is sub-par).  Is that type of clause in your project’s best interest and is this representative of added value?

Hiring a PM firm is a supplemental cost to any project, but one that has the potential to have remarkable positive impacts on your project’s success (and damaging impacts if the wrong PM is chosen).  Although the normal method of thinking is to cut costs early, sometimes these additional costs can be a benefit and actually save you money, time, and your project (you have to be smart where to apply your capital dollars).  Remember, in most cases you are hiring a project management firm to handle an area where you either have no expertise, or do not have the man-power to effectively lead a project.  Sure these costs might appear to be outside of your budget if they were never accounted for early on, but consider your situation and consult with your team on the overall impact that this will have on your firms project (i.e. investment)  Whether you’re hiring a new PM or are reviewing an ongoing contract, all of the issues reviewed in this 4 part series should be addressed and discussed to insure that you’re getting the most out of your capital dollars and out of your PM.

 

Does Your PM Have Your Best Interests at Heart? – Part 3: Budget, Schedule, and Honest Feedback

March 24th, 2015

In Part 1 and Part 2, we have reviewed some important aspects that you, the Owner, should expect from your project manager on your project. The professionalism, their collaborative ability, their organizational skills, and your PM’s ability to foster a positive team environment are essential to your project’s success. But, alongside these are the meat and potatoes of your project that define success…….your budget, your schedule, and honest feedback.

Jobsite with people 1-a

During the development of your project budget, has your PM reviewed your proposed costs and given you real world cost examples? Did your PM rely upon their experience and knowledge of the construction market along with the requirements of your project – architectural fees, legal fees, IT costs, furniture, etc.? Did they contrast and compare similar projects to yours? There is nothing worse than getting a third of the way into a project and realizing that you’re 20% over budget or that you have not identified major costs prior to moving forward. Hopefully your PM has scrutinized every line of your budget to limit any potential misses. Each week, your budget should be a topic of conversation and your PM should be providing you consistent updates to indicate any changes (and potential changes) to your budget. If there are cost overruns, your PM should be able to be capture these and communicate to you early.

Budget 1

As your project moves forward, there may be cost changes due to unforeseen infrastructure conditions, to design changes, to code requirements, and to furniture upgrades. Unexpected changes like this can wreak havoc on a budget that has not been monitored consistently. Is your PM providing you with regular budget updates and off-line conversations about your money? Does your PM question additional fees from vendors as well as provide cost saving solutions? These should be expected from your PM as well as consistent review and tracking of invoices. Keeping track of who is being paid is just as important since liens can be filed against the Owner (or Owner’s landlord) if contractors are not paid within a certain amount of time.

As your project schedule is developed, your PM should be providing you with realistic dates that utilizes historical data along with timelines provided from other vendors of the project team. Hopefully you PM is not attempting to “guess” at overlaps or delays between construction completion and furniture installation without feedback from your project team members. Open discussion in meetings is the best method to insure that everyone is aware of the project deadlines as well as the intended completion date. And, as the project moves forward, your PM should be providing you with scheduling concerns that impact your expected completion date. There is always the potential to have delays with any project, but hopefully your PM is updating you, the Owner, with any schedule changes that need to be communicated up the ladder.

Schedule

When you first start to budget and schedule your project, your hired PM should provide you with honest feedback and be able to tell you the truth about unrealistic deliverable costs and dates early on. Honest feedback can be a blunt, “No way that can happen” or even a, “Not very feasible, but here are some options and let’s review the potential costs”. Is your PM afraid or unable to tell you the truth about your expectations? And do you receive weekly updates on budget and schedule statuses or just on changes and delays? A professional project manager will brief you on the status of the budget and schedule regularly, not just when there are overwhelming obstructions. And, when you, the Owner, are wanting to approve costs for a “want” and not a “need”, your PM should address this with you and make you aware of the potential impact…………regardless if you like it or not. This gets down to managing the scope of the project. If your scope your creeps away from the original plan, then so does your budget and so does your schedule. Your PM should confront you when your scope has exceeded the original intent and they feel that some items are out of line.
Feedback def

Without accurate and consistent updates to the budget or schedule, any project has the potential for failure. Hopefully your PM is providing you with consistent information and updates as well as giving you honest feedback that you need. Sometimes these conversations are not easy to listen to, but don’t forget that you hired a PM to manage your company’s project and to look out for the best interests of your firm.

Next post,  we will conclude this series with Part 4 – Added Value…………getting more value than what your fee suggests.

Does Your PM Really Have Your Best Interests at Heart? – Part 2: Organizational Skills and Attitude

February 27th, 2015

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of professionalism and ethics from your hired PM. From professional attire, to providing transparency, to being free from any conflicts of interest. In Part 2, we will review organizational skills and attitude that you, the Owner, should expect to receive from your Project Manager.

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ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS

Every project has multiple moving parts that involve large amounts of data, drawings, records and files. These include, but are not limited to, meeting minutes, budgets, schedules, plans, contracts, reports, emails, tasks, etc. One of the jobs of the project manager is to manage these project documents in a manner that provides the owner easy access at all times. And while managing these documents, the project manager should also maintain a positive attitude towards the owner’s project and also one that creates a strong team and not one that divides the team.

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Disarray and Confusion

Does your PM issue meeting agendas the day prior to the meeting and do they arrive with copies to distribute to the project team? Are they prepared with pen and paper? Do they issue meeting minutes within 24 hours following the meeting? This should be a standard deliverable, but it is shocking how many project managers operate in this capacity. If this is reflective of your PM, what does this indicate about the project manager’s organizational skills and their attention to your project?

When specific project tasks are being assigned, how does your PM handle issuing the assignments? Do they assign specific team members with dates and have consistent follow-up at meetings, or are the tasks dropped off from any future discussions? Your PM should review tasks at each weekly meeting and keep track of what is being accomplished and what is still outstanding. This consistent review will keep your team on track and your project moving forward instead of backwards.

Are the documents you receive presented in a readable and professional format that could assist you as you provide updates to Board members and/or the CEO? How does this reflect your position and your office to your high level stakeholders on this project? Your weekly reports from schedule updates, to meeting minutes, to budget reviews need to be presented in a manner that should not require editing on your part. After-all, you are paying for these services.

Order and Structure

Order and Structure

What is your PM’s attendance record to project meetings? Are they consistently late or do they arrive 5 to 10 minutes before the meeting begins? Hopefully your PM attends all of your meetings, or at least provides communication if there is a conflict. As your eyes and ears on the project, you should expect that they attend any meetings impacting your project. And of course, they should be providing you with correspondence to update you about the meeting discussion and the outcome.

ATTITUDE

Does your Project Manager attempt to work with the project team or do they like to yell, scream, and throw team members under the bus? Do they communicate with slang, foul language, or improper jokes?  How does this performance reflect on you, The Owner?  What does this kind of communication reveal about the confidence and skill of the project manager?  As professional project managers, they should be inclusive of everyone on the team and attempt to foster a team like atmosphere with all participants. There are many methods of addressing problems and issues that do not require belittling an individual. If this is typical on one of your projects, then these might be key indicators that your PM has lost his ability to communicate and lead the project team.

Positive Attitude Fosters Collaboration and Cooperation

Positive Attitude Fosters Collaboration and Cooperation

These characteristics are often overlooked by owners and this can have a negative impact on your project’s success. An Owner should request samples of previous deliverables, from minutes to reports to schedules, as well as a clear expectation of what will be provided on their project. It is also beneficial to follow up on references and review how the PM performed on past projects. And utilization of the internet from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media outlets can provide good insight on the person you might hire as your Project Manager.  And most importantly, do your research and call their previous clients!

 

Next week – Part 3 – Budget, Schedule, and Honest Feedback

Transparency: A Lesson Learned by Dana Harrison, PMP

January 9th, 2014

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The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.

-Socrates

Knowledge is power is an old adage, but it certainly rings true every day in project management. That power can be abused, however. You don’t want to simply hold onto the information in order to retain the power, but instead use the power of the information to empower your team.

We have seen first-hand how transparency leads to successful projects and it always seems to come back to communication. Good communication is vital to any and every project.  One of the best communication tools we have experienced is to ask team members at the end of every meeting if there is anything about the project that is keeping them up at night.  Stressing in meetings that you want to know the good, the bad and the ugly about the project helps ensure that all details, whether pretty or not, stay in the light. It is better to be able to make informed decisions based upon all the information than on only part.

Time is another crucial consideration when it comes to transparency. It is simple. The more time that passes without the owner knowing the issues, the more detrimental that problem will become. They can only use their resources to assist in solving the issue if they know about it.

Transparency equals collaboration. Transparency develops trust within the project team and keeps every team member working toward the common goal. Frequent face to face team meetings with all accountable parties together will help make this happen.  Less interaction allows for distance and disconnect to creep in and cause problems.  Noble Energy likes to have meeting outcomes clearly defined at the beginning of the meeting so everyone knows what exactly they are working towards. Meetings are considered safe, productive places to discuss issues without judgment or finger pointing.

Go forth and be transparent!

Dana Harrison, PMP identifies the required outcomes for the meeting

Dana Harrison, PMP identifies the required outcomes for the meeting!

A Hospital Pharmacy Renovation – Milestone On Times, Issue #7, October 2010

August 19th, 2013

Here at Milestone, we have so much good information that is sent out over a variety of media, that we thought it would be a good idea if we brought up some past articles from our quarterly newsletter, Milestone On Times.  This article on one of our Pharmacy Renovations, was in the October 2010 issue of MoT.

We hope you enjoy it:

St. Luke’s Hospitals Complete Two USP 797-Compliant Pharmacy Renovations

SLEH Pharmacy
Photography by Geoff Lyon

St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital recently completed renovations to bring their pharmacies into compliance with USP 797 guidelines.

At St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, it was determined by the Pharmacy Department that a new negative pressure chemotherapy prep room was needed in order to comply with USP 797. Because the existing clean room and pharmacy work rooms were required to remain operational during the entirety of the construction, much time was spent planning the construction and occupation sequence.  Careful coordination of the equipment relocation ensured that the pharmacy suffered no downtime; the staff always had ability to prepare IVs and chemotherapy products.

At St. Luke’s The Woodlands, the renovation included the expansion of the existing pharmacy and lab by nearly 1,300 SF. To meet the requirements of USP 797, a new chemotherapy prep room, IV prep room and an anteroom were added.  In order to maintain pharmacy operations, the project was design to be completed in three separate phases, which would require a minimum of three separate TDSHS inspections. To renovate the existing clean room, a temporary clean room was setup outside of the project area so that operations could continue. And with a little creativity, the project team was able to sequence the construction (rather than complete the work in phases) so that only an 80% and 100% inspection were required.

Milestone Project Management was engaged by St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System to manage the design and construction process for both projects.

PhiloWilke Partnership (Architecture) and Telios (MEP) comprised the design team for the St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital renovation.  WS Bellows’ Medical Center Renovation Team served as the Construction Manager.

For the Woodlands’ hospital, HGA provided both architecture and MEP engineering services. Forney Construction was the Construction Manager.

Passion in Project Management

July 29th, 2012

We set up the plays to be made by our teammates

At Milestone we take ownership and great pride in our client’s projects.  There is no motivation we have other than moving the project from a vision to a reality.

Although Milestone is comprised of architects, engineers and contractors, we do not construct, nor do we design – what we do is extend the clients culture and philosophies through ourselves and  into the project.  We are a conduit, an extension of staff, we organize and facilitate.

We organize and facilitate, not only for our Owner’s, but for the entire project team.  We account for the issues and chase down tasks for the design team.  We proactively work with the construction team on schedules, budgets, site logistics and other hurdles that they encounter.

We position ourselves at the center of the communication stream, brokering and recording the decisions on issues, tracking the outcomes. We’re the one-stop-shop of project information, johnny on the spot with answers when anyone on the team has questions. We don’t let anything “get lost in the details” because we know it’s those details that can make or break a project.

We have a client that “doesn’t like project management firms”.  Period, full stop.  Milestone has been working for him for almost five years.  I believe that this is because we are not a “project management firm” in his mind.  We are on his team.  He is the quarterback, we do the downfield blocking…the front line work…we are the unsung Tackles and Guards that provide the Receivers and Running Backs the opportunities to move the ball forward and succeed.

In the end, its about passion.  The zeal to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and believe me – or clients are doing some pretty amazing stuff.  It is personally fulfilling to us on a very base level to have brought the first Cyberknife to Houston, the first Gamma Knife technology to The Woodlands, building a state of the art laboratory in which Dr. Doris Taylor is growing hearts out of stem cells, to extending the corporate culture of the leader in natural gas exploration – these clients are changing the lives of so many people worldwide.  Its the knowledge that we are doing projects to help people not only in our communities, but in lands that I may never see.  Passion.

Scott LaTulipe, football fan, is anticipating the beginning of the new season.  Ask him about his fantasy football team!

“If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.” – Vince Lombardi

CONSEQUENCES OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT by Bill Eide

July 12th, 2012

Well, the suspense is over, the last shoe has dropped with the Supreme Court upholding the majority of the Affordable Care Act. Now it is time to begin implementing the various aspects of the new law.

Throughout the last half of the 20th century the U.S. healthcare industry has been impacted, directed and increasingly regulated by the federal government.  Regulation, from the Hill-Burton Act of 1946, Medicare in 1965, Community Planning and it’s reliance on the Certificate of Need to regulate the supply of healthcare of the 1970s, to DRG’s in 1983 and the Balanced Budget Act of the mid 90s  - all have driven capital facility responses.  Every act has had it consequences.

The Affordable Care Act may be another and perhaps the first real serious step to controlling healthcare cost. Or it may be just another set of rules to be gamed by very smart healthcare, medical and insurance administrators.  Regardless, there are drivers that will have significant impact on the programming, planning, design and construction of healthcare facilities.  Two factors will drive the development of facilities:

1)   Tens of millions of Americans will have access to healthcare insurance.

2)   Reimbursement rates will go down.

These two factors more than anything else will become the challenge for facility design and construction – to support the institution in its efforts to maintain their economic viability and healthcare mission.

In my opinion, the most likely facility responses will include the demand for greater staff efficiency, the optimization of productive care and higher utilization rates.

Staff Efficiency

We’re going to hear a lot more about staff efficiency, which is having the right expertise, in the right place, at the right time and with the necessary tools at hand to support the care.  Every moment will count; it may not be life-supporting but it could make the difference in having a profitable operation and therefore having healthcare available.  Look for highly specialized medical treatment centers to develop around a specific medical need or procedure.  Efficiency will drive the further specialization (assuming the volume is there) to reduce the cost of the treatment.

Productive Medicine

Productive care will require that patients receive the least amount of care at the point that it does the greatest good.  Preventive and early intervention care will drive the need for more outpatient and physician support care centers. (Better to get a pneumonia vaccination before you get sick than a shot of penicillin when you get sick or spend a week in an intensive care unit fighting pneumonia).  Look for the development of more immediate care or walk-in care centers; the development of community, neighborhood and school-based clinics will lead the way to keep people out of the hospital.  Long term, the need for hospital beds should begin to decline as productive use of medicine drives down the demand for beds.  Hospitals should evolve into critical care centers and will only serve the sickest of the sick.

Utilization

Closely associated with Productive Medicine is the utilization of equipment and facilities.  Utilization rates must continue to increase.  Facility programming and design must allow for patient flow and staff efficiency that keeps the equipment and facility working.  An extra 80 to 100 square feet for an additional dressing room may be a great investment if it allows for another MRI test every 8 hours.  Planning will have to stop basing space programs on “average” patient utilization rates and start basing it on desired optimization rates and return on investment.

There will undoubtedly be other drivers and responses that will, from time to time, come to the surface and create opportunities for new facilities – this is after all the United States, home of entrepreneurs.  The basic intent of the Affordable Care Act is to make healthcare accessible to the millions of citizens without healthcare insurance and to reduce the total cost of healthcare.  However, it may be the unintended consequences that provide the greatest facility challenges and opportunities for the future.  Stay tuned to this blog as we explore the healthcare landscape for the first signs of the unintended consequences of more federal regulation.

Bill Eide has been developing, planning and building healthcare facilities ALMOST since the Hill-Burton Act was enacted.

#Social Madness is here, and Milestone is “in it to win it”

May 31st, 2012

Beginning June 1, 2012, the Business Journals in 43 cities across the United States are hosting a social media competition.  Companies had to apply to be included in the competition, and Milestone Project Management was one of the firms to be selected to compete.  We are very excited, but we NEED YOUR HELP!!!

I know what you are saying….”but Scott, how can I help Milestone win this competition, what with my busy work day and all??”

The answer, Virginia, is quite easy!

First, go to our website www.MilestonePM.com and click on the #Social Madness button.

Secondly, LIKE us on Facebook!!

Lastly, follow us on Twitter!!

The first round of competition ends on June 19th, with the top 8 companies in our “Houston <100 Employees” bracket moving on to compete for the overall Houston “Houston <100 Employees” winner, to be announced on July 17th.

From there, all the city champs will be competing against each other nationally, with the three size category winners announced on September 11th.

Please help us put forth a strong effort by telling all of your friends, relatives, fans and colleagues about Milestone Project Management.

WE ARE IN IT TO WIN IT!!!

Project Steering – a project management philosophy at Milestone

May 18th, 2012

Milestone has a reputation for customer service and support, which is manifested through the philosophy of “Project Steering”.

Project Steering is a framework for decision making that provides expertise, guidance and assistance to the Owner. Through project steering Milestone defines the issues, objectives, requirements and goals to enable the Owner to make decisions quickly and with confidence.

The tenants of Project steering are to fully understand the people and positions, policies and procedures and project objectives (cost, schedule, market strategy, etc.).  By building your knowledge bank while familiarizing yourself with schedules, project cost estimates,  and contracts, the project manager becomes armed with the basic information of the “ground rules” of the project and then can craft an implementation strategy supported on that foundation.

Collaboration is the key to continuously refining the project data and assigning tasks and accountability to the project team.  We ask your team members for commitments and hold them accountable for their actions.  We lead meetings – communicating and facilitating discussions for decision making and information gathering – these are the core functions of a Milestone project manager that is implementing Project Steering.  We believe that the Owner, through the project manager, should maintain the project documentation and be responsible for meeting minutes and action items.  We are accountable to our team, we provide timely information, seek out questions and answers and remain accountable after the project is completed and occupied.

We invite participation in lessons learned sessions and when required we provide constructive criticism and implement plans for improvement.

One of the most important things we do is say “please” and “thank you.”  We also Smile – it sounds trite and perhaps a little naive, but its one of the key components to this philosophy, and its very easy to do every time.

Milestone recommends that every project manager read Barbara Bryson’s “The Owner’s Dilemma” for more detailed information on the philosophy of Project Steering.

Success is defined through metrics.  We work to quantify success based on the Owner’s measuring the basis in objectives: time, cost, project requirements and objective/definable goals.  We also seek to quantify the intangibles such as the level of satisfaction with the outcomes and the willingness to work together on future efforts.

You must establish:

  • Common Ground
  • Shared Goals and Objectives
  • Metrics of Success

The advantages of our approach:

  • Experience-based management decision support
  • A collaborative effort
  • All team members are valued
  • Early team involvement optimizes the potential value of the team
  • Definable and measurable goals and objectives
  • Cost and schedule control are inherent to the process
  • Involvement is welcomed and encouraged
  • Predictable and exceptional results

Don’t Get “Tripped Up” Over Flooring Issues

March 10th, 2011

Flooring in healthcare facilities continues to be a challenge in regards to the maintenance, appearance and safety of the product. Not only is it vital to select the right flooring for each room in the hospital as required by building codes, licensing requirements and practical considerations, but it is equally critical to properly prepare the subsurface (concrete slab or other material) to assure the proper installation of the floor.

With the introduction of water-based adhesives, there has been a growing problem of flooring failure with regards to the separation of the flooring from the subsurface material or concrete slab. The failure is generally caused by excess water vapor off gassing from the concrete slab as it cures, or the presence of free water under the slab that the porous concrete wicks to the surface of the slab. Concrete never stops curing, but it will eventually reach a point where the amount of free water or vapor is negligible and will not affect the flooring mastic. Further compounding this problem is the pressure to complete projects faster, which often results in the concrete not being cured to a point that water and water vapor are reduced to an acceptable minimum. Often, buildings are enclosed early, which in turn traps water and humidity in the building. The building materials, including the concrete, absorb the water. The trapped moisture will eventually find its way to the surface of the slab and interfere with the flooring mastic.

Be sure to check out our next Milestone (on) Times for our in-depth look at the problems that can arise when flooring is not installed properly and what steps you should take to resolve these issues.

Example of Flooring with Slab Moisture Issue