The pressure to deliver projects with the highest quality, most competitive price, and at a record pace is as fierce as ever in the AEC industry. Achieving these outcomes requires exceptional project management – but design professionals rarely receive training in this skillset before entering the workforce. So how can professional services firms equip their staff with high quality project management skills?
The first step is communication. Firm leadership needs to clearly illustrate that effectively managed projects lead to increased profits, stronger relationships, and repeat work.
The next step is to set new project management standards through innovative, value-added programs. Focus on creating tangible benefits to your employees, such as:
- Access to technology and collaboration tools that empower them to coordinate resources
- Guidance on enhancing communication with both internal and external project teams
- Comprehensive training on all project phases that focuses on the achievement of critical client goals
- Formal and informal mentorship from experienced staff
- An environment of cooperation and mutual respect
- A culture that encourages all team members to innovate along the way
A Case Study
GHT has centered its project management program around five key areas: training, technology, tools, mentorship, and culture. This ensures that we build the technical skills of our engineers as well as foster continual learning and improve communication abilities. Key elements of our program include:
- GHT University, which offers monthly lunch programs on topics that address all aspects of our business. All staff are welcome and anyone can be a presenter. Some of the latest courses have included Innovative MEP Systems; Client Communication Tips; Best Practices for NewForma; and ENERGY STAR® Benchmarking. GHT University also provides discipline-specific training for technical staff.
- Monthly project management seminars where Senior Project Managers share lessons learned. Recent topics have included Managing Project Completion, Effective Email Communication, and Scheduling Resources. Project case studies are also presented.
- Free online training through Red Vector. Employees can learn when it’s convenient for them, earn continuing education credits, and choose from a wide range of courses – from MEP design concepts and LEED commissioning to effective listening and proposal development.
- Technology that enhances project management. Our staff uses Newforma for project information management and Deltek Vision Planning for budgets, project planning, and scheduling. In addition, GHT’s VPN system and electronic project documentation provide project managers with easy access to information whether in the office or working remotely.
- Formal and informal mentoring. Section Heads in each MEP discipline offer design guidance, technical support, quality control, and workload management to technical staff. Informal mentoring also takes place organically through our open-door culture – literally. Very few of our workspaces have doors!
- Cultural touchstones that reinforce our project management goals. GHT’s internal mantra is “Whatever it Takes,” a slogan that is repeated at company meetings, featured on office signage, and used on employee promo items. Our annual “Whatever it Takes” and “Drive to Innovate” awards celebrate staff achievements in project management and design excellence.
It’s clear that exceptional project management is the key to thriving in today’s AEC market. How would you define an effective project manager? We’d love to hear about successful programs that other firms have implemented and encourage you to contact us.
Kristine Barr, CDT is a Senior Associate of GHT and Director of Project Management and Administration. In her role, she develops and implements GHT’s firmwide programs for project development, budgeting, scheduling, resource management, construction phase administration, and staff training. Kristine also provides critical project and client coordination that ensures our workload and deliverables stay on track.