Reasons Why Your Construction Project Might Fail
Updated: Jan 24
There are multiple reasons why Sydney construction projects fail, and it usually comes down to a lack of leadership and poor project management skills.
Most project failures can be avoided. Sure there will be adverse weather events, there will be equipment breakdowns, there will be difficult clients or there will be suppliers and subcontractors that let you down.
But these events probably occur on every home construction project and things will go wrong on every construction project. Good construction managers and leaders will deal with these problems effectively and will avoid many of the problems in the first place.
Great builders will mitigate the worst of the impacts caused by the issues, they’ll put in measures to get the project on track again, and they’ll put in procedures to avoid the problem from occurring again.
So why do some construction problems arise?
Complacency. Builders are often too optimistic and assume that conditions will be perfect for your construction project and that no one will let the project down. You can never be complacent. The next problem could be right around the corner on every construction project and builders need to be on guard at all times.
No early warning systems in place. No project reporting system or deadlines. Project health needs to be checked in real-time. Proper construction schedules, quality, safety and costings need to be in place and checked regularly. How do you know there’s a problem if the builder is not monitoring your project? How do you know when it’s business as usual and a issues is not developing?
Ignoring the warnings. Where there’s smoke - there’s fire! Yet many builders show they’re losing money, they fall behind schedule, their occupational health and safety policies are lacking, but many builders fail to take action.
Assuming the problem will sort out itself. This is wishful thinking and we’ve never had a problem on a construction project fix itself. Your project won't just miraculously get back on schedule or turn a loss into a profit. Active intervention by your builder is required. Fires don’t go out on their own – they need human intervention, or a weather event, or they run out of fuel.
Arrogance. Many builders don’t want to get their hands dirty and instead rely heavily on the contractors to do the heavy lifting. The problem is beneath them. Those below them must sort the problems out and tell them when it’s fixed. Indeed if your builder is incapable of solving the issue then the short answer is that the builder is not right for your project. Leaving others to sort problems out is not a solution.
Taking action too late. Often construction problems are allowed to develop and become a full blown major issue before any action is taken. By then the problem has done irreversible damage and will be extremely difficult to fix. Putting fires out when they’re small is far easier than trying to put out a raging inferno.
Taking inappropriate action, or too little action. Many problems should be tackled head-on with the right resources, in the right quantity. Sometimes construction problems are made worse by actions which resulted in inappropriate solutions. Rather know what the issue is and plan the best way to solve it as quickly as possible, even if those actions are going to cost a bit more money to resolve.
Avoiding the hard problems. Builders will know when your project is in trouble because they will avoid visiting troubled projects. Who wants to visit a construction project in trouble where you could be heckled by an angry client, or face a construction team desperate for help? It’s much more fun to visit a project where everything is going well and the client showers you with praise.
Not being accountable for mistakes. It’s easy for builders to blame freak events or the weather. Better still if we can blame someone else for the fault. But of course none of this actually helps solve the issue, but at least we can wash our hands and feel good about our self and our actions (or lack of action).
Failing to consult those on the ground. It’s easy for builders to walk around and handout platitudes, yet actually achieve nothing. It’s often hands-on action required. Always remember to thank and help those fighting the problem at the coalface.
Relying on past solutions. Some problems require innovative new solutions. Some problems are too big for previously used solutions. At times, previous solutions aren’t the best solution.
Not listening to experts. None of us knows everything. Experts can often provide valuable advice and solutions. We need to share knowledge and experience to solve problems, to manage future issues better, and to prevent the same mistakes from being made.
Not asking for help. Sometimes we need help. Never be too proud to ask for help. Builders should always be prepared to offer help and advice when it’s needed.
Not admitting there’s a problem. Admitting that there’s a problem means that people can take action to fix the issue. If the builder knows that the construction project is going to lose money they can put in measures to manage the damage to their balance sheet and cash-flow.
Having no plan in place to solve the problem, and no plan to deal with the aftermath and damage caused by the issue.
Of course there are other reasons that construction projects fail, such as; a lack of planning, no teamwork, poor pricing and budgeting, et cetera.
But, failing to recognise problems and then dealing with the issue and it's consequences quickly and decisively, is often the death of construction projects leading to the demise of both the builder AND the client.
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