I actually have a published work somewhere explaining what is required to be “a great Construction Manager”. In it I explain that the requirement is to “wear a suit and tie and walk around the construction site looking important”! To be fair to myself, though, I then went on to explain all the subtle senior management skills and construction experience required in order to be able to do that.What do we actually expect to happen on a site before someone can be labelled “a great Construction Manager”? The first thing is that they be viewed as a “leader” by all those who report to them. That is followed by also being viewed as a vital Team Member. After that we come to the project itself – it needs to finish on time, to standard and to budget.
Now we have young construction graduates who have passed their Finals, strutted round for the photos wearing their Caps and Gowns and justifiably feeling very pleased with themselves. They get a job taking them on site for the first time and that is when problems with them start. They have it in their heads that, after three years of academic study they know everything about construction! To add to that problem many of them seem to think that the skilled tradesmen should do exactly as they tell them!
Somehow we have to get it into the heads of these young graduates that someone knows far more about everything than they, or even I, do. This takes us to the starting point of this “Training”. A good idea is to get them in the office, sit them down and explain to them that they have only just started on their construction learning curve. That won’t exactly sink in too quickly!
After that have them accompany you on your site walkabouts for at least a week. They’ll hopefully notice that you don’t treat the tradesmen as inferior der-brains. Reinforce that by explaining that at least some of them are actually more intelligent than he is; they just didn’t want to become academics! That bit will sink in even more slowly! This will also begin to teach them to understand and speak Construction “Grunt”!
Another thing that a start can be made on during these walkabouts is Site Safety; most importantly, keeping themselves safe! But that is a different matter for some other time, maybe.
In between those walkabouts we can actually derive some benefit from having them on our site! A quick display of what goes where and they can do all the filing for us! Gives us the spare time to read our newspapers and do the crossword.
By this time our young graduates will be getting the idea that perhaps construction isn’t quite as simple as they had believed and that they might still have a lot to learn. We can now move on to the last leg of this initial training of them to be great Construction Managers. First thing is to tell them that, the next day, they are to turn up wearing tatty clothes! Second is to chat up ganger men and make sure they are agreeable.
Next day our aspiring young construction graduate is sent out to play with the skilled tradesmen. He’ll watch them and observe the different skill levels among the gang. Once he has settled in with them a bit he’ll have tools stuck in his hands and told to use them. He’ll make the humiliating discovery that he has no idea! A week with one set of tradesmen should be enough and them he can be moved on to the next one. By the time he has spent a week with each and every gang he’ll have learnt more about construction than he did in his 3 years at University! More importantly he’ll begin to get the idea that we all work as a team and that we aren’t like the military where one person gives the orders!
Once he has done the rounds of the trades he can be told to turn up the next day wearing his “suit and tie” and, hopefully he will then be on his way to becoming a great Construction Manager.