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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » November 12, 2008
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Planning is Everything
November 12, 2008   
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Tadeusz Blecha, Operations Director at Bovis Lend Lease Poland (Project/Construction Management Services), talks to Beata Gołębiewska

Based on your experience in coordinating a variety of construction projects, what do you consider the biggest challenge in completing projects on budget and on time?
There are number of challenges that occur during the construction process that make it difficult to complete projects on time and on budget, especially in the case of large, complex projects. It is common that the problems with the schedule and budget occur when the project isn't sufficiently prepared in advance. My experience proves that it's crucial to work extremely hard in the pre-construction phase by establishing the investor's requirements and expectations and then steering the project in the right direction. If the preconstruction phase isn't adequately managed, and the whole project team have not fully understood the final goals for the project, the construction phase becomes an improvisation process. That's why I think that the lack of proper planning and a clear design brief from the investor are the biggest obstacles in completing project on time and on budget.

The worst-case scenario occurs in a situation when the investor asks a designer to prepare a design without a clear and precise client's brief. The brief must address the parameters and the detailed requirements of the client, including cost, schedule, quality and safety. I would call coordination of all those aspects the biggest challenge of the construction process. Not doing it at the beginning of the project results in delays in the construction process.

Detailed client's requirements and specification are the keys to success.

Have you seen a change in how construction projects are carried out now compared to 15 years ago, when you started your career?
It has definitely improved, especially in the area of safety, where "off the shelf" systems can be used effectively to provide a safer site and constantly speed up the production levels. I have noticed gradual but progressive improvement. In addition, it is easy to notice the improvement in the commercial awareness of subcontractors, they are more and more attentive of the economic situation and financial expectations. At Bovis, the situation has definitely changed, with management skills raised to a much higher level, even though there is still room for improvement.

Does the lack of qualified staff caused by the emigration affect the construction process? How do you handle that problem at Bovis Lend Lease?
Surprisingly, in the last couple of weeks, we have noticed the opposite situation. Because of the economic slowdown in western Europe, a lot of Polish employees are returning home and I am afraid that soon they might face a problem with finding a job. Well qualified staff will always find a place on the job market, with truly professional planners and commercial managers in high demand. Bovis Lend Lease has organized comprehensive training sessions for young, ambitious people who will in the future fill these positions for our projects.

Which sector - retail, industrial, commercial - is the most difficult to coordinate. Personally, which project was the most difficult for you and why?
The sector doesn't really matter. We are equally experienced and ready to manage all of them. The most difficult project to coordinate is one where Bovis was not involved early enough. Improper preparation of the project, carrying on with it and then hiring the management company - that is the most difficult project to coordinate, where key decisions have been made without the involvement of Project/Construction Managers.

What do you consider the most important lesson learned with regards to handling complex projects?
I think that all projects are difficult but the ones that give the most pleasure are the ones that turn out the way they were planned in great detail in the pre-construction phase. The key lessons I have learned during my career is the importance of adequate planning of all CM aspects (procurement strategy, scheduling, cost, quality, commissioning) and implementing adequate change control. If this is missing, many mistakes and time extensions can result, but I am happy that at Bovis we know how to prevent this.
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