10 Dos and Don’ts of Communication on Construction Projects

One of the core aims of Teambuild is to improve collaboration and communication between different disciplines on construction projects. It is a skill which is vital to the success of a project. Here Teambuild Trustee, Clinton Leeks, OBE offers his 10 rules to observe…

1. The unexpected happens in construction. 

Always make sure your client hears it from your company first. Much, much better than him or her hearing it from the lunchtime news or social media. Reporting straight away also buys you some time to then make a proper remedial plan to put to the client as soon as practicable.

2. Don’t forget your business partners and supply chain. 

Their businesses rely on strong communication with you, especially if you are the lead contractor. Your remedial plan is almost certainly going to need their cooperation. Communicate with them in the good times as well as the bad, so that communication comes naturally.

3. Don’t ignore your company’s reputation. 

Online media scrutiny and reporting works 24/7. Work hard to build your company’s and your project’s reputation, and strengthen public/media relationships in “the good times”. To do so creates “money in the bank” to draw on when times get tough—as they will.

4. Don’t underestimate the effect of your project on neighbouring communities. 

Work hard from the start to understand their concerns, and to explain how you will manage the impacts upon them—noise, air, traffic, obstructions, safety. And listen to them. You can draw upon a good relationship if there are problems later: too late then to build a relationship anew.

5. Don’t forget social media. 

Monitor the obvious platforms. Your company or your project may become a hot topic. Once a story gathers momentum on social media the growth is exponential. It becomes impossibly hard to influence or manage it. It’s then hard enough just keeping up. Benchmark against similar companies in your industry if you have doubts about the steps to take.

6. Don’t forget the good times. 

Have a plan to mark and celebrate significant milestones or achievements on your project. Not in a triumphal way, but professionally, marking that you are making progress towards project completion. Have a plan in advance to build in tangible milestones in your project programme that can be celebrated with all parties.

7. Crisis Communications. 

Don’t wait till the crisis hits to devise a communications plan: you’ll be too busy then handling the crisis to make a plan for doing so. And remember to exercise the plan regularly, so that everyone knows, whether it’s 3 am on a Sunday morning, or Christmas Eve, what part they may need to play.
8. Experts. 

Their knowledge and experience are invaluable. But they are rarely the best at communicating what they know to outsiders, especially in a crisis. Pick your spokesperson(s) based on communication skill, experience and site/project familiarity. Your experts should communicate only through them.

9. Government/public authorities. 

They may be your client as well as the legal or regulatory bodies for the project underway. But they have official public obligations in the way they handle information you give them. Communicate with them on facts, promptly and transparently—not on opinions or guesses, no matter how strongly held.

10. Never forget your mission and your big picture goal. 

Your job is to help in the completion of a project, safely, on time and within budget, of the requisite quality and providing value for money to the client. Whatever happens, as far as practicable you should keep those goals in view. To provide a completed project of which you, your company, your client, your workforce, your supply chain, your industry and your neighbourhood can be justifiably proud.

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