Lessons Learned #2: When Traveling in the Fast Lane, Look Far Ahead

I am passionate about downhill skiing. I like to ski fast! There is one thing you learn to do when you want to ski fast; you must look far ahead to see where you are going. The faster you go, the farther ahead you must look. In addition, you must be mentally prepared for what may lie ahead; what will you do when you reach that next turn? How will you react if the terrain changes? How much distance will it take you to stop suddenly? You get the point; you must anticipate and prepare for what lies ahead – it’s essential if you want to survive.

I believe the same thing can be said about managing commercial construction projects. My experience confirms that those companies which seem to survive through the toughest projects have a management team that is proactive – they know how to be forward looking.

This may seem obvious to you at first thought. You may even be thinking that this is how you man- age your projects too. However, let’s dig a bit deeper, shall we?

What exactly is “proactive management” when it comes to construction projects? I think that most project managers may be able to identify the keys to proactive management in principle, however, the difficulty comes in putting those principles into practice in the field.

Let’s look at one example: the management of the project schedule. On nearly all projects of any size, there will be an overall project schedule. That schedule information is then used to develop short-term “look-ahead schedules” for use at periodic meetings with the trades. These short-term schedules, if prepared accurately, can serve a valuable purpose. Contractors practice proactive management when they involve the subcontractors in planning their future work.

However, all too often these management actions stop at the end of the meeting. They fail to follow through into the field. Contractors and subcontractors must continue to communicate in detail about the resources that are required to execute the short-term plan successfully.

As expected, the results are painfully revealed in the following project meeting. Those who were “truly” proactive got their work accomplished, those who paid “lip service” saw their activities slide into the future. They are the cause of the delays experienced by everyone on the project.

Be proactive in managing your projects, look ahead and follow through with the details in the field so that your planned activities are successfully executed without delay. The lesson learned; you have to look far ahead when traveling in the fast lane of construction!


I drove through a major snow storm to Le Massif (Quebec province) to enjoy some of the best conditions I have ever seen in the Northeast!  LL_3_ski pictureSkiing at Le Massif gives one the illusion that you will wind up in the frozen St. Laurence River below – quite surreal. It’s worth the trip to go there in the middle of the winter; charming, with French music at the base lodge, but be sure to pack your warmest gear!

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” – David Campbell

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