Do You Know Why Construction Projects Fail?


“Yesterday we had a meeting with a client…there was an uncomfortable vibe because you know, we’re about to get some shit out on the table…”

This is a direct quote from a construction company owner I recently spoke with.

A Failing Project

If you’re a contractor it sounds familiar.

You know the type of project:  Lousy plans, unrealistic schedules, poor communication

The project stalls, stress levels rise, profit fades.

And then you get an email like this:

“You guys aren’t performing. We’re getting somebody else to come in and do the job.”

Isn’t it frustrating when issues come up and people default to CYA?

They hide behind email chains and threatening voice mails.

Why Does Failure Occur?

Conflict is avoided, blame is shifted, contracts are broken, many times, without giving you the courtesy of a face to face meeting.

Why does this happen? People are lazy, selfish, weak, and fearful.

How Is Failure Avoided?

Here’s what the construction company owner said:

“that’s never gonna be accepted by me, and certainly not through email. I mean we’re gonna talk, I’m gonna come see you, I’m gonna find you before I let you go down this road.”

Choose to be resilient, selfless, strong and brave.

Choose to Have Difficult, Face-to-Face Conversations

Use this five-step process:

  1. Get as much information as necessary. Knowledge is power, and the more you know the better you’ll be able to cut through emotions, focus on facts, and move toward resolution.
  2. Know your audience. If you come on too strong with some people they’ll withdraw and you’ll get nowhere. Others won’t respect you unless you “step-up” and it will be difficult to reach an equitable solution. So, be flexible.
  3. Be honest. If you’ve screwed up, own up. Be the first to admit mistakes, it will make it easier for others to admit their mistakes.
  4. Once the air is clear use the face to face meeting as an opportunity to make any necessary changes to the plan.
  5. Look your project partners in the eye and get straightforward accountability commitments. Focus specifically on how issues will be dealt with in the future, and what agreements everyone will make regarding how and when communication takes place.

From Failure to Success

The construction contractor I was talking with was willing to have the difficult conversation, and this was the outcome:

“[We] put the issues out on the table, and worked together to come up with solution to resolve the issues in such a way that it won’t have a negative impact on the project.   And I think in the end, it was a very productive meeting both for our team and their team…and ultimately it was determined that we can work around every one of the challenges.”

Commit to Success

“How do you bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” Ernest Hemingway

Take a look at the projects that you are currently responsible for.

Which ones have the long, unresolved email chains?

Are there any outstanding issues that you’re are hoping will just resolve themselves?

Are there any conversations that you’re avoiding?

Don’t allow this to result in failure.

Choose to Be Successful

Dive in, schedule face-to-face meetings with your project partners, and commit to difficult, truthful conversations.


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