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One of the key ingredients in completing a project on time and on budget is momentum. Like many tasks, most of the effort is in starting the work. Think of those Monday morning blues. Now imagine a work site with a crew of 40 and how tough it is to get things moving after the weekend! A project must have momentum.

Momentum is not some magical chemistry that just happens on some sites and not on others. It can be created and managed using good project management techniques. There has to be a realistic schedule and those responsible for making things happen must understand it. With that in place, a project’s momentum is sustained by the lead contractor on site.  

 If you think of a reinforced concrete building, the formwork installer creates the momentum.  The faster he installs the forms, the faster the steel and concrete is placed and the faster the building is erected.  

 The lead sub-contractor varies depending on the stage of the works. When the concrete work begins to wind down, another sub-trade has to take the lead and the transition is crucial to sustaining the momentum.  At this point, the race is on to complete the building envelope and to create a water-tight environment suitable for many of the finishing trades to start their work. The baton will be passed to the roofers and window installers and then to the internal finishers.

Momentum can be lost on a construction project through lack of information. A well managed, successful project is the result of clear, concise and complete documentation. Imagine the time and money lost in having a team of men on site when each time they go to do something, they must stop and seek additional information.  If the answer is not straightforward or if someone is unavailable to give an immediate response, the momentum slows down. 

Another way momentum is lost is if the contractor gets the sequencing of the works wrong. An example of this would be when materials don’t arrive on site on time. This will affect the momentum of the project and add time to its completion. Unfortunately for the contractor, it also means he will make less money.

Momentum can also be lost because of changes. Changes are expensive and are the source of many disputes. Some changes come from incomplete or incorrect information on the contract documents, or there are concealed conditions at the time of tendering the work. Other changes come from owners who either did not really understanding what was drawn or change their minds.

Using good project management techniques, those things that hinder momentum and cost money could either have been anticipated and avoided or monitored and managed.

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By Chris Potter

Chris is the owner and founder of Chris Potter Associates. He is a highly experienced construction professional with experience as a contractor and consultant quantity surveyor and project manager in the UK and Caribbean construction markets.

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