In this episode, I talk to Joanna Mason, P.E., a senior project manager at Schnabel Geostructural Design & Construction, about the challenges and best practices of managing complex construction projects, covering topics ranging from communication and coordination with stakeholders to ensuring project success within budget and timeline constraints. Joanna also shares her expertise in documenting and mitigating risks and how she ensures safety measures are in place to keep people safe and productive while on the job.
***You can view the video version of this episode here.***
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Joanna:
- What major challenges did you face when managing larger geotechnical projects, and how did you address them?
- Can you talk about your experience in effectively managing stakeholder communication for geotechnical projects?
- Can you explain your approach to documenting and mitigating expense risks in geotechnical projects, particularly when encountering challenges like unknown utilities or unexpected foundations?
- What key factors contribute to the success of projects that are completed on time and within budget? In addition, based on your experience, what measures are essential to achieving this outcome?
- What best practices or recommendations do you have for project managers in effectively managing both internal and external resources?
- What is the role of safety in managing large geotechnical projects, and how do you ensure the implementation of safety engineering controls to maintain both productivity and the well-being of everyone involved?
- How do you effectively balance the requirements of your projects with the concerns of the surrounding community and the environment?
- Can you share an example of a challenging geotechnical project you managed, the difficulties you faced, and how you successfully navigated and resolved them?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About the Challenges and Best Practices for Managing Complex Construction Projects:
- One of the key challenges in managing larger geotechnical projects is dealing with unforeseen conditions not mentioned in the initial reports, such as old foundations and varying underground water conditions, which require adjustments to initial assumptions and design parameters. The extensive document reading involved in sifting through geotechnical reports and making cost-efficient design decisions also adds to the complexity of the task.
- Effectively managing stakeholder communication in geotechnical projects involves transparent relationships, clear expectations, navigating inspections, and educating stakeholders on unique geotechnical considerations, regional variations, and project complexities.
- Effectively mitigating expense risks in geotechnical projects involves promptly identifying and notifying clients of change conditions, estimating additional costs, seeking early buy-in, and collaborating to find solutions, ultimately mitigating risks and minimizing expenses.
- The key factors contributing to successful projects that are completed on time and within budget include effectively managing priorities, tackling the most impactful tasks first, utilizing available company resources and references, being confident and knowledgeable in addressing questions, and recognizing the evolving nature of the relatively new specialty geotechnical industry.
- Planning plays a crucial role in effectively managing internal and external resources, allowing project managers to anticipate and address challenges, such as material lead times, industry changes, inflation, and labor shortages, while also emphasizing the importance of trust in the day-to-day managers and superintendents who handle personnel management, making them a valuable resource for successful project execution.
- To cultivate a strong safety culture in large geotechnical projects, it is important to prioritize clean and organized job sites, comply with safety regulations, use specialized equipment, provide appropriate personal protective equipment, and promote a collaborative environment where individuals look out for each other’s safety.
- Balancing project needs with community and environmental concerns requires effective communication and addressing worries about noise, dust, and vibrations through mitigation measures, such as using water for dust control and employing quieter construction methods. Adapting to community feedback, prioritizing safety, and minimizing disruptions in urban areas are essential considerations in this process.
- During a challenging project in an old rail yard in Alexandria, VA, Joanna encountered numerous failed tiebacks due to incorrect grouting techniques by their driller. This led to questioning from the client and the need to reinstall all tiebacks quickly. Joanna took ownership of the mistake, prioritized resources from other projects, and focused on finding the real problem. Ensuring a high-quality end product was essential, considering the safety of the public who would walk on the sidewalks nearby.
More Details in This Episode…
About Joanna Mason, P.E.
Joanna Mason, P.E., is a senior project manager at Schnabel Geostructural Design & Construction. She has 16 years of experience in the heavy civil industry specializing in the design and construction of excavation support systems and deep foundation elements. In her current position at Schnabel, she manages large projects and assists in the business development of the mid-Atlantic market.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success