Jun 11 2019
When I deliver training courses for construction project teams, one of the key messages that I try to get across is:
“It’s no use getting the small details right, if you don’t get the big details right”
Recently, our family was watching a wonderful movie called Mousehunt and this piece of advice was encapsulated beautifully.
In this story, Ernie and Lars Smuntz inherit an old house that they discover is historically significant and very valuable. They decide to fix the property up and sell it. However, a mouse is living in the place and does not want to be made homeless. The battle for residency between the rodent and the brothers becomes the central conflict of the story.
In one set-piece, the two men meticulously lay out thousands of mousetraps in a room, before realising that they have entrapped themselves because they cannot open the door from the room. The mouse then triggers all the traps and the incompetent pair end up covered in them.
Figure 1 - The Smuntz brothers covered in mousetraps after they were set off by the rodent they were trying to catch
The Smuntz’s did what I always advise projects teams to avoid; they focused only on the small details, but forgot to pay attention to the big details. In this instance, the big detail was their exit from the room after the traps had been set in place.
The most common way in which UK construction projects are divided into their different stages of delivery is the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work. It has eight, interrelated stages, as illustrated below.
Figure 2 - The 8 stages of the RIBA Plan of Work
When I present this 8-stage process and talk about project delivery, I always stress to my delegates that they cannot just focus on small details. These small details may be the size of a chiller, what type of carpet goes in the boardroom, how many days are required commission the lighting system, or what the cost of plasterboard partitions is. Project teams must focus on the big details.
One big detail that project teams need to get right is their overall project delivery process. But it is not just a question of having a process such as the RIBA Plan of Work in place; this is a form of project delivery, not a formula that guarantees success. Success also requires project personnel to make sure they do what is required at each stage before progressing to the next stage. This requires skill, care and real discipline to refrain from building things and commissioning systems until all pre-requisites are in place.
When there is this combination of the right process in place and the skill, care and discipline to manage progress through the different stages of the process, project teams create their exit door from the project. By this, I mean that a team can exit their project in a more professional manner. The increased professionalism comes about because they will not have just safely delivered a project on time and on budget, they will also have delivered a building that meets the needs of the people that use, manage, operate and maintain it.
So, if you want to avoid the fate of the Mousehunters Ernie and Lars Smuntz who entrapped themselves, make sure that you have a continuous, dual focus on the small details and the bigger picture.