As a construction manager, our role at Lundy is to work side by side with our clients, acting as their advocates in all matters relating to the planning, design, and construction phases of a project.

The method of construction management delivery has been well-tested over the last many years in the Ottawa construction industry. Buyers of construction services seek the many advantages of having their builders at the table early in design, providing full visibility of all costs, collaborating on trade selection decisions, and strategizing around budget, schedule, and logistics. Properly executed, the CM delivery method eliminates the naturally adversarial positions between builder and owner in traditional contracting agreements. CM also allows for work to start well in advance of design being complete – a strategy that can substantially accelerate project completion.

CM has long been a favourite project delivery approach of Lundy because we are a relationships-based company. This means that our focus throughout every project is to establish a deep sense of confidence and trust with our clients and team members. We even have a company mantra: Relationships Over Bricks. In other words, CM delivery gives us the freedom to prioritize relationships with our clients, consultants and trades in order to harness the power of fully optimized teams. We believe the core purpose of a high functioning team in construction is to simplify the inevitable complexities of a construction project, while safeguarding our clients and their investments during all phases of work.

That all sounds great, doesn’t it? Is this as foolproof and fantastic as it sounds? Not quite, according to many buyers of construction and industry insiders I’ve spoken to.

Client reps and design consultants report many cases where CM project targets have been missed, and that using the CM approach does not guarantee success. The reasons can be as varied as the projects themselves. However, here are a few of the key reasons that I have found through literally hundreds of conversations on the subject, which help explain why this type of project delivery can fall short of expectations:

S.P.R.H (Square Peg, Round Hole) Syndrome – This is where a general contractor (GC) tries, and fails to make the leap to fill the role of CM. No matter how many times they tell their client they are the CM, they still behave like a GC. Perhaps it’s due to having operated for decades using the traditional lump sum contracting approach. This builder simply can’t bring themselves to open their books, they can’t stop blaming “the documents” for all the issues on the project, and they can’t put the client’s interests first. This sounds critical, but it’s not. It’s really a question of company culture and this is the real basis of square pegs and round holes in CM. Some builders are simply programed to do it the traditional way – to follow the drawings. Constructability analysis is not a skillset their team possesses, and an incomplete set of drawings is something to be rejected – not, as we see it, to be embraced as a member of the project team.

Issues Without Solutions – Owners and client reps have related to me how frustrating it is to bring a builder onto the team early, only to find that their approach is to place the issues they encounter at the feet of the owner and design team for them to solve. The conversation boils down to: “Here is x problem. Let me know when you have a solution and I’ll tell you what it costs.” This is obviously related to the point above, where we see company culture issues derailing CM delivery benefits. Buyers of CM services have a right to expect total engagement from their builders, and at Lundy, we believe that CMs must bring a menu of solutions / recommendations with every issue that is unearthed.

The Paper Pusher – Some who are appointed CM come to the table with the understanding that they are there to be “a middleman”. They believe their responsibility is primarily limited to passing information from trade to consultant (and owner’s rep). This results in a general lack of accountability on the project and this, in turn, leads to an ever growing mountain of unsolved issues. A CM, in my opinion, cannot take an arm’s length approach to its role. Owners and consultants rely on the CM to actively interpret information received and course-correct on an ongoing basis. A CM must show strength in how it gathers project data and dispenses information and an owner must feel the engagement or they will wonder why they bothered using the CM approach in the first place.

The Leadership Void – To really grasp the concept of CM, and the many benefits of this delivery method for construction projects, one must appreciate the power of robust, upfront planning. For a project to go phenomenally well, it must be planned out to an extreme level of detail before digging starts. This is the real work of the CM – and a CM without a plan is truly a ship without a rudder. A CM without a plan cannot possibly lead the project to a successful completion. In this case, the strongest subcontractor will usually drive the project – for as long as they are on site anyway (and probably not in the direction of the client’s best interest).

So has Lundy Construction cracked the code to phenomenal project success through CM? Not 100% of the time. It’s been a journey and we have learned a great deal through our mistakes over the years. However, we remain really, really focused on getting CM right, and redefining the degree of value that clients can receive in the process.

In subsequent posts, I’ll be explaining how Lundy is changing the CM game. I’ll cover subjects like:

  • Our reinvention of how we engage with trades in order to create stronger commitments to schedule.
  • How we are using Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) to bridge the gap that has historically existed between what designs intend and what builders understand to be required.
  • How we are answering the increased need for team collaboration in sussing out issues and conflicts with the design before we start work on site.
  • How we are opening up more efficient communication channels with our project teams so that issues are identified and solved in a fraction of the time it used to take.
  • How we build trust and confidence with our clients through project transparency and direct access to project data anytime, anywhere.

I have never been so excited about the work we do and the new opportunities that my incredible team has found to improve how CM services are delivered. In many ways, technology has opened the door for us to take construction management to the next level. At the same time, the fundamentals of building human relationships in the workplace has never been so important.

With these concepts top of mind, we are leading the industry by finding better ways to give our clients what they are asking for. Stay tuned for subsequent blogs on CM Success Factors and the game-changing technologies at the core of our VDC efforts.

Sean Lundy