Project Manager Effectiveness in the productivity of the UK’s construction industry

Introduction

In September 2014, construction industry in the UK recorded one of the fastest growth rates that had been sustained for well over seven months. In fact, the growth rate of about 64 percent was way above what many construction analysts and economists had projected. The boom in construction industry came about amid the concerns of the recession that had rocked the euro zone. As elucidated by Fewings (2013), residential construction facilitated the growth in many ways owing to the fact that demand for housing in the UK remains high. While many pundits presume that the growth reflects ‘return to normality’ within the construction industry, it is imperative to mention that labor productivity as well as effectiveness of project managers has been instrumental in spurring the surge within the industry.

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Project manager’s effect on productivity within the construction industry

Project managers play a critical role in ensuring that their projects are completed within time by influencing the labor productivity. At the outset, the project managers have the responsibility of creating a productive management culture within the industry and organizations that they manage (Morton & Ross, 2008). Apparently, a culture where project managers assign projects to individuals without equipping them with the requisite tools and sufficient training could be counterproductive (Fewings, 2013). In such a culture, projects end up consuming huge amounts of resources without achieving the objectives (Dykstra, 2011). Project managers influence the productivity and effectiveness of the organizations by ensuring that the manage projects within a culture that motivates staff members through a competitive reward structure. This ensures that the strategic plan of the project is executed effectively. In addition, it is important to articulate that project managers are responsible for constant evaluation of the existing culture in order to align it with the productivity needs envisioned in the strategic plan.

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According to Morton & Ross (2008), project managers influence the productivity of labor creating project teams and ensuring that the teams are effective. For a team to work effectively, there are various aspects of team management that are pertinent to project teams including the ability of the manager to become a team player. This ensures that project teams work together with a shared goal of and a mission to enhance the success of the project. While it sounds easy to work within a team to achieve a common purpose, some projects are usually complex and require immense knowledge and expertise especially from members of the team (Morton & Ross, 2008). The project manager therefore should be in a position bring up a team and train them to work cohesively.

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Construction industry in the UK has faced rapid growth over the recent past due to the ability of the project managers to undertake implementation of management quality systems of the projects (Morton & Ross, 2008). Project managers ensure that the quality of the work delivered by all employees meet the internationally accepted quality standards (Fewings, 2013). The quality systems ensure that the customers’ needs are well understood and addressed. This is in addition to ensuring that there is a policy in place to ensure that management of projects meets organizational quality standards. The project managers ensure that the all project processes can adapt to all sizes of the projects both complex and simple projects and set up tools and templates that enhance effective documentation of the project (Dykstra, 2011). Due to the setting up of sufficient quality control systems, project managers have been linked to organization’s ability of meeting the needs of the customers who consequently get confidence in the projects. This improves the effectiveness of the projects.

Project managers also affect the effectiveness of productivity within the construction industry by ensuring that they consistently improve the level of project performance (Dykstra, 2011). This involves the preservation of output and delivering the project’s strategic plan in order to meet the ever-rising demand of the customers even when the pressure is extremely high. Apparently, assigning resources to emerging projects may put a strain on the resources and work balance since the resources should perform their regular roles and the assigned project. This might create tension within the workers who are required to meet the needs of their respective departments while at the same time ensuring that they perform the new tasks assigned to them (Morton & Ross, 2008). To achieve this, the project managers should be careful in resource allocation and ensure that they do not act as the impediments of project’s success but rather as the facilitators.

Factors affecting UK construction Industry

UK construction industry is influenced by a variety of factors. Primarily, the demand for housing has had an effect on the growth of the industry given the fact that majority of this growth is attributable to residential construction (Morton & Ross, 2008). In the light of increasing population that requires housing the demand has grown exponentially. Consequently, this has put a strain on the supply of construction materials and other construction-related supplies. An article relayed on BBC business section titled, ‘UK construction grows at fastest pace for seven months’ asserts that the number of subcontractors needed to meet the current demand has dropped in the fastest rate since the late 1990s (bbc.com). In addition, it is imperative to mention that construction industry also faces challenges in terms of skilled labor and tradesmen who can keep up with the current demand. This has consequently put immense pressure on the construction firms who now have to incur increased labor costs until such a time that new apprentices join the labor market (Fewings, 2013).

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In 2013, UK government aimed at spurring the construction industry by providing much needed incentives to firms working within the sector. Specifically, the government utilizes taxation regimes to encourage many firms to uptake construction projects as a means of ensuring that the demand for housing is addressed. This is in addition to encouraging firms to improve on environmental performance.  Such policies as Climate Change Levy as well as Landfill taxation regimes have all affected the construction industry as firms attempt to reduce their overhead costs and increase their competitiveness in terms of productivity of labor and effectiveness (Morton & Ross, 2008).  Over and above, construction industry faces constant changes due to the changes in technology that have affected the time, scope and costs of a project.

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Although the recession witnessed in the eurozone did not affect the construction industry in the UK, it is critical to mention that such economic shocks could have affected the industry in a huge way. Indeed, Dykstra (2011) asserts that the construction industry could have grown in a faster rate than it did were it not for economic shock witnessed in Europe. While the recession did not affect the construction industry in a direct way, such policies as austerity measures erected to counter the collapse of the euro have fundamentally affected the interest rates. In addition, they have affected the capital costs of initiating construction projects within the country (Morton & Ross, 2008). To that end, it is imperative to mention that both external and internal factors have played a crucial role of influencing the construction industry either positively or negatively.

Project manager’s role in measuring labor productivity

In light of the fact that many construction firms are aiming at improving productivity in their sites, the project managers ought to measure the productivity of the employees constantly in order to conceptualize the improvements that are needed. As espoused by Fewings (2013), this is not an easy task since the current metrics and indexes that measure productivity a relatively utilized at various stages of the project. In fact, measuring productivity in the sites presents the project managers with some of the most difficult tasks.

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The project managers have the responsibility of carrying out a thorough an analysis of data aimed at measuring the productivity of project teams and employees at construction sites (Morton & Ross, 2008). This method is relatively new within the construction industry where the evaluator collects and relates input variables to the output parameters and factors. This particular approach takes into consideration all the variables that are based on data collected from all laborers. Some of the quantifiable factors that project manager’s might utilize include the level of education for the employees and site managers, the additional work ordered by customers, the rework ordered by customers, the number of years and experience of the laborers and the level of participation demonstrated by each laborer to mention some of the parameters (Fewings, 2013). All these factors affect the level of productivity in construction site.

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After identification of the parameters that are necessary to measure the level of productivity, it is the role of the project manager to ensure that he or she calculates productivity. This is possible by expressing productivity of the employees as functional unit per labor hour of every construction task needed to be fulfilled. The project manager should use this expression to set up a system that accounts labor productivity in different sites for a specific period in order to understand and compare various trends (Morton & Ross, 2008). An analysis of the trends should help the project manager to ensure that they develop indexes to collect statistical data based on the criteria that is pertinent to the particular organization. Developing these parameters is the role of the project manager.

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Further, it is important to sieve through the data as way of examining the unproductive activities and make a determination of the actual labor hours in comparison to the budgeted hours that have been put into the project. For instance, the project manager might have utilized the hours that employees rework on a project and extra time that employees put into the project. This will provide a glimpse of the lost hours and the level of productivity across the spectrum of the projects that the organization is undertaking.

Job skills and evaluation of job description that the project manager should possess

As highlighted earlier on, the roles of a project manager involves designing, developing and implementing strategic goals of a project and coming with the deliverables that are critical to meet these goals (Morton & Ross, 2008). Project managers are also a link between the client and the organization. It is therefore the role of the project manager to ensure that the employees are sufficiently productive to meet the goals of the project and needs of the client. He or she ought to design ways of motivating employees and establishing projects teams through which the goals become achievable (Fewings, 2013). In the UK, many project managers achieve the goals by creating a performance management culture, ensuring that the organizations have high quality management systems and monitoring, evaluating and measuring labor productivity.

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Despite these seemingly demanding tasks, many managers have achieved their objectives and therefore propelled their companies to excel in the construction industry. Such renowned construction firms in the UK as Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Morgan Sindall pride themselves of competent project managers who have initiated projects and accomplished their goals (bbc.com). Should project managers’ job description change owing to the dynamic needs of the construction industry? As elucidated by Dykstra (2011), it is important to underscore that improvement in construction industry is not solely dependent on the success or failure of the project manager. Rather, it is the role of the entire team working in the construction project teams to ensure that they are able to put the labor hours into maximum productivity without compromising the quality of the project outputs. Particularly, the project manager ought to be a strong leader who values teamwork and influences the rest of the workers to put more effort in improving productivity.

The newly appointed CEO of Balfour Beatty, Leo Quinn contends that the project managers’ job description ought to be changed for improved productivity (bbc.com). The rationale is that project managers operate in dynamic contexts that require their discretion in meeting the project’s goals. In fact, it the manner in which the manager demonstrates high level of leadership that enhances their ability to become successful in their projects. To that end, project manager’s should possess skills that enables them to design and develop goals, allocate resources appropriately, create an environment of performance management, value ethics and enhance quality management systems (Dykstra, 2011).

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