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What is a Construction Management Plan?

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Man standing in front of large construction paln

Any complex building project integrates a vast number of elements; the construction management plan, or CMP, is one of them. You might think of it as a travel plan that charts your path from point A to your destination—Switzerland, say. To go to Switzerland, you’ll likely start by creating the perfect trip in your mind. Let’s imagine you’re an enthusiastic hiker and you’re mad about Appenzeller cheese—maybe you’ve got this idea that part of the trip should be about hiking to a Swiss dairy farm to see how Appenzeller is made.

Way before you’re on that plane, you’ll be looking at your calendar, looping in potential travel partners, booking tickets and reserving accommodations, considering risks and insurance options, checking out car rentals or train schedules and surfing restaurant reviews. You’ll want to know which Swiss dairy farms near the town of Appenzell welcome visitors. As things move along, you’ll be thinking about what to pack, pet care, who’s going to water the plants and so on.

Elaborating a management plan for a construction project is similar, in that a successful outcome very much depends on the solidity and precision of the plan. Being fussy about details early on really pays off when you’re ready to roll.

When should the construction plan be defined?

By now you’ll have figured out that here at Stonemark, we are strongly in favor of bright and early plan definition. Much of the success of the entire construction management process rests on the pre-planning—or design concept—phase and the planning phase per se. This is where construction project management takes on its full meaning. The construction management (CM) team is going to get the ball rolling early. They make sure that the owner’s vision is feasible within the budget and time limitations they have in mind. They take all possible parameters into consideration and fold them into the construction phase plan, because that’s what they’re good at.

Then, when it’s time for the building to begin in earnest, the CM refers to that specific phase of the construction project management plan and uses it to gauge quality and adherence to cost and schedule on the worksite. The plan includes allowances for change—adaptability is key. For reasons that range from a shift in the owner’s goals or color preferences to unpredictable trucks breaking down, jobsite injuries or veritable “acts of God,” the need to readjust is a given in construction.

If you wanted to break down the different stages of a typical construction management plan, they might look something like this:

  • Design or initiation of a project. Is this a viable project in terms of time, cost, and vision? A critical phase of the plan. Lots of discussions with owners or agents to get a clear sense of their desires and anticipated outcomes. Lots of preliminary teamwork. Definition of the project initiation document (PID).
  • Planning & scheduling. Fundamental guidelines are established, including scope, cost and schedule, then fine-tuned. Risk is defined and possible solutions mapped out according to a number of scenarios. There’s a clear understanding of who is responsible for what. The CM’s preferred construction management software is used to pull it all together and estimate time, risk and cost of permits, contractors, insurance, labor, materials and so on—down to the last coat of paint. In project management, this is also the contract planning phase. The CM ensures that there is effective communication throughout.
  • Construction Management Procurement and requests for proposals (bidding/tendering)from architects and engineers to contractors—general, specialty, specialized equipment, furnishings and landscapers—and on and on. Every viable proposal is examined in the light of the owner’s priorities and the contractors’ ability to follow through. 
  • Construction/execution including monitoring/progress markers, contract administration, effective communication (always), risk management, job site safety, adherence to rules and regulations, etc. Everything that happens on the job site is recorded in logs, diaries and field reports.
  • Delivery, happy owners and post-construction including an assessment report of successful completion of the project as defined.

What the plan maps out are a seemingly endless number of considerations, many (or most) of which may not have occurred to the non-professional (as in, did you know that Switzerland runs on 230V electricity and their hexagonal sockets are quite unique?). The overall plan will include specific sections that may include a workplace health and safety plan, a project risk management plan, a financial management plan, etc.

Note that contract planning in project management is a related topic, but contract planning focuses more on the legal side of things. The CMP, again, is an elaborate travel plan that covers every imaginable aspect of the undertaking so that once things start moving, the process unfolds as seamlessly as humanly possible. Bon voyage!


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