Michelle LaBrosse

Planning a major overhaul or a small renovation is stressful to many home and business owners. For most, the anxiety is beyond which plumbing fixtures to change or heating system to convert to - it’s about the time and money it will take to get the job done. This is where project management comes to the rescue, letting you keep your eye on the budget and manage time effectively.

One of my Cheetah colleagues, Jean Steinmetz, leads a project management class based on her experience and knowledge about what it takes to get home renovations done from the starting line to the finish in record time and within budget.

Here’s how she breaks it down:

1. Initiating

Don’t move so fast that you forget to sit down and map out where you’re going. Have an initial kick-off meeting with all of the key players on the home renovation project. Get started with everyone working from the same blueprint.

Immediately after the meeting, while the thoughts are still fresh, the project manager should create a project agreement that outlines the objectives, the deliverables being requested, roles and responsibilities and timing. You’ll flesh this out even further in the planning stage.

2. Planning

When it comes to planning, a good philosophy to go by is: “If it wasn’t in writing, it never existed.” That’s why a project agreement is so important.

The project agreement aligns expectations by clearly identifying the scope of a project. It’s also useful to identify the priorities of whoever the customer is; this can also mean other contractors.  For example, if you are a subcontractor, you have two customers: the general contractor and the end customer. You have to make both of those customers happy to be successful. 

Keeping track of milestones, responsibilities and dates are also a big part of planning as it allows for the time to secure permits and identify an official start date.

In the planning process, questions should be asked about acceptance criteria to ensure that the customer’s needs are being met.

3. Executing

This is where you dig in and get the work done. Remember that the calendar rules. Staying on schedule is important and if there is slippage, you need to document it and communicate it. This helps manage expectations throughout the process.

Even if it is a small project, you still need to give the customer updates. It doesn’t matter if this is something you are doing for family or friends, treat everyone like a client because they are valuable sources of referrals.

4. Monitoring And Controlling

Anything outside the originally defined scope of a project can become a speed bump and slow a project down or, worse, redirect it in the wrong direction.

A change request, another written document, is the perfect tool to pull everyone in, address any new direction and then give refined marching orders to the team. It’s also the right place to discuss what the implications of the change are. For example, if the requested change doubles the cost and adds three months to the schedule, the customer may decide against it.

Prioritizing the importance of cost, quality, schedule and risk really can make or break a decision to do an “about face.” Taking time to produce and review a change request is a measurable way to make a decision as well as a record as to why decisions were made.

5. Closing

Two must-haves at the closing of any project are the product acceptance sign-off and the lessons-learned document.

The product acceptance sign-off is a great opportunity to be sure the final result is picture perfect and that the client agrees that they have reviewed every nook and cranny of the project and the deliverables are completed as expected.

The lessons-learned document captures any unforeseen issues that arose while the project was in motion so they may be prevented in the future. It also captures what was done well, so you can repeat your successes and correct any failures.

Both the acceptance sign-off and the lessons-learned documents can be attached to the original project agreement for a comprehensive record of the entire project from beginning to end.

When you keep project management in your back pocket, you can close out any project on a high note and move on to your next challenge.