Let's talk about preconstruction meetings or better known as "kick-off" or "pre-job" meetings. These meetings are usually represented by three entities, the Client, the Contractor(s), and the Inspection team. These meetings are held to perform an overview of the project and introduce key personnel who will be involved. Typically the client's Project Manager leads the meeting and should have an outline of topics that will be covered. Also, there may be client representatives from various divisions attending this meeting. The Contractor who was awarded the project will be in attendance and typically all their key personnel associated with the project. Lastly, the Inspection team.
I have been in a lot of these meetings over the years. Many were very good and many were not. Of course, that is one person's opinion. However, I have seen these gatherings become arenas for the Contractor to put on a "song and dance" and talk about what kind of culture they have built within their company, and what their capabilities are. To me, this sort of information and behavior is a little late. At this point, the Contractor has already been awarded the work. No sales pitch is needed in this meeting. It's time to speak about your plan of attack and how you will execute it. You might touch on your contingency plans but not spend a lot of time on them unless the Client has requested you do so. It's a time for the Contractor to introduce their keep players and their responsibilities and duties. It is also a time to commit to what ABC Contracting said they would do in the contract. This is also the opportunity for the Contractor to clearly layout their protocols and expectations from the Client and Inspection groups.
I hold the Client (Project Manager) to similar expectations at this meeting. As mentioned earlier there should be a clearly defined agenda and or outline depicting the topics of discussion for this meeting. This does several things. It keeps the meeting flowing and also keeps the attendees on topic. I would also recommend a Q and A segment at the end for any follow-up or ideas generated during the meeting. I would also suggest that minutes be taken by all three groups. On more occasions than not, the Project Manager will send out minutes to the groups after he or she has compiled them. But, having your own set of minutes allows you to compare information and perhaps generate a follow-up for clarity if there is a discrepancy. The PM should have control over the meeting throughout and not let it turn into a "jaw session" bypassing topics that need to be discussed or shared with the attendees. I have seen many PMs run very generic "kick-off" meetings especially when it is a Contractor that is currently performing a majority of their work or, a Contractor they are familiar with. I think this kind of approach overlooks the importance of the meeting and underplays the fact that every project brings a new set of challenges which should imply following an outline for the meeting. This also presents an opportunity for thoughts and inquiries to develop which can be handled when all the key personnel is together.
Depending on how large the project is, all inspectors should be at the "kick-off" meeting. This allows the Contractor's key personnel to meet the inspection group and put a face with a name. This meeting also serves as an opportunity for the Chief or Construction Manager to layout the responsibilities of the inspectors to the working on the project. They should also cover what the everyday areas of concentration will be and the importance of communication between all field personnel working on the project. This meeting will also serve as setting the protocol for the chain of command for both the Contractor and Inspection team.
Preconstruction meetings are worth their weight in gold if presented in a controlled manner. Each should be viewed as another intricate part of the process before starting a project. It is the last meeting of sorts before we all hit the ground and begin construction. It is a great time to get everyone's questions and or concerns on the table and resolved.
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