How holistic project approach improves construction

McCownGordon Construction workers discussing a project in the Kansas City office

Thinking of your construction project only in linear terms can lead to issues at any point along that timeline. At McCownGordon Construction, we believe in taking a holistic project approach, bringing the team together on day one and ensuring the entire project goes as expected. 

While most believe we serve as a contractor, in reality we act as more than that. We’ve embraced the philosophy of seeing the project through the owner’s eyes and analysing how each decision can impact the end user. In doing so, we see project approach as one of the most important aspects of construction methodology.

We always say the first thing we build at McCownGordon is relationships—and the strength of those relationships can trace back to the way we approach each project. 


What is Project Approach? 

Project approach may sound like something that only matters as we first begin projects, but it’s actually an important part of how we do project management from start to finish. Our project approach for construction management can be broken down into four main stages.

Stage One: Pursuing the Project

We learn as much as we can about a potential project while we’re pursuing it—that’s the first part of our approach for every construction project. We take RFPs seriously, and when we believe we’re the best possible fit for a job, you can bet we’re going to do our due diligence to prove it. 

Stage Two: Preconstruction

We call it preconstruction; some folks call it the design phase. At McCownGordon, 85% of our work is delivered through collaborative processes during preconstruction. Through this approach, we can make sure the project owner is able to make the best decisions possible for the overall project and that the actual construction goes off without a hitch. If we make good choices and decisions early in the process, we can make construction the easy part. 

Preconstruction involves analysis of systems. Therefore, during stage two of our project approach, we are engaging our teams to perform evaluations of every single detail. We’re doing things like checking the price and constructability of different materials (down to the carpet and door handles), meeting with trade partners regularly, and doing virtual construction. Through this approach, we are able to make sure decisions are meeting the level of quality our clients are looking for, that they’re cost effective for the established budget, and that they adhere to the schedule that’s been put in place. 

By ensuring we make big decisions early and successfully, the client will have a better understanding of where their budget is going as well as the schedule.

Stage Three: Construction

The planning is finally over, so now it’s time to break ground. Construction consists of the bricks and sticks, nuts and bolts of putting a building together. The construction phase is built upon the success of our preconstruction approaches. By the time contractors are on the site putting things together, we’ve already gone through the logistics and scheduling to make sure the build phase is easy. Our holistic project approach means the construction team was involved in preconstruction, and the preconstruction team will continue to be involved during construction. By having the entire team involved at every step, including the owner, there’s a consistency of leadership so no one has to worry about a loss of understanding along the way. It is a cohesive team from day one.

Stage Four: Closing Out the Project

Even the closing out of a project is planned during our preconstruction. We look at closing out as the last 5 to 10 percent of the project before the owner moves into the new building. It involves heavy coordination with the client to determine how they’re moving in. Most clients will have their own vendors for furniture and technology they’re bringing in and part of our close out is preparing for that. We will have met with these vendors during preconstruction as well, so we can incorporate their move-in and installation into the overall schedule to ensure timelines are met.

As our VP and Business Unit Leader Chris Vaeth puts it, “We’re cleaning up and moving from an active construction zone we may have owned for two years into essentially putting the project together and really trying to make it theirs [the project owner’s], you’re putting in those finishing touches and training them to use their facility and making sure it’s a successful turnover and move in.”

At McCownGordon, our close out phase includes about a year of maintaining close contact after the owners have moved in. We’ll check in at least quarterly (usually more often than that) to make sure things are operating as they should. Seasonal changes can really wreak havoc on new construction and in midwestern cities like Kansas City and Wichita, we get all four seasons (sometimes in one day!). Therefore, it can take up to a full year to dial in on optimizing a new building for the changing seasons. However, because we are anticipating these issues, our approach tends to be a little more proactive than the competition. 


Putting together the management plan

Now that we’ve gone over the general timeline, let’s look closer at one of the first things we do after we’re awarded a project. The management plan is what we put together before the preconstruction phase. Sometimes it can be helpful for us to have the management plan done before we even get into a contract, as contract language is something that can be specified during the management plan meeting. 

So, after a project has been awarded, we gather the stakeholders together for a meeting. This management plan meeting lays the groundwork for the entirety of the project’s life cycle. And we’re not just talking about the construction life cycle, but the actual 30-40 year expected life of the project itself. That’s just how forward thinking our project approach really is 😉

people at a table discussing the project approach for construction

What can I expect from a management plan meeting with McCownGordon? 

An integral part of our project approach in construction is to spend the day getting familiar with the people on your project and coming to an alignment on what it’s going to take to fulfill the owner’s vision. In addition, every construction management firm, third party contractor, and architect involved on a project has a goal they want to achieve. This meeting allows us to come together and share those goals so that we can get on the same page.

This open communication allows us all to understand the priorities each person is bringing to the table. It helps us appreciate where other people are coming from and where they’re going to be coming from throughout the course of what is often a three year relationship. It can start to sound a little sentimental, but it’s just good business. When everyone has a thorough understanding of how each envisions the project, those visions come together to create a better end product. 

Once we have worked through introductions, goals, and a vision for the project, we will establish clear protocols and procedures regarding budget, schedule, communication, how decisions will be made and what the priorities will be for those decisions. Each project has a cadence and a rhythm, and by developing that early we see results you can’t get from project approaches that don’t incorporate as much into the preconstruction phase.


How we get the most out of a management plan

We start by gaining a deep understanding of not just what we’re doing, but why we are doing it. If you get a project to build a hospital and do so without gaining the full context of how that hospital will be used, staff needs, etc., you miss out on opportunities for improvement. It’s important to find out how the client’s ultimate vision factors into our project approach in a way that benefits the owner and end user of the building.

To us, it’s essential we ask questions to find out what happened to lead to the decision to expand or build new. What purpose and service is the new building serving, not just to our clients but to their clients? What are the ultimate outcomes, goals, and vision of the project? What are the client’s priorities? We dig down into the root of each project so that we can deliver something in line with the client’s goals instead of guessing.


Communication: the most important part of project approach

Open communication is vital for the success of every project. Communication is the basis of every single relationship, and when you’re dealing with the cost and impact associated with a construction project, you want people on the same page. We cannot stress it enough—our ability to understand and communicate a client’s vision to each stakeholder in the project is something we believe is unique to McCownGordon. 

Ensuring clear, thorough communication is why we bring the full team together at the very beginning of a project. For example, during the management plan meeting discussed above, the client mentions a material they want to use that doesn’t raise any flags to the architect. However, the electrical contractor happens to know that material would interfere with the wiring. Our expertise with virtual construction and design paired with this best-in-the-industry communication means we’re saving a lot of time (and potentially expense) down the road. 

Another way we follow through on this project approach is through having one or sometimes two single points of contact for each project. This seamless continuity enables us to bring the owner’s vision to life with the most accuracy. You don’t have to worry about your message going through a game of telephone and ending up completely different from expectations. 

Project owners are set up with their point of contact from the very beginning in order to build that relationship. And we won’t call it good until you feel totally confident in what we’re going forward with. That person then can act as an extension of your best interests when communicating to the entire team. 

stakeholders communicating during a project approach in construction meeting

The conduit of communication doesn’t end after the initial meetings. We hold weekly owner, architect, and contractor (OAC) meetings, regular and daily communication with staff, as well as weekly contractor meetings and many pre-installation meetings. Through this consistent collaboration we reinforce quality expectations, address any access needs or concerns before work begins, and save everyone time, money and effort. These meetings cover the work to be performed over the next two to four weeks, potential impacts to the schedule, targeted major project milestones and trade contractor manpower and coordination. 

The team at McCownGordon actively manages the document processes of construction, including RFIs, submittals, design changes, ASIs, and more—plus we track each item. We believe constant communication allows for project owners to understand what activities will be happening in the upcoming weeks, what is happening short-term, and when to expect completion for each phase. It is a crucial factor in the success of projects.


Your success is our success

Strong project management drives us to success. We understand most of our clients have clients of their own—like us, they’re serving something greater than themselves. We use this knowledge to help us envision what the project will look like for the end user, whether that’s a new hospital or renovation of a school building. Our expertise has taken us from civic to corporate projects, from industrial to philanthropic, and from Kansas to Oklahoma.


Find how our project approach can bring your vision to life

Our customer-focused mentality has always set us apart. Put us to work on your project and we will outperform your highest expectations. We are dedicated to providing service with integrity and we value the relationships we build along the way. Just take a look at work we’ve already done and imagine what we can do for you! 

With three regional offices in Kansas City, Manhattan, and Wichita, we make it easy to get high quality construction management services in the Midwest. Call us at 888-304-4929 or use our free online quote tool to get started today.