From the CEO:

Often when we think of summer we think of relaxing, putting our feet in the sand and taking it easy.

Summer is a great time to do a mid-year review of your business and perhaps make some smart moves.

The idea is to work smarter, not necessarily harder. Businesses often prefer to conduct reviews at the beginning or end of a year and maintain the status quo throughout the summer months. However, most of the time you come back from vacation and immediately get slammed trying to catch up and deal with past problems instead of looking for opportunities for the second half of the year.

As a result, businesses end up with the same troubled systems, processes or employees so nothing changes. Then suddenly the year is almost over, and valuable opportunities have passed. Let me challenge you to hit the accelerator on improving your strengths and eliminating weaknesses.

Here are seven benefits of conducting a mid-year review of your business:

  1. Reviewing now provides more time to implement changes. If you want to make organizational changes, pursue a new business line, hire and train new staff or launch a marketing campaign, it will take time to get those things rolling. So, it is better to start now rather than waiting until fall.
  2. You can act while other businesses are procrastinating. Set a goal to act on at least one or two important changes. Do it while your competitors are relaxing, and there will possibly be new sales and a bigger payoff ahead.
  3. You probably have a good idea of how the year is going. If you did a year-end review last year, you probably raised some important questions, such as: How will revenue shape up, or what will this year’s most profitable business units be? What are the biggest current threats? At mid-year, you should have answers to some of those questions and can make mid-course adjustments accordingly.
  4. A review offers an opportunity to re-grip the reins. Success begins with great leadership. That means you and your managers must follow the processes/structure you have put in place and do so daily. Mid-year is a good time to assess your grasp of the situation and do a gut check on whether you have developed the kind of culture you want and have motivated employees to give their best.
  5. Nothing good comes from waiting for more numbers. Now is the time to check year-to-date revenue and budget figures against projections and examine other key performance metrics. Sitting beside a pool is more fun than running numbers but when you manage to them, you will know where your business stands and what you need to do to get (or keep) it on track. You can squeeze in some downtime later (famous last words).
  6. Opportunities may exist now that will disappear later. By conducting a mid-year review, you will be able to reevaluate your offerings that could add value to your current customers while attracting new ones. When you are thinking about going after new opportunities, ask yourself a few key questions. What are my key strengths and differentiators, and how can I leverage them to grow revenues? What weaknesses can I mitigate or alleviate? Are there product or service lines I am not good at that I should eliminate to focus on others?
  7. There is no better time to re-energize employees. One great way to re-energize employees is to set quarterly goals and employee challenges around them. For example, you might develop a summer theme and identify areas employees can get points while achieving benefits for the company. Everyone enjoys a little friendly competition, and it is great to win neat prizes. The idea is to keep employees focused before they leave for vacation and hungry when they return.

When summer is over, your business will be focused and well-positioned for a great sprint to the end of the year. Good luck to you and your teams.
Also, we are thrilled to announce that Management Solutions was selected as one of the Top Workplaces in the Greater Knoxville area for 2021. It is a prestigious honor that serves to recognize the best of the best, where employees want to align with the company’s vision, be challenged by a high-performance culture and feel that they are valued and that their voices are heard. Congrats to our team!

Misty Mayes, CEO
Climate change in relation to project management

Climate change is growing to be a common topic of conversation in many sectors. What was once a theory is now being taken seriously. Most experts agree that climate changes over the next few decades will have a significant impact on almost every aspect of our environment, economies and societies as well as the construction industry. As we see a shift to more researched-based projects (climate change projects), a key aspect will be the management of direct and indirect impacts and implications of completing a construction project while assuring the climate friendliness of the effort. How does this affect project managers and controllers? It will require a shift in the management process as we potentially go from managing traditional vertical construction projects only to now having to manage a climate change research type project as well.

Like anything else, bankable climate change adaptation projects require essential skills including: 

  • Prioritizing adaptation needs according to environmental and socio-economic criteria
  • Identifying financing sources and their requirements
  • Understanding and complying with fiduciary requirements of financiers (procurement, financial management, economic and financial analysis, financial and operational sustainability, risk assessment and risk management)

These tools provide a guide to move from project concept to project design. They also help develop a clear plan that outlines the steps, responsibility, timeline for completing project design documents and identify where additional necessary support can be mobilized. 

Project managers have many responsibilities. The construction industry loses billions of dollars due to delays and failures caused by bad weather. Damages, muddy sites, freezing temperatures and other roadblocks cause projects to get behind schedule. It makes sense for climate research to create project timelines and cost to minimize the risk of unpleasant, expensive surprises.

This toolkit provides a useful five-step process that outlines what project managers and controllers can do to identify, assess, and confront vulnerabilities for projects. There are also resources to help get started. 

Adapting our traditional construction projects to incorporate positive climate change aspects helps not only the environment but also helps the owner avoid future negative consequences.

Effective communication in project management

Even though many organizations are coming back into the traditional office environment, we have now learned that some hybrid approach to virtual communication is here to stay and can sometimes be difficult to navigate. This Q&A provides helpful tips for communicating effectively in a virtual setting.

How do you communicate in virtual teams? 
The best way to communicate in virtual teams is to keep people informed and minimize the number of meetings you have. One idea is to create a project management communication plan that maps out how to communicate with each stakeholder. The key is making sure you’re concise in what you are trying to say so there is not as much room for misunderstanding.

What goes into a communication plan? 
  • Compliance: Ask yourself what approval is needed for what. Should stakeholders need to simply be informed or are they to be involved in the decision-making process? This shapes how you communicate with them. 
  • The goal: What do we want from the stakeholders as a result of communicating with them? 
  • Stakeholder analysis: Who does what during each phase of the project? 
  • Frequency of communication: How often will you update the necessary stakeholders? 
  • Communications manager: Who will talk to the stakeholders? One liaison is ideal to prevent miscommunications and missing information.

How can you communicate a failure without it coming across as judgmental? 
Start off by pointing out the positive details of the project or topic of discussion. There are usually good things that come out of overall failures, even if it is a lesson for the future. Instead of just dwelling on the negative, look for ways to let them know what they could do better and how to improve. It is also good to point out that it is not personal. Do your best to be gentle in correction or delivery while also being concise and to the point.  Also, as we continue in a more global environment, it is important to take into consideration any cultural differences to ensure you are not offending them solely because you were not aware.

What are the best tools and techniques for communicating with stakeholders? 
Using spreadsheets and slides is an option but not the best one. Having one location for all tasks and actions is important and the key is to minimize interruptions while still communicating the key messages to the team.

How can we improve building relationships online? 
With everything being online, making personal relationships with coworkers and stakeholders is difficult. Try to make meetings fun by allowing for small talk and not getting complacent. Preparing for meetings in advance gives the meeting organization and can bring a lot of energy to your meetings rather than just shouting from the hip and enabling the meeting to just flow freely. 
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