two men and woman in hardhats look over construction plan while looking at building under construction
Process Improvement

A Complete Guide to Agile Construction Project Management

Written By: Joe Demski
April 28, 2022
9 min read

Since 2020, agile adoption in the construction industry has increased by more than 86%. Construction companies of optimizing performance and deliver more successful results by using agile project management tools to deliver what their teams need to succeed.

Agile methodologies are one of the most influential project management tools driving the success of the U.S. construction industry which reached a value of $1,589 trillion in 2021. More than 7.5 million construction contractors in the United States use agile methods to generate nearly 4.4% of the American GDP. Here's what you should know about them.

What is Agile Construction?

Agile construction is an integrated system of principles, methods, and philosophies of doing business adapted to construction job sites and overall project delivery in the construction industry.

Agile is a set of processes, philosophies, and project management tools used to drive a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation by allowing changes to be made at every stage of a project’s execution as conditions change and situations evolve.

Four key elements of agile project management in construction

The four key elements of agile project management in construction are:

  • Prioritizing communication and collaboration between all project stakeholders
  • Removing complex manual processes and using software to improve performance and quality management
  • Focusing on constant communication and feedback with key project stakeholders over the limitations of contractual obligations
  • Adapting to the challenges and opportunities of the moment to deliver the best possible results today and a culture of continual improvement to optimize performance down the line

Considerations for building agile construction processes

Building agile construction processes at scale depends on the ability to evolve beyond simply focusing on teams and team level thinking to encompass the broader operational landscape and organizational frameworks that connect teams also need to be transformed. Highly successful agile organizations are built on an effective and forward-looking backbone of quality management and continuous improvement of core processes.

Optimization ensures that the full operating model goes through many iterations as strategies, structures, processes, teams, and technology find the right fluid structures to build a true culture of continuous improvement and collaboration.

Agile teams are cross-functional and utilize frequent prioritization and resource allocation processes to build cultural units that enable cohesion and community-level problem-solving. Enterprise agility is an evolutionary step forward that delivers a state of liberation from rigid budgeting, multilayered reporting structures, and a heavily compliance-focused culture.

Features of Agile Construction Project Management

The agile project management method differs from traditional project management methodologies. There are several factors which are characteristic of the agile construction management framework.

Project segmentation

An agile project is organized into measurable and usable segmented pieces that add value. Unlike a traditional construction project management approach, individual pieces of a project are handed off to individual contractors and stakeholders.

Parameter acceptance

Agile methodologies require a more holistic approach to construction project management through all phases from design to construction and facilities management services.

Constant Validation: Agile processes involve product owners/clients along every stage to generate value and validation of concepts to ensure the successful delivery of a successful final product.

Feedback loops

The agile framework is driven to produce constant feedback loops, based around improving and optimizing performance to deliver a culture of continuous development and improvement around core quality processes and operational capabilities.

Culture of communication

Agile teams communicate with stakeholders connected to the success of projects to receive approval or suggestions for optimizing performance to reduce inefficiency and boost quality metrics.

Accelerated development life cycle

Agile construction processes deliver faster results by ensuring that consistent review and feedback processes improve economies of scale.

How Agile Can Fit in the Construction Industry

Agile methods fit along with every touchpoint in the construction project lifecycle from the earliest stage of conceptualization through post-construction quality management and improvement.

The construction project lifecycle goes through the following phases:

  • Conceptualization
  • Design
  • Pre-Construction
  • Procurement
  • Development
  • Post-Construction

Agile methodologies have become the leading, and one of the most influential approaches for managing projects nowadays, especially those that require collaboration between multiple stakeholders and the customer/end-user.

Agile has been implemented in various industries, and can typically be found in IT and software development, as well as in finance, marketing, and advertising. It is also gradually starting to be more common in almost every project-related sector.

Agile methodologies are one of the leading and most influential strategies for managing construction projects from the conceptualization phase through post-construction. Agile projects succeed by creating a unique collaborative environment between multiple stakeholders, contractors, and the client/end-user.

Agile is becoming the gold standard across the project management landscape because agile project management tools are so effective at optimizing performance and driving greater efficiencies of scale and economy that save time, money, and organizational resources.

Project planning: conceptualization to kickoff

Typical construction projects are well-planned professional operations with well-planned stages executed in consecutive order. In most cases, this approach is described as the waterfall approach and it is not known for promoting continuous improvement or sustaining effective change management outcomes.

Agile frameworks improve traditional construction project management processes by optimizing the project planning and implementation phase tremendously. From designing construction zones to ordering materials, installing key infrastructure, and maintaining buildings to optimize cost savings and business value, agile processes impact every aspect of construction from the conceptualization of new projects through the kickoff and execution of the work.

Project delegating: Building teams and working groups to succeed

Construction projects organized using agile methods specify three different roles related to the execution of the task:

  • Product Owner
  • Scrum Master
  • Project Management Team

Agility delivers the flexibility and scalability needed to transform construction workflows and improve efficiency. The scrum master is responsible for executing the implementation of agile construction processes along a development lifecycle. This is a role that can be occupied by the Superintendent responsible for coordinating the scope of work and ensuring that teams stay on task according to the agreed-upon mission strategy.

Product owners bear the responsibility of deciding how work should be prioritized. This is a role that can easily be occupied by a Project Engineer or Project Manager on a construction job site. The development team forms the rest of the contractors and laborers employed across the development landscape that is the modern construction site.

Project management: Tools of the trade

One of the most important elements of the construction project development lifecycle is the evolution of software solutions for improving performance and simplifying project management.

Project management software streamlines access to data and the control of core processes to ensure teams are well connected and can collaborate in distributed remote-first teams using stable and reliable cloud-powered services.

Using Agile in Construction Project Planning

During construction projects, small changes and alterations to designs can lead to major delays and challenges in maintaining a stable and reliable schedule without leading to tremendously unexpected costs during the later stages of the project. Each task in a construction project is done one after the other and making changes will delay progress. Though it is challenging to adapt every aspect of the agile methodology to the construction industry, some of the most beneficial adaptations are as follows:

Initiation and planning phase

  • Communication with the customer/product owner should be clear and optimized to deliver a robust and well-defined project scope with clarity around the deliverables needed to execute the end product.
  • All stakeholders take part in this phase and create a continuous feedback loop that drives transparency and an improvement in productivity and economies of efficiency.
  • This process drives a culture that favors team building, and improved collaboration and removes unnecessary stress and burdens to promote cross-functional teams from reaching shared goals together.
  • The agile process drives a faster development timetable that does not require as many revisions to create the perfect conditions for client satisfaction

Execution phase

Agile methods improve the execution phase by creating a construction environment that promotes continuous improvement and the drive to improve processes and maintain quality standards. This is critical as research has found that quality shortcomings can raise total construction production costs up to 30%.

This phase is more difficult when it comes to applying pure Agile, but some basic Agile concepts can still help for continual improvement, making things easy to complete faster and efficiently, and decreasing costly mistakes. Implementing an agile approach at every stage of a construction process can be challenging but the software and project management tools of the moment make the task much easier to conceptualize, execute and optimize.

To implement an agile approach to construction, it is essential to focus on the following:

Minimize changes

From the execution phase forward, many changes and alterations will not be possible without significantly altering the project’s cost or completion timetable. This is why it is so essential for all project managers to be mindful of all work required during the planning phase so that it is not necessary to make changes during the execution phase.

Communicative meetings

Meetings are an important part of construction project management processes. Many firms use an integrated approach to meetings involving multiple stakeholders meeting to discuss various phases of a project to deliver more organized and centralized systems for collaboration and the exchange of vital information. Better communication ensures a culture of success and continuous improvement and optimization of core operational processes.

Well-defined deliverables

All deliverables need to be well defined and explained to customers and product owners in a way that allows them to understand the value and feel invested in the design process. Many customers appreciate the opportunity to review project management thematically and visually which makes it easier to conceptualize land and visualize project milestone requirements.

FAQs

What does agile mean in construction?

Agile construction is an integrated system of principles, methods, and philosophies of doing business adapted to construction job sites and overall project delivery in the construction industry.

Agile teams are cross-functional and utilize frequent prioritization and resource allocation processes to build cultural units that enable cohesion and community-level problem-solving. Enterprise agility is an evolutionary step forward that delivers a state of liberation from rigid budgeting, multilayered reporting structures, and a heavily compliance-focused culture.

Is agile used in construction?

Yes, agile methods fit along with every touchpoint in the construction project lifecycle from the earliest stage of conceptualization through post-construction quality management and improvement.

What are examples of agile projects?

Agile projects are deployed all over the business environment to improve efficiency and build more cohesive and aligned business units focused on continuous improvement and the optimization and improvement of core processes over time by highlighting quality management.

Written By: Joe Demski

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