Sunday, August 3, 2008

August 4, 2008 - Failure to Manage

Our house recently went through some medium size renovations. It began with replacing the hot water heater with a tankless model. During the installation the plumber explained that our galvanized pipes were badly corroded. In some places the rusty build up was seeping through to the outside of the pipe and in other it was clogging the water flow.

Scope change #1: add $5500 to re-pipe the house using copper.

Since they were taking the shower wall apart we opted to rip it out and tile the entire bathroom.

Scope change #2: another $3500 + materials.

It finished with the “Since We’re Here” special: I was in the process of digging up my front lawn to install sprinklers and they offered to run the pipes.

Scope change #3: $800 + materials. Good thing we recently refinanced!

Instead of going with a company, I hired a couple of independent contractors. They did a great job with the work, but there was a lack of basic project management from the beginning. That failure to manage caused disappointment, minor frustration and more work for me:

  • The hot water heater went in smoothly, but the promise to run the wire and mount the thermostat went unfulfilled.
  • The bathroom and shower look terrific, but when they said they could raise the shower head above 6 feet, I thought they were actually going to do it.
  • Refitting the house with copper was a success except for a minor design change. They originally planned to come up through the floor instead of the wall. Evidently they changed their minds and now I have big holes in my walls were the pipes come out. Evidently they don’t do drywall so now I have to.
  • Removing the old shower and other trash evidently wasn’t in the plan, either.

Technically, I got more than I paid for. They charged quite a bit less than they could have, did a solid job and the bathroom alone increased our house value by more than the cost of the whole project. But if I had it to do over again I would have applied more project management myself by:

  • Defining the Scope. There were several items I assumed were in scope that I ended up doing: wiring an outdoor electrical box; removing old pipes from under the house; disposing of garbage; and filling the holes in the walls to name a few. I’m sure it would have increased the cost of the project but at least communicating it up front would have prepared me for it.
  • Identifying all requirements. As the “sponsor” this one was my fault. When they replaced the main water line to the house they dug under the sidewalk to connect it at the meter. Had I told them I was looking to add a sprinkler system we could have used that same hole and saved some digging.
  • Documenting Changes. A potential problem was averted by writing down the prices quoted to me and verifying my understanding.
  • Establishing Timelines. It seemed to take forever to complete all the projects. There were scheduling conflicts on our side and theirs that stretched the duration.
  • Tracking Commitments. Every time I take a shower I will likely think, “I should have reminded him to raise that pipe.” As for the thermostat, I finally hung that to the wall today.
  • Customer Satisfaction. The ultimate item a project manager would have brought to the mix was a better customer experience. Small details matter, like placing a runner on the floor to minimize tracking dirt across the floor; letting us know arrive and departure times; and setting expectations.

With the help of a project manager, I have no doubt these guys could double their work load and obtain great referrals every time. Then again, I’m probably biased.


Anonymous said...

I can tell you, that wearing the 2 hats (one as the sponsor to give the requirements, other as a PM to manage the sponsor and vendor who provided the services) definitely have caused these short comings. Next time, keep the diary of the roles and activities separtely and this may improve your success. Jay from (ex PHS/Keane collegue)

Thomas Cutting said...

True. Unfortunately the people I hired were not willing to take on the PM role and I didn't recognize the problem soon enough.