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Games Contractors and Subs Play – “It All Flows Downhill”

This is another in a series of games we see on construction projects. Have any of you seen this one?

Most of us have heard that term applied to plumbing systems or negative feedback on our projects. Being at the end of the line usually means that you catch everything that falls apart above you in the job. This is especially relevant for this game on construction projects and schedules.

This game usually begins when the architects have incomplete construction drawings or the contractor can’t build something that the architects have detailed, and it has to be redrawn. It can also be caused when the owner’s rep, engineers, or GC doesn’t approve shop drawings for an order, delivery and install on time.

It almost always happens to the specialty subs that do their work late in a construction schedule and cannot get onto the job until the subs installing substructure or superstructure elements have completed their work. It can also occur when a material that was specified is “no longer available” or is so exotic that the manufacture takes longer than anticipated. Then there are the suppliers who are hit by strikes, carrier delays, quality control delays and a variety of other seemingly mundane issues.

In this game, all of those things that cause delays pile up and flow downhill to the specialty finish subs on a project. It usually happens after the GC has a conversation with the owner’s rep and says something like this: “That two-month delay we had when we got hung up on that concrete we had to rip out and replace is no problem; we will make it up on the backside of the project.” What he really means is that someone in the finish sub group will pay the price. Oh yes, the GC has also promised to finish on a certain date.

His conversation with the specialty sub foreman starts like this: “I know that I told you that we would not ask you to pick up the slack on this one, but we really need your help to finish on schedule.” When you watch the original schedule disintegrate and hear the griping start, get ready.

Specialty subs who have been in the industry for any amount of time know that this is a possibility especially on large complex projects, and many times will build a pad in their bid for those “contingencies.” However, it can cause double and triple shift overtime work and high stress on any organization that has to be the “bail out“ sub who does whatever it takes to get the project back on schedule.

When you spot the schedule slippage begin and you know that the GC is not pushing on the problem hard enough to avoid delays, start laying the groundwork so that you, your “guys and gals,” and your margins don’t get beaten up on the project just so that the schedule can be met.

We are interested in your views on these games and welcome any comments or info on other games that you hear about on your jobs.