How Savvy PMs Succeed Building Public Projects

How Savvy PMs Succeed Building Public Projects

If you build public and private projects, you know that there’s a big difference between how a public agency works and how a private client works. How can a Project Manager (PM) who is used to working with private clients adapt to working with a public client?

Public clients move slower; there’s more bureaucracy involved; the types of people who work at public agencies, whether on a local, state or federal level, differ from the entrepreneurial types of people involved in personal work. If a PM is making the shift from working on private projects to public projects, they have to accept that.

Here are three ways to adapt:

  1. Take the partnering sessions seriously.

    If Partnering is part of the project, take those partnering sessions seriously. If all parties take personality assessments, taking time to understand how your partners behave and think. Typically people involved in public agencies are more deliberate and methodical. They go slower when making decisions, they’re not comfortable in making individualistic choices, they’re happier in a group consensus type environment—and you have to accept that. Understanding that you need to adapt yourself to the people you’re working with as you deliver the project will help you succeed.

  1. Think ahead.

    Public agencies tend to go slower when making decisions, and a PM needs to anticipate that. Take RFIs, for example. Information and decisions move quicker on a private project, and an RFI needs to be submitted a week or two in advance. It’s not like that with public projects. Get your PMs thinking ahead and submitting RFIs four weeks in advance. Have them get ahead of where the project’s going so that you can get things moving more efficiently.

  1. Paint the picture for them.

    Encourage your PMs to be as detailed as possible when they are doing the RFIs, or communicating any other information. Ensure your PMs understand that the more information they get to public clients, the more comfortable the client will be. It may take you more time upfront, but it will help get decisions made quicker.

Project Managers who are used to private work—where they are running and gunning, taking care of business, negotiating on the fly, getting stuff built—can struggle when they take on a public project where things are slower, more bureaucratic, more methodical. Make sure you remind your PMs to take the time to understand the people they are working with, get out as far ahead as possible with RFIs, and be as detailed with any communication. The result will be less frustration for the PM, a smoother project build, and more satisfied clients.

I coach construction company Leaders, Project Executives and Project Managers. If you have anyone in your company that would benefit from an outside perspective to help them excel in their leadership, reach out to me on my website by clicking this link.