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Imagine your job takes place outside in a wide, flat field. Your colleagues wear brightly colored shirts for high visibility and head protection. Surrounding you are numerous noisemaking mechanisms meant to attract your attention. Sprinkled in are officials that are present to regulate and ensure safety. Now, guess what this job is. It isn’t a construction manager, but an NFL head coach. Understandably, it is easy to see how the two could be confused.

From planning to execution, the similarities between football teams and construction projects are uncanny. Without question, the common denominators between the two are effective communication and collaboration. It is important to understand that quality communication isn’t limited to speaking or writing. To be really efficient at communication requires a cultural change.

Create Goals

Creating goals is by far the most important and critical step. It may seem rudimentary and simple, but it is a step that absolutely cannot be skipped. Establishing goals sets the tone for how the project, or football season, will go, and eliminates any ambiguity on the expectations.

The goals should be clearly stated and realistic. For example, it probably isn’t realistic for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Tennessee Titans, last season’s two worst teams, to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl this season. However, a goal of winning more games than they lose and being in position to make the playoffs is realistic. Whether in football or construction, the point is to avoid making the goal as simple finishing the project on time and under budget, but also avoid making goals so ambitious they become unattainable.

Assemble Personnel

Any good team, football or construction, begins with assembling the proper and necessary personnel. Each member needs to be vetted and evaluated for the value they can bring to the team and how they can help attain the established goals. We all know what someone like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady can bring to the team, but those qualities are not usually as obvious.

Try to allow for enough time to scope out potential project members. Think of this as a construction version of free agency. Instead of bringing in potential members for workouts to determine strength or speed, evaluate them on ability to meet schedules or quality of work performed. Most importantly, evaluate how well personnel align with the established goals. If a candidate isn’t able to buy in or feels incapable of meeting the goal, it is much better to know in the beginning than in the middle of the project.

Communication and Collaboration

It’s also important to think of specific ways to communicate to the rest of the project team. It is no secret that teams conduct meetings to plan for upcoming opponents each week. These meetings typically start wide and then become narrower. For example, there will be entire football team meetings, then meetings with just offense, defense and special teams, then even position-specific meetings. A similar structure can be used in construction to ensure everyone understands the goals for the week and how to execute them.

Another important aspect of these meetings is that they are conducted in person, not virtually or via phone conference. In-person communication can really go a long way toward alleviating ambiguity. In fact, a recent Forbes article states 93 percent of communication is non-verbal and related to body language, emotions and other forms of expression, which are much more effectively conveyed in person.

There are ways to communicate effectively outside of meetings, but email is not one of them. Email has become rigid and clunky. It’s the 21st century and it is more than time to get rid of those cumbersome “reply all” threads. Instead of email, try Slack, a new messaging app for teams. Think of Slack as email, text messaging and file sharing all rolled into one. The app also integrates perfectly across all devices, including desktops (regardless of Apple, Windows or Android). Slack does an outstanding job of helping teams of all sizes keep communication organized with its simplistic, yet effective, user interface.

Playbooks are a must for any football team. Put simply, the playbook details execution plans to win football games. Everyone on the team and in the organization has access to the most up-to-date playbook so there is no confusion on how to execute when kickoff rolls around. The same can be said for construction project teams and project documents such as drawings and specifications.

Every member of the project team needs access to the latest and greatest documents. To ensure this level of access, cloud services such as Dropbox are helpful. Cloud services provide ample storage space to save all necessary documents and synchronize with everyone’s computers or Internet-connected devices. They will even provide notifications to inform everyone of updates instantly so no one is using outdated documents.

Execution and Audibles

After the team, plan and communication infrastructure have been established, it is time to execute. Think of the project start day as kickoff, with your team literally being ready to take to the site and put the construction plan in action.

If everything goes according to plan, then more power to the team. However, the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. So what happens if the equivalent of fumbling on your own one yard-line happens? Don’t panic. Rely on the infrastructure that was established to quickly gather information, assess the problem and collaboratively solve the problem. Just like Peyton Manning calls audible at the line of scrimmage, a good project team can develop alternative solutions to problems encountered in the field.

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