BUILDING SUCCESS: INSIGHTS AND GUIDANCE FROM A SEASONED PROFESSIONAL IN CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
In the construction industry, experience and training are crucial for professional growth and overcoming challenges. Stanley Tavero, a Construction Project Manager, shares his insights into the industry and emphasizes the need for continuous learning and adaptation.
Tavero’s training and background lie in civil and structural engineering. He spent the first four years of his career in a design office, driven by his passion for structural engineering and his vision of working on grand projects around the world. However, his perspective shifted when he took on the role of a resident engineer and discovered his love for the intricacies and scientific aspects of project delivery. According to Tavero, project construction is where dreams come true. Motivated by this new perspective, Tavero set out on a journey to learn the art of construction management, exploring various roles and responsibilities within the field.
Tavero has experience working as both a contractor and consultant but he discovered his unwavering affinity for the consulting side of the industry. However, he points out the challenges faced by the South African construction market. Deliberate government interventions see our industry as a means to end various social ills in societies. The unintended consequence is that it is now more difficult to navigate the treacherous terrain of stakeholder management. Therefore, more training and upskilling are required to navigate these difficulties effectively.
The construction industry is known for its fast-paced and stressful nature, with unrealistic demands from clients. It also happens to operate in an environment where political needs on projects often take precedence as the client’s success factors, adding to the scrutiny and demands from various stakeholders. Thankfully, we have tools that we can utilize to achieve good results on time, budget, and quality, but most importantly satisfy stakeholder expectations. To achieve success, Tavero believes in establishing self-managing teams that foster a culture of collaboration throughout project lifecycles.
We cannot operate in silos says Tavero. Personal accountability is also very important, both for delivering work and ensuring that necessary training (supported by the company) is done for one to be effective at their workstation. The big item in the current industry is work-family balance. Employers must be considerate of family needs that workers need to attend to for society’s good. At the same time, workers need to utilize work time effectively to deliver on their mandate. Transparency, personal accountability, and effective communication are thus vital in this regard.
Teams’ development in terms of knowledge and execution of projects is paramount. Tavero reiterates what he has alluded to above: I am a firm believer in self-managing teams that collaborate across functions and knowledge, under the guidance of project leaders/managers. All members of the team must be involved from the start and understand their roles. Above all, the project brief must be made clear. Transparency of information is also key for team members to see the impact of their contribution to the end product. Communication with teams working in the same space makes it easier to collaborate.
Moving forward, Tavero acknowledges the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning needing to be looked at to harness easing certain processes within the industry. He particularly appreciates Building Information Modeling (BIM) for holding team members accountable. As automation becomes increasingly prevalent, the focus on technical know-how as effective in project delivery is no longer the sole focus. Soft skills, such as the ability to understand client needs and tailor the solutions are becoming more important.
In the South African context, Tavero emphasizes the significance of effective communication and deeper stakeholder understanding as the country is still at a stage where a lot of the projects are meant to address primary needs for infrastructure development. The question then becomes, “As a professional, do you understand the context in which the need comes from, and do you empathize with the end users?”. Therefore, to answer the question directly, overcoming challenges and adapting to the industry’s unique circumstances require experience and training.
Tavero suggests that South Africa will undoubtedly produce a special breed of built environment practitioners due to the unique circumstances that the country faces and that it is time for organizations to be quick at reading the signs and adapt accordingly to ensure business sustainability. Individuals must also upskill themselves to remain relevant and marketable. Therefore, agility is required for both individuals and organizations.
Technical baselines will hardly change as these have been empirical for a long time. However, climate change should also prompt the industry to re-evaluate design norms and standards, particularly in the civil and water sectors. Rationale designs that account for severe storms and earthquakes should be considered.
We have seen how severe storms are becoming, sporadic earthquakes, etc. Are our design codes geared for that? Tavero, encourages everyday continuous learning, highlighting the abundance of online resources available. He aims to learn coding and the use of AI to digitize and automate processes that need less human intervention, providing real-time information on projects for better decision-making for all stakeholders, reducing risk, and making projects cheaper.
On the subject of promoting equality, Tavero believes that equal opportunities should be provided to everyone from a young age, in households, and government, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. If anyone is good at something, they will excel and be in positions that they deserve despite their ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. You will see those over the years, there will be a self-levelling of human resources in organizations. However, promoting one at the expense of the other only creates future problems where a balance will need to be re-established. He advocates for a merit-based system where ability is the determining factor for career advancement.
In conclusion, the construction industry in South Africa faces unique challenges, but by embracing continuous learning, adapting to new technologies, and promoting equality of opportunity, both individuals and organizations can thrive.