Dealing with Changing Scope in Construction Project Management

What Causes Changing Scope? And How Do You Deal with It?

  1. Scope is not clear
  • The worst-case in construction project management is when people have differing expectations. You agree to a roofing project, but halfway through the job, the homeowner gives you a call, screaming that he wanted Spanish Tile, not Asphalt Shingles. Seems silly? It happens every day. The wall needed rebar, but no rebar was agreed to. The driveway needed hi-strength concrete because of its final use but that wasn’t specified. And on and on it goes. The more complex the project, the more important this becomes. The US Navy lost submarines because it failed to specify that seawater pipes needed to be welded rather than brazed. Details matter. This is a scope error. That is, the deliverable was not specific enough. Because of this, the work was incorrect, because while the pipes held fine at the surface, 1,000 feet beneath the waves, a brazed joint isn’t sufficient.
  • Certain, as you work through making sure your scope is simple and clear that your client understands what you are saying. A large portion of project management is nothing but communications management. It’s not uncommon for disagreements to occur. Often these disagreements are less about materials or possibly paint colors than they are about the work required to achieve what the customer wants. The customer is a layperson. The customer does not need, and most likely does not have, the expertise required to know how much effort and how much manpower is needed to complete a task, much less a series of tasks to achieve a goal. Therefore, it is not uncommon for customers to get upset about the time required to complete projects or worse, costs involved, especially if difficulties are encountered that raise the number of man-hours required.
  • It is not ideal or smart to work for a month or two without showing the progression of a project to the client as you go along. Just sending the final results for feedback at the end of a project is asking for trouble. Invariably failing to constantly communicate and waiting until the end will cause surprises, which in turn will cause the finished work to be changed or redone. If you’ve been in construction for a while, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been here, probably more often than you’d care to admit.
  • You must accept that not all communication with a client will be positive. Problems happen. Things go wrong. These must be communicated. It is not advisable to hide behind problems, not raise issues, or to not be transparent with your client. Doing so will be something that you will regret in the future. Reputations take effort to build, hiding behind mistakes will destroy any positive reputation you have, and all of the effort it took to build that reputation.
  • No matter how well you prepare, sometimes, things just go wrong. You discover that those old blueprints you based your work on aren’t accurate. Or you discover that the ground is unstable and requires remediation before you can even begin. How’s the saying go? Does stuff happen? Yeah. Something like that.
  • Inconsistency in pricing, both labor and material are one of the most common sticking points in construction. At the end of the day, it’s all about the Benjamins, and this proves it. You’ve dealt with this issue. You know you have. All of us have.
  • Time is important. If you say it will take two months to complete a project, and it takes you two years, it doesn’t matter if your final work is absolute perfection… you’ve failed. Part of this is knowing how to be realistic during the planning and contracting phase of your project. Make sure you don’t paint yourself into a corner. A customer is not going to care if your crews are overworked. They’ll only know that it is annoying that they aren’t working on their project when you said they would. Worse, it’s you who are not meeting your defined work goals and the client begins asking for financial remediation.
  • Material or equipment delays are something to consider when it comes to project management. Over time, you’ll get to know your suppliers, your subcontractors, and this issue shouldn’t raise its head too often. But… just in case:



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Garrick Revels

Garrick Revels


CEO of Pro Crew Software Inc & also own one of the largest construction companies in the Tampa Bay area, GCM Constructions. Visit us at