CLOSEOUT OF FIELD OPERATIONS

INTRODUCTION
A  the conclusion of the project draws near, the supervisor will be involved in a series of very important activities that are referred to collectively as “project closeout.” These activities involve assuring that all contract requirements are fulfilled, preparing to hand over the completed facility to the owner, demobilizing and moving off the site, and conducting a final review of the project and its management. It is important for the supervisor to know that the things that a supervisor does and does not do, as well as the things he or she says or does not say at this critically important time in the project, will have a large bearing upon the success of the project and, therefore, upon the success of the supervisor.
To gain perspective, the supervisor does well to consider the overall at this time. The management team, as well as all of the on the project, those working for the general contractor and all of the subcontractors alike, have been involved on this project for a considerable time. Most of the time, by this stage of the project, they are ready to see the project completed and are ready to move on.
The owner, meanwhile, has been involved with the project for an even longer time than the contractors and their craft workers and management teams. He is also ready to see the work finished, and is anxious to take possession of the completed facility. There is typically a natural excitement on the part of the owner at this time. All of the planning, design, and construction are about to culminate in the completion
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of his project. He can see the project nearing completion, and he is eager to be finished, and to move in and take possession. At the same time, the owner realizes that when the project is closed out, the contractor and subcontractors will be leaving. The owner wishes to ensure that all of the contract requirements have been fulfilled and that he is receiving everything that the contract provides.
It is imperative for the supervisor, and all of the management team, to realize the significance of this time. As noted earlier, one of the objectives for every project is leaving a satisfied client at the conclusion of the project. This is the time for the supervisor to focus her management attention on ensuring that the expectations of the owner are fulfilled, in order to ensure that he is satisfied with the outcome. This is also the time to ensure that all of the contract requirements have been fulfilled, in order that the supervisor’s construction company can receive final payment and can move to the successful termination of the contract.
PROJECT CLEANUP
Project cleanup is an important consideration throughout the time of construction of all construction projects. Safety, the morale of the workforce, and the reputation of the contractor all are directly affected by the cleanliness and orderliness of the project.
This consideration is especially important at the time of . Typi­cally, the architect and the owner will be visiting the project much more frequently as the project nears completion than at any other time. Additionally, it is not uncommon for owners to visit the site frequently and to bring members of their company staff to view the project as it approaches completion. Having a clean and orderly project at this time is very important for making a good impression and for helping ensure a satisfied client.
Ironically, it is at the time of project closeout that craft workers are installing finish and trim items. Usually, these items are delivered to the job site in boxes and crates that are filled with protective wrappings, and packing materials, and foam padding, and other forms of protection. This debris is a safety hazard and is unsightly, especially if it is allowed to accumulate, or even to remain on the floor of the newly constructed facility. The supervisor does well to devote an extra measure of care and attention to the matter of timely cleanup at this very important time in the life of the project.
THE COMMISSIONING PROCESS
The contract documents will define a series of actions that the contractor must com­plete as part of the project closeout process, called commissioning. While the exact steps to be performed in commissioning will vary somewhat with different projects, as defined in the contract documents for each project, some of the common steps are outlined and discussed below.
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The primary point of emphasis for the supervisor is that all of the closeout and commissioning actions to be performed are defined in the project contract documents and, therefore, should be included in the planning of the work for the project in order that the project can be completed on time and with a minimum of difficulty. The supervisor and/or the project manager should make a list of all of the commissioning actions that are specified for the project, should include them in the planning process, and should make a checklist so as to follow through on each of them to ensure their completion.
Tests and Certifications
A variety of tests that are to be conducted on various components of the project may be specified in the contract documents. Typically, tests are specified for verifying the proper operation and/or output of equipment that has been installed in the course of constructing the project.
Commonly, for example, specifications will require tests for startup amperage draw, as well as operational amperage draw, of the blowers and compressors that are part of the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system in a building. Likewise, tests may be required to verify cfm (cubic feet per minute) of air delivered by blowers in the mechanical system, as well as temperature measurements taken at registers to determine the temperature of air delivered during the heating and cooling cycles of the mechanical equipment.
Similarly, fire alarm and notification systems, intrusion alarm and notification systems, electronic surveillance systems, elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, emergency lighting systems, electronic lock systems, emergency generators, and so forth will have testing and certification procedures specified. Additionally, me­chanical locks, and the accompanying keying systems (grand master and submas-ter keys, duplicate keys, key control cabinets, etc.) will commonly have procedures specified for verifying proper operation, for delivery of the correct type and number of keys, for the provision for key security, and so on.
Further, in the construction of a manufacturing facility or process plant, a battery of tests may be specified for the various types of equipment and machinery that are operational components of the systems in the facility. In like fashion, all of the required tests and commissioning procedures will be defined and described in all of their detail in the contract documents. The supervisor should know what these required tests and certifications are, and should have them recorded in a log so that all elements of the procedures that are specified can be properly scheduled and managed.
As has been noted previously, the supervisor must be aware of all of the test­ing and certification procedures that are required for the entire facility. They are set forth in the specifications and other contract documents for the project. They must become part of the long-term and short-term planning for the work to be completed.
Additionally, the supervisor should realize that many of these tests and certifications will require certified technicians and/or calibrated and certified
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instrumentation for their performance. Careful planning is required to ensure that the requisite personnel and equipment are available at the time when the tests and certifications need to be performed.
Additionally, project requirements often specify that certain witnesses (owner, architect, mechanical engineer, process engineers, owner’s facilities management and maintenance personnel, etc.) must be present to observe the performance of the tests and to monitor and certify the results, and to ensure that all contract requirements have been fulfilled. Such a requirement, of course, adds yet another planning and scheduling dimension for the supervisor. In addition, requirements often stipulate that the witnesses must sign a certificate or a form to verify their observance of the tests, and to certify the results. This means that the supervisor will need to ensure that the proper forms are present when the tests and certifications are conducted, to ascertain that the proper signatures are obtained, and to ensure that the documentation is filed as a matter of record.
Owner’s Manuals, Parts Lists, Equipment Warranties, and Spare Parts
Project specifications typically require that the contractor provide the owner with owner’s manuals, parts lists, operating instructions, maintenance instructions, and equipment warranties for all equipment installed or furnished during the course of construction. Frequently, the specifications require that some of these documents be completed by the contractor with model numbers and serial numbers of the installed equipment, as well as the date of installation, date of operationalizing, and so forth. Often, the contractor will organize these documents into folders, binders, or notebooks for the owner’s convenience.
For equipment that the contractor has installed, it becomes a duty for the project management team to deliver all of the documents as well as all of the accessories and spare parts that are specified. For equipment that has been furnished or in­stalled by subcontractors or sub-subcontractors, the management team must en­sure that these items are provided and that they are complete and in the proper format, prior to closing out the subcontract agreements.
Similarly, the project requirements will often stipulate that spare parts and acces­sories of various kinds be provided by the contractor. Filters for air handlers, blower belts, cleaning kits, and special lubricating oils are typical examples, but there are numerous others that may be specified in similar fashion. The items that are to be provided must be identified from the specifications, and should be listed on a log and on a checklist, so that they can be included in the steps to be completed at project closeout.
Owner Training
Project specifications commonly require that the contractor conduct, or coordinate the conduct of, training in the operation and maintenance of various components of the project for the owner, the owner’s maintenance staff, or the owner’s facilities
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management personnel. Frequently, this training must be conducted by factory-trained personnel, by certified technicians, or by engineers.
It is imperative that the supervisor extract from the project specifications, a list of all of these training requirements, and that they be placed on a log and checklist for planning and completion as components of project closeout. It is not uncommon that many of these training sessions require scheduling long in advance of the time they are to be conducted, again emphasizing the need for careful long-term and short-term planning on the part of the supervisor.
DEVELOPING FINAL DOCUMENTATION
Another important element of the project closeout process is ensuring that all nec­essary project documentation is completed and finalized. While the components of final documentation to be completed may vary somewhat from one project to an­other, discussion in this chapter will include some elements of final documentation that are almost always required.
Change Orders Finalized
Prior to submitting his final Application for Payment to the owner (or in the case of a subcontractor, prior to submitting his final Application for Payment to the general contractor), the contractor or subcontractor should check to be certain that all change orders that were issued during the course of constructing the project have been completed and settled.
The supervisor can assist in this regard by providing information to the project manager and/or to the company office regarding the status of changes in the work. As discussed in Chapter 18, the supervisor will have firsthand knowledge with respect to all changes issued in the course of constructing the project inasmuch as he and his crew will have been the ones who implemented the changes on the site. Additionally, the supervisor may have provided assistance in the pricing and/or the administration of the change order and, thus, will be familiar with all of the details of the change order.
The supervisor should be able to verify for the project manager and/or the company office that all change order work is complete. All change orders can then be tracked through the contractor’s system in order to ensure that payment has been received for all of the changes, and that all change orders have been finalized and closed out.
As-Built Drawings
The contract documents for a project typically require that, when the project is complete, the contractor is to provide a set of accurate as-built drawings to the owner, which reflect all changes from the original drawings and specifications and represent all aspects of the project as they were actually constructed. The owner
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typically requires that these as-built drawings be submitted to the architect for approval and requires further that they be furnished in a format (line drawings, marked copy of original drawings, CADD files, etc.) suitable to the architect and the owner.
The owner needs these drawings as an accurate portrayal of all that was actually constructed. Additionally, these drawings are necessary for safety in maintaining the building and for use when modifications or renovations are to be made in the future. In addition, copies of the as-built drawings are kept in a suitable location by the owner, so as to be readily available for use by emergency personnel who may be called to the building.
The contractor, and therefore the supervisor, has a contractual duty, as well as a moral duty, to ensure that an accurate and complete set of as-built draw­ings is provided to the owner at the conclusion of the project. The contractual duty is, as noted above, stipulated in the contract documents. This contractual duty is accompanied by a moral imperative that the as-built drawings be com­plete and correct, and that they accurately represent all that is present in the facility. Those who perform work on the facility in the future, as well as emer­gency responders who may be called to the facility, are literally entrusting their safety to the accuracy and completeness of what is represented on the as-built drawings.
The best way for the supervisor to ensure delivery of an accurate and complete set of as-built drawings in a format suitable to the owner is to make note of this requirement early in his planning for the work on the project, in order to ensure that as-builts are produced and maintained beginning on the first day of the project. If as-built drawings have been properly developed and maintained from the onset of construction operations, and have been developed and maintained in the format specified by the owner throughout the performance of the project, then at the time of project closeout only a final updating and final verification of these drawings will be necessary before they are handed over to the architect and the owner. It is also worthwhile for the supervisor to consider that the task of producing and maintaining as-built drawings is one which could be delegated to an employee, accompanied by proper training as may be necessary, as well as by proper supervision and follow-up on the part of the supervisor.
It is also important to realize that if some of the work on the project is subcon­tracted, all of the subcontractors’ work that is in any way different from what is shown on the original contract documents must be reflected on the as-built drawings as well. The general contractor may elect to have his staff maintain as-builts to reflect the subcontractors’ work, or more typically, he may require each subcontractor to develop and maintain as-builts for their portion of the work in the proper format as specified by the owner, and then to provide them to the general contractor at the time of project closeout for inclusion in the set that will be provided to the owner. In either case, it is very important that diligence be exercised, from the beginning of the project to the end, in order to ensure that accurate and complete as-built drawings are developed for the entire project.
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The Punchlist Process
As the completion of the project draws near, a date and time will be established for the architect to conduct the final inspection of the project as a precedent to final payment to the general contractor. This final inspection, and the elements that accompany it, is commonly referred to as the punchlist process, or as “punching out” the project, or as “making the punch.” The punchlist can be defined as a listing, made by the architect on behalf of the owner during this final inspection of the project, of items of work remaining to be done, unsatisfactory materials or workmanship that must be remedied, and errors that must be corrected before the project will be accepted by the owner from the contractor.
At the time scheduled for making the punchlist, the architect and often the owner will be present, as well as representatives of the general contractor (project manager, superintendent, supervisor) and representatives ofthe key subcontractors on the project. A tour of the site will be conducted on a room-by-room basis, and a careful and detailed examination of all aspects of the construction will be made by the architect on behalf of the owner. When an error or variance from contract requirements is discovered, a written notation will be made. The list of all of these notations constitutes the punchlist.
At the conclusion of the inspection tour, a copy of the punchlist will be handed over to the general contractor. The list of items on the punchlist becomes his list of “action items” in terms of matters in need of remedy in order to make the project acceptable to the owner and, in turn, to warrant final payment by the owner to the contractor. The general contractor will provide copies of the punchlist to each of the subcontractors, in order that each of them can address the correction of those items of work that pertain to their scope of work.
As punchlist items are corrected, the general contractor will typically inspect them to ensure that errors or omissions that were noted have been brought fully into compliance with contract requirements, and if so will check those items off the punchlist. The supervisor may be called upon to assist with this process. When all of the punchlist items have been completed, the general contractor will notify the architect, who will again visit the site and will verify for himself that satisfactory remedy has been made for everything that was noted on the punchlist, and that the work is now acceptable.
The objective of the punchlist process is to ensure that the owner is receiving all that the contract documents call for and to ensure that all of the work and its quality are in compliance with the requirements set forth in the contract documents. When this has been ascertained, the architect will issue a document called the Certificate of Substantial Completion. This document provides certification on the part of the architect and the owner that the contractor has substantially fulfilled all of the requirements of the contract documents.
It is important for supervisors to understand the punchlist process, because they will have a key role in completing the punchlist requirements and in bringing the project to substantial completion. Punchlist work must be very carefully planned
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and performed, in order to ensure that the finished work complies with contract requirements. Additionally, great care must be exercised, so as to ensure that other work on the project is not damaged while the punchlist items are being corrected.
The work of completing punchlist items can frequently be tedious and de­manding, accompanied by the frustration inherent in needing to make corrections, and in the desire to get the project completed. The supervisor will need to utilize all of his human relations, communication, and motivation skills, in order to see that punchlist items are properly completed and that all contract requirements are fulfilled.
Additionally it should be noted that punchlist work is often very expensive, because of the difficulty of access, and because of the need to protect all other work. The supervisor who has been mindful of maintaining quality control in the work from the very beginning of the project, and who has performed the work with “punchlist consciousness” throughout the duration of the project, as has been recommended in previous chapters, will find the actual punchlist process much less stressful, and much less costly.
CLOSING OUT SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS Subcontractors
The supervisor for the general contractor may very well be providing assistance with project closeout activities for the various subcontractors who have performed work on the project. This will include ascertaining that the subcontractors’ as-built drawings are completed and up to date, accurate, and in a form acceptable to the owner. If the supervisor has maintained a practice of requiring each subcontractor to maintain and update as- built drawings from the beginning of the project and continuing throughout the life of the project, as discussed in a previous section, this effort will prove much less formidable at the time of project closeout.
Additionally, when the punchlist has been made, the general contractor’s super­visor will help ensure that all of the subcontractors’ punchlist items are completed properly and in a timely manner. Careful coordination of the work of the several trades is required. Of course, the supervisor for each of the several subcontractors will have the primary responsibility for ensuring that all of the subcontract items for their company’s scope of work are properly completed in accordance with the requirements of the contract documents and the subcontract agreement.
Protection of existing work is an important consideration for all who are working on the project at this time. In addition, as noted previously, extra care and attention to cleanup is another important element of consideration at this time for everyone on the project.
When punchlist items have been completed by the subcontractors, and when their final touch-up and cleanup activities are completed, the subcontractors will be making their final Application for Payment to the general contractor. The sub­contractors will be requesting the last of their earned value, in accord with their
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Schedule of Values, as well as the retainage that has been withheld throughout the project.
This in turn, will typically require their completion of a Waiver of Lien Form, to ensure that they attest that they have been paid for all expenses that they incurred in conjunction with their work on this project. This will preclude the possibility of their filing a lien or a claim against the property, the owner, or the general contractor.
Suppliers
As a part of project closeout functions, the supervisor will need to ensure that all accounts with all materials suppliers are up to date and paid in full. Additionally, any materials that can be returned for credit should be sent back to the supplier, and credit invoices should be processed and included in the project documenta­tion files.
FINAL REQUEST FOR PAYMENT
As punchlist items are completed, and as the contractor’s final project touch-up and cleanup are completed, the supervisor will assist with preparation and submittal of the contractor’s Final Request for Payment. This request will include all of the remaining earned value items as indicated in the Schedule of Values. Additionally, this payment request will include a request for payment of all retainage that has been withheld by the owner from the contractor throughout the duration of the project. This final payment will convey the balance of the contract amount to the general contractor. The general contractor’s submittal of the Request for Final Payment and the owner’s payment of the amount due are often linked, by the terms of the contract documents, to the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy for a new building and to the issuance of the Certificate of Substantial Completion for the building. These two documents will be discussed in the sections that follow.
THE CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY
When buildings are constructed or remodeled, city governments frequently require that a Certificate of Occupancy, often referred to as a “CO,” be issued by the city, before the completed building can be occupied by the owner of the facility. The Certificate of Occupancy provides certification by city government that the structure and the site are compliant with the building code and zoning ordinance statutes of the city. To obtain this certificate, the contractor notifies the city that he is ready for a “CO inspection.”
The city government then sends building code compliance inspectors and zon­ing ordinance officials to the site. These officials will make a thorough examination of the building in all of its aspects and will also make a complete inspection of the site in all of its aspects, to ensure compliance with the city’s building code and
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zoning ordinance requirements. When all of the code and zoning requirements have been fulfilled, the city issues the Certificate of Occupancy document, authorizing the owner to take possession of and to occupy the newly completed building.
The owner and the architect typically include a clause in the contract documents for a building construction project that final payment will not be forthcoming, and that the Certificate of Substantial Completion will not be issued, until the city has issued a Certificate of Occupancy. The supervisor should understand these require­ments, since he will typically be involved in scheduling the CO inspection and in coordinating the site visit by the city officials. The Certificate of Occupancy itself is, obviously, a very important component of the documentation for the project. Therefore, a copy of this document will be retained in the project documenta­tion files.
CERTIFICATE OF SUBSTANTIAL COMPLETION
The Certificate of Substantial Completion is a document issued by the architect, through the owner, which certifies that the general contractor (prime contractor) has substantially fulfilled all of the requirements set forth in the contract documents for the project. This document certifies that the contractor is relieved of any further responsibilities in the performance of contract requirements, with the exception of the warranty provisions as set forth in the contract.
The issuance of the Certificate of Substantial completion will occur only when:
■  All of the punchlist items have been completed to the satisfaction of the architect and a final inspection has been conducted to verify this.
■  A satisfactory set of as-built drawings has been submitted and is approved by the architect and the owner.
■  The Certificate of Occupancy has been issued by city government.
■  The prime contractor’s Final Request for Payment has been submitted and approved by the architect and owner.
■  The prime contractor has signed a Waiver of Liens, certifying that he has paid any and all debts and expenses associated with the construction of the project.
There is consent of the contractor’s surety or bonding company.
When the Certificate of Substantial Completion and Final Payment are issued by the owner to the prime contractor, the prime contractor will immediately make final payment to all of the subcontractors. The general contractor and subcontractors will immediately move all of their facilities, equipment, and remaining materials off of the site. Frequently, the owner will conduct a grand opening or ribbon-cutting event for the new facility.
The supervisor should expect to be involved, directly or indirectly, with all of these activities. The project is not complete until all of these events have taken
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place. Therefore, the supervisor needs to understand them, and to make them a part of his planning for the work.
PROJECT REVIEW
After the project has been completed, and after the contractor has moved off of the site, one very important function remains to be conducted with regard to this project before the contractor’s full focus and attention shift to the performance of the next project. This important step is referred to as project review. Many managers believe that project reviews are among their most valuable project management and company management tools.
Project review involves assembling all of the project documentation and then as­sembling the key people who were participants in the project for a final management review of the project in all of its aspects. The documentation will typically include the Job Log, the cost reports, the change order file, and the schedule and schedule revisions, as well as any other documentation that the management team believes may be relevant. The people who participate in the project review will typically in­clude a representative from company management (president or chief operating officer), the estimator, the scheduler, the project manager, the superintendent, and the supervisor.
The intent of the project review is to reflect upon the project and to thoughtfully analyze all aspects of its performance in order to determine what lessons can be learned and stored for future reference. The expectation is that lessons learned, as well as practices that were employed on the project, can be brought forth, con­sidered, discussed, and written down, and then can be included in the company’s institutional memory, or incorporated into the company’s policies and procedures, the estimating or scheduling processes, or the day-to-day management processes.
When the project review meeting is held, a facilitator should be present to conduct the meeting and to keep it on track. Additionally, a person should be designated to take notes and to distribute the notes from the meeting to everyone on the management team following the meeting.
The meeting should involve open discussion and should be conducted in a cordial and professional manner. It should be emphasized that the purpose of the meeting is not to find fault, nor to assess blame for things that did not go well or for things that may not have turned out as planned in the construction of the project. Where the project experienced cost or schedule overruns, or safety difficulties, for example, a root cause analysis should be performed by continuously asking “Why?” until there is no more “Why?” Once the root cause of the problem or difficulty has been identified, the solution, or management steps to be taken to avoid a recurrence, can be identified by the members of the team who are present at the meeting and written down. These thoughts and notes then become part of the record for the project. Moreover, they become part of the institutional memory for the company, so that this information can be accessed and used to management advantage in the future.
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It is very important to realize, and very important to include as a part of the project review, as many as possible of the successes that were experienced on the project. Management must ensure that problems and difficulties are not the only matters to be examined and recorded. Any and all successes should also be identified, celebrated, and written down, such as completing an activity or set of activities at significantly lower costs than indicated in the project budget, finding special savings on materials purchases, completing activities in less time than indicated on the project schedule, discovering especially productive ways to utilize equipment, achieving better-than-expected productivity rates, developing new work methods, and so forth.
At the conclusion of the project review meeting, the notes from the meeting should be transcribed and sent to all who participated in the project review session. Additionally, and importantly, the notes from this meeting, and from all similar meetings for all of the projects that the company performs, should be bound and should be retained by company management as the institutional record of the company’s projects. Many companies label these manuals “Best Practices” or “Project Review Summaries,” or something similar.
When managers, including supervisors, periodically take the time to read and reflect upon these project reviews, a wealth of useful information emerges. This information is often extremely valuable in the management of future projects. There are many managers who believe very strongly that these project review sessions, and the “Best Practices” manuals that result, are among the most valuable re­sources at a supervisor’s disposal. Supervisors should make it a regular practice to carefully read these project review summaries on a regular recurring basis for projects that they and others have managed and to avail themselves of the best practices and lessons learned that they contain. When they do so, it is a virtual cer­tainty that they will discover in these project reviews a wealth of useful information that will help them to be more effective and more successful in the management of their construction projects.
SUMMARY
The time of closeout of field operations on a project is certainly a time filled with important matters that must be attended by the supervisor. As has been empha­sized throughout this book, planning and attention to detail are keys to success. Additionally, because of the nature of this time on the project, supervisors will make extensive use in a special way of their leadership and motivational skills, as well as their verbal and written communications skills.
This chapter has provided some valuable information, as well as some useful tools and techniques, which can assist in making the time of project closeout as productive and as pleasant as possible. From being mindful of the special im­portance of this time, through understanding the elements of the commissioning process and final documentation, and the Certificate of Occupancy and the Cer­tificate of Substantial Completion, through recognizing the importance of the final
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project review, the supervisor must provide his care and management attention at this time. The summary guidance that is reaffirmed for the supervisor at this time is to remember that what is done and not done, and what is said and not said, at this vitally important time of the project will have a lasting effect upon the success of the project and, therefore, upon the reputation and the success of the supervisor.
Learning Activities
1.  Implement punchlist consciousness.
On the project you are now supervising, initiate a practice of managing the project through the time of its closeout with the “punchlist consciousness” discussed in this and other chapters.
Take care of managing for a quality outcome while the work is in progress.
Demonstrate for yourself the principle that usually the best and most economical time to assure a quality outcome, is while the work is in progress, and certainly before project closeout and the preparation of the project punchlist.
After this project is complete perform a personal assessment to determine for yourself whether you think this mindset provided tangible results in the manage­ment of the project, including the project closeout.
2.  Implement Project Review.
If your company does not already have a policy of conducting project reviews following the completion of its projects, talk to your project manager or company executive.
Share with them the “Project Review” section of this chapter.
Ask whether they think it would be possible to implement this process in your company. Assure your superiors that many companies and their management have found tremendous value in this practice.
Share it now!
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