HABITAT

BUILDING OPERATIONS

When Capital Projects Stall, Press Reset

Jacob Sirotkin in Building Operations on August 11, 2017

New York City

Press Reset

Aug. 11, 2017 — Boards need to expect surprises, then adapt when they hit.

INSIDE TRACK: This article is reprinted from the July/August issue of Habitat, "Insider Tips From 47 Management Leaders."

The only sure thing about a capital project in New York City is that there will be surprises. Planning will carry you only so far. So when capital-improvement projects stall, it’s important for boards to realize that it is OK to hit the reset button after they’ve exhausted all the possibilities.

A couple of years ago, we took over a building from another management company that was in the midst of a fairly complicated Local Law 11 project, which had dozens of change orders. When taking over a building, there are always challenges from the transition – getting to know the boards, getting to know the staff, and so forth. But doing that in the midst of a major capital-improvement project adds a different layer of complexity. We were tasked with jumping right in the middle of it, trying to figure out what was going on.

We had to meet everyone involved to try and figure out exactly where we were and how we were going to move forward. Getting all those players to trust us to do the right thing was a difficult task. We met with each individual entity. We met with the contractor. We met with the engineer. We met with the board separately to understand their frustrations and ways to move forward to complete the project and try to tie all those things together to make a seamless transition.

Completing the project as soon as possible was important because the board and residents had already endured years of a complications, with cost overruns. Strategizing with all three entities was time-consuming, but we were able to wrap our heads around the project, get all parties to essentially forget about the problems of the past and look forward to completing the project together in the future.

We developed a plan that everybody could live with. We determined that we were going to have weekly and monthly check-ins. We established short-term timelines for goals versus long-term timelines. We couldn’t just say, “Let’s finish this.” We wanted to set smaller milestones. Hitting that reset button allowed all parties to get together and come up with a plan to finish the project. It was finally completed over the next six months.

It’s important for you, as a board member, to realize when something is not working. When you’ve exhausted all possibilities and things are not working, be confident that making a change in one of those entities is the right decision.

Jacob Sirotkin is vice president of Century Management Services.

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