How to Set and Track Successful Construction Project Goals

Consistently track project goals as jobs progress and move forward before it's too late to know if you're getting the desired results

Make hitting your project goals a priority by meeting with each project team every month to review and monitor their progress.
Make hitting your project goals a priority by meeting with each project team every month to review and monitor their progress.

To achieve or beat construction project goals, your field crew and team leaders must know what you want them to accomplish! Implementing a winning strategy starts with a scoreboard showing all of the tasks, milestones and measurable targets you want them to hit. Next you must update it regularly and communicate specific project results to every team member on an ongoing real-time basis. And then at the completion of your projects, you review and analyze the actual results versus the goals to determine where your team could have improved or achieved better results.

The majority of contractors don’t consistently track project goals as their jobs progress and move forward. When this happens, crew moves forward in the dark at any pace deemed appropriate without statistics, targets, goals or feedback. Seeing a final job cost report long after the project is finished doesn’t motivate, help or provide guidance to the project superintendent or foreman. It’s too late to make changes to your day to day strategy or make up any lost progress after jobs are finished. An even worse case familiar scenario is when company owners finally see project results eight or more months later. After their accountant finalizes the year-end profit and loss statement and tax return they finally discover there was little or no net profit for their hard work and efforts.

No targets = no results

Before you start any task you want to complete on-time or ahead of schedule, you need to know the interim milestones, deadlines and expected completion dates. To meet the budget, you need to know and track how much resources, labor, materials and equipment you have estimated and how much you are using as you work on the task. For example, concrete foremen need to know how many crew hours and days they have to complete their work to hit a job budget. A retail project superintendent needs to know the tenant’s move-in and occupancy dates in order to get the store completed and opened on time. Electrical subcontractors need to know what paperwork is required by what date in order to get their light fixture submittals approved, ordered and delivered to the jobsite for an on-time installation.

When project managers, superintendents, foreman and field employees don’t know what their goals are or how well they’re doing, they can’t be held responsible or accountable to achieve results. When general contractors don’t communicate exactly what’s expected or required on projects to their subcontractors, they also can’t be held responsible to achieve milestone targets and goals.

Most construction companies get awarded jobs and start them in a hurry without taking time to prepare a detailed project plan, schedule or budget which will ensure success. You’ve heard the expression, ‘haste makes waste.’ Proceeding without clear targets or a detailed work plan will cause you to make mistakes and not achieve or exceed bottom-line results you want. Setting project goals is simple. Think about what you are trying to accomplish on each particular job. Set a few important targets, outline them clearly and let the team know specifically what they are shooting for, give them updated progress reports as they proceed and watch them succeed.

Set and track your schedule

Get the project superintendent and foreman together before the job starts and draft out a simple bar chart schedule for performing every work task. Using a blank wall, flip chart, or large white board, they work together to think through and layout all the tasks and phases required to build the project or their scope of work. I suggest writing all of these tasks, milestones and requirements on ‘post-it-notes,’ and then placing them in the logical sequence on the board or wall. Include long-lead items, approvals required, permits, inspections, utility company requirements, submittal and shop drawings, material finish selections, and other specific project issues affecting the schedule. Also, be sure to include major project milestones and important deadlines required by contract. Once this draft schedule is completed, take a picture of it and email it out to all the project team players for review. After receiving input, formalize the official project schedule and send it out to all team players, stakeholders, contractors and suppliers. 

The project foreman or superintendent should also develop, prepare and update two- to four-week ‘think-ahead’ schedules every week to detail their plans for next month’s activity. This will cause the foreman or superintendent to look ahead and think about the upcoming deadlines, activities, tools, equipment, subcontractors and labor required to keep the project on schedule. Also, update the official project schedule every two weeks or monthly as needed, so you can monitor positive and negative changes and keep focused on meeting the milestones required by your contract.

Set and track your budget

After you get awarded a contract, the project team must sit down to create a line item project budget. First, review the bid cost breakdown and make sure everything was covered in the bid and estimate. Make the necessary adjustments and agree on a final project budget for every line item. Your project manager will then have an overall working project budget to start with and the foreman or superintendent will have a field budget for labor, equipment and material for work tasks their crew self-performs.

On self-performed work, using input from the project manager and estimator, determine how many crew days, total labor and equipment hours you have to complete your work. Then spread these crew days across the allotted schedule to make sure the crew days and total labor hours meet the job budget. As the project moves forward, crew leaders need to get weekly input reports from the office how many hours they have used versus the budget on a total job and individual work task basis. This will keep the foreman or superintendent aware of what they have spent and how much is still available to complete their jobs.

Every month the project manager must prepare an updated job cost report for every job under construction to determine the budget versus actual costs on every line item. Starting with the line-item budget, determine the cost to date, estimated cost to complete and any variances to determine the estimated final cost and projected profit for every job.

Make your projects successful by setting and tracking targets and goals. To achieve additional project goals like customer service, safety, quality, change orders, payables, punch-list or warranty work, follow these steps outlined above to set, track and monitor the specific targets you want to hit. Make hitting your project goals a priority by meeting with each project team every month to review and monitor their progress.

George Hedley CSP CPBC is a professional construction BIZCOACH and popular industry speaker. He helps contractors grow, make more profit, build management teams, and get their businesses to work for them. He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available on E-mail [email protected] to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, start a BIZCOACH program, attend a two-day BIZ-BUILDER Boot Camp, get a discount at online university for contractors, or visit for more information.