PCCA Project Manager Academy Launch A Success

PCCA held its first Project Manager Academy (PMA) Jan. 13-16, in Atlanta, and by all accounts, it was wildly successful as participants, instructors and the association came away enlightened, enriched and energized.

The first PCCA PMA class included 19 construction professionals from seven different companies around the country.

The PCCA Academy is based on FMI’s highly successful PMA program. FMI is a leading provider of management consulting, investment banking and research to the engineering and construction industry. FMI worked with a group of PCCA contractor and associate members to tailor the program specifically to the telecom/electric contractor industry.

The PMA has four basic elements: coursework in the techniques of managing projects, hands-on projects as part of a team, personal feedback with personality survey tools, and personal action plans for applying the knowledge and skills gained to actual work situations.

FMI has years of experience teaching this program and admits that the techniques of managing projects are well known. Training in scheduling, budgeting and cost tracking is available from many sources. But to graduate to the next level, project staff must learn to think and act like business owners. When projects break down, they have to feel like they are bleeding their own money. When customers are dissatisfied, managers and staff must take it personally. When jobs are running smoothly, they must remain vigilant.

Topics covered in Atlanta included management and leadership; project start-up; project planning; customer-focused construction; time management; billings, cash flow and closeout; field productivity, profitability and financial management; change order management; standards and best practices; and ethics and integrity in project management.

After completing the course, one participant noted: “I will highly recommend this academy to our organization to send more managers. It was four days of high-level information but explained in simple terms. It allows you to better understand how the business is looked at by owners and the importance of the things they discuss about job closeouts, receivables, production and planning.”

The three main FMI facilitators at the Atlanta PMA – Andy Patron, Ethan Cowles and Rick Reese – were enthusiastic and engaging instructors. On the program evaluations, participants raved about the instructors’ knowledge and their ability to hold the group’s attention. “This is the first training where I never looked at the clock and was ready to leave,” said one participant.

Mysterious team projects

At the start of the PMA, participants were divided into four teams. Those teams then tackled four hands-on projects in which they collaborated with their teammates, other teams and facilitators who posed as hard-to-please project owners and engineers. The projects were fun, a bit maddening and part of what made the PMA truly special. The participants enjoyed the projects, thrived on the competition and learned new skills and new ways to look at familiar situations. One project involved meeting the “project owner” in a boardroom setting, and several participants commented on the value of the exercise. “It helped me realize how to listen to the customer and how to approach them in a meeting.” Of another project, a participant said, “Enjoyable and fun. Great learning tool.”

The personal feedback section of the PMA is, for the lack of a better phrase, very personal. Each participant completes ProScan and 360 degree personality surveys prior to the PMA and also has surveys completed by supervisors, co-workers, people who report to them, vendors and customers. Once at the PMA, participants learn about the value of honest feedback, the qualities of effective feedback, how to best give it, how to best receive it and its importance to the success of one’s company. During the PMA, each participant has an hour-long, one-on-one session with an FMI facilitator who reviews the specifics of their personal ProScan and 360 degree reports and helps them understand how the results relate to their work and their lives.

The participants were amazed by the survey tools’ ability to accurately describe their personality and appreciative of the assistance provided by the FMI facilitators Scott Moyer and Shirley Ramos. The participants’ comments were telling: “Thank you for helping me understand me,” said one participant. “Great exercise. Very eye-opening. I could have spent two hours with this info and hearing Scott’s feedback and suggestions,” said another. And finally, “It was so accurate, I thought they were spying on me.”

Bringing it all back home

No seminar, course, or academy is worth much if the participants don’t effectively apply the knowledge and skills they learned to their actual work situation. At the PMA, participants develop a personal action plan with a vision, specific/detailed steps, follow-through and accountability.

In their comments about the program, the group in Atlanta was very confident about the on-the-job benefits the PMA provided:

* Will treat the workers differently. We will do a pre- and post-job plan;
* Better time management, planning, and organization;
* Better communication with my team;
* I think I will have crews that will better understand and work with one another;
* Better interaction with customers and co-workers;
* I expect to have a better understanding of my weaknesses and how to overcome them;
* Listen more than talk. Get better relationships with my crew as well as my foremen;
* Increase of production and better time management;
* Better relationship with customers, better profit and better understanding of co-workers; and
* Higher margins. Morality.

The success of this initial PCCA PMA combined with the quality of the program and the enthusiasm and glowing feedback from the participants, has reinforced the association’s commitment to the PMA. PCCA will hold its next PMA Jan. 12-15, 2015, also in Atlanta.

Power & Communication Contractors Association, (800) 542-7222, www.pccaweb.org

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