Even the most talented percussionists, the most eloquent string players, and brass instrumentalists with world-class cardio strength aren’t much use without a conductor. The conductor pulls those individually talented elements together to produce the symphony.
That’s what a senior project manager (SPM) who oversees multiple construction projects within a single program does. Like a symphonic conductor, an SPM is charged with assembling instruments that might otherwise go their own way without careful coordination. (And the fact that most of them come from different unions adds yet another layer of complexity.) The SPM provides direction, purpose and meaning to the various projects, molding all the distinct parts into a format that will be … and please pardon the pun … music to a client’s ears.
When SPMs are asked what we do for a living, most of us usually answer by saying something general about how we’re associated with construction. The reality is, we’re in the service industry. We provide a service to owners who need our expertise to deliver products they might struggle to deliver on their own. Each of us is part accountant, carpenter, lawyer, banker, owner’s representative, public speaker, janitor, public official, and more. Because of the many hats we wear, SPMs who manage multiple large projects at once spend a good portion of our time serving as the single source of information for our clients. It’s our job to retain and deliver global knowledge of every active project included in a program. That means everything from schedules to move dates to budgets to paint colors – everything the owner might want to know at any point.
I have the distinct honor of serving as VPCS’s SPM keeping an eye on all the projects that are distributed throughout the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) and included in the $269 million Measure H bond program. VPCS has a diverse, multi-talented team sharing the sizeable workload for these different projects. Our on-site construction managers provide the daily on-the-ground, close-contact, detailed management of our projects. Our admins support these efforts with myriad duties ranging from scheduling to move coordination. Everyone has distinct strengths and it’s up to the SPM not only to understand them but also to provide services on each project to complement them. This means something slightly different on each project. One project may require that we take a larger role in civil activities while another may require that we be more heavily involved in proposed change order negotiations. Determining the depth of the SPM’s role on each project requires an in-depth understanding of the client’s needs, focus and goals.
When an SPM is entrusted with managing multiple projects, it is both humbling and an honor. Not only are our clients trusting us with some of their most critical functions, they are also usually relying on us to protect the taxpayers who are actually paying for the work. It’s our job to ensure that if our clients go to those taxpayers with a bond in the future, they can state with confidence that their tax dollars were used wisely and provided their community with value.
At NVUSD, we are also lucky to be surrounded by an extremely hard working, dedicated school staff. From teachers to management, everyone we work with is fully committed to providing a robust educational experience to the citizens of Napa.
We are well into our management of the Measure H bond program at NVUSD, with fantastic projects close to completion and even more upcoming. It is truly a pleasure meeting the many challenges of managing multiple, unique and dynamic projects, especially when I get to represent such a stellar client and work with a VPCS team that takes such pride in their work. Together, we’re making beautiful music!
By Ray Green