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Kennison Forest Products, Inc.
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January 30, 2007 8:19 AM CST

Good for the Goose, Good for the Gander


Gather around, team! This month, we're talking about relationships between you and your subcontractors. But today's session also applies even if you have no subs.

That old saying, "What's good for the goose, is good for the gander," means what is good for one party is equally good for the other. In our situation, it might mean that the contract gets applied both ways, and is not just written for one contractor to beat up on another. (Although I freely admit that they sometimes feel that way!)

Let's pause for a second and reflect on something: Why should we always be concerned about being Full Contact Project Managers? Lots of reasons, but profit and survival do come to mind. We've learned that we have to look out for our own best interests, and that we can't always count on the diligence and fairness of our clients to do that for us. That's why we always ask lots of questions usually in writing when something seems strange to us, more formally known as "not in our scope of work." And we know what to do; we fire off an RFI, ask the question of the client, remind the client that we can't move forward without an answer, and that we are now waiting on him or her to provide the answer that will allow us to proceed. We also remind him or her that there might be costs attached to this issue. And it's stunningly successful, isn't it?

By the way, if you are not already using an RFI style designed to win for you most of the time, then see the Playbook at the end of this article, and get the one that I use. It's free, but it's also priceless, if you know what I mean.

Now, back to today's session ... We know that the Full Contact PM approach works well for us, but what about for our own subcontractors? In fact, here are some questions to ponder: Do we want our own subs to use the Full Contact PM approach? Will it hurt us? Will it hurt our relationship with our own clients? All good questions. And I'll give you the answers right after I tell you a short story, as usual something that happened to me.

We were working on a project some months back when a demolition subcontractor of mine ran into some concrete that wasn't supposed to be there. The sub notified me and I immediately wrote an RFI to my client and asked him what he wanted to do. Before he could answer, my sub took it upon himself to remove the offending concrete approximately $10,000 worth. My sub was interested in keeping the job moving. In fact, he almost seemed more interested in keeping the job moving than he was in getting paid!

Let's look at what happened here. At one point in time, my sub was in control; he uncovered potential extra work. The owner would need to have this work done, and not doing the work would delay the owner's project.

Ask yourself this question: If you were the owner, what would you do? You have a pain and you want it to go away. You know that, sometimes if you apply a little money to your pain, both the pain and your money go away, but at least you are moving again. You get relief!

On the other hand, if you are the owner and someone just reaches out and eliminates your pain, who now has the leverage? I'm going to tell you that it is no longer your sub! And, in fact, you are also in a more serious predicament. Can you see that? Good. If you can't, you will once your sub sends you a bill and just expects that you are going to pay it, because he assumes that the owner is going to pay you.

So what can we do about this? Several things:

  • We make sure our subcontract has a clause dealing with how our subs proceed when something unexpected is discovered.

  • We explain to our subs what it is they are signing, and we explain to them again how this works once they start on the job.

  • We remind them that if they do not get a notice from us to proceed, in writing, they will probably not be paid.

  • And we also tell them that, even if the owner of the project personally tells them to do the work and assures them that they will be paid for their work, they are still not to proceed without written word from us, their client.
"Hey, Coach," you say, "seems like a big hassle." The sad fact of contracting life is that getting paid is often a hassle, isn't it, even when things are straightforward? Imagine how much worse it is when the lines of responsibility are blurred.

An additional benefit is that you gain an ally in the approval process. You are now free to tell your client that, not only do you consider the work to be out of scope, but so does your sub, and your sub has already made it clear to you that he will not move forward without written word from you. At which point in time you can remind your client that, even if you wanted to move forward this instant, you still couldn't, because the contract documents prohibit you from moving forward until your client authorizes the work in writing. Your client did so because he or she didn't want to be surprised with extras without first authorizing them. You could say that they were looking out for their own best interests. And you're just a contractor, trying to live up to your agreement, just as he or she insisted.

Good for the goose; good for the gander!

About the Author

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at

Copyright 2006, Gary Micheloni and Full Contact Project Management


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