Projects often last months at Acorn Design/Build, of Denver, but there's rarely confusion over who agreed to what when, or which products should go where, or when that trade contractor is on the schedule. Owner Joel Oatten has created several systems that strike a careful balance between standardizing procedures and giving his four project supervisors the latitude to schedule and execute projects in the ways that work best for them.

  • Before the schedule is developed, Oatten and the relevant supervisor carefully review the plans for every aspect of the project. The supervisor then outlines a week-by-week schedule, based on the trade contractors he has lined up and the sequence in which he prefers to build. “There are many ways to build a mousetrap,” Oatten says.
  • The complete schedule and other key pieces of project information are stored in job binders that are produced in triplicate: one for the office, one for the supervisor, and one for the client. The binders are tabbed into 10 categories that also include plans, specifications, change orders, and allowances. Whenever there's a change, binders are updated appropriately.
  • Project supervisors keep their job binders with them at all times. Another key item in each binder is the “communication profile,” which has all of the client's phone numbers, e-mail addresses, emergency contact information, and more.
  • Extensive pre-planning and ongoing documentation provide great assurance to clients, Oatten says. Supervisors, in turn, can spend more time actually building their projects, and less time meeting with clients and resolving the kinds of challenges that result from poor planning or communication.