Creating A "Cycle Of Success"

By David Huey | September 28, 2010

Successful construction leaders are made, not born. That is the concept behind the Iowa State University and the Master Builders of Iowa (ISU/MBI) "Project Managers and Project Supervisors Academy." The academy is an extensive, highly interactive learning experience that develops the skills of project managers and project supervisors in the construction industry.

The weeklong program takes place in the Scheman Building on the ISU Ames, Iowa, campus. It begins Sunday evening, January 6, 2008, and concludes with lunch on Friday afternoon, January 11, 2008. Sessions are held morning, afternoon and evening. The instructors are all experts in their respective fields. Members and students of Iowa State's Construction Engineering program facilitate and synthesize many of the interactive sessions.

MBI and ISU have designed these programs to provide the right mix of technical knowledge to develop necessary skills while focusing on teamwork, leadership, motivation, and persuasion — critical attributes for tomorrow's industry. The curriculum is focused on three areas: the individual, the project and the company.

Participants include individuals in the construction industry who exhibit the ability to lead. They are challenged to improve personally as a pre-requisite to improvements in their projects and their company. The "Cycle of Success" is an outcome of this approach and is reinforced throughout the week. Ultimately, the academy's goal is to help individuals develop their own pattern for success so that they can advance themselves, their projects and their company. Companies are encouraged to invest in these leaders.

The Program

Over the past four years, ISU/MBI have been reshaping and improving the academy. The upcoming program will contain established sessions and new ones. Beginning in 2008, the academy will offer a new program, "Understanding Your Management Style." It will be presented by Dr. Kelly Strong, Iowa State University, and Charles Cook, R.S., of Cook & Associates, Southeaster, Pa., and an academy facilitator. The offering accepts that the foundation of personal and professional success lies in understanding yourself, understanding others and realizing the impact of your personal behavior on the people around you. It includes the Personal Profile System. This system has developed effective communication and productive relationships in over 40 million people worldwide. This seminar will help participants understand their own management style.

Another new program for 2008 is "Financial Aspects of a Construction Company" presented by Rod Foster, managing director of RSM McGladery, Des Moines, Iowa. It addresses how a construction company operates financially — something not always clear to personnel mostly involved with projects. This session is designed to help attendees understand the financial aspects of a construction company and how financial considerations impact both short- and long-term decisions.

"What Project Managers/Project Supervisors Need to Know About Scheduling" will also debut in 2008. Richard Merkhofer, at Wagner-Hohns-Inglis, Inc., Mt. Holly, N.J., understands that project managers, project supervisors and subcontractors each have different needs and roles in producing effective and functional schedules. The presentation will include an in-depth discussion on management's reports analysis of time-related change orders/delays, schedule formats, integration of field schedules, and available methodologies for resolving disputes.

Ted Garrison, of Garrison Associates, Ormand Beach, Fla., presents a final new 2008 program. "How to Obtain More Profitable Projects" explains how project personnel must collaborate with the client to better define the client's needs in order to deliver greater value and establish a stronger relationship. The key to successful marketing is building a relationship with clients and there is no better way to do that than at the project level where there is constant face-to-face contact. This session is focused on customer service for field managers and will include topics such as identifying owner needs, tips for communication with owners, and understanding the customer.

Two Academy traditions, Leadership I & II, are also facilitated by Charles Cook. Session I will begin with a program overview and will cover the following topics: the importance of leadership; the project manager/superintendent relationship; transformation model; leadership focus; and motivation. Session II includes the following highlights: the dynamics of leadership; leadership qualities; communicating as a leader; conflict resolution; leadership strategy; and coaching for success.

Dr. Robert Bowen, Bowen Engineering Corp., Indianapolis, will present "Project Pre-Planning." Proper up-front planning is critical to a successful project. This session will take an in-depth look at the process of preplanning and how it relates to the bottom line. Participants will learn why it is critical for project management be empowered to make decisions and how this is accomplished.

The punchlist might be the most important element of a project. This is explained in "Why Your Punchlist Should Be Your #1 Marketing Tool," another program led by Ted Garrison. He addresses the interesting phenomenon that if project management makes a mistake and fixes it to meet or exceed the customer's expectations, that customer will be more loyal than if the mistake had been avoided in the first place.

Combined project manger and project supervisor attendees will participate in a "Leadership Roundtable Discussion" of survey results that were collected during the leadership sessions. Charles Cook facilitates this meeting of the minds. Cook will also moderate the "Leadership Jeopardy Challenge," a fun and fast-paced competition in which everyone participates and get to put their answers in the form of questions.

To date, 191 individuals with 59 companies from 11 states have completed the program in the past four years. The $2,175 tuition includes course materials, opening night reception, lodging, breakfast, lunch, and evening meals and special activities. Please contact academy facilitator Monica Worheide, director of professional development for the Master Builders of Iowa, at (515) 288-8904, e-mail her at or go to