Best CM Practices for Risk Mitigation Management: Part 3

Road sign that says 'Changes Ahead"

Root Causes of a Troubled Project

In the prior installment of this series, we discussed indicators of difficult projects and troubled projects; however, indicators might not equate to the actual root causes, which are important to identify in order to effectively strategize intervention measures.

Weak Leadership from Owner’s Representative

The predominant mistake in the approach of many CMs managers is avoidance, which is exemplified by a reluctance to enforce protocols dictated by the general conditions, and an aversion to document the contractor’s failures to comply with contract requirements. We have found that not only does this style of management impede the owner’s ability to defend claims, but we have also discovered that projects managed under these flawed approaches are more prone to quality problems, schedule delays, and distrust and acrimony among team members.

Antagonism from the Contractor’s Team

There are certain instances where a project is derailed by a general contractor that refuses to engage in civil discourse or abide by any reasonable interpretation of the contract.

Relaxation of Contractual Processes

A commonly observed symptom of project trouble is when the owner’s CM devolves into an informal way of doing business:

  • Not recognizing extra work (e.g., proposed change order, request for proposal, change order request, work change directive)
  • No discussion and correspondence concerning objectionable events, job site incidents, and poor critical path progress
  • No notices of non‐compliant work (NCR)
  • Weak meeting minutes
  • Vague inspector’s daily reports
  • Vague directives (e.g., RFIs requiring extra work, field orders, force account, etc.)
  • Improper RFIs (i.e., seeking the designer’s acceptance of means and methods or alternate material)

Top‐down Diving by Executives

When project executives see a project spinning out of control, they may intercede personally. Inevitably the CM is left neutered, and parties disengage at the field level since they lose confidence in making decisions.

In the next installments of this series, we strategize realignment actions that Anser may facilitate on the owners-side of the fence, including staffing changes.



This is an 8-part series called Leveraging for Realignment: Best Practices for Troubled Projects, originally presented at CMAA National Conference.

Contributing authors: Shawn Paroline, SAIC; Mike Kenny, San Diego County Water Authority; Dan Fauchier, The Realignment Group; Jim Linthicum, San Diego Association of Governments; Chris Brasco, Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald, LLP