For fast-tracking a construction project when it mattered most
The pandemic derailed or paused projects for many, but not Bridget Mason. She was immersed in a high-priority effort to design and construct a vaccine manufacturing facility. The need was clear—but the team faced a rough road.
“In a project that would have otherwise taken over three years, this one-year fast-tracked project has meant a lot of personal sacrifice for those involved,” says Mason, who joined the client team just weeks before the coronavirus forced a national lockdown. “Never in my career have I worked with such an amazing team of skilled and dedicated professionals.”
Mason and the team compressed the standard schedule into 12 months by leaning hard on tech tools, including creating a digital twin of the building that architects, engineers and contractors could interact with. The team also used collaborative software for marking up and sharing construction documents in real time, and 4D schedules that overlaid a project schedule and 3D model to visualize dependencies.
“The design and construction have been evolving simultaneously, which requires extreme organization and communication within the team but can also substantially condense the project timeline,” Mason says. “Where scope might have once been the most constant, with resources and timeline a moving target, we’re now looking at fixed resources and timelines with an ever-evolving scope.
“These tools and technologies are changing the world of project management,” she says. “And I can’t wait to use them more in the future.”
Q&A: Bridget Mason on the trust equation, morning routines and resisting shortcuts
What past project most influenced you personally?
It was a high-end private law and accounting firm, where we completely gutted the existing space, and I was able to work with a blank canvas. This was when I was an interior designer. I was 24, and it was the first time I had been trusted to run a project by myself. I’ve never been more nervous and excited at the same time. I would lie awake at night wondering what details I might have missed. It was a stressful couple of months, but in the end the project was a success. That became a defining moment where I realized how capable I was and that I had a lot to be excited about in the career ahead of me.
What’s the one must-have skill to succeed in The Project Economy?
In short, trust. Trust in your team ensures everyone is happy and doing their best work, which I believe is key in turning great ideas into reality. Fostering relationships between peers is incredibly effective in getting over roadblocks or tackling ambiguity when unknowns arise.
I often refer back to an approach called the trust equation. You can imagine it as a battery that fills based on interactions you have with a person. The greater the trust, the faster you can move. Keeping a trust battery charged demands reliability, credibility, intimacy and self-orientation. When people feel supported, appreciated and heard, they’re willing to go that extra mile.
What’s the biggest challenge facing young project leaders right now?
New technologies might allow us to find efficiencies and complete tasks quickly, but in turn industry expectations continue to increase without consideration for the human elements involved. Sure, technology can help speed up processes, but it’s still managed by humans who can only accomplish so much in a day. It is important for young project leaders to understand the value of maintaining the quality of a project and resisting shortcuts to meet fast-paced industry expectations.
How did the pandemic change the way you manage projects?
The pandemic has gifted me with a new outlook on work-life balance. Things that used to come second to work—such as sleep, exercise, healthy eating and cleaning—are now at a level playing field. Managing projects becomes more enjoyable when you get to fit little bits of everyday life in between. There is no more work life versus home life; they get to exist simultaneously.
What’s the first thing you check every morning?
After walking my dog and before doing my daily workout, I stretch for half an hour as I listen to The Daily by The New York Times. It’s a 20-minute podcast that breaks down current events in a human way. I’m all about efficiency, and this allows me to learn about what’s going on in the world while also taking a moment for my physical health. It always sets me on track for a good day.