How a kitchen renovation can be a lot like a mismanaged evaluation project

In nine days, our kitchen renovation project will have been going on for 3 months. Yes, that is right, 3 months! I hope you can see from this picture that we do not have a terribly large kitchen. Furthermore, we weren’t changing the footprint or changing appliances. We did not require major electrical work. So why has the project gone on so long you ask? kitchen1

This project hit so many speed bumps that my mantra this summer is, “Man, if I ran my business like this project” I’d be OUT of business. So naturally, that inspired this blog.

A bit of history here….We originally intended to go with a smaller firm but after the designer we were working with left the company, we decided to go with a big box shop instead. We thought this would provide us better support and coverage should something go wrong. Well it didn’t quite turn out that way. So here are my learning lessons from this project that I applied to both kitchen renovations and evaluation projects.

1. Every part of our kitchen remodel was subcontracted by a “pool” of contractors. That is expected in the remodeling world I suppose. But evaluation clients listen up! This may or may not be true for you. Do ask if the evaluation work will be subcontracted. Who will do the actual work- is it the senior consultant you hired or someone else? Who will supervise the subs’ work? What qualifications do they have? When CES is every hired for a large project, we have a very small pool of subs with whom we work. We have vetted them thoroughly. I know many other independent consultants who operate the same way. But ultimately I am responsible for the quality of their work.kitchen2

2. My husband developed a project management worksheet for the kitchen remodel because the right hand of the big box just never seemed to know what the left hand was doing. So before your hire an evaluation consultant, do ask, who will manage the project? Evaluation projects, like my kitchen renovation, have lots of pieces that all have to come together. Defining them using a Gantt chart or an excel spreadsheet can help everyone visualize specific benchmarks, define who is responsible at each step, and keep the project moving towards the target dates. So here is the funny postscript here- after my husband developed the project management worksheet, weeks into the project mind you, my husband got an email welcoming him to the big box’s “project management website!”

3. Evaluators, do provide the client with information on how they need to participate (attend trainings, involve staff) and what dates they need to hit. For example, we were not told that we needed to have our sink on the first day of demolition. Since we had to order it, this one misstep cost us 1 ½ weeks while we waited for the sink to arrive. The big box company could have provided us with a one-page list at the start of the project and therefore avoided this delay.

4. Evaluators, do provide the client information on what they need to contribute (data, information, and staff). You know that sink (awesome, deep, chef’s sink) I just told you about? Guess what- it wouldn’t work with the cabinet fronts we ordered that had shelves for cleaning supplies. Even though we had asked about the proper size sink we needed at the start. The cabinet doors we ordered cost more than regular doors naturally. We are still trying to fix that snafu.

5. When something goes wrong, and it’s not the clients fault (and even if it is), fix it! One of the contractors accidently broke our gas range because the granite folks had not leveled it when they set the granite countertop. At first the big box store was only going to give us a small amount towards a new range. After many conversations and heated exchanges, we finally came to an agreement. That was a month ago; I am still waiting for my range…The installer said they would be here Saturday while the store said they still had not received the range. See point # 2.

6. The devil (i.e. the quality of the work) is in the details. I should not have to point out where a nail hole is showing, where a cabinet is loose, where door knobs are not level. We all make mistakes- absolutely! Clients must be involved in the work and should actively read all reports, but quality control is not the responsibility of the client. kitchen3

There are so many other things that went wrong along the way (ask me about the backsplash tile debacle sometime) but hopefully you get the point.

This October, CES will celebrate our 10th year in business. We hope we practice what we preach in terms of client service and project management. We hope evaluators and clients will use this example to really think about how to work together more productively. We’d love to hear about your evaluation projects (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and lessons learned along the way.

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