COVID at the coalface

Published 30 April 2020

As we move into Level 3 we reflect on the last 5 weeks and what it means for our business and our clients. As Project Managers we are often called on to manage unique and stressful construction project issues or industry and economic pressures. Typically these were seen approaching from a distance giving us the chance to plan, or were one off events that could be siloed and referenced against historical experiences making them easier to navigate.

The speed at which Covid-19 impacted the global and local landscapes is surreal to say the least. Rather than one off project management events, we have seen the full gambit of circumstances unfold across all parts of our industry and on all of our client’s projects, impacting all of our colleagues and peers. As this all started to unfold we took stock and one point of focus remained true for our business, this is why we are here, we manage change and issues for our clients with effective leadership. It is the core to who we are as a business

This is why we are here, we manage change and issues for our clients with effective leadership. It is the core to who we are as a business.

While the obvious scale of the task at hand is immense, the principal remains the same. Like any problem we need to break down the issues and understand the drivers, tailor a plan and then lead from the front. These are essential ingredients to navigating through this change and coming out the other side reasonably unscathed.


There are many issues unfolding as we move through the initial Covid-19 stages and uncover what each level means and also speculate on what the medium and long term impacts will be for our clients and the property and construction industry as a whole. The key project management focus in the short term has been:

  • Increased reporting and communication to keep our clients informed of what’s happening in the industry and from a regulatory perspective, how this will impact them and their projects.
  • Health and Safety has been raised to the next level and as PCBU’s (persons conducting a business or undertaking) we are required to keep at the forefront of the industry and social requirements which requires leadership in the first instance to reinforce the need and then documenting and monitoring for us and our clients.
  • Contractual obligations are being tested like never before and leadership in this space has been essential to make sure contractors, clients and projects remain viable.
  • Quality assurance has been a focus for Greenstone. It may be easy in these times when the going is tough to fall into the trap of “just enough is good enough”. This is likely to result in medium to long term fall out and general dissatisfaction for our clients.
  • Communication is at the heart of what we do and this has been tested and retested over the last 5 weeks with the result that YES no matter what the medium or the barrier we can succeed and get shit done!


We can make short term plans for the issues we currently face but there will be many more challenges unfold as we continue on this journey out of lock down and even further down the track as a result of Covid-19. Our strengths as a business are adapting, strategic advice, providing bespoke tailor made processes and solutions – this can only be seen as a massive positive in today’s environment. In the coming months the most important thing we can do is keep a clear focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, however small that may be. We need to look ahead and get ready for the next wave of solutions while continuing to manage the short term, such as;

  • Project programmes will come under obvious pressure. We will work with clients, consultants and contractors to forecast what will happen next. Putting in place plans to mitigate possible issues will be essential to meet our client’s operational requirements which are also under stress. The next 4 months will be critical for fast action and response.
  • In respect to budgets, juggling project cash-flow and funding in a recession will require detailed and intimate knowledge of what’s coming, what’s due when and potentially require negotiating revised terms or agreements. Some of this is already underway.
  • Working with our clients to get the next wave of projects, potentially those that have been recently derailed back on the track again. This is going to require some collaborative thinking and focus. Opportunities beckon!


While there many well documented negatives as a result of Covid 19 there are also positives that will help to shape the future of our property and construction industry. These need to be thought about now and grabbed with both hands as we drag the industry back to its feet:

  • As an industry we have been an extremely slow adopter of technology and while lockdown has largely made it a necessity it is refreshing to see how quickly basic everyday technology has been embraced.
  • As the barrier has now been lifted we can only imagine the benefits and boundaries that can be pushed in this space.
  • Our industry is often seen as many individual parts all trying to make their own way, holding cards close, protecting margins, rolling with the status quo to ensure that they can maintain their place. Once the initial dust had settled and everyone realised that backing away into your corner was not going to work, there has been a sense of collaboration and sharing that we have not seen before. Given we are such a small and constrained industry we can only hope that the steps taken now are the first on a journey to greater transparency and collaboration.
  • ‘Never waste a crisis’ is a term that we have heard echo across the news and media. While a cliché it probably has never had a better chance of being relevant. Blue sky thinking – bring it on!


Covid-19 is something no one could anticipate. The effect it has had across the world is devastating in the lives that have been lost and also the economic factors that have hit not just our construction and property industries, but all businesses across New Zealand. We need to stick together through this and help one another out. Whether it is by solving project problems, simply sharing information or just a call to see how someone is tracking, it’s all important.

Tenacious support for our clients and their projects has been a core foundation for our business and is truer now more than ever. We have also seen our clients supporting us with reinforced commitment and discussions on shared futures through this time. Surviving a crisis together builds lasting relationships and strong bonds. So to all our clients – Thank you.

Finally to our people. With a business that has transformed its way of working overnight and with people being subjected to multiple industry and personal pressures everyone is standing up, adapting to the new ways and showing the leadership required. Whether it is supporting our clients, making sure health and safety is observed, working through stressful contractual issues, or just communicating with the construction or property project teams around what’s happening – bringing everyone together to find solutions is the glue that holds the projects we work on together. So to all our people – Thank you.

Bring on Level 2!