Deficiencies: The Achilles’ Heel of Construction Projects

This week, please welcome Paul Behner, an accomplished project manager in the construction industry, as my guest writer.

Deficiencies are a standard line item on most, if not all, construction projects.

Construction project deficiency is defined as a characteristic or condition that fails to meet a standard, or is not in compliance with a requirement or specification, and is sometimes referred to as defective work.

Frequently, the term deficiency is confused or misinterpreted as incomplete work and, more times than not, it’s used under lien act legislation to delay substantial completion milestones which trigger holdback releases. In reality, a deficiency is not the same as incomplete work. From a legal perspective, only incomplete work affecting the beneficial use of the facility or asset intended from the project performance determines substantial completion.

Without evaluating the global issues surrounding the interpretation of substantial completion, it is fair to say that both deficiencies and incomplete work are routinely misunderstood.

There is inherent ongoing risk to the general contractor who is responsible for contract performance of all trade subcontractors and suppliers. This includes all work until project close-out, with the exception of warranty work. The ongoing issue of ineffective deficiency management cannot be improved without first breaking down the problem. Until then never-ending deficiencies will inevitably remain the Achilles’ heel of successful project delivery and, in turn, erode profitability and customer satisfaction.

Deficiencies are commonly cited as the barrier to successful project completion. To get to the core issue, it is more effective to consider a deeper understanding of project management which goes beyond the deficiency issue. The General Contracting business is as much about time sensitive delivery of a specified product or facility, as it is about operating a business. The business strategy ought to be focused on exceptional project delivery, therefore requiring exceptional project management proficiency.

Without question, deficiencies are an anticipated task and risk of every project and should be managed holistically within the project management plan. Whether deficiencies are the catch-all reference for incomplete or defective work being a chronic issue plaguing success, a project management plan that includes the five phases will greatly improve project close-out and overall performance. There is only one solution to effectively manage construction deficiencies and that is by way of a project management plan with improved guidelines on project close-out.

Paul Behner has spent 30 years in the construction sector. He provides strategic consulting on the full-cycle management of a project from planning to execution to close out. Visit his website at

Brenda Fay