Positioning Your Project for Award Success

You’ve just completed a successful project. You can dust off your hands, finish the closeout paperwork, thank the project team and move on to the next. At some point, it may occur to you that, “Hey! This was a great project. A potentially award-winning project! We should really get some recognition for how awesome we were on this project!”

Building an award-worthy project and actually earning awards for your effort are two completely different processes. Below we break down the best ways to position your project specifically for award success.

    1. Plan ahead. It’s not enough to have a great project—you need paperwork that proves it. Documentation of varying sorts is required for almost all award submissions. Unless you know in advance what awards you intend to pursue once a project is completed and are working only to those specifications, the best way to plan ahead is to keep documents on everything. You may not know what you will need until you need it. Even within some awards, the requirements change year-to-year—so collect whatever you can early. Statements from project owners and stakeholders are not only easier to collect immediately after a project, but they are fresher too. Even if the award you’re submitting isn’t due for another three months, assuming that everyone will be available and willing to help with award prep in three months is risky. Gather everything you can, as early as you can. Think ahead.
    2. Go the extra mile. During the project, go the extra mile. If it’s a partnered project, don’t just have an informal partnering process—document it. You’ll immediately qualify for more awards. Keep meeting notes, write things down, and take the time to impart this philosophy to other project participants. It is advantageous to everyone if a project wins an award, and making this point to subcontractors, stakeholders, and project team members can make the difference for a winning project.
    3. Take photographs. It may seem obvious, but almost every award submission now requires multiple (usually a minimum of eight) high resolution, high-quality photographs of the project and the project team. Take the photos as the project progresses, and take a lot to provide better options for photos that are relevant to the specific award you are submitting. Remember that even small details matter. For example, do not include photos where team members aren’t wearing proper PPE in a construction area. When reviewing your photos, you may not notice this—but a selection committee sure will.
    4. Choose your targets wisely. While a project might be eligible for an award, it doesn’t mean it’s a perfect fit. Think carefully about what made the project successful, and target awards recognizing those areas. If you can’t write a convincing argument for why your project should win the award, you should not be submitting to it. Even if you think your project had amazing partnering coordination, if the submission guidelines require a formal charter and you don’t have one, there is no point in applying. Understand the requirements and respect them.
    5. Know the deadlines. Some award submissions can be thrown together in a week, but most require a little more lead time. Almost all award submissions will require you to gather together some documents or source responses from third parties, and expecting people to do this on a short timeline is unrealistic. Know the submission deadlines for the awards you are interested in and plan appropriately.
    6. Know your acronyms. Get to know the awards universe. A staggering number of professional bodies offer award programs, so simply applying to your local AGC chapter is keeping your field artificially narrow. Even small or new professional organizations have awards to distribute, and most have a nominal or no application fee. Find those relevant to your project, make a list, and apply to as many as you can. You have nothing to lose and may end up winning an award from a technical group or a growing organization that will look fantastic in years to come.

Not every great project wins awards, but those that do are a result of pre-planning, follow-up throughout the project, and a solid, original submission write that catches the attention of the selection panel. Do the legwork, and your chances of success are much higher. And remember: awards and accolades don’t just make your project look good, they make the firm look good, and they could be the edge you need on your next project procurement!