Controlling a project

A sad reality of projects is that they’re often born amid high hopes and expectations and die in frustration and disappointment. Your project plans represent visions that you believe will work; however, those plans don’t implement themselves automatically

A sad reality of projects is that they’re often born amid high hopes and expectations and die in frustration and disappointment. Your project plans represent visions that you believe will work; however, those plans don’t implement themselves automatically, and they can’t predict the future with certainty.

Successful projects require continued care and management to ensure that the project follows the plans correctly and, as a result, leads to the desired
results. When unexpected situations occur, you must react promptly to adjust your efforts and keep your project on track. This article discusses the steps in the project control process and focuses on the systems and techniques for collecting, analyzing, and reporting on schedule performance, labor hours, and expenditures, and taking corrective actions when needed.

Now that we have our project plan, we are ready to implement it. From a project management perspective, implementing a project plan involves two general categories of activities: project execution and project control. These activities are performed in parallel to complete the work of the project, report project progress, and keep the project on track. For the purposes of this book, we will address the process focused activities in Part III of the book, “ Project Control,” and the people-focused aspects in Part IV, “ Project Execution.” While there are entire courses that address just single aspects of project control and project execution, we will focus on the “need to know” fundamentals that will greatly reduce your learning curve and accelerate your effectiveness as a project manager.

What is project control

What do you think of when you hear “project control”? Micromanager? Confrontation? Inflexible? Military-style leadership? Theory X management? Fortunately, none of these terms accurately describe project control. Project control consists of the information systems and the management procedures that allow us to answer questions such as:
■ Are we on track?
■ Are we on budget?
■ Are we on schedule?
■ Are we delivering what we said we would?
■ Are we meeting quality and performance standards?
■ Are we meeting stakeholder expectations?
■ What have we accomplished?
■ Will the project objectives be met?
■ What deviations/variances exist?
■ What corrective actions are we taking?
■ What caused these variances?
■ What risks are we monitoring?
■ What issues do we need to resolve?
■ What lessons have we learned?

When to control your projects

Choose the time period for monitoring your project’s performance based on the overall length of the project, the risk of unexpected occurrences, and your proximity to major project milestones. Although you may choose to monitor select project activities on a daily basis in certain situations, plan to
assess your project’s overall performance at least once a month to identify promptly any unexpected occurrences or performance problems that must be addressed.