Monitoring And Controlling The Project

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Let's begin with a story about a project manager. This particular project manager developed a detailed project plan and had several experienced and skillful members on the project team. The estimates were realistic and reasonably accurate. About two months into the project, one of the key team members left the project to play lead guitar in a country-western band. Although the team member/lead guitarist gave the usual two weeks notice, the project manager could only recruit and hire a less experienced replacement. The learning curve was steep. The other team

MONITORING AND CONTROLLING THE PROJECT 20l members were asked to help this new person (in addition to doing their other work). As a result, many of the tasks and activities defined in the project plan took longer than expected. The schedule was in trouble. With a deadline looming in the near distance, the team began to take short cuts in an attempt to keep the project on track. The original project plan, for example, called for one month of testing. That seemed like a lot of time, so maybe the system could be tested in two weeks. As more and more tasks began to slip, testing was cut to one week, and then two days—okay, maybe the team could test the programs as they write them. Then they would just have to keep their fingers crossed and hope everything worked when the system was implemented!

On the day the system was supposed to be delivered, the project manager had to confess to senior management that the system was "not quite ready." Senior management then asked when the system would be ready. The project manager then sheepishly explained that there were a few minor setbacks due to unforeseen circumstances out of the project manager's control. Senior management once again asked when the system would be ready. After some hemming and hawing, the project manager explained that the project would take twice as long and cost twice as much to complete if the originally agreed upon scope was maintained. Needless to say, the new project manager kept senior management informed about the project's progress.

The moral of this story is that project sponsors do not like surprises. Regardless of how well a project is planned, unexpected situations will arise. These unexpected events will require adjustments to the project schedule and budget. In fact, many cost overruns and schedule slippages can be attributed to poorly monitored projects (Van Genuchten 1991). The project plan gets thrown out the window as slippage in one task or activity causes a chain reaction among the other interdependent tasks. If that task is on the critical path, the problem can be especially serious. You know you're in trouble if a project sponsor asks, Why didn't you tell me about this earlier?

The problem may gain strength and momentum as the project manager attempts to react to these unexpected events. For example, resources may be reassigned to different tasks or processes and standards may be overlooked. The wiser project manager, on the other hand, will try to be more proactive and recognize the impact of these unexpected situations in order to plan and act in a definite and timely manner. As our story points out, many times things happen on projects that are out of our control. If the project manager had identified this problem earlier and analyzed its impact, he or she could have apprised senior management of the situation and then laid out several alternative courses of action and their estimated impact on the project's schedule and budget. Although senior management may not like the news, they probably would respect the project manager for providing an early warning. Moreover, having a feeling that someone is in control will give them a sense of security.

A project manager will not lose credibility because an unexpected event or situation arises. He or she will, however, lose (or gain) credibility in terms of how they handle a particular situation. By addressing the problem early, the chain reaction and impact on other project activities can be minimized. There will be less impact on the projects' schedule and budget.

Therefore, planning and estimating are not sufficient. A project needs an early warning system to keep things on track. This early warning system allows the project manager to control and monitor the project's progress, identify problems early, and take appropriate corrective action.

The baseline plan acts as an anchor, allowing the project manager to gauge the project's performance against planned expectations. Once the baseline plan is approved, actual progress can be benchmarked to what was planned. This process is often referred to as comparing actual to plan performance, and the comparison is relatively easy and straightforward when using a project management software package. Project control ensures that processes and resources are in place to help the project manager monitor the project. Although one might believe control has a negative connotation, it provides the capability to measure performance, alerts the project manager to problem situations, and holds people accountable. Controls also ensure that resources are being utilized efficiently and effectively while guiding the project toward its MOV. Controls can be either internal to the project (i.e., set by the project organization or methodology) or external (i.e., set by government or military standards). The control and monitoring activities of a project must be clearly communicated to all stakeholders. Everyone must be clear as to what controls will be in place and how data will be collected and information distributed.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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