Chapter Controlling the Project


If I were to define what the control phase of a project was, I would begin by stating that the project manager must continually measure and control all variances throughout all phases of a project life cycle. You can equate control of a project with the navigation of a sailing boat. It is the captain's responsibility that the vessel remains on its predetermined plotted course and that it reaches its final destination. Similarly, the project manager needs to keep the project on the course set by its plotted objectives.

An accurate snapshot of the actual project (where it is) and with the planned status (where it is supposed to be) must be made at regular intervals, as this is the only way to control a project.

The aim of project control, in a nutshell, is to compare the actual progress and performance against the project plan. The project manager therefore has to analyze any variances, review possible alternatives, and take the appropriate corrective action. Undoubtedly, project managers need to control their projects on a regular basis; without this control being in place, an ever-increasing level of unnecessary detail will appear. Table 7.1 illustrates the key differences between monitoring and corrective actions.

Table 7.1: Monitoring and related corrective actions on a project

Monitoring _

Corrective Action _

Measuring progress

Determining the corrective actions needed

Comparing actual results to planned results

Assessing performance and improvement

Evaluating gaps on the project

Updating changes to the required plans

Predicting possible outcomes and trends

Communicating and adjusting total project plan

Without effective control and preventative measures in place, the project manager is not able to determine which milestones or tasks are behind schedule, over budget, what the issues or risks are, or even by how far the project is failing. I have found that the longer a project is left uncontrolled, the more difficult it becomes to anticipate what problems the project will encounter. The project manager's prime role during this phase is to (a) identify all symptoms or factors that would jeopardize the project and (b) outline the process for bringing the project back on track.

This chapter helps project managers understand those issues and factors that they need to control on any project. It is my goal that readers will be in full control or understand the control techniques for their projects by the time they complete this chapter.

Because projects are large efforts that involve many variables, unexpected things happen from time to time, and these do affect the project. A seasoned project manager allows for minor setbacks, whereas major setbacks (such as missing a major milestone or critical task) necessitate that the project manager take emergency countermeasures and immediately work on the issues and risks. In some cases, it may be too late and will cause the project to fall behind schedule or exceed the allocated costs for that item. To bring a project on schedule and on budget, project managers must know, at all times, how the project is progressing and what is causing any slippages. Company executives require project managers to be able to control their projects and, as such, require constant project progress reports. A project manager can control the project using a basic, three-step process.

1. Determine project status and if objectives are being met.

2. Compare the status against project planning.

3. Assess the cause of problems and implement corrective actions.

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