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?
Officially, PMI defines the controlling processes as those processes that ensure that project objectives are met by monitoring and measuring progress regularly to identify variances from plan so that corrective action can be taken if necessary. While accurate, this definition does not clearly communicate all the aspects of project control that we need to understand, and does not emphasize the most important aspectprevention.
PDA: The Principles of Project Control
An easy way to remember what project control is all about is to think PDA. PDA stands for Prevention, Detection, and Action. Let's take a closer look at these fundamental principles of project control:
- Prevention As with your own health, the secret to wellness is strengthening your immune system and minimizing contact with harmful agents. In other words, don't get sick in the first place. The same principle applies to effective project control. The best way to keep your project on track is to prevent (or at least minimize) variances from occurring. How do you do this? This takes your entire array of project management skills, but a few key activities include investing in planning, communicating effectively, monitoring risk factors continuously, resolving issues aggressively, and delegating work clearly.
- Detection For this aspect of project control, think "radar system" or "early warning system." Project control should provide early detection of variances. The sooner we can act on a variance, the more likely we are to get the success factor back on track. The key for early detection is to have the tracking systems and work processes in place that allow for the timely measurement of project results. Common examples of detection methods are performance reporting and review meetings. Two important concepts to note here are that to have a variance, you must be comparing actual results to a baseline of some type, and a variance can apply to any of the critical success factors including stakeholder expectations and quality, not just schedule, cost, and scope.
- Action While the prevention aspect has a strong action orientation too, this principle goes hand-in-hand with early detection. For project control to be effective, the detection of a variance must be able to trigger an appropriate and timely response. The three most common action types are corrective actions, change control procedures, and lessons learned. Often, as part of the planning for project control, specific variance thresholds are established that dictate what variances and corrective actions can be managed by the project team and what ones need the immediate attention of senior level management.
Lessons learned are important resources for improving performance on the current project and on future projects.
Components of Project Control
To better clarify what is involved with project control, let's review some of the key project management processes that are involved. To reiterate, project control involves more than just these processes. Your leadership, communication, interpersonal, analytical, and team management skills are equally, if not more, important to this endeavor. However, without these fundamental management processes in place, as depicted in Figure 10.1, you will have a much more challenging time.
- Performance Reporting The process for measuring and communicating project status to the targeted stakeholders. Information generally focused on the performance of critical success factors against baseline targets, key issues, corrective actions, and forecasted metrics.
- Change Control Management The process for reviewing, approving, and coordinating any request to alter project scope schedule or budget. We will address this in greater detail in Chapter 11, "Managing Project Changes."
- Configuration Management The process for controlling changes, updates, and versions of project deliverables. We will discuss this in greater detail in Chapter 11, and in Chapter 12, "Managing Project Deliverables."
- Issue Management The process for identifying, tracking, and resolving issues that could impact the project critical success factors. We will address this in greater detail in Chapter 13, "Managing Project Issues."
- Risk Management The process for identifying, monitoring, and responding to project risks. We will address this in greater detail in Chapter 14, "Managing Project Risks."
- Quality Management The process for ensuring that work processes and project deliverables meet quality expectations. We will address this in greater detail in Chapter 15, "Managing Project Quality."
- Procurement Management The controlling processes specifically used to manage any suppliers and vendors involved in the project.
- Requirements Management The process to ensure all requirements are identified correctly, documented, and tracked throughout the project. This is an excellent scope and change control technique that we will mention again later in this chapter.
Figure 10.1. Summarizes the project management processes involved with project control.