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Control the Project

It's advisable to distinguish between substantive and management activities in projects. Not recognizing this distinction unambiguously leads to confusion and confusion of speech.

Controlling a project can be divided into planning and monitoring progress. Planning can only take place if specific management requirements are set for: the project result, the substantive work, the resources. Planning is a unique activity per aspect.

Monitoring progress often takes place per management aspect. However, it shows many similarities in all aspects. The interim monitoring of the progress of the project prevents the need for evaluation afterwards.

The core activity of the progress monitoring is to regularly check to what extent reality differs from what should have been according to the management plans. It's therefore examined what the differences are between the (expected) project reality and those plans. Adjustment, if any, is the next important administrative activity.

Pitfalls:

- no margins are visibly included in the management plans
- the project must be managed with unclear, too broad, uncontrollable or too vague management requirements
- progress monitoring only records the history of that project. The question 'do we still get the result?' isn't asked
- in the event of an imminent deviation from a management plan, only new plans are drawn up
- as a result of majoring, schedules contain unknown and therefore uncontrollable margins

Make the project manageable

No problem can be easily mastered. A lot of work has to be done for that. It's of great importance to make clear management plans. Without these plans, control is actually impossible.

The project manager often has to do a lot of work to make a project manageable. It's important to make clear management plans. Without these plans, control is actually impossible. At the bottom of this site you'll find various formats for management documents.

What to do?

1. collect management requirements, with margins for all management aspects
2. draw up a plan for each management aspect, so for:
- the management requirement (s) with margins
- the management activities aimed at this
- the required management resources
- the associated progress monitoring
3. direct, initiate the substantive activities in accordance with the management plans
4. monitor progress and check:
- what's still to be done
- what has already been done
- we'll still make it; and if there's a threat of being left behind or deviating:
- what can and will we do about it
5. adjust or advise the client to do so.

Points of attention:

- not every substantive requirement needs to be mastered
- an unduly neglected management aspect has double revenge
- mastering isn't only directive; a good management plan will be supported. It provides insight and commitment. This's because it was created with the help of people who will work according to the plan

Control the time

With time control you ensure that all project activities are carried out on time. The result is that the project result is ready in time. Progress monitoring of time means ensuring that the planned lead time runs correctly. This's possible with the timely deployment of capacities and the timely presence of necessary resources.

What to do:

- determine the desired, required readiness date (with margins) of the project result. Possibly of intermediate results or milestones
- examination of the necessary resources (people, material and equipment) for each substantive activity
- check when those resources are available for the project
- always consult those who will soon be carrying out the planned work
- relate all required project activities to the 'calendar' (time sequence or parallel). Based on that, make a timetable
- Establish (or review) the time schedule and approve it
- monitor progress and adjust, or... reschedule.

Points of attention:

- if the capacity isn't on time, the project result will be late
- there's always enough time to repeat the work several times. However, there's rarely enough time to make a good time schedule
- without a margin in the time, you can't ensure that the project result is ready on time and you can't manage risks either.

Control the money

Financial progress monitoring focuses mainly on the efficiency and legality of the money still to be spent. After all, money spent can hardly be influenced anymore.

With the help of money control you ensure the financial responsible execution of project activities. So that the project result is economically viable. Financial progress monitoring focuses on the lawful and efficient spending of money. Specially on the money that has yet to be spent.

What to do?

- inventory the desired return (with margins)
- draw up a cost-benefit overview (with internal and external perspectives). Where possible to 'the end of life' of the project result. Make a money schedule, an overview of expenses and income over time
- allocate budgets (with margins). To sub-projects and to those responsible:
1. detailed budgets, with narrow margins, for the next phase
2. more global budgets, with larger margins, for the subsequent phases
- Establish (rate) the money schedule and approve it
- monitor progress and adjust, or... reschedule.

Points of attention:

- money already spent doesn't count towards a decision to proceed or not
- nothing can be done about an established budget overrun
- an accurate report, on what the project has already cost, does little to help a project manager. Specially if the data in that report is based on a period up to three months ago.

Control the quality

In quality control, the quality of the project result (in the making) is tested, tested, assessed and checked. Quality monitoring is specific for each phase of a project.

What to do?

- determine which quality requirements (with which margins) are imposed on the project result. Make sure that these requirements are actually set
- ensure quantified, weighted, demonstrable requirements. Assign those quality requirements to contributing parties and to sub-projects
- indicate when, how and by whom it must be demonstrated, to what extent which quality requirements have been met:
1. in the design phase: test designs and prototypes against the (sub) project program; supervised 'Design Reviews'; design test tools, test procedures etc.
2. in the preparation phase: ensure correct translation to means of realization and regulations, etc.; design inspection tools and procedures; perform tests and inspections; make trial products
3. in the realization phase: perform inspections, specially entrance and process controls and as few final inspections as possible; qualify adjustments by assessing complaints and testing innovations
- review, establish and approve quality planning
- monitor progress, adjust or... reschedule

Points of attention:

- testing, testing, checking, inspecting and assessing are activities that are part of quality control
- self-check is the best check, if you're allowed to make adjustments yourself
- quality isn't 'best practical means' or 'to the best of ability'. Judging by quality is only possible if quality can be enforced in a recognizable manner
- quality isn't what the client expects. But what has been agreed with the client.

Control the information

With information management you can carry out project activities unambiguously. You'll also achieve the project result with the desired clarity. The project result becomes reproducible and documentable.

It's important that the most recent decision documents, the 'information carriers', are known to every interested party. This only concerns information carriers that contain the latest specifications of the project. The status of change requests on these information carriers will therefore have to be made transparent. All this must take place during the progress monitoring.

What to do?

- determine the required detail, clarity and completeness (with margins) of the project result documentation
- establish an information management system. Include the decision documents to be made (content description). Include the design, coding (identification), distribution and archiving to be used. Ensure its acceptance
- determine who in this project has to draw up which decision documents. Determine who should approve and archive which decision documents. Also determine who can change which documents
- record the approval and modification procedure
- review and approve the information schedule
- monitor progress, adjust or... reschedule
- record all submitted change requests. Follow this until an unambiguous decision has been made. Ensure that this decision is recorded in the relevant decision document.

Points of attention:

- everyone is sent all project information. However, this doesn't mean that everyone, of course, knows what's important to him or her
- that which is fixed and marked as such is true
- information management has very little to do with communication.

Control the organization

Progress monitoring of the project organization is primarily related to monitoring compliance with the agreements. Agreements on the division of tasks of the substantive work and on the exercise of powers. In addition, the project leader must provide and monitor the cooperation and communication.

This applies to both inside and outside the project. Finally, it also has to do with keeping an eye on the motivation of all project participants.

What to do?

- indicate for whom the result of this project is intended. Who's the client for this project, the project leader and who are the project employees. What are the margins in their duties, responsibilities and powers
- set up a temporary organization. State who can decide what and who will manage which employees. Indicate who's responsible for what substantive activity. How conflicts are handled
- indicate in time how 'later' stakeholders will be involved in the project
- organize the relationships with the environmental actors. If necessary, draw up a communication plan for this. Include communication with, among others: the client, stakeholders, users, etc. Also indicate the activities related to boundary control. In other words, the design of external decision-making as a policy and strategy and scanning external developments such as market and technology
- form a project team, for example with a Project Start-Up (PSU). Ensure cooperation, team functioning, division of roles, internal communication and motivation
- set up the realization organization
- review and approve organizational planning
- monitor progress, adjust or... reschedule. Consider, for example, a change in team composition or the way of meeting and the way to handle conflicts.

Points of attention:

- the proper use of the project result often requires proper training of the users. After all, the use, management and maintenance runs up to and including the demolition or cancellation of that project result
- cooperation between strangers isn't automatic
- formalism and resistance to 'proposals for action'. These are strong signals that there's something wrong with team functioning.

Use margins

You can absorb small changes on the basis of a margin, or a margin per management aspect. Without jeopardizing or delaying the realization of the project result. A margin is therefore the translation of the expected risks and uncertainties in the project.

What to do?

- determine the margin up and / or down for each management requirement, ie management aspect
- also indicate the margins per management requirement for intermediate results and important milestones
- indicate those margins who are authorized to use them
- make the margins narrower after a phase has ended.

Points of attention:

- no one can steer without margin. Not even the project employee
- too wide a margin doesn't encourage management either
- 'optimal' is too wide a margin

Determine the principles of progress monitoring

Sticking to the management plans is of great importance when controlling projects. Changing it too often or too easily doesn't enhance the credibility of a project leader. This also applies to rigid adherence to management plans that prove unfeasible.

What to do:

- determine, per aspect, the frequency of the progress monitoring cycle
- determine the method of monitoring progress. For example, orally or in writing, manually or by computer support
- determine the desired nature of the data. Such as timeliness, topicality, aggregation level
- determine who makes what contribution to the progress monitoring process and when (who compares, who controls within and outside the margins, etc.).

Points of attention:

- monitoring progress requires mutual trust and openness
- monitoring mainly means: timely identification of imminent deviations
- afterwards there's nothing to do about a plan deviation

Adjust

Progress monitoring should substantiate alternatives for adjustment. Adjustments ensure that the action plan is implemented in accordance with the management plans.

What to do?

- don't change anything that doesn't need to be adjusted. For example, because the deviation between plan and reality is negligible
- use the margins. Although this means that the management plan is still being worked on, it'll work with less margin
- change reality. This means that the next project, the project will proceed more according to the applicable management plan:
1. have content activities transferred again
2. shift activities
3. ensure more parallelism
- use other abilities
- replan. This by widening margins or changing the standard
- if it's no longer within the margins: develop proposals for adjustment by the client
- in cases where it seems useless to continue the project as such: advise to stop.

Points of attention:

- adjusting if it's too late doesn't help
- it's best to adjust where the imminent deviation is first observed
- all management aspects must be taken into account in the final adjustment decision

Setting up a project office

For larger projects, a project agency is required to support the project organization. Employees of such a project agency mainly perform secretarial and administrative tasks.

Project organizations sometimes consist of many people and they can exist for quite some time. Depending on the chosen form, some project employees are temporarily employed by a project agency. This office supports the project organization secretarially and administratively. This support is highly applicable to the project manager.

Activities in setting up a project agency

- determine the tasks of the project agency (quantity, type, size etc.)
- determining the size of the project agency (number and type of employees)
- provide sufficient office space
- provide the necessary facilities (equipment, software, furniture, means of communication, etc.)
- ensure an administrative organization (manual, formats, meeting schedules, procedures, etc.)
- staffing the agency and training the employees
- let the project agency function, adjust where necessary
- at the end of the project:
1. collecting and disseminating the lessons learned
2. transferring the administrative documents and
3. taking back the office facilities
- ensure careful guidance of employees, whether or not to their previous job.

Stuck projects

Projects are started to deliver results. However, there are also projects that have no results at all. Projects that drag along with difficulty or even come to a complete standstill. What's a stalled project and how do you recognize it?

Projects are started to deliver results and preferably the agreed results within the agreed time, budget and the established quality criteria. It's well known that this doesn't always work. Often the result isn't what people actually want, it's delivered too late and the costs turn out to be higher than budgeted. However, there are also projects that have no results at all. Projects that drag along with difficulty or even come to a complete standstill. Almost every organization recognizes this, but it occurs more than average within the local government.

What's a stalled project and how do you recognize it?

A stalled project is a project in which there's no progress, without an explicit decision to stop the project (temporarily or otherwise).

Some projects are difficult to get started from the start. More often it happens that a project gets off to a good start, but that it gets stuck somewhere during the process. The monthly progress reports (if any) are copies of the previous month, people spend (increasingly) less time on the project or leave the project. So the motivation decreases and apparently no one feels responsible. Nobody intervenes. The survival of the project is therefore not called into question.

Why is it a problem?

You could say that a project that crashes isn't a problem. Apparently no one is waiting for the result; otherwise action would be taken. However, this's only partly true. The project started with a specific purpose. The fact that this goal has disappeared into the background doesn't mean that it's no longer relevant. Stuck projects also cost time and energy, sometimes little and sometimes a lot. It leads to frustration among the people who are still involved.

Negative influence

There's also another point. Stuck projects are detrimental to confidence in projects in general. They therefore have a negative influence on the motivation for the implementation of other projects. "Nothing ever works here" and "nothing comes out anyway", are statements you hear in the corridors.

How is it that a project stagnates?

We distinguish two types of causes why a project crashes, namely internal causes and external causes.

- Causes within the project, for example:
1. it isn't (sufficiently) clear who the client is
2. the client isn't capable (he / she doesn't have sufficient power, resources / people and motivation and / or doesn't ensure sufficient pressure on the project)
3. it isn't clear who the project leader is
4. the project leader doesn't take up his role and task properly
5. there's no clear project assignment
6. change the specifications of the desired project result
7. deadlines are too wide (this can lead to loss of attention and loss of focus)
8. the desired solution is too complex / unfeasible.
- External causes; the project isn't important (anymore), for example:
1. there's no urgency (anymore)
2. there's no problem (more)
3. no choices are made; people are too busy with other activities (line and / or projects) and set their own priorities.

Stop or continue?

It was concluded that a project has stalled. Actually, there are only two possible solutions: stop or fix the cause of the problem and continue.

Division of tasks

It's important that a decision is taken by the client or by the suurgroep. Project management has the task of providing good arguments for decision-making. The choice that's made depends on the cause of the stagnation.

Is the project result important enough?

If the previously determined project result is no longer important enough, quitting is often the best solution. If this project result is still important and the cause must be sought within the project, it must be determined what the causes are. The project management then draws up a plan to solve these problems.

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