Having a project management plan will not always ensure having effective project control. Without a control process the project manager will often resort to an improper use of institutional authority to embarrass, or intimidate a project member whose performance is unsatisfactory. As a result the project member will learn to prevent disclosure of any problems. This then creates another problem in that the project manager is not being made fully aware of deviations from the project plan. Taylor’s Law1 states that “the earlier a problem is disclosed, the easier it is to manage.” When project problems are hidden from the project manager they often grow to the point where they become untenable.
Meredith and Mantel offer three methods of control, these are:
Post control methods are used after the fact. For example, a project member may announce a significant variance from the project baseline. The expected response from the project manager is to require that individual to prepare a corrective action plan. If an acceptable corrective action plan is established the project manager may assume that the problem has been adequately addressed, yet this is not the case.
In addition to the corrective plan, the project manager must also ask the question, “What caused the problem?” This later effort is a form of post control. Solving the underlying cause of the problem is post control. If post control techniques are not used, the project manager can expect the underlying cause to manifest itself in other ways, and as time continues, more and more effects of the underlying cause will arise.
Post control is also appropriate at the close of a project where a lessons-learned review is conducted. The project manager is expected to identify any and all project process weaknesses including such areas as project control, project tracking, stakeholder communications, problem solving, and decision making. After underlying causes are identified, plans to avoid them in the future should be developed. This is post control.
MICHAEL D. TAYLOR, M.S. in systems management, B.S. in electrical engineering, has more than 30 years of project, outsourcing, and engineering experience. He is principal of Systems Management Services, and has conducted project management training at the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension in their PPM Certificate program for over 13 years, and at companies such as Sun Microsystems, GTE, Siemens, TRW, Loral, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Inprise. He also taught courses in the UCSC Extension Leadership and Management Program (LAMP), and was a guest speaker at the 2001 Santa Cruz Technology Symposium. His website is www.projectmgt.com.