How to control projects across the project life span?

Project control is an essential concept in project management, yet, some still do not do well, especially in organizations new to project management. Others – follow traditional project control concepts which might not be enough. In this series we address some of the gaps in practice.

 

Project Control

Introduction to Project Control

Project control – simply – is about keeping our eyes on the goal to help the project team navigates through the challenges, variances, and changes on a given project. Project control is typically ongoing from the start to the end of the project. In this book [article] we exclude changes since we handle project changes as an independent topic.

Baselines

The concept of baselines is an established concept in project management; however, in this chapter we will offer a slightly different perspective.

The common definition of a baseline is a line of reference, the basis against which we compare project performance. In other words, the baseline is essential for project control since it reflects the ‘approved plan’ and in project control we want to compare actual performance against approved plans.

We accept this definition, and we utilize it in CAM2P™. Where we deviate is that our approach is not limited to what is traditionally accepted, or understood. In CAM2P™, we go further and ask:

  • Where is this line of reference?
  • What plan should we use for control and measuring performance?

Traditional View

Repeating what we said earlier, the traditional view, or common practice, is that project control is about comparing where we are[1], actual performance, versus ‘the plan’. ‘The plan’ is typically the one used to obtain approval (approved plan), which means it is the project detailed plan. The project detailed plan includes the various baselines for the project and incorporates the performance management baseline that we introduced earlier.

Therefore, the traditional view is that we perform project control against the project baselines that the organization approved at stage gate five (SG5).

PMBOK® Guide View

The PMBOK® Guide offers a similar explanation, with minor variations.

The guide has monitoring and controlling process group as one of the five process groups that we use to manage a project or a phase. If we refer back to the origin of the process groups – which is the PDCA Cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act), ‘monitoring’ refers to ‘check’ and ‘control’ is about the ‘act’ = action. The PMBOK® Guide combined the ‘check+act’ into monitoring and controlling.

Another point to stress here is when practitioners use the term project control or control, they typically refer to monitoring and controlling.

Now, in the PMBOK® Guide, the baseline is a reference to the approved plan, at the end of the planning processes. The planning processes repeat in every phase or stage.

In other words, whether we are talking about the stage or the project[2], control is against an approved plan.

 

For the CAM2P™ perspective, we will cover in details in the next two articles!

This is part 1 of a multi-part series on project control.

 

 


[1] In the executing processes … or … implementation stage.

[2] Refer to Chapter 12, Alignment to PMBOK® Guide.