The Project Manager has to have a good system for monitoring and controlling the project. Fortunately, most project management software packages contain such a system. However, slavishly following these systems, without a basic understanding of how they work, can lead to problems for the unwary. The basic tenets for these methods are:
• Having a clear knowledge of the criteria by which the performance of the project is going to be judged.
• Having a system for providing an early and accurate warning of any deviations from these performance criteria.
Control of the project is achieved by ensuring that all the tasks, or at least those which are on the critical path, are completed on time. For those elements of the project which have a relatively long time frame for completion, e.g. those which take months rather than weeks, the Project Manager may need to set up sub-projects in order to monitor the progress of these elements on a more even time basis.
When a problem is indicated by the control systems, Project Managers will need to bring all their skills into play in rapidly analysing the situation and making a decision on the corrective action to be taken. A good Project Manager will maintain an intimate contact with all aspects of the project and be able to anticipate problems and take avoiding action before they arise.
"What is an appropriate action in these problem cases?" The Project Manager can only formulate an answer to this question after discussions with the other members of the project team, and not in isolation. Any new action is likely to affect the plans for the tasks which come later in the project and team involvement helps to spot these and assess their impact. By this method full commitment to the agreed action will be gained from the team members.
Even in the best-planned projects, changes to the plans are often required due to influences beyond the control of the project team. If these non-controllable factors are fundamental, for example a policy change instigated by senior management, the project criteria will also need to be changed.
Major changes to the WHAT, at any time into the project, are disastrous. The target has been changed, in essence it is a new project and a new plan must be drawn up.
Changes to the WHEN or in the CONSTRAINTS are bad news to the project team, but can be resolved by modifying the existing plan, e.g. the work breakdown structure and resource planning need to be revised.
Serious problems can also arise from influences that happen without any prior warning.
For example, during Project X there has been a fire in the chemical suppliers plant, making delivery of an essential material impossible at a late stage in the project.
These problems can be avoided by carrying out, during the planning phase, a potential problems analysis and possible emergency procedures. This involves the team analysing in detail each step in the project for problems that might happen to cause it to be delayed or disrupted, a risk analysis. Plans can then be made to overcome these problems or to have emergency procedures in place if they should happen; contingency planning.
For instance, supply problems of raw materials in Project X was identified as a potentially serious problem. A second supplier of the essential material was identified and in addition an emergency stock of the crucial material was arranged.
Another key role for the Project Manager is monitoring the performance of the human resource responsible for carrying out the project tasks. The Project Manager's skills, which have been developed over the years through performance management, will need to be brought into play. The identification of the behavioural activities of individuals, which are detrimental to the success of the project, is an ongoing activity. The actions taken to influence an individual's behaviour must be carefully balanced against overall effectiveness in meeting the project goals and gaining the approval of the rest of the team. Heavy-handed treatment over a trivial example of inadequate performance can be counterproductive in achieving the goal of total team motivation.
Communications have an important part to play in the successful implementation of a project. External communications have already been discussed as part of the formal launch of the project. It is a good idea to have similar communications at important milestones during the project's lifetime. Internal to the project team it is necessary to have progress reports for team members and the human resource responding to them. To be effective the reports must be concise, accurate, and produced at regular intervals, with just sufficient detail for them to be speedily read. Progress reports, as well as notes on meetings, will also be required for inclusion in Project Folders as a part of the quality procedures within the company.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.