How to Manage a Project

Project Management

Project Control

As with project organisation, there is a danger that project control becomes too complicated and too bureaucratic. Again the rule should be - the simpler the better.

Certainly, major Capital and IT projects do need complex project control procedure but they are not needed for policy and organisational projects, in fact they tend to be more of a hindrance than help.

All project control is "control to plan" in that they all depend on comparing actual progress to a plan (updated as the project progresses). There are 9 key means of achieving such control listed below. It is helpful to think of it operating on three levels:

Strategic - studies, reports, and reviews to ensure that the projects selected fit with the business/corporate needs , that they deliver what is required, and do so at a pace that fits with other organisational initiatives. Includes initial project feasibility studies, project plans, and end-of-stage stocktakes

Management Authorisations - systems, procedures and rules to ensure that the project manager has the financial and contract support to carry out the project successfully. Absolutely key in many capital projects. Includes procedures for delegations and authorisations, and contract management.

Day-to-Day Progress - meetings and reports to enable the Project Manager to keep track of project progress and know where they need to pay attention. In this area one simply cannot avoid delving into the detail - that is where slippage will take place. Includes project progress reporting meetings and reports, and project plans and updates and cost budgets and updates.


Strategic

So the management of the organisation can ensure that the project is moving at a pace that suits the organisation and its business plans, and that the project is delivering what is required. Normally carried out by the Project Sponsor or Project Board, in conjunction with the Project Manager. Three key elements are:

1.     Initial Project Feasibility Study

The feasibility study or business case initiating the project in the first instance. Prime purpose of this is to  that the projects undertaken are sensible and viable.

2.    Project Scoping

The Project Plan or Scoping Report presented by the Project Manager, proposing how the project should be tackled. If a project team is involved, involve them in the creation of the report. When it is complete, the Project Manger should discuss and agree it with the Project Sponsor.

Prime purpose is to establish and agree the project objectives and terms of reference, but also to ensure that the issues of carrying out the project are thought through and planned right at the start.

3.    End of Stage Stocktakes

A top-level plan in the form of a set of stages with the end of each stage providing the opportunity for a stocktake and possibly and end-of-stage report. Prime Purpose is to both review project progress but also check that the original outputs and outcomes are still valid in terms of the overall organisational plans.


Management Authorisations

To ensure that the project manager has the financial and contract support to carry out the project successfully. Absolutely key in many capital projects.

4.    Delegations and Authorisations

At the project scoping stage agree any delegations and authorisations needed - particularly if significant finance is involved. Prime Purpose is to ensure that people carrying out the project have the resources and powers to resolve the difficulties they face quickly, without undue loss of accountability and control.

5.    Contract Strategy and Management

The organisational and project rules and guidelines for contract management. Prime purpose is to ensure that any contracts are awarded fairly and based on good practice approaches for managing contract progress.


Day-to-Day Progress

So that the Project Manager can keep track of project progress and know where they need to pay attention. In this area one simply cannot avoid delving into the detail - that is where slippage will take place.

6.    Project Progress Reporting - Meetings

What meetings and when - with Sponsor and Board if applicable, with teams, with Steering/reference groups etc. Best if linked to an end-of-stage or a key milestone, rather than simply at regular intervals. This should form part of the Project Scoping Report - under Project Organisation. When the Scoping Report is discussed, Sponsor and Project Manger should agree what project reporting should be used.

7.    Project Progress Reporting - Written Reports

What written reports, for whom, and when. Again, best if linked to an end-of-stage or a key milestone, rather than simply at regular intervals. Often also based on highlight and exception reporting.

8.    Progress Control - Project Plans and updates

The reality is that much of operational project control in policy and organisational projects concerns ensuring that activities will be completed on time. The key means of control for the Project Manager in this is to:

  1. In Stage 3, plan the project in detail before the bulk of the implementation starts - if it is not done now it will never be done. Use critical path analysis or Gantt charts for this.
  2. As time passes, use this to check on people's progress.

If you are using contractors, demand that they produce their own updated plans. When it seems necessary, re-plan the project by asking people for the "time to complete" their particular activities.

9.    Progress Control - Cost Budgets and Updates

If cost is important in the project, do a similar exercise for them. Develop a budget, monitor it, and get estimates of "cost-to-complete".