A paper resented to the first Engineering Congress, The Institution of Engineers, India - Calcutta, January 1987

Introduction | Definition | Traditional | Hard-Soft | Environment
Characteristics | Concepts | Control | Breakdown | Fundamentals
Prerequisites | Summary | Appendix A | Appendix B

Process of Management Control

Plan, Organize, Execute, Monitor and Control

The basic process of management control can easily be remembered by the mnemonic POEM standing for Plan, Organize, Execute, Monitor and Control.

Plan - The first step is to plan the project with respect to scope, time and cost. What precisely is to be done? Why? If it is, say, a new plant, what is the purpose and process in the plant? How is the job to be done? Why should the project be done one way rather than another? Indeed, why should it be done at all? Where is it to be built? Who will design and construct it? What resources in terms of materials, manpower, finances and time are required? What risks are involved? What strategies are required to deal with unplanned occurrences?

Organize - The second basic step is an extension of the planning process. A careful analysis must be made of the various activities required in planning and executing a project, to provide a closely related project team structure. For every project activity (e.g. programming, estimating, design, planning, procurement, construction) there must be a very clear definition of who is responsible, and who has the authority to execute the activity. That person must have a very clear definition of the scope, cost and time budget for that activity.

Execute - The methods by which the Plan is executed or implemented are critical. No project manager (or other member of the project team) will be successful unless he understands the basic needs of human beings, their strengths and weaknesses, mental and social abilities, and how to weld a complex mixture of humans into a dynamic and productive team. The single most important characteristic of a successful project manager is his ability to manage people.

Monitor and Control - Continued monitoring, reporting and forecasting must take place during project implementation, and the forecasts compared to the Plan. Deviations must immediately receive management attention, either by reallocation of resources or modifications to the Plan (with the client's approval if his objectives are affected). Without a detailed Plan, there is no basis for comparison, no determination of deviation, and hence no satisfactory basis for corrective action. Clearly then, a successful project management system is one which monitors and responds by a control action as early as possible after an event.

Appendix B illustrates the elements of management control by outlining the general activities which may be expected within each stage of the project management process in various project situations.

Elements of Control

As noted earlier, project management relies heavily on the science of systems. A practical example will help in the understanding of a control system. In a simple machine-to-machine system such as an air conditioner, the input is the electric power and the output is cold air. For this we need three essential control tools:

  • A monitoring mechanism, in this case, a thermostat;
  • A comparative device, e.g., the thermostat signal with a set point or objective; and
  • A preset formula and a means for sending a corrective signal.

The preset formula and corrective signal in its simplest form is on-off. Obviously, other more sophisticated formulae and signals are possible. This can be seen in a man-to-machine system such as an automobile where graduated control is exercised by the gas and brake pedals.

Project Management is a man-to-man system. In this case the input is essentially design information and resources of materials and labor. The output is a completed facility. The processing is done by designers, draftsmen, skilled labor, etc., who transform the raw data through drawings to contracts to construction and finally to project start-up.

Control is exercised through monitoring, reporting and forecasting the output, comparing this to the project objectives and sending corrective signals to the input of data and resources. Thus the output is made to conform closely to the objectives. This cycle is illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Elements of the project control cycle

Figure 4: Elements of the project control cycle

Modern computers allow us to use a wide variety of control functions using almost any conceivable control formulae.

Actually, the real process is continuous and rather more complex. The cycle of monitoring, comparing and correcting never ceases until a project is completed, see Figure 5.

Characteristics of a Good Management Control System

A good management control system must:

  • facilitate detailed planning;
  • be able to measure performance in relation to the plan and quickly report any deviations from the plan;
  • be able to communicate planning and performance information to all parties involved; and
  • identify objectives and highlight important operations leading to these objectives.

Figure 5: Control system for a construction project

Figure 5: Control system for a construction project
Basic Concepts of Project Management  Some Basic Concepts of Project Management

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