4 Components to Make Your Project More Than A Dream

Project management requires more than just watching the project management triangle components of scope, cost and schedule. To be truly successful, you require a sound project monitoring and controlling process and these 4 components to make your project more than a dream.

“A project without a due date is a dream.”  ~ Me

This is a bit of a play on the words quoted by Napoleon Hill over fifty years ago – “a goal is a dream without a deadline”.  Beyond the deadline, your project is also a dream if you lack a framework to monitor and control it.  For many of us involved in engineering work we’re generally aware of the project management triangle:  scope, cost, schedule.

Depending on your role, responsibilities and background with project management, however, you may not have a full appreciation of what it takes to make the project before you a reality. The risk from this knowledge gap can be sub-optimization of resources and in the worse case, project failure.

 Monitoring and Controlling To Achieve Reality

Most engineering projects are complex.  With the exception of the expeditionary engineering projects I’ve built in Africa and the Middle East, everything else has been resource intensive.  In fact, some projects were downright convoluted.

I learned early in my career, however, that to have a better chance at meeting the triple constraints of scope, cost and schedule, I and my team needed to have a solid way to measure the project.  Most civil and infrastructure projects use schedule, funds expended, change orders, and measures associated with resources to track project effectiveness and to keep tabs that the project is still on path to meeting the estimated/contractual completion date.

Later, as I studied for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, I learned in more detail about what components to consider for monitoring and controlling a project.  In short, monitoring and controlling a project is the process of tracking, reviewing, and reporting on the progress to meet certain performance objectives defined in the project contract or management plan.

The key benefit of having a defined process for monitoring and controlling your projects is it allows you, and your stakeholders, to understand the current state of the project; where you are in executing the project scope, the budget, schedule and future forecasts.  It also allows you to identify potential impacts to these components, either good or bad.

<H1>What it Takes to Keep An Eye On Your Project

Keeping an eye your project will help you identify potential problems, as well as opportunities.  Without a monitoring and controlling mechanism in place, you put project success in the hands of chance as opposed to the hands of your team.

Considering you’ve made the decision to implement a monitoring and controlling process, you need to know what factors you’re going to actually monitor and then control.  The project triangle components – scope, cost, schedule – is a good place to start. 

But to give you and your project team the best chance of achieving project completion stardom, consider these additional components:

Validated Changes.  The reason to track validated changes is to ensure that they are implemented correctly.  It’s also a key component in monitoring project cost, since many change orders could lead to budgetary problems.  In addition, monitoring validated changes in a change log gives you data to review during post-project lessons learned.  You may uncover design, implementation/construction, or project management flaws that can be corrected in future projects.

Work Performance Information. In the midst of project work, we pass a lot of information back-and-forth with the various stakeholders.  It doesn’t take long for even small teams to lose track of important information.  A simple way to calculate how many lines of communication you have in a team is to use this formula:  n(n-1)/2; where n = the number of stakeholders.

Ensure you have a mechanism for capturing work performance information such as status reports, memos, justifications, information notes, recommendations and updates.  Again, all of this information is critical for accomplishing worthwhile lessons learned after closeout.  However, it can also be important to have this information available if challenges arise on the project during implementation.

Enterprise Environmental Factors.  This is a component that’s not typically monitored, but if left unmonitored could present serious risk to your project.  Enterprise environmental factors are big-picture elements that might impact resource availability, design considerations, or budget.  These include factors such as:

Governmental or industry standards

Labor or union matters

Stakeholder risk tolerances

Regional or national financial situation

While these big-picture factors may not change frequently, it’s still wise to keep an eye them to help in anticipating any major impacts to your project.

Organizational Process Assets.   One final component to consider, in making your project more than a dream, is to monitor and, where possible, control the organizational assets with which you have to manage your project.  Here’s what is meant by organizational process assets:

Organizational communication requirements

Financial control procedures

Change control procedures

Risk control procedures

Lessons learned

Monitoring and controlling your project with components beyond the standard scope, cost, and schedule will help you ensure project success.  The reality is that every project has more impacting it than the three basic elements.  Learn to incorporate the additional components and you can be a project delivery maestro.

Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP is international infrastructure development program manager, engineer, and author. He has 21 years of experience in leadership, management, engineering and international relations earned from a career in the U.S. Air Force and is author of The Engineer Leader, a recognized blog on leadership and life success for engineers and professionals.