Every project manager has his or her own way of setting up project control processes. To guide your project throughout its performance, you must establish procedures to collect and submit required progress data; to assess work and results; to take corrective actions when needed; and to keep audiences informed of your project’s status.

Follow these procedures throughout your project’s life by doing the following:

  1. At the start of a performance period, reconfirm with people their commitments and your expectations.

  2. During the performance period, have people record schedule performance data, work effort, and any purchase requisitions and purchase orders they issue.

  3. At agreed-upon intervals during or at the end of the performance period, have people submit their activity performance, expenditures, and work-effort data either to all relevant organizational systems or to systems specially maintained for your project.

  4. At the end of the performance period, enter people’s tracking data into the appropriate PMIS, compare actual performance for the period with planned performance, identify any problems, formulate and take corrective actions, and keep people informed.

  5. At the beginning of the next performance period, start these steps again.

Monitoring project performance doesn’t identify problems; it identifies symptoms. When you identify a symptom, you must investigate the situation to determine the nature of any underlying problems, the reasons for the problems, and ways to fix them. But you can’t get an accurate picture of where your project stands by monitoring only one or two aspects of your project. You must consider your project’s performance in all three of its dimensions — outcomes produced, activity time frames, and resources used — together to determine the reasons for any inconsistencies you identify.

Suppose a member of your project team spent half as much time working on a project activity during the period as you had planned. Does this discrepancy mean you have a problem? You really can’t tell. If the person reached all her planned milestones and the quality of her deliverables met the established standards, perhaps you don’t have a problem. However, if she didn’t reach some milestones or the quality of her deliverables was subpar, a problem may exist. You must consider product quality and schedule achievement together with the discrepancy between planned and actual work-hours to determine whether your project actually has a problem.