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How to Maintain Control of Your Project

Whether you're a novice or veteran at project management, the process of maintaining control over projects is the same: You track project-plan details and expenditures, deal with team members, and monitor performance.

Follow this list of activities to maintain control over your project, ensure that it proceeds according to plan, and produces the desired results:

  • Reconfirming the plan: At the beginning of each performance period, reaffirm with team members the following project responsibilities and commitments they made for the coming period:

    • Activities they agreed to perform

    • Dates they agreed they will start and end these activities

    • Amount of person-effort they agreed they’ll need to perform these activities (

  • Assessing performance: During the performance period, have team members record information on the following:

    • Completed intermediate and final deliverables

    • Dates they reached milestones

    • Dates they started and ended activities

    • Number of hours they worked on each activity

    • Amount of nonpersonnel resources they used for each activity

    • Expenditures they made for each activity

    Collect this information at the end of the performance period, compare it with the plan, and determine the reasons for any differences.

  • Taking corrective action: If necessary, take steps to bring your project’s performance back into conformance with your plans, or if doing so isn’t possible, change the plans to reflect new expectations.

  • Keeping people informed: Share your achievements, problems, and future plans with your project’s audiences.

Choose the periods for monitoring your project’s performance based on the overall length of the project, the risk of unexpected occurrences, and your proximity to major milestones. Although you may choose to monitor selected project activities on a daily basis in certain situations, plan to assess your project’s overall performance at least once a month to identify promptly any unexpected occurrences or performance problems that must be addressed.

Initially, you may be uncomfortable reconfirming commitments people have made for an upcoming performance period because you feel that by doing so, it

  • Suggests that you don’t trust the person. After all, the person has made a commitment to do the specified work; wouldn’t she tell you if she were unable to live up to that commitment?

  • Increases the likelihood that she’ll say she can’t live up to the original promise. You’re concerned that raising the topic may actually encourage her to say she can’t honor her commitments.

In most cases, however, neither situation proves to be true. Why? Because …

  • Raising the issue doesn’t suggest a lack of trust; if you didn’t trust the person, you wouldn’t talk with her at all! Checking in with her reflects your understanding that she may not have had a chance to tell you about new circumstances that make it difficult to honor her commitments.

  • Raising the issue doesn’t increase the chances that she’ll opt out of a commitment — it buys you time. If the person can’t perform according to her promises, you’ll find that out at the end of the performance period anyway — when she hasn’t finished the work. So taking time to reconfirm actually provides an entire performance period to develop alternative ways of dealing with her new restrictions.

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