Are You in Control?

“Anything that is not managed will deteriorate” — Bob Parsons.


To manage things you must be in control. That’s the idea. This is what’s expected from a Project Manager. Within a given set of boundaries, a Project Manager is obliged to make things happen (the “why” is important, but I’ll leave it out for now). To make things happen s/he has to put the coordinates in place (as defined by the Sponsor / agreed with the Steering Committee), but general/phase/stage/milestone-to-milestone control is where the rubber hits the road.

In generic management, we distinguish four basic functions:

  1. Planning
  2. Organizing
  3. Motivating
  4. Controlling

Plans play an important role in project control — any plan is a baseline for controlling a project, in all its aspects, on a regular basis. Plans are a way to communicate future controlling of a project in the first place.

Organizing allows us to create the grounds for controlling. Motivating and controlling should go hand in hand.

Controlling is king. If we start well, it’s this daily, controlled progress that makes a successful ending. Staying awake, predicting [where possible] and reacting soon — these show a good manager, i.e. one who is in control.

Whenever I look at various approaches to project management, I usually see project life cycles, techniques, standard processes (e.g. planning), but there usually is a particular group of “ongoing” activities that could be defined as “project management” — e.g. managing risk, managing stakeholders, managing plans, managing teams, managing scope etc. Feel free to swap managing with controlling — e.g. controlling risk, controlling stakeholders, controlling plans… If you stop being in control, you no longer manage.

It’s funny how close this is to personal matters. In personal time-management, it is often said that the most important tool is a regular review.

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